Where To Stay

Naturally, Goa offers a wide range of accommodations, but the luxury resorts tend to offer the best proximity to secluded beaches. If you're design-conscious and keen on a non-hotel experience, Goa's best options by far are Nilaya Hermitage and Pousada Tauma, both reviewed below, or if you're looking for something more mid-range Presa di Goa, also reviewed below. If the beach is not a priority, we recommend these options for their tranquil surroundings. Another good choice is the two suites (Rs...

Exploring Dharamsala the Kangra Valley

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, chose Dharamsala as the capital-in-exile of the Tibetan people after fleeing Chinese oppression in 1959, and whether it's the endless spinning of Buddhist prayer wheels or simply the divine presence of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan enclave at Dharamsala draws seekers of spiritual enlightenment from all over the world. Admittedly, a visit to Everyman's spiritual center of the universe seems like the ultimate New Age clich , but the town and its environs have...

Travel Blog Bissau Palace Jaipur Review

Jaipur has a plethora of places to stay, from standard Holiday Inns to the usual backpacker hostels. But no one in their right mind comes to Rajasthan to overnight in a bland room in some nondescript hotel chain when you could be sleeping in the very room where a maharaja seduced his maharani, or in the royal apartments of the family guests hence our focus on heritage hotels. The following reviews represent the best in the city, in a variety of price categories. The exception to this is...

Near Dharamsala

If you have the time and want to veer slightly off the beaten track, definitely head southeast of Dharamsala toward the gently undulating tea-covered hills of Kangra Valley. Although it lacks any particular charms of its own, Palampur is a popular starting point for Kangra Valley but you'll be better off passing straight through and continuing for 14km (9 miles) to romantic Taragarh Palace, now run as a heritage hotel (reviewed below). Nearby is Tashijong Monastery, a colorful gompa established...

Impressions

Who is an authentic Indian and who isn't Is India Indian Does it matter Let's just say we're an ancient people learning to live in a recent nation . . . Arundhati Roy, The Algebra of Injustice by independent princes. Thus the accounts of history vary, and competing versions have often been the cause of bitter conflict. Given the tensions between Hindus and Muslims in South Asia, it is hardly surprising that the Islamic era in particular is highly controversial. Were the Muslims invaders and...

Reading India

More than almost any other destination, India demands that you immerse yourself in the local culture to make sense of all you see and experience. And wherever you're headed in India, there's probably a novel you can read to explore the ways people are shaped by the landscape and history around them. LITERATURE FICTION The late R. K. Narayan, one of the grand old men of Indian letters, offers a panoramic view of village life in India. He focuses on a gentle prelapsarian village in Malgudi Days...

Homestays in Kerala

A homestay, in which you board with a local household, is a great way to immerse yourself in real Indian culture and hospitality. It is highly recommended as an alternative or addition to the one-size-fits-all hotel experience. Kerala has a number of homestay options, including the sublime Tranquil Resorts (see In & Around Wyanad, later in the chapter), our favorite in all of India, as well as homestays in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and Kottayam and the backwaters. Check them out on...

Gangtok Environs

Sikkim's capital sits at an altitude of 1,780m (5,800 ft.), straddling a high ridge where houses and concrete blocks spill down the hillside below is the Ranipul River. With only 29,000 inhabitants, it's relatively laid-back and generally free from the malaise that stalks India's many overpopulated towns and cities. For visitors, the most noble of Gangtok's charms is its proximity to marvelous mountain vistas the town itself is threatened by unchecked construction. A base for visitors who come...

Dont Flaunt It

Sea-view rooms with a balcony that's just meters away from the waves. Not as great on location, but an equal when it comes to amenities (and a great deal less crowded), the Taj's Green Cove Resort & Spa offers just 57 rooms spread over 10 acres of tropically landscaped gardens on the Kovalam cliffside. Cottages have traditional Kerala-style thatched roofs and are hidden among palm trees maintaining privacy from the outside, but still offering good views. Make sure to ask for a superior...

Sightings from the Saddle

Saddle up for a 3-day (or 6-day) horse safari in the reserve forest bordering Corbett National Park. Corbett Horse Safari takes you out on thoroughbred horses retired from Mumbai's racetracks across the Kosi River, up and down ridges and mountains, through thick forests of sal and elephant and tiger country to Kaladungi, where Jim Corbett lived. Trips are led by Paramdeep Singh (Vicky), and horses have accompanying syces (stable-hands). Riders overnight in spartan 19th-century forest resthouses...

