Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Train Travel in Sri Lanka - inexpensive & intriguing

Train Travel in Sri Lanka - inexpensive and intriguing
Traveling by train is a quintessential Sri Lankan experience. Your trip to Sri Lanka won't be panoramic enough in case you miss those unhurried and quaint train journeys. If you care for my opinion, I would suggest- hop onto a train whenever and wherever you can, while you are backpacking Sri Lanka. Before I proceed let me clarify, I haven't been commissioned by Sri Lanka Railways to promote their service. Forget about sponsoring a travel blogger, they are so happy-go-lucky in their attitude that they haven't set up an online reservation facility yet to boost the railway tourism in the country. The second disclaimer is, I'm a train buff. If you go through my Sri Lanka backpacking itinerary you'll find I had commuted on trains in multiple occasions. Keeping aside my intrinsic bias towards train rides, in this article I'll try to give you a comprehensive idea of exploring Sri Lanka on trains, especially from a backpacker's point of view. I'll also mention other transportation options at your disposal, so that you don't feel logically deprived when I emphasize- train rides are mandatory components of your Sri Lankan travel plan. But then, investing your faith on a railway network that still thrives on technologies and infrastructures dating back to nineteenth century might not seem like the smartest move to many of you. It'll be like judging a book by its cover. Today we'll turn more pages before drawing the ineluctable inference- train travel is the most comfortable, affordable and kaleidoscopic mode for getting around this tropical backpacker's paradise

Friday, 22 March 2019

Backpacking Sri Lanka - my island Itinerary

Backpacking Sri Lanka - my island Itinerary
Sri Lanka is a tropical paradise, blessed with unspoiled bounties from nature, myriad golden beaches, unique wildlife population, and home to an ancient Buddhist culture stretching back to over 2,500 years of rich, unbroken history. I had traveled to Sri Lanka twice in 2017. Those visits were very short and I had blogged little about those experiences. Although, exploring its tourism facet was not in my agenda that time, I had passively imbibed a fair bit of Sri Lankan intoxicating aroma to respond back to her call in 2019. It was an unhurried two weeks of solo backpacking in the later part of February. I had went out with my old backpack, return tickets, e-visa, fifteen days in hand and of course few hundred dollars. Honestly, the travel plan wasn't chalked out till I landed in Colombo. Reasons could be many. Exactly a month back, I had returned from my Uzbekistan trip. There were a hell lot of pending priorities to wrap up. For some uncanny reason, whenever I sat with the island map in my leisure, focusing mind on any particular thing seemed almost impossible. Moreover, my subconscious mind knew that the destination was not unfamiliar to me. Although the journey had begun without an itinerary, I knew which places I wanted to touch in my two weeks of Sri Lankan sojourn.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Glimpses of Uzbekistan - exploring Bukhara

Glimpses of Uzbekistan - exploring Bukhara
Pardon me for the inevitable delay in publishing this final chapter of my Uzbekistan trip. I was backpacking in Sri Lanka for good two weeks, and soon enough you'll get to see myriad colorful collages of the erstwhile Ceylon. In the earlier post I had narrated a fair bit of our day trip to Samarkand. Today I'll introduce you with Bukhara, another historical city located about 600 kilometers west of Tashkent, prominent on the ancient Silk Road map, and also popular among tourists for being one of the four UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Uzbekistan. It was the fifth day of our itinerary. We had a return flight to board that midnight. We could either spend the day lazily exploring market areas of Tashkent, or hop onto an early morning high-speed train to Bukhara for a whirlwind guided tour. By now, you already know which button we had pressed. Well, it wasn't an easy call. Just understand the mathematics first. Afrosiyob dropped us at Bukhara railway station by 11:15 AM and we had to catch the train back for Tashkent right at 3:45 PM. So, practically we had less than 4 hours to get a decent glimpse of the city. Was that time slot sufficient to explore Bukhara? Hell no! Was it worthy for us? A big 'yes'!

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Glimpses of Uzbekistan - exploring Samarkand

Glimpses of Uzbekistan - exploring Samarkand
Samarkand, often affectionately referred as "Rome of the East" is not only an UNESCO World Heritage site of Uzbekistan, but one of the oldest cities in the world which has gallantly preserved centuries-old history of human civilization since 742 BC. Like a phoenix, this ancient city of Samarkand has suffered repeated knockouts, and after each fall it has rebuilt itself from the ashes, appearing more majestic and appealing than before! We took a guided day trip to Samarkand from Tashkent on the fourth day of our itinerary, and I feel blessed to have taken such a right decision. If you read my post on 7 days of ideal Uzbekistan itinerary, you'll get to know that exploring Samarkand is not feasible unless you halt overnight there. But, at least we got a glimpse of the beautiful historical city, which was chronologically capital of various empires, starting from Sogdia in 4th century BC, to the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic in 20th century AD. More importantly, Samarkand remodeled our perspective on Uzbekistan which our subconscious mind had archived after exploring Tashkent in first two days.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Glimpses of Uzbekistan - exploring Tashkent

Glimpses of Uzbekistan - exploring Tashkent
Tashkent is the capital of beautiful Uzbekistan, an apparently modern metropolitan, yet one of the oldest cities located on the great Silk Road, holding its immense significance as the political, economic, cultural and scientific center of the rapidly developing nation. Unlike bustling capitals of most other Asian countries which are often too overwhelming for first-timers , Tashkent offers a much more relaxed and welcoming atmosphere to outsiders. Islam Karimov Tashkent International Airport, the port of entry for most foreign tourists, is itself compact enough to be explored on a pair of flip-flops. Remember, do not click photos of the airfield as it is prohibited. As you clear your immigration and step out of the airport, there won't be any herd of pushy taxi drivers to bewilder you.

