Category Archives: Travel

IHRites Sizzle under soaring Mercury

First and foremost: congratulations to my fellow IHRites who in the times of ‘gloom and doom’ for the travel industry, never fails to spring surprises and quite fast too. The summer’s just started and IHR did some really brisk business for the month of April. Thanks to a combination of some aggressive selling from the sales guys and some diligent organizational planning well in advance. This warranted some celebration and we were there again applauding and cheering- in yet another round of partying.

This time, particularly pleasing is the fact that we have been effectively managing to convince customers that we are the right organization to have a holiday booking with. This is no tall claim and reflected in our gradually increasing Alexa rankings as well as the swelling number of daily leads.

Here’s a small recap on some of the things we did yesterday. The place was again the now very familiar Ankit’s residence or perhaps Ankit’s den is a better word, considering the number of parties it hosts!

With the scorching summer outside the proceedings started literally on a chilling note with loads of chilled beers, snacks and soft drinks for those who really aren’t fussed about the tipple. A game of “improvised Musical Chairs “was followed with another round of dumb charades. In between some rewards were given by IHR’s team lead Priyanka to the best performers of the month.

By the time the ordered Pizzas were finally delivered those present were having a smashin time with dances, jigs and occasionally some impromptu singings thrown in good measure. It was good to see the team members high on spirits (pun intended) gelling well and liberally exchanging pleasantries about others.

With the summer sizzling, the business head promised this is just one of the many that would follow but the challenge lies in maintaining the NUMERO UNO position.

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Moving Forward with IHR Newsletter

It takes time to build trust! That’s what has been our experience with the blog. Overwhelmed by the number of visitors and an increasing surge in stats we thought its time we also start our very own Newsletter to really build an effective, long-term, relationship with our valued customers and readers.
Our weekly newsletter will keep you posted about a range of holiday options- coolest seasonal deals, best weekend getaways, a quick darshan of the holy places, set jetting on bollywood locales etal.

Newsletter of Indiahotelreview.com

Newsletter of Indiahotelreview.com

However, with the newsletter we just do not just want to showcase only the promos and sales in offer by IHR but want to share definitive information about travel in its different modalities and the ways and means through which it explores and enriches us.
We well understand the responsibility towards our readers and do not want the newsletter to be a mere window dressing for the organization and also an undertaking of not sharing or selling your personal information with any third party. So be sure that subscribing to our email will not clog your inbox with endless mailings on “getting your next marriage proposal” or “using viagra to prolong sex life”.
You can unsubscribe at any time, by clicking a link provided at the end of every email that will be sent to you. This will ensure your address is instantly as well as  automatically removed from our list.
So say yes and click for best travel deals and wealth of travel information week after week.

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What’s Hot in the Hot Summer

After the cold winter months, recession etal summer brings in a bunch of positive vibes all around. Suddenly the word vacation is abuzz and plans are afoot to visit the best of places with the best deals with your friend family and loved ones.

With around 500 leads a day you suddenly realize that summer is banging at the door. So are the teams ready to tackle the onslaught of leads, bookings, performance targets? It’s the time for a litmus test of the battle preparedness indicating no more of free times, no leaves or those extended breaks over the cafeteria!

A look at the team and you know IHR is up to the mark this summer with more trained people, strong internal processing, destination experts, travel guides with enhanced local content and to top it all a more user-friendly brand new UI on our web page.

There is frenzied activities across all processes led by an energetic sales team handling leads, making brisk sales and earning handsome bonuses on hitting the bull’s eye, the busy bee travel counselors hooked on the phones and offering n number of choices with the best deals on earth for cool holidays, an exasperated accounts and operations team looking at their excel sheets without battling an eyelid figuring out the honey, the BD and research team scratching their heads to come out with the best destinations and finally the tech team making sure that we can handle the spurt in traffic deftly.

IHR’s arsenal this summer looks deadly with new forays, smart holiday ideas and cool packages. With regular bestsellers like pilgrimages-Vaishno Devi , Ambaji, Shirdi or Tirupati shows no signs of stopping or the perennial favourites, weekend destinations to Ganpatipule, Yeracaud and Yelagiri -IHR’s hands are full.

This summer we are also unleashing our brand new initiatives in set jetting, wellness and IPL, all new travel ideas marking a new chapter in Indiahotelreview.com’s continuing leadership over the budget travel. Where are you heading this summer?

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Writing the Journey: Kolkata’s Neighbouring Gateways

Imagine this, having returned from a long and tiring trip you report to the office and immediately you are asked to put your thoughts into the word processor so that the whole world reads about the places you have seen.

Sounds easy isn’t it? But life is not on a high for a travel writer with IHR. Most of the time on a short trip, you are challenged with how to squeeze more information in the minimum time. You need the best of photographs capturing the slice of a culture in a single snapshot along with the regular attractions, loads of information about the hotels- rates, accommodation et al, distances along with fares and most importantly reproducing the same excitement and movements of a trip that more often than not makes you feel how farcical about the line “be a Travel Writer and get paid to see the world”.

This time the places assigned were as diverse as Mayapur Dham, Darjeeling, Pelling and Gangtok all within 10 days which meant absolutely no time for any relaxation and traveling leisurely.

My first stop was Kolkata’s Sealdah station. A bustling place, which comes to buzz early in the morning, a scene quite contrary to Delhi’s way.

Road Near Sealdah Station early morning

Road Near Sealdah Station early morning

My first destination was Mayapur Dham the birthplace of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. I took the first local train available for Navadweep the nearest railway station for Mayapur Dham. Navadweep is around 2 and a half hours journey from Sealdah.Navadweepa as I found hold on its own as a tourist attraction for a variety of temples and Vaishnava Mathas.