What To See Do

If you do only one thing in Varanasi, take a boat cruise past the ghats at dawn (see below) you can repeat this at sunset or, better still, head for Dasashwamedh Ghat to watch the Ganga Fire Arti. For 45 minutes, young Brahmin priests perform age-old prayer rituals with conch shells and burning braziers accompanied by drummers, while children hawk candles for you to light and set adrift. Aside from these two must-sees, You need a pretty strong constitution to hang around Varanasi's burning...

Most Memorable Moments

Sharing a Cup of Chai with a Perfect Stranger You will typically be asked to sit and share a cup of chai (tea) a dozen times a day, usually by merchants keen to keep you browsing. Although you may at first be nervous of what this may entail, don't hesitate to accept when you're feeling more comfortable, for while sipping the milky sweet brew (often flavored with ginger and cardamom), conversation will flow, and you might find yourself discussing anything from women's rights in India to the...

Need a Break

Besides the options listed under Where to Dine, below, the following are pleasant places to pop in for a snack or drink if you don't feel like having a full meal. In the Colaba area are several superb spots. The recently opened Indigo Deli was created very much in the image of an upmarket New York delicatessen (& 022 5656-1010 open until midnight). It serves typically Western breakfasts from 7 30 to 10 30am, but buzzes all day long. The Indigo has a variety of imported cheeses, cold meats,...

Warning Banana Chips Are Addictive

Although tourists are normally advised to stay off street food, there's one kind of street snack you can sample without a problem in Trivandrum. Banana chips are a Keralite's favorite snack, and you'll see thattu kadas, temporary food trolleys (particularly at night), with men slicing and frying bananas in coconut oil right on the street, almost all over Kerala. Buy them piping-hot and lightly salted they're even more scrumptious than potato chips. Good spots to buy these fresh are near the...

Tips The Skinny on Street Food

Street food is something you should be careful about experimenting with anywhere in India. The spots we recommend are not on the street they serve sanitized (yet authentic) versions of what is available on the street. One place where you can safely try street food while sipping chilled beer is Vithal Bhelwala , near the Excelsior Theatre, Fort (& 022 5631-7211 or -7212 daily 11am-11pm). You get to eat real Mumbai-style street food under very sanitary (if busy and noisy) conditions at Swati...

The Golden Triangle Rajasthan Highlights

Though this itinerary includes Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur (the Golden Triangle) and captures many of the essential Rajasthan sights, it does not include Jaisalmer, one of Rajasthan's most wonderful destinations, primarily because it's not very easy to get to. In a 2-week vacation that also takes in Delhi and Agra, it would be hard (but not impossible) to include Jaisalmer. Best to extend your stay in India by a few days if you want to cover this oldest living fortified city in Rajasthan. Located...

Where To Dine

Beach-shack dining is one of the essential Goa experiences sipping feni while you feast on grilled tiger prawns or masala shark at unbelievable prices is a must. With at least 200 licensed seasonal shacks between Candolim and Baga, you certainly won't go hungry, but with names like Lover's Corner, Fawlty Towers, and Goan Waves, don't expect culinary magic. And if you don't like the look of the kitchen (ask where the dishes are washed), opt for Britto's (at Calangute, reviewed below) or one of...

Once Were Warriors The History of the Rajput

Rajasthan's history is inextricably entwined with that of its self-proclaimed aristocracy a warrior clan, calling themselves Rajputs, that emerged sometime during the 6th and 7th centuries. Given that no one too low in the social hierarchy could take the profession (like bearing arms) of a higher caste, this new clan, comprising both indigenous people and foreign invaders such as the Huns, held a special rebirth ceremony purifying themselves with fire at Mount Abu, where they assigned...

Ayurveda Keralas Healing Balm

An ancient healing tradition that draws on 3,000 years of Vedic culture, Ayurveda is the subcontinent's traditional science of life, vitality, health, and longevity or, to tap into a more contemporary buzzphrase, the science of well-being. Kerala has long been considered the home of Ayurveda, no doubt due to the abundance of herbal and medicinal plants that thrive in its tropical environment. You will find therapists, physicians, and commercial Ayurvedic shops selling roots, herbs, and bark...

