On my recent trip to the Philippines, I spent a night in Manila at a charming vintage Spanish villa, complete with high ceilings, old hardwood floors and tasteful antiques. It sat in a quiet bylane of a typical Pinoy barangay (neighborhood). During the day, mellow instrumental music wafted in from the large windows, and down on the streets, boys from the neighborhood played basketball, aiming for makeshift hoops. In the evenings, jeepneys and tricycles, the heartbeat of the Manila Metropolis, moved in organized chaos on the narrow roads, much like in India, soliciting passengers at every corner. This is how I like to travel.
Earlier this week, I arrived in my hometown Dehradun, to find a big box waiting for me to open. I was overwhelmed to find a sparkling trophy inside, engraved with my name – a physical testimony to the “Best Travel Blogger” award that I won at the Indian Blogger Awards 2013, held by Indiblogger! A big THANK YOU to everyone for your support, especially those who spared a moment to write a testimonial for this blog.
My last memory of Canada is strolling along a charming neighborhood in the residential suburbs of Toronto. I had spent the morning at CN Tower, playing Titanic over the edge of the city, and caught a free lunchtime concert outside the subway. On my Toronto flights home with Emirates, I pledged to come back and experience more of the city’s awesomeness, a lot of which is indeed free!
As a flashpacker, I’m always on the lookout for pocket friendly countries to travel in (Read: Confession: I’m Not a Backpacker). So as I watched the rupee fall over the last few weeks, I went into panic mode; countries like Bahrain and Canada, which I visited earlier this year, are now almost twenty times more expensive to travel in! I desperately turned to my best friend Google to determine if this was the end of my dream to travel the world on a meager income (Read: How I Afford my Travels and How You Can Too). Turns out, the rupee can still take us far enough on roads less travelled!
With temperatures rising mercilessly this summer, weekend getaways near Delhi are the best way to beat the heat. Bhimtal, a hill station near Delhi, is perfectly placed for a quick escape in the hills of Kumaon, without the crowds of its neighbor, Nainital. I’ve crossed Bhimtal several times while making my way into the higher reaches of Kumaon. Most of these times, I’ve looked away from the Bhimtal Lake, which though surrounded by colorful trees, looks only as clean as you can expect an easily accessible lake in India to be.
Based on your feedback to some of my recent blog posts, I am now trying to intersperse my travel stories with reviews of places I’ve stayed and eaten at – practical information that can help you plan your own trips. I’m starting with reviews of two boutique hotels I recently stayed at in Singapore – Naumi Liora and Parc Sovereign – both moderate budget hotels under US$ 150.
Let’s face it. Compared to its neighbors, Singapore can be a tad expensive! If you’re on a budget trip, take my list of free stuff, free activities, free places to visit, and free things to do in Singapore, and keep your pockets happy. As I packed my bags for Singapore in the end of February, I was swamped with shopping lists, mostly from my mom. “What else can you do in Singapore?” she asked. As someone who can’t bear to spend more than a few minutes in a store, I felt perplexed. I suddenly wondered what I did over weekends in Singapore, while I studied and worked there for almost half a dozen years, because I certainly didn’t shop (and didn’t have the money to, either). If you ask me, some of the best experiences on the island nation are in fact, free:
This story was originally published in The Hindu. Swarms of people greet me as I alight at the Jaipur railway station, some arriving in the pink city with royal expectations, some transiting through it to seek the desert culture of Rajasthan, and many slyly trying to identify first-timers to the city so they can put their touting hat on. I incessantly nod no to the constant soliciting of Madam auto, Madam taxi and Madam hotel, until I reach the exit of the station and someone’s Madam auto soliciting succeeds. I can see his bewilderment when I ask to go to Surya Vatika Road on the highway towards Chomu, and the fare negotiation is skewed in my favour for once, because he has no idea where we are going.
We all wish we could we could grow money on trees, or inherit an inheritance we didn’t know we had, or rub a magic lamp to take care of all expenses for that next dream trip. I can almost hear the excitement in the emails and tweets of people who stumble upon my blog for the first time, because as one of them put it, reading about my travel adventures can make it seem like I’ve discovered the secret of always having enough money to travel! Unfortunately, the truth is far from it, and saving money for travel is a conscious effort I’ve been making for the past many years.
Thoughts of Kerala often evoke images of dome-shaped houseboats traversing the backwaters, and neatly manicured tea estates covered in mist on the slopes of the Western Ghats. The lush green beauty of God’s Own Country has stolen many a heart, the result of which was 10 million tourist arrivals in 2011, a large majority of who flocked to the familiar tourist trail in the south of the state, along the backwaters of Alleppey & Kumarakom and the hill station of Munnar. The statistic became my cue to journey along the coast of North Kerala, of which Google could tell me little.