Dayara Bugyal – The Heavenly Path

The Dayara Bugyal Trek was my second high altitude trekking expedition with IndiaHikes and escaping into the glorious Garhwal Himalayas. If you missed out on my Kedarkantha Trek blogpost, take a look here. In comparison to Kedarkantha, trekking to Dayara Bugyal has fewer challenges and is ideal for a beginner. It suits all kind of travellers, nature lovers, photography enthusiasts and people of all ages.

Let me start by telling you the exact meaning of “Bugyal.” It is an alpine meadow but not just any meadow; it’s specific to the state of Uttarakhand. The word ‘bugyal’ comes from a local language; some say it means high-altitude meadow, and others- nature’s own garden. The Dayara Bugyal Trek is one of the best natural places where you get to see high altitude meadows offering a spectacular panoramic view of the Himalayas. If you’re looking for a peaceful trekking and camping experience, Dayara Bugyal has less human presence and it could be your ideal choice.

The trek starts from a small quaint village of Raithal nestled in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. We stayed in the rest houses organised for us by the IndiaHikes team. These GMVN houses overlooked the stunning valley on one side and the snowy mountains on the other. Early next day, we started our ascending climb. In the beginning, we walked through forests of oak and then entered a dense growth of deodars and rhododendrons. About 20 minutes after the start, we reached a clearing, and beyond this the forest became even denser. The trail through the jungle was steep as it goes to the top of a ridge, where the terrain becomes gentle. The trek trails through gorgeous Oak forests, clear water bodies and sprawling grasslands while offering views of specks of huts and grazing sheep, all while overlooking the valley and high-rise mountains. Wild flowers also bloom around streams and brooks that run across the pastures. The hike is a great way to blow off some steam, do something memorable and see some of the best natural sights in the world

On the trek, we saw dogs basking in the sun; cattle grazing happily; langurs hopping and jumping all around; and crows flapping their wings. Once in a while, you may get to hear a loud unfamiliar bird call, if you spot it, it’s probably going to be surprising to see some large birds, beautifully swaying against the stark blue sky, and it’s impossible not to be envious of them!

When we reached the highest campsite of our trek, I was stunned with the view that met my eyes. It was a visual delight to see a panoramic view of the Garhwal Mountain Rage from Dayara, twin ranges of Bandarpoonch, and the Kalang (Black Peak). That’s not all! The Gangotri, Jaonli, Srikanta and Draupadi ka Danda stood massively tall in the background, giving us an adrenaline rush. Do not miss the sight of the sun setting behind the snow-capped peaks, emitting a luminescence as though gold is beautifully sprinkled all over the meadows.

That evening though, we experienced the worst 3 hour-long hailstorm, due to weather imbalances throughout northern India. Snuggled in our tents, the IndiaHikes team pampered us with popcorn and hot tea to keep warm and cozy. The storm left us with a white washed view of the near vicinity and the ice glistening in the moonlight. This, I called the physical embodiment of divinity.

Step out of your tent at night, and you may be able to hear the hoot of owls; the Indian eagle owl and even the Himalayan eagle call the region their home. While I laid down on a flat rock and looked up into the pristine starry night sky, as if a bowl full of glitter, making impressive patterns on a blank canvas. Once in a while I spotted a shooting star and the only wish I wished is if I could live there, in that moment, all my life. My problems seemed pitifully faint and untroubling, realising the insignificance of human life against the scale of the universe and I enjoyed that feeling. “Perhaps we could all do well to remember our tiny place in the Universe. We’re not the center of the world. We’re just billion-year-old stardust, orbiting a burning ball of gas in the middle of empty space with no beginning, and no end.” And that’s the greatness of feeling small and insignificant.

On the next day, our final climb required us to awaken with the sun. We saw endless meadows covered in ice and snow from the previous day and it looked magical as ever. Even though only 8 of us made it (rather, made the decision to risk it) to the Dayara top in the midst of an all-out thunderstorm, we had to descend before the storm caught us in its path. It was extremely challenging but we experienced a surprise snowfall, and everything suddenly became so joyous and exciting!

We were not that high up, but the day was so clear that we could easily count the mountaintops and when we looked down upon the lower hills in the background, large trees covered them. Although the landscape below didn’t seem as green, the setting was still very striking. But when I looked up at these enormous trees while making my way up, it gave me a unique feeling: of being tiny, like dust. It made me realize how much time we waste on useless thoughts when instead, we should be living the present moment to its fullest; irrespective of the surrounding, whether it’s these breathtaking mountain views or our daily lives back in the city. These moments on the trek make you aware of how many details go unnoticed in the rush of city life. I began to notice the minimalist materials we used on the trek yet back at home, there’s so much excess unnecessary resource.

I photograph the landscape naively trying to capture these feelings, so I can never forget but like most people say, photographs never do complete justice to nature, our feelings or our experiences.

Finally, the trek brings you to a highland meadow situated in the Uttarkashi district. We caught the sight of the Barnala Tal lake strewn across the green alpine prairies – in whose reflection the peaks look even more beautiful. The trek ends at the tiny hamlet of Barsu nestled on the Haridwar-Gangotri road, which is 32kms from Uttarkashi. It’s an energising experience with a fun and adventurous journey. For serious trekkers and trekking lovers, exploring the high altitude of Dayara Bugyal makes it exhilarating with steep climbs, snowy trails and a spectacular view of the peaks. Adorned by the enthralling beauty of the Himalayas, where you feel absolutely dwarfed by nature makes it an experience of a lifetime!

Out here in the world you get a taste of true space and distance, a hint of the reality of our existence as a speck of nothing in an incomprehensibly vast and wonderful universe.

Snowfall!
The Tent Life

Dehradun, India.
Mumbai, India.
The only 8 who made it to the top!!

 

24 hours in Jodhpur – The Blue City

Jodhpur- the second largest city in the state of Rajasthan, is called the “Sun City” owing to its fantastic weather all year round. If you’ve scrolled through hundreds of gorgeous images of Jodhpur; you know that it is also called the Blue City. All the buildings painted a lovely sky blue, looking incredible in contrast to the dusty old desert town.