When I and my friend failed to trace the tour guide who was supposed to wait outside the arrival area with a placard, we were kind of frustrated and clueless. Evening was fast filling the sky. Winter chill was making its presence felt. Communicating with locals seemed a bit difficult. To top it all, we had no local SIM. It was a cab driver who came to our rescue. In the beginning, we misjudged his friendliness as some swindling motive. But, we were very wrong! It was our first encounter with the unexpected Uzbek hospitality. Before you take a drive into the city of Tashkent, I recommend you to go through the ideal 7 days Uzbekistan itinerary I had blogged earlier, and also valid reasons for you to backpack Uzbekistan.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

7 reasons for Indian backpackers to visit Uzbekistan

7 reasons for Indian backpackers to visit Uzbekistan
Last year, I had given you 7 valid reasons for every backpacker to visit Sri Lanka, the pearl of Indian Ocean. Today I'll tell you why every Indian backpacker must visit Uzbekistan. Frankly, there can be too many good reasons for travelers, especially Indians, to plan a trip to this part of Central Asia, but I'll highlight only top seven of them to save your time. Did you check out my highly recommended 7 days Uzbekistan itinerary? Being a first time visitor, I am not tired of praising the unmatched richness of Uzbekistan as a culturally gifted tourist destination. The tourism platter of this country shall astound you with its bizarre mountain slopes, ridges, marvelous blooming gardens, picturesque valleys and beautifully preserved myriad architectural wonders with centuries-old history associated to them. Hospitality is the part of the soul of the Uzbek people. Despite the undeniable language barrier, I received guidance from locals and officials every time I needed it. Influenced by the cultures of ancient Iranians, Arabs, Turkic nomadic tribes, Chinese, Mongols and Russians, each region of Uzbekistan has its own unique distinctive culture. However cinematic it might sound, Uzbek cuisine comprises amazing variety of dishes which definitely blends a piece of the soul of the cook along with aromatic oriental spices to add unparalleled piquancy to Uzbek gastronomic tale. I've carefully sorted out 7 reasons for Indian backpackers to visit this central Asian nation.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Glimpses of Uzbekistan - the Itinerary

Glimpses of Uzbekistan - the Itinerary
Uzbekistan is an exceptionally beautiful and culturally gifted country of Central Asia. The geography of Uzbekistan is an amazing blend of flat and mountainous terrain. There, the green plains, like oriental beauties are delicately guarded by the harsh mountain giants which are covered eternally with thick snow. With its colorful mosques, madrasas and markets, a trip to Uzbekistan offers you a fascinating glimpse of a beautiful part of the world that most travelers miss. It's a shame, how seldom we consider this country while brainstorming on our upcoming international travel destination! Seasonal variations in Uzbekistan are no less remarkable than what we enjoy here in India. Let me clarify, it was not a planned winter trip, and my knowledge on Uzbekistan was probably lesser than what you know right now.

2018 was literally very dull and rich with negative vibes. Keeping all personal screw-ups, loses and failures aside, I was consciously contemplating on inaugurating 2019 diary with optimistic notes. Initial plan was to backpack Vietnam in mid February. A comprehensive itinerary for two weeks was chalked out. Just when everything was falling into place, my travel mate backed out due to her unforeseen professional call. That's how our backpacking Vietnam got postponed. In an attempt to kill the frustration associated with an aborted trip, I hiked to Parasnath Hill. Clearly, it didn't work out. I kept scavenging for travel ideas desperately till images of Uzbekistan captured my attention. Apart from sharing our itinerary, at the end I'll recommend you a more ideal 7 days Uzbekistan itinerary which is feasible even to solo backpackers.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Winter Hike to the holy Parasnath Hill

Winter Hike to the holy Parasnath Hill
Parasnath Hills are a range of hills located at the eastern mete of Chota Nagpur Plateau, as if born to add mountain flavor to the touristry platter of woody Jharkhand. The highest peak of Parasnath range is Parasnath itself, marking its dominance as the tallest peak in Jharkhand, with a decent altitude of 4,429 feet. Parasnath is one of the holiest pilgrimage destination for Jains, and more popularly addressed as ‘Shikharji’ or “Sammed Sikhar”. A casual Google-search can fetch you all these info. But, what you still won’t get to know is whether Parasnath Hill is worth visiting for travellers who’re not religiously inclined, or those who follow other religions. That’s the reason why you’ve landed onto this blog. Keep reading. Last week I rode to Madhuban on a scooter. Those of you who already know me as a motorcycle obsessed individual must be wondering why I rode on a scooter. I’ll come to that part later. It was my second visit to Madhupur, with almost similar eagerness to hike Parasnath as I had back in October 2016. Madhuban is a tiny town in Giridih district dotted with a number of Jain temples. The usual hiking trail to Parasnath peak originates from one fag end of this pilgrim-packed town. Once the motorable road ends, one needs to walk 6 miles up to get onto the Parasnath top.