Magical Meghalaya – Photo Story

Here’s a short glimpse of my trip to Meghalaya.

I had hopped into Saraighat Express from Howrah Railway Station at 4 pm, and reached Guwahati next morning at 10 am. As we approached the Guwahati Railway Station, we passed the Deepor Beel Bird Sanctuary in Assam, India.

Right outside the Guwahati Railway Station, I got into a shared Sumo and was on my way to Shillong. Sadly, at the border checkpoint, because most of the other passengers didn’t have their original proof, they weren’t allowed to proceed, and the car continued with just another passenger and myself.

And in just over an hour, I landed up at the Umiam Lake in Barapani.

I got off the shared cab and explored the breathtaking surroundings of the lake.

I hopped into a passing bus, and again got off on the way to Shillong, in search of something, that Google Maps showed as a nice viewpoint. However, I enjoyed the approach to the viewpoint more than the actual viewpoint!

Finally I boarded another share cab and came to Shillong, and headed straight to the lovely Ward’s Lake.

After roaming around a bit in town, I checked in to the Aurobindo Ashram, where a dormitory bed costs only Rs 200 per night. It had nice clean beds, clean western toilets and working geysers for hot showers. Although it’s not the cheapest. The Government Youth Hostel charges Rs 150 per head, but it was fully occupied.

After freshening up, I came to the Meghalaya Tourism Development Corporation Counter in Police Bazaar, where I booked my day tours, and they were quite cheap and worthwhile. You can find details at the end of this post.

Next morning we started at 8 am, for our Bus tour towards Dawki.

Our first stop was the Dawki-Tamabil border between India and Bangladesh.

Our Google Map location.

Clear waters of Umgnot River in Dawki.

At Asia’s Cleanest Village; Mawlynnong, a small picturesque village in Meghalaya, which overlooks the sylvan plains of Bangladesh.
At every 30 metres of the roads, there is a bamboo basket placed where people can throw in the garbage. The garbage collected throughout the day is thrown in a large pit on the outskirts of the village and left to turn into compost. Littering is a punishable offence and plastic has been banned here. The cosy houses on stilts are primarily built with bamboo and straw and all the households have a small garden of flowering plants and fruit-bearing trees.

Living root bridge, a form of tree shaping found mostly in the southern part of the Northeast Indian state of Meghalaya. They are handmade from the aerial roots of rubber fig trees by the Khasi and Jaintia peoples of the mountainous terrain along the southern part of the Shillong Plateau.

We came back to Shillong in the evening and tried some delicious momos!

Next morning we were off to Cherrapunjee. First we visited the Ramakrishna Mission. Quite a nice place to visit, perched on the hill top, with a small but well stocked museum.

Image may contain: mountain, sky, outdoor and natureNohkalikai Falls near Cherrapunjee in Meghalaya. It is the tallest plunge waterfall in India. Its height is 1115 feet.
According to legends, in a village called Rangjyrteh, upstream from Nohkalikai Falls, a woman named Likai resided but had to remarry after her husband died. Ka Likai (Ka is the prefix given for the female gender in Khasi) was left with her infant girl with no means of income. So she had to become a porter herself. Her work required her to leave her daughter unattended for long intervals but when she would be at home she would spend most of her time taking care of her infant. Ka Likai, who married a second time, couldn’t pay attention to her second husband. The jealous husband killed the infant and cooked her meat after throwing away her head and bones. When Ka Likai returned home, she saw nobody in the house but except for a meal that had been prepared. She wanted to go look for her daughter but she ate the meat as she was tired from work.
Ka Likai usually had a betel leaf after her meals but she found a severed finger near the place where she usually cut betel nuts and betel leaves. Ka Likai realized what had happened in her absence and went mad with anger and grief and started running as she swung a hatchet in her hand. She ran off the edge of the plateau and the waterfall where she jumped from was named Nohkalikai Falls after her.

Image may contain: cloud, sky, outdoor, nature and waterOn top of the famous Seven Sisters Waterfalls in Meghalaya. Most of it has dried up, due to very little rainfall during this monsoon season. The view from the edge is breathtaking, but I really liked this reflective frame!