Having checked out of the Camp Thar Resort in Osian, I had about a day to spend in Jodhpur before I took an overnight bus to Udaipur. Now, with just a day to see such a large city, it seemed impossible. But, I think I managed to discover a large portion of it and so, I thought it’ll be helpful to give you a one-day travel guide for Jodhpur.

So, if you have a day in Jodhpur here’s what you should do…

 

Mehrangarh Fort

If you’ve done even a little bit of research on Jodhpur, you know you HAVE to visit the Mehrangarh Fort. The ticket is about 100 rupees for an Indian citizen and a whooping 600 for international guests. Luckily, we had our student identity cards and entered with a 50-rupee pass!

My Jaipur blogpost covers some of my travel tips and carrying your student ID card tops the list!

The fort is more than magnificent and breathtaking; I couldn’t seem to gauge how massive it was. After buying our tickets, we thought we had entered the fort so; we kept walking until a signboard said “This way for the fort”, and I couldn’t stop laughing! Its huge and overwhelming, and if you’re interested in knowing the history and stories of the fort then you’re in for a long day! I still think I haven’t entirely seen each part of it.

When you look down from the high vantage point of its ramparts, it’s quite possibly one of the coolest views you’ll see. It’s a magical blue city in the middle of a desert with a giant fort overlooking it, palaces scattered around and in the distance you see the hills protecting it. It’s quite a spectacular view.

 

Other attractions

Jaswant Thada is a cenotaph (an empty tomb that does not contain the remains of the person it was built for) located about half a kilometer away from the fort by rickshaw. It serves as the cremation ground for the royal family of Marwar. From a distance, you may not find it jaw dropping or incredible but once you get a closer look at it, the intricately carved sheets of marble make you feel peaceful and calm. The sheets are extremely thin and polished so that they emit a warm glow when illuminated by the sun.

Umaid Bhavan Palace looks great from a distance but honestly, it’s quite average considering tourists don’t get to go inside because the Taj Hotels converted a part of it into a hotel property while the rest is preserved. It’ll cost you your entire bank balance (especially if you’re a student) to book a stay there, and they don’t welcome guests for a cup of coffee or to eat at their restaurants (I speak from experience).

 

Sardar Market near the Clock Tower

If you have some more time after seeing the attractions, head to the Sardar Market for some local shopping. It’s known for its general merchandize but also for its lovely bandhini materials (a type of tie-and-dye textile). Wondering what’s ‘the thing to buy’ in the Jodhpur bazaars? Antique artifacts, wooden furniture, gold, scarves, puppets, hand crafted toys, home decor and so much more!

You may also find a lot of embroidered leather shoes, antique pieces, handicraft work and sweet shops. Don’t miss them! You’ll notice a lot of locals selling fake silver jewelry, I’d suggest you don’t buy these here and instead purchase real silver when you visit Jaipur.

 

Where to eat in Jodhpur? Cafes, restaurants, hotels…

Since you’re in Jodhpur only for the day and assuming you will be there for at least three meals, here’s where you should eat when in the Blue City.

1. Gypsy is easily one of the best places to eat in Jodhpur. It’s a foodie’s dream come true! Known for the best thali in Jodhpur, Gypsy’s menu comprises of 30 separate and distinct dishes and the staff there will insist that you order all! It’s not at all expensive to eat a meal here (or even all your meals, if you like), it’s worth every single penny you pay and more! The people in Rajasthan, food is a means of interacting, making friends and beautiful memories with absolute strangers.

Order this – Poori & Mix Veg Sabzi, Pulao, Halwa, Paranthas, Dal Bati Choorma, Besan ki Kadhi and Gatte ki Sabzi.

2. Indique is hands down one of the best rooftop restaurants in the city of Jodhpur. Located on the terrace of the Pal Haveli, Indique takes you back in time, in the existence of the Rajput kings and queens. It sits right under the proud gaze of the Mehrangarh Fort, the seat of the royals. It offers a spectacular view of the famous landmarks of Jodhpur and the entire city. The best time to enjoy this view and the weather is in the evenings, when the sky is aglow with magical sunset strokes and colors.

Order this – Lal Maas, Gatte ki Khichdi, Gujarati cuisine and Dal Bati Choorma.

3. Janta Sweet House is THE place to go to if you’re looking for the best crispy, traditional and tasty kachoris. You haven’t truly tasted the flavors of Jodhpur unless you get your hands on the varied assortment of kachoris, which are a hit among the tourists and locals alike. The street food is as good (or more) as the elaborate fine-dining restaurants in Jodhpur.

Order this – Onion kachori and Mawa kachori.

4. Darikhana is in the Raas Haveli Hotel, which boasts of being the first boutique hotel in Jodhpur and is the ideal place to savor some authentic Lal Maas. Team it with a butter tandoori roti or the Warqi paranthas cooked in ghee to offset the hotness of this dish. Situated in the shadows of the imposing Mehrangarh Fort, the Raas Haveli with its open courtyard completed with a pool, makes for quite an inviting setting to gorge on this spiced meat delicacy.

 

Hope this blog helps you find your way into the big blue city of Jodhpur. Make the most of your time here, it’s truly a wonderful place!

10 Travel Tips for the Solo Girl Traveller

Hellooo from Bangalore!

If you know me even a little bit, you know I am always very grateful for the exhilarating travel experiences I have had, and most of them have been solo travel. Travelling alone, whether from one city to another or even within a particular city has been extremely mind boggling and I have a few travel tips for all you girls out there, waiting to fly solo and explore the world by yourselves.

Travel Tips:

  1. Trust your instinct.

This is by far the most important and crucial tip anyone will ever have for you. Always trust your instinct, whether it’s about a place, person, thing or animal. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or unsafe and the first thought that comes to your mind is to leave, then leave. Even if you are with friends and they think it’s absolutely fine while you don’t, leave. Nothing but your own instincts and senses can help you to be safe and sound.

  1. Confidence is key.

The worst thing that you can do to yourself as a solo girl traveller is to look confused, worried or fearful. Even if you’re lost or in trouble, remain assertive and aware of your surrounding – no matter how tough it is. If you tell yourself that it’ll all be okay in the end, that itself will give you the confidence to move forward or think of a way out. You may feel helpless and vulnerable but it is just a phase and it’ll be over. After all, this is part of the challenge of solo travel.

