Adventure Holidays

Breaking into a sweat… and not from the heat

Skiing, trekking, white water rafting… seek and you shall find the exact sort of adventure holiday that you are looking for not that far from your doorstep. That’s right, you don’t have to fly to Switzerland to ski or head for Kilimanjaro to go on breathtaking treks. India has amazing destinations that can give you the adrenalin rush and Facebook photos that you crave.

Here are just a few that we have picked:
Skiing

Come winter and the beautiful, snowy slopes of north and north-east India are frequented by skiing enthusiasts from within the country and around the world. Some of the most popular sites, namely Solang Valley, and Dayara Bugyal and Auli in Uttarakhand, have institutes to teach amateurs and those who wish to upgrade their skills.

Skiing

Kufri in Himachal Pradesh hosts an annual winter sport festival courtesy of the tourism department, so the skiing is supplemented by more fun winter activities, like toboganning. Also in Himachal Pradesh is Narkanda, with slopes ideal for beginners and steeper ones for more skilled skiers. Continue reading “Adventure Holidays”

Madurai: A Town Where History is Part of Everyday Life

For a holiday in south India soaking in history and heritage, it would be pretty difficult to beat Madurai. The town is easily accessible and the main attractions can be covered in a couple of days, with time to spare for healthy and delicious breakfasts (the Tamil people seem dedicated to chutney innovations and it’s worth it) and a spot of shopping.

Madurai City

History:

Madurai was most prosperous, in wealth and culture, under the first and second rule of the Pandya kings, and later under the Nayaks.

Apparently, the town traded with ancient Rome and Greece and flourished under the Pandyas, till it was captured by the Cholas in the 10th century. The Pandyas took it back in the 13th century and built it up as a literary hub. Continue reading “Madurai: A Town Where History is Part of Everyday Life”

Luxury Trains in India

The Journey and The Destination

So, someone had the wicked-good idea of converting the journey, and not just the destination, into a special holiday. And thus luxury trains were born. And if any place can fully capture that awesomeness of a train journey, it has to be India, with its forests, palaces, temples, people and legends.

But not all trains are equal, so we’d like to show the green signal to the outstanding ones below. And while the carriages are distinctly designed in old-fashioned opulence, including personal butlers, they are also fitted with all the modern necessities—wifi, spa, gym etc.

1. Palace on Wheels:

The coaches are fitted like a Maharajah’s saloon and tellingly named after provinces in Rajasthan. Decorated with miniatures from different traditional Rajasthani schools, royal emblems and crests, inlay work depicting hunting scenes, oil paintings and Mughal-inspired artwork, intricate carvings, zardosi, and metal and foil work; the train boasts an astounding range of styles from this region and is a truly royal way to travel.

Palace on Wheels

Places to see:

The one to two week itinerary of the Palace on Wheels is designed around the Rajasthani royal circuit—Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, battle-hardy Chittorgarh, Jaisalmer, Bharatpur Sawai Madhopur and the Ranthambhor National Park—and culminates in the poignantly beautiful sights of Agra.

2. Royal Rajasthan on Wheels:

An upgrade on the Palace on Wheels, this version steps up the luxury with coaches aptly names after the palaces of this princely state. Continue reading “Luxury Trains in India”

Bridal Look

You are doing the background work right—exercise, eating and beauty sleeping—so you are already halfway there to being breathtakingly beautiful on the big day. Now, for the carefully-studied advice to ensure that you are also the on-trend bride.

Make up:

Brides are channelling Deepika ‘Mastani’ Padukone’s heartbreakingly dewy natural look, with barely done eyes and an almost-nude lip. Of course, we are not fooled, so invest time in finding the right palette to let your natural beauty shine through. A light foundation and powder to conceal any blemishes, and mineral eye shadows for shimmery texture, without being loud. Keep the lips neutral in light pinks, peach or toned-down coffee.

Make up

Almost taking centre-stage today is the brow, so fill them in a strong shape. For inspiration, look no further from superwoman Amal Clooney.

If your diva self from a couple of years back doesn’t let you go off the smoky eyes and red lips, go ahead and indulge at your mehendi ceremony. Continue reading “Bridal Look”

Offbeat Honeymoon Destinations

Heavenly Honeymoons – Build Forever Memories With That First Trip Together

How glorious to get away with your new partner after the seemingly endless, and quite definitely a little stressful, manoeuvrings of the wedding. Couples today like to plan this most anticipated outing together based on a shared interest; sometimes it is food, sometimes it is history, and sometimes adventure, and it always comes with the excitement of that first shared experience.

San Sebastian, Spain:

Set near the France border town of Biarritz and a few hours by car/train from Barcelona, the coastal Basque town of San Sebastian offers easy access from other popular destinations. But once you are here, it would take a great deal temptation to pull you away from this quaint coastal town set on the Bay of Biscay that is a foodie seventh heaven. Apart from the beautiful beaches and an easy-going atmosphere, San Sebastian is a base for globally top-rated chefs and is home to an upscale tapas called the Pintxo. So, it could be a decadent vacation with great wine and world-class food.