Once in a Blue Bloom

If you plan to visit to India's southern highlands in 2006, you may be lucky enough to glimpse the next blooming of the rare and exotic Neelakurunji plant. Its violet blossoms transform the hillsides around Munnar for 1 month every 12 years. A pleasant 34km (21-mile) trip from Munnar, Top Station (the highest point on the Munnar-Kodaikanal road, from where you enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding plains and hills) is the place to witness this natural spectacle. fans, and uninspiring black...

Cruising Kerala on the Worlds Smallest Luxury Liner

Leave it to Oberoi to take the traditional backwater cruise to new heights with the MV Vrinda not exactly a liner, but the ultimate in luxury on Kerala's backwaters, and very Agatha Christie. After all, only on board the MV Vrinda can you find yourself watching life along the river from a comfy rattan chair on the breezy upper-deck lounge, or from your plush settee in the air-conditioned dining room while staff keep a watchful eye out for a raised finger. On the first night, you dock at Lake...

From Kovalam to the Tip of India

A mere 16km (10 miles) south of Trivandrum, Kovalam has been a haunt for beach tourism since the 1930s, but its fame as a coastal idyll has wrought the inevitable. Discovered by hippies and then by charter tour groups, it is now a swinging holiday resort, its once-virgin charm plundered by low-rise concrete hotels that have all but totally replaced the coconut palm groves. Even so, Kovalam's three crescent-shaped sandy beaches, flanked by rocky promontories, remain quite impressive. You can...

Swinging in the Hip City of Bangalore

Spend at least an hour schmoozing on beanbags at The Park hotel's i-BAR one of Bangalore's most happening spots or dancing to house and trance on the small dance floor, where DJ Sasha mixes up a swinging party (Rs 500 11 entry). Alternatively, head for 13th Floor (Ivory Tower Hotel M.G. Rd. 7-11pm), a sexy 120-seater rooftop cocktail lounge where you get a large dose of the Bangalore skyline while you sip on cocktails named after weapons. Liquor Caf is a groovy lounge bar on the covered rooftop...

By Train

India's rail network is the second largest in the world, and you can pretty much get anywhere in the country by train. That said, train journeys between major destinations can consume massive amounts of time (often more than car travel) and the network, tiers (one of the A C, or air-conditioned classes may, for instance, be better than first class), and connections can be confusing. It's best to determine well in advance whether or not your destination is accessible from your point of origin...

Moments Chasing the Worlds Most Expensive White Powder

Surrounded by soaring snowcapped peaks against a cerulean sky, you climb onto a pair of fat skis and tackle dry, calf-deep powder for heart-stopping, high-powered skiing. If you fancy the idea of being whisked onto pristine Himalayan slopes by helicopter to ski slopes with names like Nasty Nick and Powderbox, where good conditions mean runs of up to a kilometer or more, Manali, in central Himachal Pradesh, is where you should head. You'll need to fork out big bucks for this ultimate adrenaline...

Info

Once the playing fields of only die-hard budget New Age travelers, India has in the past decade come into its own for top-end travelers who want to be pampered and rejuvenated as well as spiritually and culturally challenged. Given its vast size, the majority of India's top attractions are remarkably easy to get to, using a clever combination of internal flights or long-haul train journeys and chauffeur-driven cars (no sane traveler would self-drive). Hotels, particularly in the heritage...

Bollywood Beyond India on the Big Screen

Mumbai's Hindi film industry, called Bollywood, is the biggest producer of films in the world, churning out hundreds of movies annually, all of which feature super-kitschy images of buxom, bee-stung-lipped heroines gyrating to high-pitched melodies while strapping studs thrust their groins in time to lip-synched banal-and-breezy lyrics. These are wonderful, predictable melodramas in which the hero is always valiant and virile, the woman always voluptuous and virtuous. The battle between good...

Mumbai City of Dreamers

Teetering on the edge of the Arabian Sea, its heaving population barely contained by palm-fringed beaches, India's commercial capital, formerly known as Bombay, is a vibrant, confident metropolis that's tangibly high in energy. Originally home to Koli fisherfolk, the seven swampy islands that today comprise Mumbai originally commanded little significance. The largest of the islands was part of a dowry given by Portugal to England, which promptly took control of the...