  1. In your Handbag –

Make sure you carry a water bottle, power bank, sunglasses, sunscreen, cap/scarf and some tissue paper or a napkin in your handbag wherever you go. It’s important to be equipped with the bare necessities when you’re on your own. I don’t usually carry a pepper spray with me, but if you think it’s important then you must!

  1. Arrive early.

Plan to arrive at your destination before nightfall, that way you can familiarise yourself with the surroundings and the area you’re staying. Keep an hour before it becomes dark to explore restaurants, shops, public transport, supermarkets and pharmacies so that you find your bearings.

  1. Think, behave and dress like a local.

It’s important that you blend into the culture and lifestyle of the locals. Learn the basics of the language, eat traditional, local food and try to dress accordingly. If you really want to soak in the culture of the place and truly enjoy the smallest things that the place has to offer you, this is the only way to go!

  1. Be street-smart.

In case of an emergency or an uncalled situation/person, remember to have a false version of yourself – an alter ego. Remember as a child, you’re parents told you not to talk to strangers? Imagine you’re at a café or restaurant and a creepy old man walks up to you and asks you where you’re from and how long you’re in town. In such a case, you obviously don’t want to give out information or start a conversation, so a simple “I’m here for the day with my parents” will do the job. Plug in your earphones and you’re good to go!

  1. Don’t worry about loneliness.

Feeling blue and lonely is inevitable at some point in your journey. You may feel homesick, miss somebody or simply be tired of your own thoughts, but it is not the end of the world. You will learn to cope with your emotions and feelings, and that’s all part of the challenge of travelling solo. Don’t be afraid to talk to people from whom you get a good vibe. Make interesting conversation because that is where you’ll find the most beautiful stories.

  1. Ask for help.

Never ever shy away when you are in desperate need of help and cannot do without it. It’s important to know whom you can ask and when to ask for it. If you’ve rented an Airbnb apartment and the owner is helpful and kind, ask him or her for help. When you really really need something, ask for it- because it’ll never come to you on its own.

  1. Update your loved ones.

In this time and age of ever-growing social media, one of the benefits of it for the solo girl traveller is that it serves as a great tool and acts as a kind of safety device. A simple check-in at a new location/restaurant or a quick photo upload will help your family and friends know of your whereabouts. If it’s been long since you posted anything then they know something is probably wrong. Most places these days have Wi-Fi facilities, so it’s never a problem.

  1. Embrace this opportunity.

Most important of all, do not be scared or worried. Don’t let negative environments or off-putting situations boggle you down or take the better of you, the world is inherently a good place, believe me. A few challenges and hiccups during your period of travel is part of the entire experience. You will learn a lot of beautiful things; but most about yourself and this life. This is just as important a time in your life as any other. Being able to stand on your own two feet, as an independent and fearless woman is just as essential than any life experience. This time in your life is solely about you, your personality, and what you take away from your challenges and experiences. Celebrate yourself.

Hope this was informative and helpful for all you solo girl travellers. If you have any questions or thoughts please leave them in the comments below and I will get back to you very soon!

You can also follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

#RiderGirl with ARC

Halfway through summer of 2017, I began to notice and become aware of my easily drifting mind. I spent my days in bed- watching movies, television shows and YouTube videos – the usual teenage summer. My idea of an ideal summer was far from this; and definitely did not revolve around my couch. I started to become really moody, irritable and grumpy. I knew it was high time I got out of my little shell and do something productive with my time and energy.

So, what could I have possibly done for a month before I headed back to college?

I have always believed that it is important to choose a sport and practice it everyday for the best workout and recreation activity. I religiously stick to a sport for a month, and eventually quit it because of hundred other commitments. This time, I didn’t want it to ensue in the same fashion. I am always looking to do something different, something refreshing.

I have been meaning to learn horse riding ever since I was a child. I remember watching cowboys gallop away majestically- in movies, sometimes when I went on vacation to the countryside, and mostly in my dreams! And I always wondered, what it feels like to be able to control an animal but at the same time, to be able to work as a team, you and your stallion. While the idea stuck in my mind, I was still figuring out the details and finances of this rather expensive sport.

I came across the beginner’s program at the Amateur Rider’s Club, that lasted until the end of summer and somehow the dates fit perfectly in my schedule. It is one of the oldest and largest private civilians riding clubs, situated in the heart of Mumbai. The club not only provides riding lessons but also organises show jumping, polo, dressage and plot tent pegging activities. They have a variety of options from a 10-day beginners riding camp for non-members to daily riding lessons for members of the club.

I spent an entire month training, learning and practicing horseback riding. It’s amazing how hypnotic a horse’s ears can be as they quiver slowly in front of you, stretching forwards and back rhythmically as your mount strides out. Horse riding is probably the closest thing a human can do on the ground that feels like flying. Sure, you can go faster in a car, but the sensation is never the same.

For me, it’s a combination of adventure, exhilaration and, ironically, extreme relaxation. Your mind wanders as you explore bridle paths and horseshoe shapes. You go at your own pace – a steady and composed trot or a full gallop, should you fancy it. The overwhelming feeling is one of freedom. Once you’re in the saddle, you’re only a few meters off the ground but, crucially, this gives you a slightly different perspective of the world. You spot things you wouldn’t normally spot and from the horse’s back, you are totally immersed in the natural environment. You can’t help but live in the moment, at one with your horse and nature, because there is nothing better than that.

Horse riding can be both incredible and scary at the same time. There’s a sense of adrenaline while riding but you are one with the horse. It is almost impossible to feel ill on a full speed horse, as long as you follow the movement with your body. When I get the chance to ride, I always feel anxious at first but it’s important to know that horses can sense your emotions and they know exactly how you are feeling. If you think of it has a stimulating experience, all your worries will disappear. You notice how powerful your horse really is, the strength it can develop, and I think that’s beautiful.

Apart from travelling, it’s this close proximity to the natural world that provides such a sense of escapism and relaxation. You begin to notice the distinctive habits of your mare (or stallion), become attuned to the seasons, and begin to unite with your steed. Each ride has it’s own magical appeal and each ride will teach you some of the most beautiful things. While riding alone is a strangely philosophical experience, cantering along with a friend is as much fun! You can take a packed lunch and head off on longer treks in the countryside to explore new paths or routes, what an enriching experience indeed!