San Sebastian, Spain

Galapagos islands/Peru, South America:

How does swimming with sharks and sea lions sound? Or hiking up a mountain for spectacular views of an ancient citadel? For adventure fans looking for a honeymoon to remember, the Galapagos islands, which is in Ecuador territory, or a less than three-hour hike up Peru’s Huayna Picchu, which offers breathtaking views of the Inca civilisation structures on the nearby hill of Machu Picchu, will surpass all expectations. Continue reading “Offbeat Honeymoon Destinations”

A Spin on Wedding Food

Gone are the days of the wedding cuisine comprising cauldrons of biryani and racks of delicious kebabs. Today, the menu feels like a carefully chosen extension of the location and decor, so it is refined, but also playful.

Five-star caterers across the country offer a variety from Indian with a twist, to East Asian, European or Arabic. The common denominator is freshly sourced, good-looking ingredients that look too good to eat, in flavours that are too amazing to forget.

Stay Indian:

Rasam shots anyone? Or mini samosas and idlis, maybe? Forget state-wide variations, most states have cuisine that is exclusive to a particular region, so the range that an Indian menu can offer is mind-boggling. The trick is to jazz things up, so that homey food becomes contemporary and global. So, whether it’s lamb seekh paired with apricot chutney, masala-tossed asparagus, trio of rice flavours in lemon, tamarind and coconut, or a live jalebi counter and a gulab jamun pyramid, Indian wedding food now comes with a generous side serving of flair.

jalebi

Oriental:

While most of us Indians can never get our fill of Oriental food, it has definitely come a long way from the splash of soya sauce on noodles. Continue reading “A Spin on Wedding Food”

Monsoon and Green Goa

It is difficult to keep a good thing secret for too long anyway. While for decades everyone headed to Goa’s famed beaches in Anjuna, Candolim, Vagator and Colva, and on tours of the churches and old bungalows, visitors are slowly discovering that there is a charming verdant personality to this tiny state that comes alive with the rains.

Indian monsoons give a different dimension to the land anyway. In Goa, you feel that nature turns green in an almost sci-fi manner; it’s so lush.

green Goa

Thankfully, Goan hoteliers agree that the tourist season is no longer confined between October and May. We may have fewer parties and events to head to, when the monsoon starts in mid-May and hits its stride in June, but that means it is more tranquil. Continue reading “Monsoon and Green Goa”

Five Exotic Spots For The “I Do”

Accessible global travel and far-flung relatives, among other things, mean that a wedding destination today is given almost as much thought as the bridal trousseau. And why not? The ‘once in a lifetime’ event warrants a location that will forever conjure up ‘remember how the waves were beating against the shore while we made the vows?’ sort of happy memories.

From the boho chic to the opulent, here is a bouquet of special spots that will add a rare and romantic magic to the ceremony, be it traditional Indian or a multi-ethnic mix. And it’s all largely al-fresco, so nature lends its abundant beauty to the wedding decor.

Ras Al Khaimah, UAE

Ras Al Khaimah, UAE: Add romance through the mystery of old Arabic tales in this quiet Emirate, which has a beautiful beach, desert dunes and cosmopolitanism, without the price tag of nearby Dubai. Ras Al Khaimah has a rustic charm, but boasts several star hotels and classy beach resorts that will pamper the special guests. Continue reading “Five Exotic Spots For The “I Do””

Coorg in the Rains

Coorg in the rains!

We chose to travel by car from Bangalore to Orange County Resort in Coorg. In retrospect, it was a long winded route to take; Mangalore would have been a smarter idea! As it turned out, the drive was long, but it was worth every hour spent on the road. Coorg, or Kodagu, is home to the Kodavas, who were a warrior community. Kodagu was a separate state during British rule, but was merged into Karnataka after India’s independence. Not without reason, Kodagu is rated as one of the top hill station destinations in India.

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Our first stop was Orange County, which turned out to be a haven of monsoon delight! The website of the hotel had used the words ‘bygone era of the Gentleman Planter’ and it could not have been more descriptive! Surrounded by coffee plantations, the resort was indeed a step back into another era. But the best part of the whole experience, was, of course, the rain! There’s something to be said for the lush, verdant greenery that only the monsoons bring to India. Continue reading “Coorg in the Rains”

Footprints in The sand

A trip to Rajasthan has always held the allure of stepping back into magical times. The splendour of the erstwhile Maharajas. The lilting strains of ‘kesariya balam’ haunting the sand dunes. Those goose bump raising stories of chivalry and bravery, of battles fought for honour and name. While Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur have remained etched in my memory as the vibrant Pink City, the ethereal white city and the right royal Blue City, my imagination has always been captured by the ruins of Chittorgarh.

sand

My first visit to Chittorgarh, which is just 90 kms away from Udaipur, was made when I was in college, over 35 years ago.  We stayed in a train bogey for 15 days, being shunted around all over Rajasthan in the most unceremonious and unromantic way… not how I thought I’d be introduced to this beautiful state. I swore then that I’d come back and do it the right way- in palace hotels, and all the trappings that go with them! Continue reading “Footprints in The sand”