This was shot while returning. Got absolutely amazed by the mesmerizing landscapes of this Northeast Indian state!Next morning, 6 other travelers and myself, who were in the same bus, decided to hire a car and cover offbeat destinations.

First we went towards Tyrshi falls in Jaintia Hills, South Eastern Meghalaya.

Image may contain: mountain, sky, cloud, grass, outdoor and nature

View from the top of Tyrshi falls in Jaintia Hills, South Eastern Meghalaya.

After visiting quite a few waterfalls on the way, we finally reached our main destination, the Krang Suri Water Fall in Jowai District of West Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya. It is one of the most beautiful waterfalls of Meghalaya.

Accidentally shot this masterpiece, while swimming in the chilly waters of the lovely Krang Shuri Waterfall in West Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya-India. My OnePlus 5 was half submerged, along with me, and hence the result!

Swimming and clicking selfies in the chilly waters of the lovely Krang Shuri Waterfall in West Jaintia Hills, Meghalaya-India.

 

Always seen the pictures of that “see-through river” on the internet? I finally reached that spot in Shnongpdeng, South Eastern Meghalaya. This is shot over the Umgnot River, which flows into Bangladesh, from a closed suspension bridge (supposed to be under repair), which only locals use to cross. I managed to sneak in, to get some amazing views.

Image may contain: food

Post sunset, we returned to Shillong and tried some roadside chilli pork… Absolutely delicious! 

And as promised, here are the rates and details which I found at the MTDC Office.

Hope you liked it. Feel free to comment and share.

Advertisements

Downhill from Darjeeling – a crazy experience

Travelling means “Expect the Unexpected”.

It was a lovely Sunday afternoon in Darjeeling. The Mall was bustling with a lot of people, armed with selfie sticks. I had a 8:20 pm train from New Jalpaiguri, so I started to walk down towards the Darjeeling Railway Station, picking up a 2 in 1 softy on the way from Keventer’s.

It was just about 3 pm, and the atmosphere at the railway station was lovely, to say the least… Scores of tourists clicked pictures with the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway rakes, when I spotted the last government bus that goes from Darjeeling to Siliguri, passing by.

I stopped the bus, but saw that it was unusually overcrowded… I thought that to save little amount of money, I would have to stand for 3 hours. I instead decided to head over to the taxi stand, from where share taxis leave every 15 minutes or so, costing Rs 150 per seat.

However, after reaching the taxi stand, I was in for a big surprise! There was a lot of commotion near the Darjeeling-Siliguri Shared Taxi kiosk, and I tried to find out what was happening.

The Prime Minister of India was supposed to land at Bagdogra Airport near Siliguri at around 4 pm and fly in a helicopter from there to Sikkim, to inaugurate the Pakyong airport the next day. Because of this, all routes were blocked due to safety reasons, and most Darjeeling taxis were hired by the PM’s supporters, to go from Siliguri to Sikkim.

As a result, there were no shared taxis available, and the few taxis that were parked, asked for astronomical amounts of money, to go to Siliguri. Ignoring them, I joined the queue at the shared taxis kiosk. I was 5th in the line, and the persons in front of me, each had a group of 4-5 people, which meant that even if 2 to 3 taxis come, I won’t get a seat.

I managed to make friends with the lady standing right in front, who understood my urgency, and requested her to buy off a seat for me as well, which she heartily agreed. People in the mountains are very friendly.

Finally after anxiously waiting for an hour, one Sumo came, which said that it has to take a detour to go down, and hence will charge Rs 100 more per seat. We were more than happy with the deal and got our seats. So, it was 4 of us in the middle, 4 in front, including the driver.

At this point, a quarrel started at the back of the car, where a daily wage labourer couple from West India, along with a small kid entered from the rear and refused to go out of the Sumo, saying that they are broke and they needed to go down to Siliguri any how. There was a group of Bangladeshi women, who had bought those seats and rightfully wanted them to be removed.

However, the couple refused to move and offered to pay the driver extra money, which was all in coins. It took another 10 minutes for the driver to just count all the coins. Needless to say that we all were becoming restless by now.