 

The Lake Pichola Hotel

If you follow me on social media, you probably know that I recently visited the culturally magnificent state of Rajasthan in India. Every year, for my birthday, I make it a point to travel, explore new places, and spend some time reflecting on the year gone by, while I’m at it. Conveniently, my birthday happens to be on the last day of the year; so, I’m usually drowning in a pool of emotions. I tend to become sad and contemplative about a lot of things in life, but also curious about what’s coming my way next. But I get happy too because, well, it’s my birthday, and I turned a year older and wiser! Eventually concluding that I’m pretty much satisfied!

I planned my Rajasthan trip so that I could bring in my birthday while I was there. I happened to be in Udaipur on the 31st of December, and so I thought to treat myself to a luxurious stay at the famous Lake Pichola Hotel. A heritage property located on the western bank of the Pichola Lake, away from the hustle-bustle of the old town, it’s still just a 5-minute walk to popular tourist sites. It also overlooks the beautiful City Palace. A part of the old mansion once belonged to the Rajput Clan, which was later converted into a hotel.

Reception + Buffet Breakfast

Why you will love it?

To stay in a lavish hotel overlooking the lake, the City Palace, and the Lake Palace; is a dream for most travellers visiting Udaipur. The Lake Pichola Hotel is one of the few affordable ones if you’re on a mid-budget. When we entered the hotel, the receptionist and ground staff greeted us with garlands and a welcome drink. This hotel has about 25 rooms that include 19 lake facing deluxe rooms and 4 palatial suites. Each room is a reflection of the city’s heritage, and is one of a kind, with traditionalist architecture, Rajputana style furnishing, without cutting down on modern services. All 4 suites and the deluxe rooms offer a breathtaking view of the Old City, City Palace, Jag Mandir and the serene waters of the Pichola Lake. Lounging in the balcony, I found myself dreaming of the era of the Kings, Queens and impressive palaces. You almost begin to picture stories and scenarios of those times in the present setting.

Cons.

Although I would suggest that you at least stay a night at this luxurious hotel, I had a few rather startling experiences with the staff and atmosphere of the place. We requested for an extra mattress to be put in our room and when the staff came to arrange it, one of the boys looked at me from head to toe with creepy intensions in his head, which gave me a rather terrible feeling and vibe. When I asked him what he was staring at and told him to do is job and leave, he just laughed it off. Of course I’m not going to generalize, but, small incidences like these stay with you, and it’s not a nice memory to take away. Apart from the staff, the hotel has a difficult approach through narrow and crowded lanes and sometimes it can get extremely noisy in the premises.

Overall, for the price, this hotel has some great features, including a rooftop pool, the Upre restaurant, and rooms with private balconies, suites with a Jacuzzi or a steam room and a wonderful lakeside view. The small pool gives the place an edge over the neighbors and the restaurant menu ranges from the standard Indian cuisine to Mexican food, with a large, reasonably priced wine list.

Lounging Facility
Sunrise View
Balcony

View from my Room

6 Affordable Countries Students Should Travel to More in 2018

 

Guest Post by Carley Farrell and Jordan Brenner of The Nomadic Dreamers

FIND FUN FACTS ABOUT CARLEY AND JORDAN BELOW

As students, we’re young with more free time than we realise. This is our time to travel. As we grow into ourselves, travelling can be a huge part in shaping us into put-together adult’s post-graduation. It’s safe to say that we are how we are thanks to travelling. But, if you don’t believe us, we’ll list out the reasons for you:

  • With school breaks and more flexibility to travel while in school, as well as more money to spend on leisure activities before the real world truly hits
  • Traveling as a student, as corny as it sounds, helps you learn a lot more about yourself and about other places and cultures, something you can’t learn in a classroom. Your perspective on the world grows and it helps you grow which will help you in life, trust us!
  • It is also not that expensive if you do it right, with cheap destinations around the world meaning no matter where you are, you don’t have to break the bank to go on an adventure! If you are in the United States, visiting our weekly Friday flight deals for proof!

For each (livable) continent, we chose a place that is not only affordable on a student budget, but full of beauty, culture, fun nightlife, and that’s overall an amazing country to visit:

1. North America: The United States

Okay so it depends where you go of course, but.. the United States is beautiful and can be extremely affordable, certain areas more so than others. Personally being from the United States, I have often ignored traveling and exploring my own country as much as other countries/continents even though the landscape and people are so diverse and each part of the country offers a new and unique experience.

So what areas are the most affordable to visit?

Well for one, skip the major and most well-known cities in the U.S. Instead, head to smaller cities and head to areas typically not visited that still hold their original charisma that is unique to that city and area of the country instead of larger cities that have become very international. I highly suggest visiting the South as in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, (you get the picture). But also the Southwest U.S. like Arizona, Utah and New Mexico because the landscape there is out of this world.

Specifically, places like Savannah, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; New Orleans, Louisiana; Austin, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico, Salt Lake City, Utah; Tampa, Florida; and then places like the Smoky Mountains, the Everglades in South Florida, Arches National Park, taking a hot air balloon ride through the desert in Arizona and more!

What should you do?

Whether you go with your significant other, friend(s), or yourself, these cities and more across the U.S. are super affordable and offer so much for you to eat, see and do! I highly suggest a road trip with whoever you go with! You can split the rental car cost with friends or even take your own car which saves a lot of money and, you get to see more of a place

Written by Carley

 

2. South America: Colombia

Why Colombia? Well first off the gorgeous colours, landscapes and Latin passion make it a no brainer but.. Colombia is becoming a much safer place for travellers.

Many people are scared of Colombia, but in recent years Colombia is turning around a new leaf. As a traveler safety is always a concern, but vigilance and common travel sense makes Colombia and easy country to get around!

Where in Colombia should you go?

With so many stunning cities, the options are endless, but with cheap flights to Bogotá and Medellin, those are great places to start!  Bogotá, Medellin, and Cartagena each offer unique beauties that perfectly represents the striking beauty of South America.

What does Colombia have to offer?