Sri Devananda Goudiya Math at Sri Dham Navadweep

Sri Devananda Goudiya Math at Sri Dham Navadweep

From Navadweep to get to Mayapurdham the best option is to cross the expansive Ganges on a boat from the jetty. Braving a boat ride along with people, cycles and livestock which was no mean task in itself but listening to the unfamiliar conversation amid bit of trepidation was an altogether new experience.

Boat Ride from Navadweep to Mayapur Dham on the Ganga River

Boat Ride from Navadweep to Mayapur Dham on the Ganga River

From Mayapur a short Rickshaw Ride took me to the famed ISKCON Temple complex. Spread over hundreds of acres, the place is far removed from the stark reality outside the temple precincts.It was a solemn place with large number of foreigners all with big tilak on their foreheads and wearing Dhotis and white Saris chanting prayers throughout the day.

The ISKCON Temple at Mayapur Dham

The ISKCON Temple at Mayapur Dham

Finished with the ISKCON Temple I headed for Krishna Nagar by a local bus to get a convenient train ride back to Kolkata. An ingenuity of a vendor selling Lassi using the railings as racks for keeping his wares caught my attention and I could not resist taking a snap.

Ingenuity of a Lassi vendor at the Krishn Nagar Railway Station

Ingenuity of a Lassi vendor at the Krishn Nagar Railway Station

Back to Kolkata and I was on Kanchenjungha Express ready to venture to my next set of destinations. Darjeeling, Pelling and Gangtok. For Darjeeling I had to get down at the NJP station. NJP or NEW Jalpaiguri station is the gateway to the North East. As It was not a tourist season ( It was during February) the station gave a secluded look and the railway over bridge was one of the most clean I found on the railway station in india.

The clean Foot over bridge at NJP Station

The clean Foot over bridge at NJP Station

Plenty of taxies are available at the NJP railway station for Darjeeling. The 4 hours drive in a share Taxi through the picturesque sceneries and not so comfortable roads cost me Rs 220. The route bypasses the Siliguri Town and links to national highway 55 for Darjeeling. Darjeeling is really beautiful and with the arrival of the malls and multiplexes does not look that much of an isolated hill station.

A busy Darjeeling morning

A busy Darjeeling morning

IF you are South Indian and love Tea then these two things should excite you. Hotel Lunar in the heart of the city provides sumptuous South Indian specialties and Tawang Tea Stall sells finest quality Darjeeling Tea at Rs 5 per cup.

My next destination was Pelling in Sikkim 120 kilometers from Darjeeeling. Tourists to Pelling should note here one or two vital things that I found out. (i) There are no direct vehicle available for Pelling from Darjeeling during off seasons .(ii) You have to reach a place called Jorethang almost midway (iii) From Jorethang you do not get any vehicle for Pelling after 4 in the evening.

Pelling at around 6800 feet is a beautiful place and relatively peaceful perhaps also as I was not in the height of the tourist season. Again a piece of information for travelers, I was told that after 2 pm you can’t get any vehicle for outside from Pelling. This puts a lot of discomfiture to harried travelers like me.

Finally my last destination was Gangtok the capital of Sikkim at a distance of around 120 km from Pelling. Gangtok is a beautiful place and moves at a leisurely pace with no body in any hurry.

MG Marg of Gangtok invigorates with a relaxed pace

MG Marg of Gangtok invigorates with a relaxed pace

From Gangtok plenty of transportation is available for different places. After spending a night I Traveled back to NJP in a share Taxi for Rs 350 and took North east express for Delhi to end my sojourn in the east and north east India.

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Right Answers to Right Questions: Things to ask Travel Operators

In a continuing effort to bring our clients more close to us and stay put to our policy of transparency, openness and accountability we have compiled a list of 10 posers that you must know from us at IndiaHotelReview.com or for that matter from any online travel agency/travel agent online or otherwise. Asking these right questions before undertaking a travel can save you money and remorse. Here are they.

The total cost of the package: The package part can be fragmented to include the following. (a) Does the quoted price include taxes and surcharges? (b) Whether booking fee for components like tickets (air/train) is applicable separately instead of just single fee for the complete package(c) for payments made through credit cards is there any transaction charge applicable. (d) For any modification / cancellation of the plan is there a fee applicable.

Our take: Let’s come to the answers one by one. (A) Make sure that your travel agent specifies this explicitly. At IHR, currently the packages we sell are inclusive of all the applicable taxes and surcharges including Luxury Tax, Service Tax et al. You need not pay a single penny to any hotel for the inclusions in the package. There are no hidden “T & C” applicable in our packages. (B) Since we specialize in hotel bookings and packages anything extra like airline ticketing or train ticket reservation will be extra over and above the package price currently. (C) Though we have to make a payment of around 2.25% to the payment gateways for processing each transaction through credit card payments but we do not charge any additional transaction fees from our clients. (D) Yes we do charge clients for any modification or cancellation of the original package plan this is currently Rs 250 per modification.

Reading the fine prints: Often overlooked but the following innocuous teasers can seriously impact your travel itinerary, (a) How near is near? (b) Whether entrance fees needs to be paid for the tourist spots in sightseeing.