The couple sat on the floor, in the narrow isle of the seats. So 6 people in total at the back, with the ladies clamouring about how their legs were getting crushed, because of the couple. Finally the car started to move, and there was quite a heavy fog cover, which didn’t pose a problem to our experienced driver, thankfully.

Our journey was quite normal, till we crossed Kurseong. A truck hit a small car, and both the driver started to fight on the middle of the narrow road, blocking all traffic. It took more than 20 minutes for the area to be cleared, after police intervened and took way both the drivers.

It was already dark, and I was dangerously close to missing the train. The driver again moved downwards at quite a good speed, and was boasting how he drove in hilly roads at 100 km/hour during the agitation days, when there used to be zero traffic. It gave me a bit of hope.

However, while we were going through Sukna, another 45 minutes away from my destination, I was almost falling asleep, till I saw the driver suddenly pushing the accelerator, and the passengers in front reacting in a very strange manner. As I turned back, I could just spot an Elephant’s trunk, which was entering the road, followed by a few more, which got camouflaged in the darkness of the trees.

The lady beside me smiled and told me that I am very lucky that the driver sped away. Apparently, when the herd of elephants start crossing the road, they have the right of way, and them being unusually slow, it takes atleast an hour and a half, if not more for the traffic to move again.

I breathed a sigh of relief and considered myself very very lucky! But my joy lasted only for a few minutes, when we finally approached the town, and as expected, there was quite a bit of traffic congestion. I checked the train running status of Kanchan Kanya Express, which is usually late in arriving at NJP. To my bad luck, it was not late that evening.

I was dropped off near the Siliguri Junction station at 7:55 pm, and the New Jalpaiguri station was another 20 minutes atleast. I hopped into an autorickshaw (tuk tuk), and to my surprise, when I asked him if I will be able to catch my train from NJP at 8:20 pm, he said that considering the traffic congestion in the city, it was impossible for me to reach on time.

I immediately refreshed the running status, and saw that the train was arriving at the Siliguri Junction station in a few minutes, and it stops there exactly for 2 minutes. Without even thinking twice, I immediately got off the auto and started to run towards the station. Mind you, both my legs were paining quite a bit, because of my long hike from Takdah to Tinchuley to Bara Mangwa till Teesta the day before.

However, this pain didn’t matter at all, considering I risked missing the train, which meant that I will have to arrange for any other transport, which would have made a hole in my pocket, plus stay somewhere for the night. I would have also failed to reach office on Monday, resulting in a precious loss of a casual leave.

Just as I was running into the station, I was literally shouting and asking the passersby about the platform in which my train has come. I spotted it in platform 3, for which I ran up to the foot overbridge and I could see that the train had just started to move. I managed to jump into the train, and went to look for my seat. I was by that time sweating and panting like crazy, but I was extremely happy to have made it.

Next morning, after waking up, I was feeling very happy and refreshed, all set for Monday life. As usual I got up and tried to get off the train, when it slowed down near Dum Dum and catch the underground metro rail towards home, as it takes a long time for the train to get into Sealdah station, the terminal stop of the train. Other passengers as usual warned me that railway police might catch me, if I get off in between stations, but I chose to ignore them.

I managed to do the same this time as well, and headed straight to Kalighat metro station, for some Tea at Radhu Babu Tea shop, before entering home. Within an hour, I freshened up and changed my clothes, from shorts and a sleeveless tee, to formals and rushed towards office at 10 am. By that time, my legs were literally not moving anymore! Since I travel every weekend, my Monday mornings are quite unusual!

This is what I love the most about travelling. The surprises, the uncertainty; you never know what problem you will face. Instant decision-making is the key, and the more you travel, the better you will be!

If you liked/disliked reading the above, do let me know about your thoughts in comments. Thanks.

Money saving tips for travellers to Moscow, Russia

1. It’s best to carry US Dollars and change them in the city centre. You will get amazing rates. You may change some money in the airport, for going from the airport to City Centre.

2. Use the uber app to hail a taxi from the airport to the city centre, especially if you are in a group. Uber is by far the cheapest. For example, for a one way ride from Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport to City Centre, Uber costed me 850 Rubles, whereas official taxis quoted 1500 to 2000 rubles.