Colombia is a country that has it all, from street art and nightlife to historical treasures like colonial Cartagena. Not only that but Colombia is home to Ciudad Perdida, ‘the lost city’. This isn’t your average tourist attraction though! With similar construction to the infamous Machu Picchu, this ancient city is hidden in dense jungle atop the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a six-day hike from the nearest town. Trekking to the ruins of this mysterious city is one of Colombia’s most rewarding adventures, but not for the faint-hearted.

I mentioned Colombia’s incredible nightlife, and I meant it! With all-night salsa clubs, get ready to shake your hips and feel the Latin passion pulsing through you!! The southern city of Cali is known as Colombia’s salsa capital, so if you’re feeling like dancing until you drop. You know where to go! Not one to stay up all night? Don’t worry – Colombian coffee will keep you going!

Written by Jordan

 

3. Europe: Albania

Before every other person on earth hears about it..

Go to Albania! I have been obsessing over going since forever for multiple reasons! For one, this country in the Balkans is EXTREMELY AFFORDABLE as in you can pay $4 for a night in hostel and easily under $10 to split an Airbnb or hotel with other people. Hitchhiking (although your momma probably told you not to do it) is common in the country and from what I’ve read (because I haven’t had the fortune of visiting…yet) the locals are very welcoming and actually love tourist as it is a way to bring this country out of poverty.

Albania is very safe..

I thought with the bumpy history Albania has experienced, that maybe the country was full of crime still and that is wasn’t safe for a girl traveling on her own or with other females to visit. Blog after blog, I realised this was all a misconception (one reason I love to travel – breaking those misconceptions about people and places!).

Why here?

Well for one, the capital of Tirana (where you would fly into) has culture weaving through each and every one of its communist-like architecture that rules the city. Right outside the capital are beautiful mountains to explore as well. On the Albanian Riviera, you will find crystal clear waters that rival the waters of Greece, Italy and Croatia… maybe even taking the title.

It is affordable to do see or eat anything here too! The long and ravenous history full of conquerors like the Ottoman and Roman empires have left ruins all over the country waiting for you to explore. Other countries are right in reach and a bus ride away as well making it easy to explore the who Balkans region (do I hear a Balkans road trip!?)

Head to Sarandë, the capital of the Albanian Riviera where you can party at the beach clubs or take in some more local ruins. I looked just to see, and found Airbnb’s around $40 for a apartment that could fit 6 people in it right off the water!

Overall, from the city to mountains to the rural countryside and a loop back through the Albanian Riviera with some friends and you’ll see why this country is so amazing!

Written by Carley

 

4. Asia: Philippines

So it may not be the cheapest country in Asia but you can easily spend less than $50 a day..

The Picture-perfect Philippines are comprised of over 7,000 islands, making it near impossible to explore each and every one of them, but I for one know that I could die happy trying.

But don’t just think of the Philippines as a place to kick back on the beach and relax, try visiting the rice paddy fields, hiking a volcanic crater (the country has tons of volcanoes), swim with whale sharks in Cebu, party in Manila or partake in one of the big festivals that occur throughout the year.

Don’t knock it till you try it..

Filipino food is a combination of other Asian cuisines and from a friend, I’ve heard it is incredibly tasty and I’m dying to try it!

Why it is perfect for students?

Well like I said before, there is so much to explore and do, not just beautiful scenery, although you will always have plenty of that, but discovering the culture and meeting the locals who are known to be some of the friendlies in the world all on a tiny budget.

You can easily spend less than $50/day when visiting the country and I have seen (at least from the states) flights in the $500’s RT to Manila.

I know it isn’t for everyone, but partying in the country is also known to be an experience everyone should have at least once in their life.

It is the perfect place to backpack for a few weeks with a friend or two, except maybe a few islands, the Philippines is safe, even for solo female travellers or groups of female travellers. I don’t know about you, but I would love to grab a few of my best friends for a two week trip to the Philippines for a little mix of everything at a budget we can manage!

Written by Carley

 

5. Africa: Morocco

Africa is such an incredibly diverse continent with insane beauty and cities that will leave you breathless – and Morocco is no exception!

Why Morocco?

First off, it’s easier to get to than you might think. You can take a ferry from multiple ports in Spain like Barcelona, and Tarifa or flight directly into Marrakech or Casablanca! It can be the perfect destination for the backpacking kind of traveler or if you’re a big spender looking for lavish resort life, it has it all! Personally, I’ve been to Morocco three different times and each time was completely different and magical!

Moroccan food is sooo underrated. With gorgeous dishes like tagine (I fell in love with a lamb and prune tagine) and Batilla that makes you wonder how powdered sugar on a savoury dish can be so amazing – the Moroccan food scene is a foodie’s dream!

You can shop till you drop too..

Morocco is also known for their incredible markets and souks where you can get truly unique souvenirs. They have gorgeous jewellery, fabrics, and pottery that can all be haggled for! This makes Morocco is the perfect place to test out your bargaining skills.

Written by Jordan

 

6. Oceania: New Zealand

New Zealand is the ultimate destination for any type of travelling. New Zealand’s gorgeous landscapes are home to some incredible hikes, water sports, and daredevil activities like skydiving and even wine tastings. Basically, if you can think of it – you can do it here!

How can you do New Zealand on a budget?

Firstly, Airbnb’s and hostels are an incredible way to save money around New Zealand. The Airbnb’s on average are from $35-75 depending on where you stay and how much space you want! Also, if you’re tight on a budget, then just enjoy the outdoor activities. The memories you can make hiking are everlasting and don’t cost a thing!

Fancy a night out?

Auckland is a city that has really stepped up its game when it comes to nightlife. With a more easy-going lifestyle in New Zealand most cities will have a more muted nightlife – but not Auckland! With a mixture of casual dining restaurants, pubs, and clubs, you have to spend a night out in Auckland. Don’t forget about Wellington though, Wellington has been the hub of nightlife in New Zealand for quite a while and for good reason.

New Zealand is one of those iconic destinations that every student should try to get to. There’s something so magical about this place – it’s diversity, sweeping landscapes, mixtures of activities and laid-back atmosphere makes it a serene destination for some soul-searching!

