15 in ’15

It’s been a busy and fun year at Itchy Feet, with new places, new people and new experiences scattered throughout. The highlight was right at the beginning of my year, with an invitation to a TEDx event in Bangalore – see my talk on Why I Travel for some inspiration, if you’ve not already. I also finally succumbed to the pressure and set up a Facebook page for Itchy Feet – once again, please go here and like it if you have not already…

The first few months were also when I made the best use of Delhi winter and took off almost every other weekend for a break. I moved back to Bangalore from Gurgaon in the middle of the year, after a short stint of exactly a year.

And then some more travels inside and outside the country, ending just a couple of days ago with a short trip to Kutch.

Here then, my top 15 travel experiences of 2015…

Snowy days in Gulmarg , a gondola ride, fragrant kahwa, stunning mountain views, vegetarian wazwan, chilling out at The Khyber

Gulmarg

Food trail in Amritsar, kulcha and chhole, lassi and jalebi, misty mornings at Harmandir Sahib, the earthiness of Punjab

Amritsar

Close encounters in Corbett, freezing jeep rides, Imran’s lovely home stay, eye to eye with a tiger cub, introduction to bird watching, hide and seek with an angry tusker

Corbett

Carnival time in Cologne, costumes and colours, street processions, the cathedral, the scent of cologne

Cologne

Fogged out in Agra, the Padhaaro walk, the Taj from Mehtab Bagh, sadar bazaar chaat dinner, the Yamuna Expressway

Agra

Bird watching in Bharatpur, rickshaw rides, binoculars and patient stalking, Saras cranes and Siberian Rubythroats, veering towards addiction

Bharatpur

Unwinding in New Zealand, self drive holiday, Milford Sound, Fox and Franz Glacier, zorbing and jet boating, Kiwi accents and lilting rhythms

NZ

Turning 40 in France, chocolates and champagne, wine tasting in Bordeaux, Toulouse and Nantes, cinema walk, rainy spring in Paris, Montmartre, Lido show

France

First time in Bandipur, back in Bangalore, weekend getaway, an hour with a tiger, Jungle Lodges

Bandipur

Cycling in Copenhagen, Nyhavn, Vikings and learning to row, street food market, Hans Christian Andersen, hygge

Copenhagen

Discovering Portugal in Macau, Senado Square and stunning colours, tip of the Hong Kong iceberg

Macau

No tigers in Tadoba, a silent forest, stay at Svasara, promises of going back

Tadoba

Road tripping in Tamil Nadu, temples, Thanjavur, a bit of France in Pondicherry and Denmark in Tranquebar, boating among the mangroves

TN

Finding peace in Borobudur, selfies with the Buddha, Ramayana ballet at Prambanan, Bali and Lombok

Borobudur

Rann Utsav in Kutch, bhungas and tents, hand embroidery, beautiful women, golden sunsets, shimmering salt pans

Kutch

So, how was your 2015? Do share your favourite travel moments here.

And here is wishing you a wonderful, wanderful 2016!

5 tips for smart winter travel

It’s the season not just to be jolly, but also to bring out the woolies, the warmers and the boots. Travel in winter can be great fun , with all the snow and ice, with the mulled wine and garam chai, and with the festive season in tow. On top of that, there is the advantage of off-season discounts everywhere plus lesser crowds at most places.

Winter4

Winter3

But it can also be a stressful time for travel – cancelled flights, snow storms, the bitter cold and so on.

Here are a easy few tips I have for you, from my own experience travelling in winter (and I have a trip to Ladakh coming up in January!)

1. Keep track of the weather

This seems like an obvious thing but in winter, it is important to keep yourself updated on the weather conditions in your place of origin as well as your destination. Reconfirm your train and flight bookings, if only to find out whether the flight / train is on time or is going at all that day. Try to follow your airline, train company and the airports you are dealing with on twitter, because almost everyone now has a social media presence and send out updates for customers.

2. Be flexible on time

Unlike travel during other times of the year, keep a flexible schedule in winter. And that means keeping a lot of buffer time everywhere, not making tight bookings / connections and trying to travel late in the morning, rather than early mornings or late evenings. Have a Plan B, and not just during travel but also during your stay at your place of holiday, which means, say, a museum instead of a park, or a local activity instead of a day trip out, or some times even an alternate destination.

3. Go prepared for the drive

Winter1

If driving, make sure to be abreast of weather predictions to make sure you don’t get caught unawares in the middle of your journey. During a recent trip to New Zealand, it had started snowing mildly when we left Queenstown to drive towards Fox glacier – and because the weather reports were iffy, we decided to drive on instead of stopping wherever we fancied (as is normal in a road trip) – and that saved us a load of trouble because cars which left 10-15 minutes after us got caught in the snow on hilltops. Also it makes sense to keep snow chains, emergency phone numbers and some basic supplies handy (dry food, extra water, flashlight, external mobile charger, toilet paper) – I know of people who have been stranded in Ladakh in the summer months thanks to the snow!