3. Regarding sim cards and data, just buy any sim with a data package from the airport, and freely use WhatsApp calls to call back home. Don’t bother to subscribe for international roaming, as data local data packages are quite cheap, and you get the sim within 5 minutes, even though your passport will be required for registration.

4. It’s best to walk around the city centre. You will get a chance to soak into the architecture, the ambience of this amazing city.

5. I used booking.com to find the cheapest hostels in the city centre.

6. For public transportation, it’s best to get a Troika card, which can used for all types of public transportation in Moscow. However, if you are in a group, for short hops, an Uber might be a lot cheaper.

7. Your fan I’d entitles you for free public transport on a few specific routes to the stadium, only on match days. Ofcourse with the same fan I’d, you can travel to different cities for free, but you need to reserve your seat in advance from http://www.tickets.transport2018.com

8. Feel free to ask for a discount, wherever you go. I was searching for a boat ride around St Petersberg, by the river. All the sellers quoted 1000 rubles as fixed price. I requested for a discount, and managed to get on that 1.5 hour tour for just 400 rubles.

9. The official FIFA fan shops at the stadium and at the fan parks are way cheaper than the official store in the City Centre, such as the one in Gum Shopping Mall in Red Square, Moscow.

10. For cheap mementos/souvenirs in Moscow, I discovered a small shop in Khrustal’nyy Pereulok, one lane behind St Basil’s Cathedral. It has a small pedestrian walkway, and the lady in-charge is very friendly,  and always gave a good discount; but you need to ask for your discount. From cheap FIFA Caps to magnets, you will find everything there, but at half or one-third the price. Here’s the google link  https://goo.gl/maps/cQRRx2FDNa42

If you have more queries, please feel free to comment, and I will answer them.

How to survive phone snatching in South East Asia?

One fine evening in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, after dinner, my friend and myself were walking back to our hostel, near the beautiful riverfront. We got into the adjacent road, and I was checking Google maps, to find the route to our hostel. It was almost midnight, and the road mostly had locals sitting on the sidewalks, having a laugh over ice coffee, when suddenly I could feel a motorbiker literally scraping past me, and the pillion rider tried to snatch my phone away. But thanks to this small strap, the phone got stuck into my wrist, and they had to speed away without my phone. I was so relieved. Cities in South East Asia are notorious for phone snatching, and hence I am always ready to face them 😎 I use a faded colour cover, which gives it a shabby/cheap look, along with a hook stand, where the strap is tied. This strap doesn’t just save me from snatching, but whenever I am trying for a weird selfie on a boat or an edge of a cliff, it saves the phone from accidental dropping. The cover costs Rs 100 and the hook stand costs Rs 50, bought from a roadside shop in Calcutta. The strap was taken off from an old compact camera. So, a 150 INR ($2.5/£1.5) investment saved my prized OnePlus 5.
Please feel free to share with your friends. Safe travels!

IMG_20180308_132542_509.jpg

How to find cheap flights? Or a 99 pence ticket?

This guide will tell you how to find cheap flights. It will also uncover how I had managed to get a flight ticket from Brussels to Berlin for 0.99 GBP.

Sitting on the edge of the seat, you have been waiting for a holiday? You have just spotted THAT long weekend! Not sure where to go? What do you do? I have the solution!

Just head over to skyscanner.com

As shown in the screenshot below, in “From”, enter your country. Alternatively, if you are sure about your port of departure, enter your city. In the “To” space, leave it blank or type “everywhere”. You can enter a specific day to fly out, or choose a month of your choice and hit Search!

Picture3.png

You will get a list of countries, in ascending order of their cheapest destinations. Choose your preferred country and click on it (See below)

Picture4.png

Picture5.png

For example, if you chose Germany, it will show you the list of German Airports, in ascending order of flight prices (see below). Choose your preferred destination.

Picture6.png

And finally, if you had not chosen a specific city in the “From” box, then you will be asked to choose your departure airport, again listed in ascending order, according to flight prices. It works great, if for example you are based in Newcastle, and you are getting cheaper flights from Manchester or Edinburgh, both of which are a short train ride away.