Written by Jordan

 

FUN FACTS:

Follow these beautiful Nomads and their crazy travel stories on their blog, The Nomadic Dreamers or their Instagram and Facebook pages! Show them some love 🙂

Jaipur – The Pink City

I’ve been wanting to visit Rajasthan for as long as I can remember. Every time I tried to steal some time out of my schedule, something always came up and I couldn’t make the trip. But this time, I believed it could happen; and it did. In the month of November 2017, I decided that I would take out 10 days during December to explore at least 3 cities in Rajasthan. The best time to visit Rajasthan is in the winters, between November and January. So, it worked out perfectly!

When I think of Rajasthan, the first city that comes to mind is the beautiful Pink City – Jaipur! The city of royal, charming and marvellous palaces and forts. Jaipur had to be first on my list! This time, I travelled with two of my friends who didn’t know each other at all; so, I was pretty excited about how that would play out. And fortunately, it turned out pretty damn good! Brownie points to me!

We took an early morning flight from Mumbai to Jaipur, which gave us a whole day and more to explore. We stayed in Jaipur for 2 nights and 3 days. However, I think we needed a day or two more, because there’s so much to see there, and we hardly managed to cover half of it. The first night, we stayed at the Jaipur Zostel which is a hostel, if you couldn’t figure by the name. It was the first time I got to experience living in a hostel with people from all over the world. At first, I didn’t know what to expect at all. Will there be nice people? Will the place be clean? I really had no clue. But I guess having no expectations whatsoever has its perks, and most of the time the Universe surprises you! I walked into the most quirky, comfy and welcoming place ever! The rooms were clean, the washrooms looked hygienic and well kept, the common room looked so inviting and comfortable and the other hostellers were kind, generous and very sweet! We got to spend a little time at breakfast with some of the hostellers, and then headed out to soak in the city’s vibe and culture.

We walked along the main tourist market, gawking at the leather bag boutiques, silver jewellery stores, jutti shops and vintage antique sellers. I wanted to buy everything. I was in heaven! From the main market, the grand Hawa Mahal (Wind Palace) stands tall in red and pink sandstone. It’s unique five-storey exterior is akin to the honeycomb of a beehive. The jharokhas (balconies) have tiny intricate designs and paintings. We skipped going into the palace, and instead entered the City Palace of Jaipur. It’s peach and pink tones, detailed carvings and magnificent architecture will make you fall in love with the palace. The beautiful jharokhas and pretty walkways make you feel no less than a royal highness! The palace complex incorporates an impressive and vast array of courtyards, gardens, and buildings. After hours of walking and exploring, we went back to the hostel to rest. We spent that night playing Scrabble, jamming to interesting music, and interacting with fellow hostellers.

The next day, we woke up really early in the morning to go to the Amber Fort and Palace in Amer. It was about 20 minutes away from the Jaipur city centre, so we took an Uber cab up to a point, and then walked up to the fort and palace. As the fort progresses, you begin to see its magnificence, and I was stunned at the sight. Its massive walls, huge doors and windows, and its royalty, as it stands high on a hilltop, make for a mesmerizing view! Usually, I’m not the kind to hire a tourist guide, but this time I figured why not? They probably have their own version of the history and stories of the palace, but I was curious to know what they might bring to the table. And so, we hired one. He took as to all the corners of the palace, gave us minute details about it, and even cracked us up a few times. This palace was one of my favourite ones out of all the ones we saw on this trip. With its intricacy, organic colouring, brilliant architecture and golden vibe, I was awestruck! This is one palace you CANNOT miss if you’re visiting Jaipur.

The same day, we visited the Jaigarh Fort that was just about 15 minutes away, on a higher hilltop. Two important things about visiting this fort are; one, there’s not much to see because it was a fort for the Rajput soldiers of the time. It has some beautiful views of Amer city from that height, and the world’s largest cannon. But that’s about it. Two, the cabs will take you up to the fort, but on your return trip down, they’ll charge you 200 rupees more than your billing amount. Why? I still haven’t understood. After getting cheated by rickshaws asking for a 200 rupees downhill drop, you’re on your own. In all, I’d say it’s not really worth the inconvenience. That day, we moved from the Jaipur Zostel to the Mansingh Tower Hotel. It’s part of the Club Mahindra properties, and a fairly regular hotel. Of course, it has its perks of comfort, luxury and bathtubs, but somehow, I wanted to go back to the hostel!

On the last day, we slept in until just before noon, and then only stepped out for lunch. We walked along the shops, ate roadside food, and I finally bought a leather bag I was eyeing since day one! In the evening, before sunset we left for the Nahargarh Fort. Again, the rickshaws could only drop us up to a certain point and then we had to walk. But, we did something more adventurous and what, for me, is the same as meditating. Trekking! Yes, we climbed that massive mountain, walking up slopes that seemed like 60 degrees, and it was so much fun! There was not much to see in the fort so we walked along the fortress wall, picked a quiet spot, and sat there watching the sun set over the city! The view was beyond words can explain, and it was so peaceful. I’d say it was the perfect culmination to our trip to the Pink City!

That night we took an overnight bus to Jodhpur. (Blog coming soon)

Overall, Jaipur treated us well and I absolutely loved the city, the people, the culture, the sounds, the heritage and everything about it!

Restaurants/Cafes we visited:

  1. Wind View Café – It overlooks the beautiful Hawa Mahal, and parts of the city. Serves the best lassi in town!
  2. Kailash Restaurant – Serves the most delicious and flavourful vegetarian food. They dolloped a whole slice of butter in the curry, and oh my god, it was so yummy!
  3. Jaigarh RestaurantIf you’re looking to eat authentic Rajasthani food, here’s a place you must go to, only if you’re visiting the Jaigarh Fort. Order the laal maas and chicken biryani. The best food we ate on this trip!
  4. Handi Restaurant Known for its pretty rooftop setting. Average food, with terrible service.
  5. The Tattoo Café Directly opposite the Hawa Mahal, it has a variety of food options and choices. Great for breakfast!
  6. Roadside daal kachori Anywhere on the market road, you’ll find a guy serving daal kachoris and samosas, they’re a must when in Jaipur! Cheap and yummy street treats.
  7. M. KhanYummiest tandoori chicken and traditional Jaipur style street food available here. Most scrumptious, finger-licking and tasty food ever! If you’re a foodie, this is the place for you!

