Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Travel Rant + Obsessive Planning = Incredible Future Holidays

What happens when a relatively free day at work hits you on the face with vapid nothingness you ask? I go straight to my happy place - Obsessive holiday planning. This is a difficult task indeed given that I have less than 10 rupees left in my salary account at the end of the month. But nevertheless, the pennyless-ness doesn't ever dampen my spirits. Like Ever. I've known people to create wedding books, wishlists, and DIY stuff in their free time; but my number 1 guilty pleasure remains looking at vacations I can never afford. It just makes it this forbidden fruit meets sexy stranger with a ring on his finger meets solar powered jet packs meets 007's loaded vehicle. (you get the picture)

Over the years I have toned down though. Quite a bit. I've started narrowing down places I'd really want to go to and I know I can achieve in the next 5 years. That is, if I drink less on the weekends and not spend half my salary on eating out and repaying debts. So, this has come down a vision board - A five year vacation plan ( I am getting older and wiser as I write this) that will help me achieve the output of my lifelong obsessive holiday planning. So after looking at relatively practical inputs like money, modes of travel, distance, culture vs romance, adventure or spa etc etc I have narrowed the list down to 20 places for the next 5 years and the goal is to hit at least 10 on the list (50% achievement rate is way above my track record right now, so don't make faces). Needless to say, the obsessive planning has been restricted to only these 20 places and my travel folder is only getting fed with itineraries that stick to the plan. So, here's presenting the top 4 contenders for 2014-15.

1. Petra, Jordan and diamonds in the desert skies.

If you've seen Indiana Jones and the last crusade then you know what I'm taking about. This Nabataean caravan-city is situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea and is one of the most kick-ass historic sites of the Hellenistic period. Why you ask? Well, for starters its mysterious, surrounded with rippling gorges and narrow passages, semi carved into the rocks and just springs out of nowhere when you are least expecting it. And also because it's fucking gorgeous. 

My planning for Jordan includes a starting point with Madaba and Amman  and then indulging into a breathlessly romantic Hot Air Balloon Ride in Wadi Rum desert. Overnight stay in a traditional Bedouin camp in the desert under a starry sky. The trip would be incomplete without a visit to the dead sea. The Moevenpick Resort & Spa at the Dead Sea has rooms that call out to your soul and has the best views of the sea you can imagine. Sit at the balcony and gaze out to the vastness of the dead sea while sipping on some Arabic coffee. Bliss Bliss Bliss. This one is at the top of my list with the heaviest planning and saved itineraries anyone has ever seen or thought of. The best part: This trip can be managed with around $1200 for 5 nights and 6 days.

2. The Sri Lankan Odyssey

 My fixation with Sri Lanka started only recently, but the more I researched and read... the more excruciatingly excited I got.  This is a place where you can truly take the off-beaten path or you can see everything or just do nothing. Beach - Check, Mountains - Check, Valleys - Check, Jungle Safaris - Check. I've planned an extensive one for this trip since I want to head out and explore every bit of this hidden heaven right under our noses. My planning started with an hour long exploration of Google Maps and different road trips through the Sril Lanka which will allow me to see and do the most. At the end, I am left with 10 days and 6 destinations across cities mountains and beaches.

One of the highlights would be a two night stay at the amazingly lush and relaxing resort called the The Wallawwa in Negombo. Nestled amongst three acres of magnificent manicured gardens the place looks right out a story book. To add to that it's actually an old colonial manor house restored as a luxury resort. The other one that I've had my eye on for a very long time is called Hunas Falls, in Kandy "Offering Panoramic Views Of Valleys And Mountain Ranges In The Distance, The Stunning Landscapes That Surround The Hotel Are Bound To Fascinate Any Nature Trekker." This is going to be an expensive one, so I'm going to keep it as a finale to the vacation check-list.

3. The Great South Indian Romance

My parents had gone for a South Indian honeymoon. A two week grand affair across different nooks and corners of the South in the beautiful monsoons is a story they hold close to their hearts to this day. I had half a mind to do the same post my wedding, but given I got married in a ridiculously hot month - I couldn't let South India happen in May for sure. I am reserving this one for the monsoons or the winters.

Image courtesy CNTraveler

My travel planner currently hosts 7 places that I must visit and 3 resort where I must cuddle with my Batman. Starting at Chikmagalur and finishing with Dhanushkodi, literally the lands end I have road maps, resorts, house boats and off-beat spots all picked out. Here are the top three cuddle spots which I am more than dying to visit soonish. The Serai at Chikmagalur - deemed as one of the most romantic resorts in India and rightly so. The CN Traveler states its a 'no kids zone' and it's got quiet time and romance written all over it. To top it all, imagine a dinner out in the wilderness under the skies and glittering lamps hanging off a mystical banyan tree!

The next one is Bungalow on the Beach Tranquebar, Tamil Nadu. This one is a Neemrana property and the view of the virgin white beaches just outside your window can turn the biggest skeptics into gooey eyed cuddlezillas. And last but not the least  the Taj Garden Retreat, Kumarakom (Vivanta) - a houseboat designed to cater to your every needs aka unlimited pampering and luxury as you glide through the backwaters of Kerala. Also, given that I am a sea food addict Kerala is a place I just couldn't keep off my list for too long.

A special thanks to Condé Nast Traveller India for satiating most of my holiday needs and dreams, it just seemed like a blessing when I was planning this trip out. 

Image courtesy CNTraveler

4. Backpacking across the Western Ghats

Right from the time I've set foot in Mumbai, I've realized that this is a great opportunity to discover some of the most unspoiled un-touristy locations hidden around the Maharashtran coastline and along the rocky western ghats. I have to admit I am a sucker for rough terrains and unusual topography. I mean I love mountains and all, but I melt at the sight of unevenly placed table lands and sudden peaks and great barriers that look like some one has drawn a brown curtain all around the plains. The roads are quite brilliant in this part of the country, they are mostly one way highways and you get to see a different sight of the mountains and plateaus at every nook and turn. To top it all, the monsoons come as such a blessing in this arid part of the subcontinent that it becomes a sight to be felt and enjoyed with almost all your senses. The smell in the air, the rough green and reds of the barks, the mossy glow on the table lands and the waterfalls, just make up this post-cardish effect. The places are relatively less crowded and you don't have a lot of luxury establishments, which is kind of okay, since the stunning views make up for it. A couple of places on my backpack cheap trip list are -

  • Bhandardara  - a quaint little hill town around dams and lakes and a topography to die for. You can drive for miles without crossing another soul on the road. 
  • Malshej Ghat - a place which most exotic migratory flamingoes choose it as their monsoon abode. And to top that, you'll find 3rd century Buddhist caves in this hilly abode.
  • Lonar - A place where a giant meteor struck roughly 50 thousand years ago, thus forming the world's third largest crater lake. How Cool Is That?
  • Chikhaldara - this is the only coffee growing hill station in Maharashtra and has an epic mythological story associated with it. The area is mostly rustic and foresty making it easy to spot wild animals - deer, sloth bears, and if you are lucky some panthers too. 
All these places have Maharashtra tourism bungalows which are super cheap, so planning impromptu trips are quite easy. There are very few luxury resorts around these places, but a few excessively priced properties have sprung up claiming the advantage of being literally the only ones around! As long as we can keep planning these impromptu trips across the state, I'd be happy... and moving to Mumbai would be truly worth its while. As for now, I am back from a short break and loving the rejuvenated new energy in me that's literally carrying me through the week. 


“Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.” 


  1. very good post and informative data ..everyone wants to know you.Have you wrote on chikhaldara hotels ?