Picture7.png

This tool works like a charm, if you are a bit flexible with either your dates or destination. Kayak.com and Google flights also have this “everywhere” feature, but I tend to prefer the skyscanner one.

However, if you have made up about your mind regarding your destination, and are a bit flexible with dates, you should head over to Google Flights. Enter your port of departure and destination. When you select the dates, it shows you a nice calendar with the cheapest flight prices of each day (shown below). This is a great way to choose your travel dates.

calendar.jpg

And of course, most cheap flights do not have cabin baggage included. Hence, you are better off flying with a small backpack and travelling light. Like I do, for all my travels, if you see the photo below. Ideally you should layer up. I will do a detailed post on baggage hacks, and how to beat the confusing baggage restrictions (and save a lot of money as well).

Picture8.jpg

I kind of use a mix of Skycanner and Google Flights, and hence, I got this! A flight for 99 Pence! But I paid 10 times my flight fare, to travel from Berlin airport to city centre! Okay… I know… This is INSANE!! But see the email below…

Picture2.png

This is my first ever blog post. Please try out the above mentioned methods and let me know what you thought about them, in the comments section. If you liked this post and it proved to be helpful, please do share with your friends as well. Awaiting your feedback and suggestions.

Happy travels and thank you for reading 🙂

40 Countries done

I am going to do a bit of cheating and add India to my list of Countries. My country count becomes 40. My aim of visiting 40 countries before my 24th birthday is hence fulfilled 😉 How can the world’s biggest and most diverse democracy not be on my list? I keep meeting travellers around the world, and most say that they have been to India, and visited Taj Mahal ofcourse… I could only reply in shame, that I haven’t been there yet, even though I am born and brought up in India. It has taken nearly 24 years of my life to witness this beauty, but I guess it’s worth the wait! Emotions were running high, just as I had started to spot the white beauty, from the approach road. A dream has finally been fulfilled. Wah Taj!

Budget Iceland Trip for 250 GBP

Iceland for £250 or 22,000 INR.
My trip to Iceland was my costliest trip ever, at 250 GBP (according to my budgeting standards, as it’s 2 week’s worth of part time work). I spent £70 on return flights, £20 on hostel, £20 on food, £20 on local transport, £100 for day bus tour of Iceland countryside, which took me to the waterfalls, glacier and black beaches; it was worth every penny!

14991471_10154667629854603_8237416279194645009_o

Additionally, I spent another £20 for Newcastle to London return, including London Victoria to Gatwick airport return. Everything in Iceland is super expensive. Public transport from Airport to City Centre will cost you minimum £10 if you take the local bus, or £30 if you take one of the frequent company transfers. There is no public transportation to all the major sites of the countryside, and you have to opt for one of the tour operators, which starts from £80.

15039692_10154661127759603_3676519251247030865_o

Flights from London to Iceland costs normally £150 return, but only on these 2 days, I found it for half price, hence I did not have much flexibility. I spent 2 full days in Iceland, where 1st day when I landed in the morning, whole day I went around the capital city of Reykjavik, took the free walking tour, ate local food and roamed around the city.

18423179_10155259356424603_6185278226922784912_o

2nd day I took the day tour of Iceland Countryside, and managed to see quite a bit of everything ! Indeed it was terribly cold, at this time of the year, where the Sun rose at 10am and set at 4pm. Overall I was pleasantly surprised with the natural beauty of Iceland, as I did not expect to see so much. Am sure I will visit Iceland again, perhaps when I’ll be rich enough 😉 If you are planning to go there, don’t hesitate ! Just go ! You will not regret it !