Juhu Bandra

A 60- to 90-minute drive from the heavily touristed downtown area, the seaside suburb of Juhu attracts a predominantly local, moneyed crowd, and as such affords in many ways a truly genuine introduction to Mumbai. Juhu's relative proximity to the airport (it's a 30-min. drive) makes it the ideal stopover if you have no strong desire to engage with the historical side of the city, or if you need to recover from jet lag before moving on, but aren't keen to fork over the exorbitant rates demanded...

The Top Attractions

India's capital has more sights than any other city in India, but they are concentrated in three distinct areas Old Delhi, New Delhi, and South Delhi (known as the Qutb Minar Complex) which can be tackled as separate tours or grouped together. Most organized tours spend a half-day covering the top attractions in New Delhi, and another half-day exploring the 17th-century capital, Shahjahanabad. Commonly referred to as Old Delhi, Shahjahanabad lies a mere 5km (3 miles) north of centrally located...

Top Excursions

A number of recommended excursions from Udaipur can either be tackled as round-trips or as stopovers on your way elsewhere in the state. The first option is the easiest, a half-day excursion (at most) that takes in some of the most important temples in Udaipur. The second option which you can combine with the first for a rather grueling but very satisfying round-trip takes you to the awesome Jain temples at Ranakpur through Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, past wonderful pastoral scenes that...

Hot Spots with Views

With the waters of the Arabian Sea lapping the entire length of the city on both its eastern and western flanks, Mumbai enjoys a fabulous seaside location, yet the city has relatively few nightspots with views worth mentioning. Most can be found in five-star establishments. With the dark blue horizon just beyond the terrace's glass railing and a star-studded sky above, Dome (& 022 5639-9600 reservations recommended on weekends), on the rooftop of the InterContinental Marine Drive, commands...

Om Beach Escape to Paradise

Often cited as the top beach in India and one of the best in the world, Paradisiacal Om Beach lies south in Gokarna, an hour across the border into Kar-nataka. Black rocks divide the superb white sand into three interconnected bays that more or less resemble the Sanskrit om symbol, the invocation that created the universe. Infrastructure here remains practically nonexistent, but new shacks and small guesthouses emerge every season. Alternatively, tranquil Devbagh Beach Resort (& 08382...

Things To See Do

You can easily see Lucknow's significant sights in a morning. At the top of the list is the Bara (Great) Imambara (see below). Your ticket also provides access to the nearby Chhota (Little) Imambara *, which contains the tombs of its creator, Mohammed Ali Shah, and his mother. Built in 1837, it features opulent and ornate interiors with colorful stucco walls, gilt-edged mirrors, a golden domed silver pulpit (mimbar), and chandeliers that are lit during Muharram. In between the two Imambaras is...

The Best Temples Monuments Lost Cities

Cave Temples at Ajanta & Ellora (Aurangabad, Maharashtra) Fashioned out of rock by little more than simple hand-held tools, the cave temples at Ajanta (created by Buddhist monks between the 2nd and 7th c.) and Ellora (a marriage of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain temples, created between the 4th and 9th c.) are the finest examples of rock-cut architecture in India, and deserving of their World Heritage status. The zenith is Kailash-nath Temple, effectively a mountain whittled down to a...

Where To Stay Dine

The Kumaon Hills are dotted with laid-back, atmospheric accommodations that offer guests the more intimate experience of a homestay and the opportunity to mingle with Indian families who live in the hills a wonderful reprieve from overcrowded tourist hubs. Note, though, that because these are not hotels, hot water in the bathrooms often comes via a geyser, which must be switched on when required (or in buckets carried into your bathroom), Room service is limited, and food cannot be rustled up...

Tips Flower Power

En route from Nainital to Naukuchiatal, take a break at Bhowali, where you can buy the fresh produce of the region. Make sure you stop at Fruitage, which sells apple chutney and apricot halves and a refreshing rhododendron squash. Some species of rhododendron are believed to have medicinal qualities that cool you down (ideal on a hot day). In addition, The plant's extracts (or honey produced from its nectar) are thought to alleviate cardiac problems, high blood pressure, and asthma....