Our take: This is an area where there is a lot of misinterpretation of facts indulged in by the online travel agents. As an informed traveler you must be aware of these trappings and learn to pose straight questions.
(A) For example take the case of Coastal places. There is a tendency among the agents to pass every property as “on the beach”. “On the beach” essentially means that as you step out of your hotel you are on the beach. This is available only for a few hotels at choicest locations in India like Goa and that too for a few luxury properties. So for a place like say Pondicherry “on the beach” actually means that the property might be beach facing. This is typically a problem associated with every garden/hill/valley facing hotel accommodation.
Another example can be given is for a place like Haridwar. Suppose your package says “Hotel located near Ganga” On actually reaching the place you find the property is actually 5 km away from one of the Ghat. Instead it would have made lot of sense if it had said near “Har Ki Pauri”as it is in close proximity to Ganga. Nearness can be misleading, especially if you are traveling with senior citizens and children. Starting from 500 meters, 1 km to 5 km “nearness is taken for a toss. You must ask specifically for the exact distance or a landmark.
(B) In the IHR packages the fees for entrance to attractions wherever applicable depends on the location and your request. For example say for Corbett wildlife packages the cost of arranging Safari or angling is included in few of the packages or for example the cost of arranging for the permits to access Nathula pass in Sikkim tour. However we do not include the cost of entrance fees for a visit to say a Museum or art gallery until and unless requested by the client.

Price plan of the Package: Do the packages follow a transparent pricing plan. (a) Can the customer get a break up price of the packages (b) Is choice of hotels allowed
Our take: IHR follows a transparent pricing plan. There is transparency in the sense that we strictly follow a “what you see that you pay” kind of structure in our packages. These are all inclusive packages with no additional charges. We do not follow opaque pricing. Now to the questions (A) we do give the exact breakups of different heads that makeup our packages if asked for by the client while booking. It generally consists of the following heads. i. Pickup and drop from station or airport (wherever applicable), ii. Cab for local sightseeing available on disposable our hourly basis and accommodation (B) While booking the properties we give the customer a choice of property among 3 or 4 hotels, once booked it then cannot be altered.
Dealing with the meals: Food plays an important role in the travel plans it can make or mar your travel. Do not forget to ask your travel operator the following questions. (a) Is there a choice between a buffet and a ala carte( b) Is the religious/regional preferences taken care of. (c) In modified American plan, can one switch meals at one’s will?
Our take: (A) Unless it’s a star property specifically 2 star and above Buffet meals are not viable. These too depends on factors like seasons, capacity etc. So in most cases if meals are included it’s a la carte with a restriction on number of dishes and quantity in accordance with average diet.
(B) You must ask clearly to your operator about the religious/regional preferences. Competitive pricing of the hotel mostly does not allow non-veg food. For budget hotels it is mostly vegetarian meals that are provided.In religious places depending upon the preference Jain/Gujarati Thalis can generally be arranged. However you have to put forth your preferences within a reasonable time. (C) Let’s understand the meal plan of hotels first. Essentially there are 4 types of plans. In the American plan or AP 3 meals are offered –breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the Modified American Plan or MAP along with a breakfast there is a choice between lunch and dinner. The 3rd plan is the continental pan or CP where only breakfast is provided. Last is the European plan this is most common with no meals provided.
Now coming to modified American plan as there is a choice between lunch and dinner but switching meals at one’s discretion is generally not advised. This is because most of the hotels especially smaller ones operate with a lot of constraints like, seasonal demands, veg/non-veg preferences of the guests, time needed for preparation. So unless it’s a very big/busy hotel advance information is must. Chances are there that popular Hotels with more footfalls may handle your last minute requests of meals.

On Sightseeing: This is an area where there is much confusion and a source of potential trouble brewing between the customer and the travel agent. Some questions that arise include (a)What is type of cab offered (b) Is there a choice of places that one can see (c) Are AC cabs available for sightseeing (d) Is there any guide to assist in local sight seeing.
Our Take: (A) Cabs play decisive role in traveling, FYI cabs are available on disposal basis and cabs on km and hourly basis. (B) IHR generally follows the trend of including the most popular options in local sightseeing. These range from the most attractive places. Again, if a customer has given us his preferences beforehand we can consider that also depending on the cost and time factor. Things like location, weather, season and local conditions may play crucial role in the choices. (C) Choice is available for ac/ non ac cars which you need to specify, however for a hill station non ac cars are provided as a thumb rule and air conditioned cabs can be arranged only on special requests (D) Due to constraint of seating capacity of the vehicle and cost, the chauffeur generally doubles up as a guide.
Emergencies and Refunds: (a) Is there anyone to call incase of emergencies (b) No. of days to get refunds
Our Take: (A) We do provide local contact number of the Hotels/ Cab persons whom you can call on emergencies besides we are available 6 days week from 10- 7 pm.(B) The terms and condition of refund is mentioned in the voucher again depending on season the refund process can take additional time.

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Luxury Tax: Lets not ignore the fine prints

When was the last time you were out for a vacation or business? Strong chances are you are already traveling and reading this post on your laptop. Have you ever taken note of a small but mighty thing printed innocuously on one small corner of your hotel Bill? Perhaps you haven’t. You are not alone as tourist fraternity does not give this a thought and only when you have to loosen the purse string an entity called “Luxury Tax” start biting you. It is this tax that sometimes keeps one of your favourite hotel or destinations out of your budget.

Let’s understand what a luxury tax is. Luxury Tax is a tax that is levied by most of the state governments (not all) to fill their coffers at the expense of you and me. And the funniest part is, you have to pay it actually on the official tariff of the room where you had put up. Take a hypothetical situation consider you are on a holiday, say at Ooty and the Hotelwallahs happily gave you a discount of 20 % on the rack rate. The rack rate is the one that is mentioned on the reception and the usual official rate. Supposing accommodation you chose was for Rs 1500 and the reception lady smilingly gave you the room for 1200, a 20% discount as it was off-season. You felt on top of the world to strike a good bargain in the hard times.