 

How I landed up in Hong Kong without a Visa

One hell of an experience ! When I had booked my flights back in December, Indians did not require a prior Visa to come to Hong Kong. But suddenly, it was stopped and Pre Arrival registration was started, and I was perhaps among the 1st few, who’s PAR got rejected; perhaps because of the UK residential address, that I had that time. Not just me, I discovered that almost everyone’s PAR got rejected. I had to send all my documents by post to Hong Kong directly, as Chinese missions in India refused to entertain Hong Kong visa applications. The visa was thankfully approved in mid February, and the Visa label/sticker was being sent by post. But thanks to out great Indian Postal services, the sticker still did not reach my address in Kolkata. I had even arranged for the sticker to be posted to Vietnam, if it had reached before my flight to Hong Kong. But sadlyy luck was bad ! I managed to board my flight to Hong Kong, from Ho Chi Minh City, because I convinced them that I always had the option of using the HK airport ferry to Macau, where I don’t need to cross Hong Kong immigration, incase I am refused entry into Hong Kong. After landing in Hong Kong, I went to the passport control and told them about my situation, and they strictly told me that since I don’t have my visa label, I won’t be allowed in, and asked me to book a flight back to India right now, or go to Macau. Their view is that I shouldn’t have flown without my visa label. I requested them to speak to any senior person and look into my approved visa details. They literally threatened and warned me that if I go to a senior person, and my case was not satisfactory, I will be deported back to India immediately, and that will be the worst thing for my travel history. So, she asked me either go to Macau or book a flight back to India instead. The officer asked if I am ready for the risk of deportation, to which I was confident that there was no reason for them not allowing me in, especially when my visa has been already approved, just the label did not reach, and my passport is full of Visas and visit stamps. I was taken to a strange room, where after gruelling interrogation for an hour by 2 officers, they took all my details, saw my Facebook profile, and kept on asking me very strange and lame questions, such as why am I travelling alone, that too to so many countries; why did I choose Hong Kong and not Indonesia, etc etc. I simply love to travel! What’s my fault? After that they went on a huddle and said that this time they will allow me in and asked for another 190 HK$ and gave me a visa form to fill in again. And finally I am relieved and I will be able to spend my 23rd Birthday in Hong Kong 🙂 Undoubtedly the year of being 22, has been the most eventful year of my life, even till the last evening 🙂 I would not recommend others to take this risk please.
I guess my parents back home were more tensed about me, than me myself. Sorry for the agony Mom Dad ! #Relieved

17097825_10155036342574603_3683734751399312218_o

10 Days 10 Countries; Daydreamer’s Dream!

Newcastle > Dublin(Ireland) > Oslo(Norway) > Warsaw(Poland) > Stockholm(Sweden) > Helsinki(Finland) > Copenhagen(Denmark) > Brussels(Belgium) > Berlin(Germany) > Madrid(Spain) > Lisbon (Portugal) > London

lisbon

11 consecutive morning flights; slept in airports, ran from hostels at 3 am to catch the only night bus, to board 6 am flights. All I had, was a backpack, a passport and an iPod, along with my Moto G3 phone.

Ireland

After landing, rushed to the tourist info centres, got hold of a map & managed to go to each and every tourist attraction as well as visited local rowing clubs in all the places and finally crashed into the hostels at night, for a well deserved shower and a few hours of sleep. 

brussels
Met some amazing people in hostels, airport queues, bus stations, etc. In quite a few places, people didnt speak english at all and google translate app came in really handy.
Spent a total of 150£ for flying 11 times, about 10€ per night for hostels, another 10€ per day for food and 10€ per day on unlimited transport pass. Had to carry 6 different currencies. Survived on less than 300€ in all. And yes, the flight price from Brussels to Berlin was just 0.99£.

13613324_10154304999939603_2454015247877283295_o
One day, randomly sat on skyscanner.com, inputted “From: Newcastle”, “Date: 20th June” and kept the “To” space blank, which showed the lowest priced flights on that day from Newcastle, and it was to Dublin, for about 7£. Repeated the same, this time “From: Dublin” and “Date: 21st June”, which showed Oslo to be the lowest. Repeated this, till I saw a cheap flight back to London from Lisbon. Other than a schengen visa, I had to apply for a separate Irish visa, and I had to face the most hilarious questions from the border control officer in Dublin airport. 

Finland
Had to deal with flight delays and once, I got a text message the evening before that my next morning flight had been cancelled, had to rush to the airport, negotiated with the staff, had to do the gruelling task of convincing them that one flight cancellation can jeopardise my whole trip and finally managed to get myself rebooked on another airline for the same morning….
Countless memories ! Experience of a Lifetime !