Tips The Future in the Palm of Your Hand

Jodhpur is the home of a well-known astrologer and palmist, Mr. Sharma, who is in residence at the Mehrangarh Fort's Moti Mahal Chowk from 9am to 5pm daily. He will come if requested to the hotel Umaid Bhawan Palace between 7 and 9pm. To make an appointment, call the fort amp 0291 254-8790, ext. 39 , his cellphone amp 94141-30200 , or his residence amp 0291 2514614 or -1751 . Remember to remove your nail polish. overnight here, you should still visit if only to sip coffee at The Pillars, from...

Rishikesh

It was The Beatles who came here during the 1960s to visit the Maharishi a visit that inspired much of Sgt. Pepper who put Rishikesh on the map, and today the town is full of ashrams and yoga schools catering to Westerners keen to fine-tune their spiritual tool kits. Sadhus holy men in ginger robes, hippies in tie-dyed cheesecloth, and backpackers with plenty of time and plenty of First World credit gather on the banks of the Ganga to talk about the evils of the West and the failure of...

Dining Room Murder

The beautiful dining room at the Coconut Lagoon is apparently part of the house where the awful murder in Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things actually occurred. The acclaimed writer has been very critical of the removal and reassembly of Kerala's traditional homes in what she calls theme park resorts, but resort owners argue that they have saved these historic properties from certain destruction. The dining room at the Coconut Lagoon is not haunted, by the way, and the food is good....

Shopping in the Global Village Markets

Anjuna is the site of Goa's wonderful Wednesday market , where a nonstop trance soundtrack sets the scene, and a thousand stalls sell everything from futuristic rave gear to hammocks that you can string up between two palm trees on the nearby beach. It's a wonderful place to meet people from all over the world as well as Rajasthanis, Gujaratis, Tibetans even drought-impoverished Karnataka farmers with fortune-telling cows. It's a bit like London's Camden, but everyone's tanned and the weather's...

Fun Fact Indias Ancient Sex Manual

Khajuraho's shops are filled with an endless variety of versions of the Kama Sutra, an ancient avatar of modern-day do-it-yourself sex manuals. With information about everything from increasing the size of the male organ to the benefits of slaps and screams and bites and scratches, the ancient treatise on sensory pleasures recorded by the scribe Vatsyayana from oral accounts sometime between the 1st and 6th century a.d. remains the most famous Indian text in the world. The first English...

Traditional Keralite Feast

Don't pass up the opportunity to enjoy a traditional sadhya feast while in Kerala. This multicourse festive-occasion feast, served on a plantain leaf, will give you a very good overview of the state's cuisine. Expect rice and ghee unclari-fied butter , served with various stews and curries with names like sambar, rasam, kootu, pacchadi, appalam, and payasam, all of which will be heaped endlessly upon your ela leaf . Seafood in Kerala is exquisite and plentiful. A popular dish is meen moilee, a...

Escorted Tours

Escorted tours are structured group tours meals, tours, admission costs, and local with a group leader. The price usually transportation. includes everything from airfare to hotels, Many people particularly those with limited mobility derive a certain ease and security from escorted trips, and many tours let you see the maximum number of sights in the minimum amount of time with the least amount of hassle or worry. On the downside, an escorted tour often requires a big deposit upfront, and...

The Life Times of the Mughal Emperors

Babur, the first Mughal emperor inspired by the Persians' belief that a cultured leader should re-create the Islamic ideal of a garden of paradise here on earth built three gardens on the banks of the Yamuna. But Agra only took shape as a city under his grandson, Akbar, the third Mughal emperor. Son of the poet-astronomer-philosopher Humayun whose tomb is in Delhi, described earlier in this chapter , Akbar moved the capital here in 1566. While Akbar was as versatile as his father, he was also a...

The Unique Flavors of

If you don't know your xacuti from your baboti, here's a short guide Chicken cafreal is chicken marinated in green herb and garlic marinade and then fried. Vindaloo is a curry usually made with pork and marinated in vinegar, garlic, chilies, and assorted spices. Prawn Balchao is a shrimp preserve made with spices and coconut feni. Ambot-tik is a hot curry soured with kokum berries and usually made with baby shark. The state's favorite fish, kingfish isvon recheado, is stuffed with chilies and...