Now when it is the time to say adieu and pay the bills you are up for a rude jolt. You find that on the bill a 14% luxury tax has been levied and that too upon the rack rate which in this example was Rs1500.

Furious with anger at the thought of being cheated, you start haggling. Alas, not much headway could be made and you have to pay the tax of 14 % as applicable for hotels in Karnataka on the rack rate.

Coughing the extra amount you felt helpless and started cursing the agency which booked your hotel or the hotel owners. Little did you realize that the LT not only irks the ordinary travelers but is adding to the woes of hoteliers and the travel agents. Hit by recession and terror the hospitality industry is facing a lull, the luxury tax is not making it any easier. Most of the time we at IHR have to face a not so amused client venting his ire at the exorbitant Luxury Tax after the holiday is over.

Luxury Tax is something which varies in India from 5 to as high as 25%. Let’s see which states of “Incredible India” are the worst offenders. In the South the charge is led by Kerala with a whopping 15 % slap of Luxury Tax and then it is Karnataka and Tamil Nadu with 12.50 %, Andhra fares better with a somehow moderate 5 %.

Gateway to north, the capital Delhi fares worst with a levy of 12.5 % on room rents above 1000. Himachal and Rajasthan the two most oft visited tourist destination taxes @ 10%. UP with the Taj Mahal and Uttarakhand is better not only in terms of attractions but also light on your pocket with 5%.

Coming to the west and Central India Maharashtra and MP leads the brigade with 10 % , while Gujarat it seems is not only a good destination for investors it is tourist friendly too with only 4 % as Luxury Tax. In Matheran, a lovely hill station 80 km east of Mumbai inaddition to 10 % luxury tax charges another 5 percent as service charges.

On the eastern front Orissa, Bihar and Bengal does not make life easier for visitors with a 10% LT. Finally the North Eastern States, one had seriously hoped that the State Governments to be as friendly and simple as the local people. Putting all hopes to water the onslaught is led by Asaam, the gateway to the seven sisters of NE with a luxury tax of 20 %. The situation becomes additionally worse in Guwahati with a levy of another 5 % as service charges.

By this time you might feel suffocated under a “burden of statistics” Hold on! After all our intention is not to hurt you or mar your vacations. There is something to cheer about also. The Union territories are not only scenic and make a nice vacation but they are not heavy on your purse also. So Pondicherry, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu, Andaman & Nicobar Islands have not yet thought of burdening the tourists. They do not have a LT. One exception among the states is the vivacious Goa where good sense prevails and the tourists breathe easy without luxury tax.

The union Government must do something to cap the LT at an uniform rate at all the states. Till that time ignoring the one in fine print can….

Pondicherry a Zero Luxury Tax Destination

Pondicherry a Zero Luxury Tax Destination

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Perfect Breaks: Weekend Hideaways North of Mumbai

We are back again this week with more destinations off Mumbai. This time we decided to stick to NH8 and ventured north of Mumbai to make inroads into the territory known as North Konkan. Lo and behold! We came out with some startling gems of a destination – on and off National Highway 8 and further into the Gujarat Coast. We were greeted with myriad attractions ranging from hot springs, dense greens, Chikoo orchards, pristine beaches, meandering roads, sacred religious spots…. The attractions never cease. So stop dreaming and start journeying with us to these Konkan getaways and make the most of your weekends.

Marve, Manaori and Gorai: Beaches to Begin with

Marve is just 50 km north of Mumbai in the Thane district. Marve though is home to a large number of high society Mumbaikars but offers many things to enjoy for common mortals. Marve Beach is a tiny beach with clear waters. The Beachfront is filled with stalls selling fresh seafood. The place sees heavy rush on the last day of the Ganesha Chatuthi as immersions take place here amidst the sound of drums and chants.

Other attractions include low hills along the beach and the beautiful bungalows to envy upon. Look forward to magnificent views of sunrise and sunset.

Just across the creek from Marve, a fifteen-minute ferry ride will take you to Gorai and Manori. Gorai and Manori used to be the part of the Portuguese colony of Bassein.

Gorai Beach is a good place to have a swim but be careful as the waters are known to have strong underwater currents. Nearby attractions include the crumbling Holy Magi Church, Church of Our Lady of the sea at Utan and Esselworld, the amusement park.

Manori has 2 km long stretch of beach lined with palm trees and rows of seafront hotels is an ideal place for parties and picnics. Aksa and Erangal Beach are nearby attractions.

Vajreshwari: Get Soaked in Devotion and Hot Springs too

Vajreshwari is 81 km north of Mumbai and is a meeting place of devotees and weekend travelers. The Vajreshwari temple a relic of Maratha glory is the main attraction of this place. The temple is supposed to have been built by Chimaji Appa, the younger brother of the great Peshwa Bajirao I. to celebrate the fall of the Portugese Bassein(Vasai)n 1739.

The temple dedicated to goddess Vajreshwari stands atop a hillock and you can take your car halfway up the temple. Apart from the grand temple other attractions here include the cluster of Hot water springs at a place called Aklola a km away from the temple.

Ganeshpuri the place synonymous with the great saint Swamy Nityanand is 2 kms from here. Do not miss the Nityanand Mandir housing the Samadhi of Swami Niyananand and Sri Gurudev Ashram.

Palghar: Bask in Nature amidst the Chaos

A 3 hours journey takes you Palghar around 120 km north of Mumbai. Palghar offers some serene beaches for you to take leisurely strolls. The first point is a little known beach Shirgaon. The backdrop to the beach is formed by the imposing Shirgaon fort. This 18th century fort now almost in a ruinous state once housed the brave Chatrapati Shivaji and his soldiers. Nothing much to see on the fort though, other than catching a good view of the Arabian Sea and the Shiragaon village from the roof of the fort.