#FRWTravelTips

  • If you’re on a budget, spend less on rickshaws and autos; try walking as much as you can. Everything is pretty close by.
  • Use the Uber cab service over the local rickshaws because it’s cheaper!
  • If you’re a student, carry your university or college identity card, you’ll get students discounts at tourist visiting sites and ticket counters. It can make a huge difference to your wallet!
  • If you want to shop a lot, go to the local market. You’ll get the same things you get at the tourist market at half the price.
  • Be a sport and try the authentic Rajasthani food at least once, if you’ve come all the way.

Camp Thar Resort, Osian

Living in a city for most of my life, I have always wondered what it is like to live a life in the mountains, with sub-zero temperatures or in the desert under the hot sun, in a bleak and barren moor. One can only make up stories and imagine situations based on movies we’ve watched, stories we’ve read or incidences we’ve heard from other people. But what’s the fun if we live on someone else’s experiences?

On my recent trip to Rajasthan, I wanted to make it a point to stay in the desert for as long as I could – to experience what it is like to endure the extreme temperatures. The scorching heat during the day and the frigid chill at night. Amidst the sun kissed sand dunes, the occasional cacti plants and a vast open sky.

Nestled in the valleys of the famous Thar Desert, the Camp Thar Resort in Osian is a traditional desert resort with the idyllic mix of comfort and adventure situated about 60km from the city of Jodhpur. Laid out luminous under the blazing sun, this luxurious camp resort is the perfect winter getaway! For the more adventurous; the accommodation is in basic camps, and for those who prefer the opulent comfort; lavish tents over-looking the endless desert are also available here. However, the most impressive characteristic of these tents is the subtle yet strikingly beautiful Rajasthani touch. From colourful fabrics and heritage inspired designs to impeccable modern-day hospitality; everything is in perfect balance and moderation.

Camp Thar Resort in Osian has mainly four types of accommodation facilities for guests with different choices – The Swiss Tents, Luxury Tents, Royal Tents and Traditional Dhani Cottages. The most expensive and elaborate ones are the Dhani Cottages; where one can experience a seamless fusion of traditional living and contemporary comfort. The Swiss Tents being the most economical, include the basic necessities for the average traveller. Personally, I preferred these as I wanted to experience the extreme weather conditions in the true sense of camping in a desert!

I stayed at Camp Thar for 2 nights and 3 days, doing a lot of the things I love! I spent my time marvelling at the most overwhelming sunsets, walking barefoot on the soft sand, relaxing on swings that were aesthetically placed, and having a ball at the cultural nights around a crackling bonfire. During the day, we went on long camel rides and thrilling desert safaris. And in the quiet nights, my friends and I climbed up into one of the tree houses (Machans), popped a bottle of wine and watched the sky full of glittery stars. Sometimes you don’t realise how far away you are from civilisation because there is so much to do there!

The food cooked and served by the resort is simple yet mouth-watering. The camp has a vegetarian restaurant. They dish out some authentic Rajasthani foods like Gutte ki Sabzi, Ker Sangri, Dal Baati and Rajasthani Kadi. To top it all, after every meal there is a sweet dish and some delicacy! In the evenings, we enjoyed some High Tea, under the pink sunset sky in the vast desert. Everything is elaborate and very meticulously presented.

Mr. Ajay Chowdary, the hotel manager was very generous and kind enough to organise these delightful activities for us, keep us busy and distract us from the heat. Mr. Surinder Singh, who is also a part of the team at Camp Thar Resort, makes it a point to interact with all his guests. He made sure all of us were comfortable and enjoying the experience. I think making people feel at home is extremely important and the staff here nailed it!

All said and done, this resort is 60km away from Jodhpur and we found it a little difficult to hire a car or rickshaw that would drop us all the way to Osian. So, a prior booking for a cab is recommended. We had a tough, one-hour rickshaw ride to the resort but managed to take a cab on the way back.

But, if you’re up for some adventure along with the numerous luxuries provided, this is one desert resort that should be on your travel list!

Use code “FRW10” on your next booking at Camp Thar Osian to avail a 10% discount. Offer valid only to Feet Run Wild followers and readers. 

The Machan Resort

With the stressful lives we all lead nowadays; do you ever want to run far away and escape the mundanity/monotony of modern life? No phone calls, emails, or client meetings. Just you, in the lap of nature! Once in a while, we all want to escape from the lives in our metros. How does an escapade full of nature trails, exotic birds, waterfalls and morning fog sound? Where nights are cold; but the toasty campfire keeps freezing away. Where people talk to each other, not their phones.

My best friend, Tanvi, and I often find that we don’t get enough time to spend with each other because of our respective busy schedules. Currently, we’re living in different cities so the few times we do get to meet; we make it a point to take a short getaway and this is one such occasion.

Commended as an eco-friendly resort that runs on solar and wind energy, The Machan in Lonavala is a luxury forest getaway situated about 15km from the main town. Perched at 3000ft. the resort is located in 25 acres of dense forest cover. True to its name, all the rooms are built in tree houses. Each room is different from the other in terms of views, structure and placement. There is a rustic, yet beautiful, touch to the rooms and the décor is delightful! Every room’s antique furniture and elegant bathtub is a treat! My favourite parts about these rooms were how they were framed with glass walls, and, of-course, the open-sky showers!

The Machan has four categories of guest rooms – Heritage, Canopy, Forest and Cabin Machans. The Heritage Machan being the most expensive and luxurious one, indeed a favourite amongst the visitors, offers a 360-degree view of the valley from the glass walled rooms. The Forest Machan has the best view into the valley, and is rather convenient and accessible. Its deck opens out into lush green meadows and hills. A trickling stream, bird calls and lots of flitting butterflies adds to the aura. You might become reflective, feel like a bird, or you might feel free from everything worldly.

The food served by the resort is decent and fresh; as they grow most of the produce in their own property, or get it from the nearby village. However, I’d suggest that you take some food along with you, since the in-room dining facility is often unavailable or sometimes slow.