4. Pack smart with layers and layers

Winter2Packing for winter can be a bitch, especially if you like to travel light. After years and years of struggle, I have finally learned the fine art of layering. One winter season spent in Delhi (even though nowhere close to freezing temperatures, still bitterly cold) taught me the tricks. Travel with several layers of thin, easy to pack and carry woollens (keeps you warmer and keeps the bags lighter), with one thick coat or jacket for the top layer – and also keep space for the all-important accessories like gloves, mufflers, socks, hats (and keep back-ups).

5. Make the most of your travel

Winter
(image source: Wikipedia)

Although this seems like a truism, relevant for travel any time of the year, winter travel can be special if you plan it to coincide with festivities like Christmas markets, Thanksgiving feasts, the sauna season in Scandinavia, the skiing season in the Alps and in India, with the Lodi or Sankranti festival – you get to see a bit of local colour and culture, along with the usual travel experiences. Another tip to save money is to avoid travel in the peak season between mid to end December – many places charge a premium for this period, dropping prices immmediately after the 1st of January. So look out for these deals, so that you can plan to stay put at home or wherever you are based at that point in your travels for the holiday season.

What has been your experience and what are your tips for comfortable winter travel? Do share them here in the comments.

A new Facebook page

So, what’s new on Itchy Feet? A brand new Facebook page, that’s what – https://www.facebook.com/travelswithcharu

Facebook

After years of resisting – how many places in social media can I manage – I finally succumbed to the pressure and set up this page. And now to find interesting content for it on a regular basis (apart from just my own writings, yawn). And more importantly, find people to “like” the page (right now, it feels like an orphan).

And here, dear friends and kind readers, is where you come in. Have you seen the page yet? If you have been a longtime reader of this blog, or just an occasional lurker, or even a one-time visitor who has strayed here through a keyword search, do check out the page and show your liking for it.

Please head there now and make the page a much-liked one, before I lose heart and decide to shut it down. Thank you!

A bit of trivia on the mysteries of social media: I obviously wanted to call my page ‘Itchy Feet’ to maintain consistency across my social media spaces – but Facebook refused it as being inappropriate. Ah, well.

2014 on Itchy Feet

2014 was an eventful year on Itchy Feet, with three new countries and one old favourite. The year started on a lukewarm note, with almost no travel for the first three months. There was the excitement of the book launch and a couple of work trips to Mumbai (including a workshop on freelance writing at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival) and a food-related work trip to Madurai in the blazing April heat.

In early April, we also braved the heat for a long weekend at Pench – this forest was dry and brown but beautiful at that time. My first glimpse of dhole (wild dogs) and jackals, and of course, a great tiger sighting.

May was a super busy time, with a week in South Africa – think wildlife, luxury spa, ziplining adventure and a hot air balloon ride…

South Africa (May)

South Africa

Then I went to gorgeous Ireland and fell in love with the warmth of the place and people – the very beautiful Galway with a day’s drive on the Wild Atlantic way and the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland’s City of Culture Limerick and cheery Dublin.

Ireland (May)

Ireland

We moved cities in June – a massive change from Bangalore to Gurgaon. And soon after, a trip to UK to see the events commemorating a hundred years of World War I. London had just perfect weather and I did what I love most in the city: took long walks (including a food tour of the East End) and spent hours at Southbank. I also went to Leeds for a couple of days to meet friends, driving to York from there to see the stunning York Minster.

UK (July)

London

A quick visit to Ladakh – my second – to review a couple of new properties for a travel magazine (read about the Chamba Camp at Thiksey here…)

Ladakh (September)

Ladakh

We also escaped to Jaipur for a weekend (see, these quick weekend breaks are one of the few good things about living in Delhi) to the opulent Taj Rambagh Palace. It was two days of lazing around, eating and sleeping, with a little bit of shopping thrown in on Sunday evening.

A long weekend in Nepal, taking in the Kathmandu valley and the stunning Durbar Squares of Lalitpur and Bhaktapur…

Nepal (October)

Nepal

And then there were the smaller trips – to Thanedar in Himachal during August (peak apple season), my childhood city of Hyderabad for a lifestyle story, Satpura and Kanha National Parks in the heart of India just after Deepavali and Agra in end December (so foggy that we couldn’t see the Taj Mahal from a few feet away in the morning).

2014

So, what was your year like? And what are your travel plans for 2015?

Here is wishing you a wonderful, wanderful year 🙂

Vote on Kerala Blog Express

So, if you have been reading this blog all along (and if not, why not?)… Or if you have just wandered here after a chance search on google… Here is the perfect chance to show some blog love.

I am participating in the Kerala Blog Express contest, where 25 bloggers from all over the world get to go to Kerala for two weeks. If I go, I will fill this blog with words and images of god’s own greens and blues. Think about it.

You just need to click on this link to vote. I know you will do it. So, thank you in anticipation!

KeralaExpress

The link will also stay up on the sidebar for the next few weeks. Now is the time for all good men and women to come to my support.

1 2 3 9