A 25 minutes drive through uneven narrow roads surrounded by thick trees takes you to Satapati Beach. The Beach is nothing unusual with a fish market very near. If you are a fish aficionado this is the place to be to pack some fresh sea fish before they are transported to Mumbai and sold at exorbitant prices. Local Ram Mandir is another attraction here. Another attraction of Palghar is the Kelva Beach stretches for 7 kilometers and is relatively a clean and unexplored beach. Rows of Suru trees line the beach. The16th century Portugese built Kelva Fort lies at the southern end of Kelva which is accessible only during the times of low tides. Good for trekkers, not advisable for persons with low energy though. Sheetladevi Temple is located very close to the Kelva beach. It houses a shrine with an unique idol of Goddess Devi. Kelva Dam is located around 10 kms away but the journey can be a bit tumultuous considering the roads.

Manor is 18 km before Palghar if you are coming from Mumbai. Manor is also known as the gateway to Kelva-Mahim coast. Manor is the confluence Point of Vaitarna River and its tributary Deherja. Do not miss the local Baazar here for striking some good bargains. A very scenic place but hidden behind the façade of secrecy is a pplace called Devkop that falls on the way between Palghar and Manor. Devkop Lake and the accompanying dam is almost picture perfect. Have a boat ride here, trust us you will remember it for a long long time.

Sajan: Awakening the Sleeping Beauty

The Sleepy town of Sajan is 134 km north of Mumbai and a slight detour from the NH 8. Sajan with the natural beauty as its USP provides the perfect getaway from the humdrum of urban stress. Palusa Waterfall 12 km from Sajan is a thrilling sight. The waterfall plunging from the height of 30 feet is shaped like a horse-shoe. The pool extending beyond some distance provides the perfect spot for a leisurely swim. However during the non monsoon months when the water dries up but the place is used in river crossing activities. A light trek across the jungle would lead you to Mohkrud Dam. It is one-and-a-half kilometres from Vikramgad. If you are in the right season then get ready to be greeted by a large flock of migratory birds. Another nearby attraction of Sajan is the Tiger Caves 16 km on the Vikramgad Manor Road.

Jawhar: The Cradle of Civilization

Jawahar just 25 km from Sajan and 166 north of Mumbai is the seat of the Warli tribals. “Nature at its very best”- that’s what sums up the innate beauty of Jawahar. Things to see here include the Jay Vilas palace, the residence of the tribal kings here. Then there is the seasonal Dadra-Kopra falls. Hanuman Point allows you to get a good view of the valley. Sunset Point is a vantage point here from where you can see one of the best sunsets ever. Shirpamal just outside Jawahar on the Nashik Road is as much sought after as a historic place as also for its riveting natural beauty. Besides, Jawhar is also known for its now world famous Warli paintings.

Bordi: Look beyond the Chikoo Bowl

Long stretches of white beaches, miles and miles of Chiku orchards and hospitable people makes Bordi a much sought after destination of the harried Mumbaikars. Yes Bordi has come of age in comparison to its better known neighbours of Dahanu, Umergaon and Daman. The prime attraction of Bordi is the 17 km beach. Here you can be at peace with yourself without getting disturbed by anyone. The Casurina Trees and The backdrop chikoo orchards add to the beauty of the beach. Nearby attractions include Dahanu 14 kms away and Umergaon (10 km). Dahanu- Bordi is 179 km north of Mumbai.

Silvassa: Drool to the old-world charm

Sandwiched between the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, Silvassa still shows sign of the old-world and has an air of relaxation.. For the uninitiated Silvassa is just 185 km north of Mumbai. Silvassa very much part of the Portuguese control is yet to shed its colonial past fully. Infact the very name Silvassa has Portuguese connotations. Silva means ‘woods’ and ‘glades’ in Portuguese One of the remnants of the past colonial masters is the Our Lady of Piety Church located on the Naroli Road. Attractions of Silvassa include Hirwa Van or the Pipariya Udyan a fun place for kids with a mini zoo. 6 kms away is the Vanganga Lake and the Island Garden, complete with c wooden bridges, paddle boats jogging paths, thatched huts lures you for an old-world romance.

Just 25 Km away from Silvassa is a place called Nargol. Nargol with its breathtakingly beautiful coastline offers unspoilt virgin Beaches- all for you to explore

Daman: The last of the Portuguese Bastions

Daman our last destination is 192 km north of Mumbai. Daman also shows a strong Portuguese influence who left the place as late as in 1961. Daman is essentially divided into two parts Nani Daman and Moti Daman. Some of the attractions of Moti Daman includes Governor’s palace, Cathedral of Bom Jesu, The Church of our Lady, the ruins of Dominican Monastery. Satya Sagar Udyan offers a good place for evening stroll. St. Jerome fort is the prime attraction of Nani Daman. Devka Beach (5 km north of Daman) and Jampore Beach to the south of Nani Daman are the other attractions. Hope you enjoyed these journeys as much as we did.

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12 Escapades into the Konkan Coastline

Escapades into Konkani Territory

Escapades into Konkani Territory

Mumbai to Goa the 582 Km long route with vast coastline on the west and hills in the east is truly a fantastic experience. A journey along the NH17 into the Konkan country is nothing but a self discovery. Infact getting off the highway at periodic intervals and taking detours through state highways, village roads towards the scenic coastline of Arabian Sea is a mission in discovering spectacular virgin beaches, formidable forts of yore, breathtaking sceneries and lot’s more. So be it short or a long weekend, pack your bags and head straight for the Konkan country, this is one journey that you will not easily forget and want to undertake often. Get set and go…..Just one caveat the distances given in the diagram are not to scale.

Alibaug: Gateway to the Konkan Land
Just 113 km from Mumbai and you are into the first stop Alibaug. Alibaug is a perfect concoction of nature, history and religion. Apart from the Alibaug beach with the blackest sand of the region there is the once impregnable Kolaba Fort built by Chatrapathi Shivaji Maharaj, inside are 2 temples. Then there is Akshi a quiet beach 2 kms away. Nagaon beach is just 7 km from here you can take a boat ride to the twin forts of Khanderi and Undheri.
Kanakeshwar: The Gods in Silence
Kanakeshwar, on the Konkan coast is just 12 km from Alibaug. This is one temple where there is no clamouring, no brokering just peace. The famous old temple of Lord Shiva built in 1764 is the prime attraction here. The temple is atop a hill that is 1200 feet high and one has to take a flight of 700 – 750 steps to reach on top. On the way you will find Nagobacha Tappa and the famous step Devachi Payari. There is also a statue of Nandi, the bull, Brahma Kund and the Maruti Mandir.
Kashid: Mystic Calmness Wedged between the Hills
139 km from Mumbai, Alibaug to Kashid by the coastal state road is an exhilarating journey. The Kashid beach reaching into the seas is not exactly bustling with activities and perhaps that is its forte. Take a casual stroll through Casurina groves and cypress trees and loose yourself by forgetting about mundane life back home. From Kashid you could head for the ruins of the Revdanda Beach fort. This is an old portugese fort overrun by betel nut plantations still a gaping hole made by cannonball fire on the ramparts give a majestic view of the sea. The Korlai Beach and fort is also another nearby attraction from Kashid.
Around 19 km from Kashid is Phansad Bird Sanctuary as you drive inside you will find this place is much more than a bird sanctuary. The sanctuary spread over a 1000 hectares is home to a number of avian species.

Murud- Janjira: The story of the Invincible Fort
167 kilometers from Mumbai you reach the unconquerable fort of the Siddis the Janjira fort. The fort built some 350 years ago remains unconquered to this date despite attempts made by the British, Portuguese and the Marathas under Shivaji and Shambhaji. The attractions of the fort are Kalarbangdi, Gaimukh and Chavdi the huge canons, Bala Killa the central point of the fort.
The Murud Beach with white sands is the other attraction here. Once in Murud you can also visit the nearby Garambi falls just 4 km away.

Shrivardhan: The Birth place of Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath
Shrivardhan is 208 km from Mumbai and a 6 hours drive. Beaches, temples, historic monuments galore here. The Shrivardhan beach is long clean with black sands. The beach is not rocky and one can go up to a good distance into the water. Shrivardhan has some nice sightseeing on the outskirts. Just 5 km away from the Shrivardhan is the Kondivili Beach and the Shankar temple. The Kondivili beach is clean and unmarked by footprints. You can also take a look at the residence of Peshwa Baji Rao 1 on the Peshwa Smarak Road, though it is under the control of the local administration.

Harihareshwar: The Dakshin Kashi on the Konkan Coast
Very rarely is there a place in India that inspite of being a pilgrimage centre does not loose its pristine charm. Harihareshwar is one such place an ideal beach resort and an ideal pilgrimage point. The famous landmark here is the Shiva Kalabhairav temple built during the reign of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The next attraction is the tranquil Harihareshwar Beach split into two halves north and south by the Kalbhairav temple complex. Bagmandala just 4 km away is another attraction. By the way, Harihareshwar is 219 km from Mumbai.

Harnai and Anjarle: Konkan’s Best Kept Secrets
Harnai is 280 km from Mumbai. If you are done away with all the silence, the hallmark of the Konkani beaches then perhaps gearing up to frantic activities is not all that bad. Harnai is the epicenter of fishing activities. It is crowded with narrow little lanes. In the evenings as the fishermen return with their catches the place becomes very lively with the auctions on to sell the catch to the highest bidders. Tired with the cacophony of Harnai head straight for Anjarle some 15 kms away. Boats take just 5 minutes to reach. Anjarle Beach is quite a contrast to the hustle and bustle of Harnai. The place is quiet and it would seem that you are perhaps at your own private beach.
Guhagar: Outliving the ‘Enron’s Dream’
Well, we all heard of Dabhol Power Plant isn’t it, the dream project of Enron and how it vanquished after promising to change the local economy forever. The locals did not change but Guhagar 320 km south of Mumbai certainly became more accessible with smooth roads and better hotels. The entry point to the Guhagar beach has an element of surprise in it. Even if you are on its doorstep you will not realize how big it is. This is because the way to the beach is through narrow lanes, mud houses and finally a thick border of tall trees. All give an effective camouflaging to the Guhagar beach. The beach otherwise is calm and quiet with long stretches of white sand. “Nature at its best” that’s what sums up Guhagar.

Hedvi and Velneshwar: The story of the Beach and Temple
Hedvi and Velneshwar set apart by 5 kilometers are very near to Guhagar and around 370 km south of Mumbai. Both the beaches are fine examples of one-temple-one beach entity. Velneshwar is famous for an old Shiva Temple in the village centre, constructed in typically colourful Konkani folk tradition. However the Beach here is not the place’s USP with filth and squalor around.
Hedvi an hour’s drive from Guhagar is also known for the Beach and a temple. Hedvi Beach is nice, clean and desolated. Coconut trees line the beach. On the beachfront you can relax on the shelters made of dried palm leaves. Finished with the beaches you can head for the famous temple of Lord Ganesh. The temple built during the temple of powerful Peshwas houses the idol of lord Ganesha with ten hands. That is why he is known here as the Dashbhuj Ganesh. In close proximity to the beach is the famous Baman Ghal. It is essentially big fissure in the rock. During high tides, the sea water gushes through it making huge splashes.

Ganpatipule and Ratnagiri: God’s own Beach with history lessons
Ganpatipule and Ratnagiri is around 375 km south of Mumbai and well into the south Konkan territory. If Ganapatipule is all about Lord Ganesha, the affable god of good times, then Ratnagiri is walking down the History lane. Ganpatipule is best known for the Swayambhu Ganapati Temple. The lord Ganesha here is one of the Paschim Dwar devtas. Right outside the temple is the beach. The waters are supposed to be safe for swimming, but be careful. Gapatipiule excels in a number of exciting water sports activities which is a must do here. Do not miss out the fruits and sweets with very Konkani flavour. Jaigad Fort now in ruins 20 kms from Ganpatipule is also a must visit.
Ratnagiri a charming seaside town is just 25 kms from Ganpatipule. Other than the vast expanse of black sandy beach with a backdrop of a 15th century fort, it is famous for Alfonso mangoes, coconuts and jackfruits. If you get turned around by Sun Sea and sand Ratnagiri is the place for you. Mandvi Beach, Pandre Samudra, Bhatye Beach and Ganeshghule just 20 km away is the most beautiful of them all with white sands.
Get your history lessons right with Thibaw’s palace- the palace of the exiled Burmese King, Tilak Ali- the birth place of Lokmanya Balgangadhar Tilak now turned into a museum. You can also visit the Ratnadurg fort a short 10 minute’s drive, though now only in ruins still offers some peek into the past.

Devgad and Kunkeshwar: Gods love Mangoes
Kunkeshwar and the small detour to Devgad is all about Temple, fort, Beaches and the world famous picture perfect Hapus mango orchards.
Kunkeshwar is around 500 kilometers south of Mumbai. The main attraction here is the gorgeous temple of lord Shiva once worshipped by Shivaji Maharaj. The Temple stands majestically on the heavenly beach supposed to have been built by an Arab Muslim in gratitude. The beach clean and clear of any signs of habitat for miles is all yours to grab. The vast expense of the white sand, emerald waters of Arabian Sea with the backdrop of green hills in the east you will fall in love with Kunkeshwar. Devgad just 27 km from Kunkeshwar offers more sightseeings with temples fort and beach and the mangoes- as much as you can.
Devgad literally means the house of god and true to the name the place is lined with up with many temples. The Gajbadevi and Vimleshwar Shiva are the big temples of the place attracting a sizeable number of devotees. The Devgad beach is yet another beach from the storehouse of Konkani coastline offering some moments of solitude. You could spot the windmills in action from the beach. Just south of Devgad, blue waters of clean Tara Mumbri Beach is another attraction. If you are in the mango season get ready to be treated by the king of Fruits, mango. Devgad’s Hapus or Alphoso mangoes are renowned all over the world for sweetness and meaty pulp. By seeing the neat rows of Mango Orchards of Devgad it is hard to resist the temptation of plucking one. Another nearby attraction is Vijaydurg fort and beach.

Malvan and Tarkarli: Jewel in the crown of Sindhudurg
Malvan is around 540 km south of Mumbai and is part of the Sindhudurg district the southernmost part of Maharashtra. The whole area of the place still reverberates with the heroics and valour of the great Maratha – Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The virgin beaches and rows of coconut palms are there to be grasped with both the hands. The main attraction here is the Shivaji’s own Sindhudurg fort that is built on Kurte Island. One of the prime attractions of the fort is the foot and hand imprints of Shivaji Maharaj and the Shree Shivchhatrapati temple. Malvan Beach is one of the active Beaches in the Konkan region with good number of food joints and a bar. Malvan beach is not your typical place to unwind and chill but remains the most easily accessible beach. Other notable beaches in the area include Chivra Beach, Achara Beach (22km north of Malvan) and Tondavali Beach (19km North of Malvan)

Tarkarli beach is around 6 kms from Malvan and can be easily termed as the little heaven by the sea. The white beach and the gentle clean waters would coax you to frolicking. Along with the beach, there a few coastal villages those worth a visit. So laze around, bask in the sun and enjoy Malvani cuisine.

Vengurla: The last of the unspoiled Paradises.
Lying at the foot of a green, crescent ridge, Vengurla 550 km south of Mumbai is our last destination. The state of Goa is very near to this place.
Besides the Sagareshwar beach, Vengurla is replete with historical forts, very old temples and quiet villages. Shri Sateri Devi Mandir and Shri Vithoba Temple are located at the village of Aravali some 10 kms away. Taking an early morning walk in the Casaurina- framed Sagareshwar beach is a heavenly experience.
Lighthouse perched on the hill overlooking the jetty should be your next stop .It offers a splendid view from the top. Vengurla Rocks or Burnt Islands, the fruit research center and the cashew factories of the area should be your next stops.

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The Year that was 2008: In Retrospect and Ahead

Please forgive me for writing this post quite a bit late and to be honest, in haste. As I am caught up in a lot of stuff that require my attention as and now I try to “peacefully” string up a few thoughts to put 2008 in perspective. Actually there are quite a few things to share about the year that was 2008.

The first thing that comes to mind is the Sales figure. As compared to 2007, we have registered almost double the sales. Considering the times we are in this is a remarkable feat! Surprisingly December, (Post 26/11) the fag end of the year was our best month that gave a boost to our sales.

Conversion of the leads is another area that has shown a tremendous progress. Our self made itineraries really caught on the attention of FITs (fully independent travelers). As a result conversion percentage is better and the numbers doubled.

Talking of Packages, there is a paradigm shift in the way they were organized. Better research, more budget hotels, and better places and voila! The results are just astonishing. We sold Kerala, like never before. Varkala, Bekal, Munnar, the Backwaters went on a spree. LTC packages for Port Blair and North East, a relatively late entrant (starting August) have also brought us as a significant player in these regions. We consolidated on our traditional stronghold of Bangalore and Chennai weekends, along with Honeymoon and Pilgrimage packages all showing an upward trend.

With 20 travel guides already live, Content is moving into new realm. Written from a budget traveler’s perspective the focus is on hot selling destinations. To encourage community participation there are options of photo uploads and comments on each page. The destinations virtually crisscross India with Katra, Corbett, Varkala, Manali etall. The year also marked the opening of our first retail outlet at Rawatbhata Kota on 26th October. Our travel voucher as a product has been established in the market.

Internally IndiaHotelReview.com – IHR has made quite a few structural changes, the UI of the site has been given a new look with more value additions. QnA with city experts and local guides has really taken off. Inspite of our limited branding through SEO, share of the market pie is getting better and bigger. Customer Support service is much organized now with transparency and increased level of customer friendliness. There is a drastic change from 2007 when we were just 1 year old.

Last but not the least the ambitious plan of Business development initiatives taken in 2008 harvested rich dividends. Not only we could get in the photographs of the hotel accommodation but it also helped in assessing the exact position and improving the communication with the hotel fraternity. This sums up our gains in 2008.

Looking ahead 2009

For the year ahead IHR plans to grow stronger and more focused. If 2008 was all about Sales & Community, 2009 could be the year of Community and sales in that order. Finally, you are as good as your team and that is what separates the boys from the men. Best Website of the year in pocket, Team IHR is the winner and that’s what I wanted this post to be all about.

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Cool Choices for this Republic Day

Friends advance wishes for the Republic day. Long Live the Republic! If you find a little time to look at your Desktop Calendar for 2009 you will find that there is a long weekend ahead for you around this Republic Day.

If you do not have had ready any plans yet do not despair, we at IndiaHotelReview.com-IHR have made our own list of ultimate places that have recently piqued our interest this winter. These places are not typically “high on the must-go list” but if you trifle inclined to break the rules and head for the places “Where the world is not headed to “try these cool places out. Its one month so you could plan it well, and trust us – you will not regret.

Delhi Weekend: Leisurely Kosi and Lansdowne

Just 100 kms from Delhi Kosi is an idyllic retreat in the Mathura district the Birthplace of Krishna. Drive there and earn the much deserved rest from the rigmaroles of daily life. A bit heavy on wallet but there is nothing like having a good time in Country Inn.

Lansdowne, the quaint hill station is around 250 km from Delhi this sublime place charmed Britishers to the hilt now it’s your turn. Just take a leisurely walk in the sunset and feel all the difference.

Kolkata Weekend: Discovering Chandipur

Hey Kolkatans give Digha a passe, travel 314 kms and you are in at Chandipur in Orissa. Miles of fine silvery sand dunes, unobtrusive beach, shells and driftwood that’s Chandipur on Sea for you. It will make you long for more and provide more reasons than than one to return. Just one piece of information that would make you a proud Indian this Republic Day, it was from Chandipur Interim Test Range that the Agni Missile was launched.
Chandigarh Weekend: Historic Paonta Sahib

Just 132 kms from Chandigarh, the historic City of Paonta Sahib is thoroughly entrenched with the memory of the Tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. It does not matter whether you are a Sikh or not but the majestic Gurudwara, the pristine waters of Yamuna and the Sal forest is sure to elevate your spirits. Just one piece of advice book early if you want to stay in HPTDC hotel.

Mumbai Weekend: Expedition to the Chikoo Kingdom- Bordi

Mahabaleshwar, Lonawala, Matheran sounds clichés isn’t it head for Bordi instead. Unbelievable but true Bordi is just 145 kms from Mumbai. Bordi offers a peep into serene beaches and picturesque Chikoo gardens. Reach here, do nothing and just enjoy the breeze and the soft sands. We bet it would be the best Republic Day you had in a long time.

Banglore Weekend: Aromatic Chikmagalur

The Coffee town of Chikmagalur is just 250 kms from Bangaluru. Depending on your liking you could enjoy a bit of trekking, pilgrimage wildlife all rolled into one. Very high on fun quotient. Mysore, Ooty rest in peace!

Bhopal Weekend: Mystical Narmada

Jabalpur, on the banks of river Narmada is 336 kms from the state capital Jabalpur. A boat ride around the Bera against the silhouettes of small marble hillocks is sure to make you romantic, while the gushing sight and sound of magnanimous Dhuandhar falls make you appreciate the bounty of nature.

Hyderabad Weekend: Nagarjuna Sagar Where Civilizations Meet

Nagarjuna Sagar the world’s largest masonry dam is incidentally also an important Buddhist centre. At 150 km from Hyderabad explore centuries old Buddhist civilization, Nagarjunasagar Lake and waterfalls this Repupblic day Weekend

Ahmedabad Weekend: Make a Wish-Ambaji

Ambaji is just 198 kms from Ahmedabad, located on the Arasur Hills the famous temple of goddess Ambaji is a wish grating Tree. Pray for a prosperous and powerful India this Republic day.

Chennai Weekend: Look Beyond Pondicherry- Karaikal

Get off the beaten track, think beyond Pondicherry. Karaikal is the place to head to. This former French enclave is 300 Km from Chennai and 135 Km south of Puducherry. Temples, Churches, Darga you name it Karaikal has it, besides it is dotted with a crisscross of rivers and forms the delta of the Cauvery River system.

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