There is not much to do in a place like this and that is exactly what attracted my attention the most. It is the perfect getaway and relaxation destination! They do not endorse the use of TVs, loud music or Internet access as it not only disturbs the forest animals but, the absence of those also lets our senses take charge. You can really spend time connecting with your own senses in such a free place. The different smells offered by the blooming flowers, listening to far off birdcalls, treating the eyes with the surrounding greenery and touching raw and rustic wood is simply a blessing! They also offer massages, yoga sessions, a stargazing experience and nature treks around the property.

Since Tanvi and I had spent very less time together, we got to talk and relax together at The Machan. It was the perfect 2-day staycation! We lounged on the deck, dozed on hammocks, photographed the organic beauty, chased blue butterflies, and tracked squirrels scurrying on trees. As the sky faded its colours, and the weather began to get cold, we sat on a lonely bench overlooking the surrounding forest and watched the sun set magically behind the hills.

If you want some quiet downtime away from the crowds and the stressful Internet, you’ll love it here. It’s the most peaceful getaway I’ve ever been on!

Pulau Pangkor | Malaysia 2017

They say, of all the books in the world, the most exciting stories are found between passport pages, and without a second thought I can assure you it’s true! This trip is one of my most exhilarating, thrilling and exciting ones that I’ve been on. It was the first time Payal and I were travelling on our own; navigating our way through highways and untouched beaches. Ever since I landed in Malaysia, we’ve been anticipating and planning these four days and, honestly, it’s been worth every second. Imagine two girls filled with adventure, on a fairly empty island, jumping off massive boulders and swimming with fluorescent fish! Breathtaking, right? So, here goes an incredible travel story…

We departed Kuala Lumpur from the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan (TBS) bus station, just before dawn. The bus ticket to Lumut Jetty is about 27 ringgits for one way. It’s pretty cheap considering the air-conditioned luxury that these buses provide, and the time. Although I slept for most part of the bus journey, I woke up to see flat, never-ending landscapes of lush green grasslands and attractive mountain ridges on either side. Of course, the Malaysian skies never failed to hypnotize me and I; I let them take me where they pleased! After an easy three-hour road trip, we reached the Lumut bus station, which is the gateway town to Pangkor Island. We bought a 28-ringgit return ferry ticket to Pangkor Island from the Lumut jetty. The ferry ride lasts only about 30 minutes so we relaxed and mentally geared up for what was going to be the best two days of my stay in Malaysia! On the ferry, we bumped into fellow Indians living in Malaysia, who often visited Pangkor and they were kind enough to give us a few tips and suggestions for our stay in Pangkor. Meeting helpful and generous people in a foreign land is a genuinely comforting feeling. We knew who to call in case of an emergency.

We had to take a cab from the jetty to our hotel and our thoughtful friends from the ferry made sure we bargained the cab prices before we hopped onto cute, pink colored taxi vans that read “Pulau Pangkor”. Excited was an understatement!

We stayed at the luxurious Pangkor Sandy Beach Resort that overlooked the pastel blue waters of the ocean. That day we spent walking around town, spent some time on Nipah Beach watching the sunset and hunted down places to eat. As it was the off-season time, a lot of restaurants and shacks were shut and the few that were open were not quite worth the food or ambience.

The next day, we rented out a private boat to go island hopping around the main land. Now, one would think that it isn’t the safest option for two young girls to set off with a random boatman but I guess I’d argue that if you don’t fully trust and believe your intuition, you’d never know. So, we set off post a heavy breakfast with a bag full of snacks, drinks, a bedsheet, lots of sunscreen and our swimwear! The boat ride was fast and bumpy. I watched the oh-so blue ocean surround us, and the main land slowly disappear into the horizon. Payal looked at me with so much excitement, and it filled my heart! She loves the sea and sand; it’s her happy place. Her energy poured over into me and we were like two little excited puppies. Our boatman was a genuine guy. He introduced himself, offered us bread to feed the fish and took care of us. We sailed to the beautiful Marina Island, Coral Bay Island, Pulau Mentagor, Pulau Giam, Pangkor Laut Island, Monkey Island and Paradise Beach while he told us stories about each island and why they were named the names they have. Unconsciously, I knew most of them were myths and stories that circulated in town but with the excitement and humor that he added, I listened with utmost concentration.

Finally, he took as to an unnamed, untouched and newly discovered isle that floated in the middle of the ocean. It was so small that I could literally take a walk around the periphery of the island. There was only but one small shack made up of 2 bed sheets, a couple wooden planks and coconut tree leaves. The golden sand shined under the sun and the water was a crystal clear blue. I was awestruck, mesmerized and shaken by how absolutely beautiful this virgin island sparkled under the sky, surrounded by the vast ocean. I simply could not believe the existence of that islet. My faith in Mother Earth rose up and I imagined that there were many more places like these, born out of her loins, that remain untouched by man.

We spent the entire day on this gorgeous island, snorkeling, swimming, sun bathing and clicking a thousand pictures. I spent uncounted hours floating around in the ocean, looking at the water and the sky. Studying each wave, different from the last. Seeing how it caught the light, the air, the wind; watching patterns, the sweep of it all, and letting it take me. The sea. I noticed how perfectly quiet it is underwater. A silence I can’t wait to hear again. The fish swam around me but I didn’t feel a single one touch me. It was so beautiful that when I walked out of the water, I didn’t want to talk or move; I wanted to just be. My conscience took me by surprise. I felt at peace.

We returned to the mainland that night; stuffed ourselves with local food and fell asleep at dusk. We woke up the next morning to an overwhelming sunrise. The sky turned from pink to a hundred shades of orange and I stood there watching the horizon drawing itself in the sky. Close to the hotel, our boatman owned a water sports company. He insisted that we try them, and Payal convinced me to do at least one with her; so, I did. It was fun! A different kind of adventure, and something I hadn’t done before. You guessed right, we didn’t just do one, we did them all! It was quite an eventful day- I did watersports for the first time, Payal’s phone stopped working and we couldn’t find good places to eat! So, we stayed in all day, went into the pool for sometime and then sat at the beach watching the sun set and starlit sky.

Here’s to a trip that taught me more than any textbook, school or teacher did. To a friend who is forever, to fears and joys that can exist symbiotically, and to a life so simple and precious.

DAY 1:

DAY 2:

DAY 3:

DAY 4: