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Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery: All You Need To Know About This Divine Place!

The ‘Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery’ in Singapore, otherwise called the Bright Hill Pujue Chan Monastery, is a Buddhist sanctuary situated in ‘Bishan’, Singapore. It was built in the mid-twentieth century, by Zhuan Dao, to spread Buddhism. The monastery also gives sanctuary to priests. This religious group is the largest Buddhist sanctuary in Singapore. Built between 1920 and 1921, the plot for the monastery was donated by one ‘Tay Woo Seng’, a Chinese businessman. The plot was on Thomson Road. Of all the traditional Chinese forest monasteries to be built in Singapore, Kong Meng is the first.

At first, the monastery was known as Phor Kark See. But since it is situated at ‘Kong Meng San’, which roughly means “Bright Hill”, also formerly known as “Hai Nan Mountain”, the monastery was later renamed to ‘Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery’. Originally, the monastery was a two-story building, which of those consisted a shrine room, living quarters, and a visitors’ room. However, over time, through collected funds, and with donations by humanitarians like ‘Aw Boon Haw’, and ‘Aw Boon Par’, the monastery was gradually expanded. And then, when Hong Choo became the monastery’s abbot in 1947, the complex expanded exponentially.

From two shrine halls, the Pagoda became capable enough to accommodate 10,000 Buddhas. One single prayer hall became as large as ten football fields combined. With this, Kark See became the most peaceful, largest, and the most majestic place for the practice of Buddhism in the whole of Singapore.

About Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery

The monastery has, since the first day, attracted a number of devotees. All along, donations have been pouring in from various sources. Using these funds, the monastery has always been developing. However, the biggest donation was made by the He Hui Zhong family, on behalf of their company, in 1980. They donated a sum of $5.3 million, with which the monastery began the construction of Evergreen Bright Hill Home. The home was opened in 1983.
The monastery introduced the Compassion Fund, on 15th January 2002. This fund was presented to those retrenched workers, who did not come under any kind of aid schemes. The last draw for this scheme was up to $2,500 per individual.

Kwang Sheng succeeded Hong Choon to be the abbot on 5th June 2004 and is still serving the monastery. Under his leadership, extensive steps were taken for the propagation of the Buddha dharma. He, along with his followers, set up the Dharma Propagation Division, which taught Buddhism and the ways of practicing it. For the youth of Singapore, the youth ministry called the KMSPKS Youth was set up to provide the youth with a platform to learn about Buddhism. This further let the youth in serving society through Buddhist teachings.

On 13th September 2006, the monastery opened the ‘Buddhist College of Singapore’, the country’s first Buddhist College. The college presents a bachelor’s degree in Buddhism; a four years degree and there are a number of courses at ‘Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery’. The monastery has always been compassionate towards the destitute. Since the day of its conception in 1920, the monastery has seen a lot of development; older buildings have been modified, while newer additions are still being made. Newer practices have also started.

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Essential Information About The Monastery

Here is what is known about the ‘Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery’ opening hours. While activities are going on at all times within the monastery, outsiders, and visitors are not allowed in the campus at all times. On all the days of the week, visitors are allowed between 6 AM to 9 PM. However, on Saturdays, the hours have been shortened to 9 AM till 4 PM.

Address: 88 Bright Hill Road, Singapore, 574117
Location: Bishan, Singapore.
Founder: Zhuang Dao

The entry to the monastery is free, and visitors are to enter through Gates 1 and 3.
While there is no definite dress code for entering the monastery premises, it is advisable to wear clothes that cover your knees and elbows. It shows respect to the traditions. Also, be particular about removing your footwear at the given places. Do not enter where you are not asked to. Keep your voices down, and be sensitive while clicking photographs. It is always nice to ask for permission before clicking any; you will find a monk or two nearby at all times.

So, if you visit the monastery at the present day, you will be welcomed by a number of buildings and activities, which may not be in some earlier commentary. Take a look for what all you can do here!

1. The Religious Constructions and The Crematorium

The Religious Constructions and The Crematorium

When you visit a place like this, i.e. a place of religious importance, you will be presented with a number of buildings, which have a variety of purposes to serve. You will find places to sit and rest in housing quarters, etc. But the most important ones are the religious buildings, where all the religious work gets done. And a trip of this particular monastery would be incomplete without a visit to the Stupas, the elaborate praying halls, the bell and drum tower, or even the dharma hall. The monastery has a very well kept crematorium. Alongside, there is a columbarium that houses more than 2,00,000 niches. It is here that you will realize the love and respect, people here have for their departed.

2. Avalokitesvara and The Hong Choo Memorial Hall

Avalokitesvara and The Hong Choo Memorial Hall

Here is a statue that stands as a testament to the position that compassion holds among the Buddhists. Right between the Dharma Hall and the Pagoda, you will find a beautifully designed and detailed statue of Avalokitesvara. For your knowledge, Avalokitesvara is a Boddhisatva that is supposed to stand for compassion among human. You must definitely visit the Hong Choo memorial hall that was erected in 2004. It is a remembrance of the foremost abbot of the monastery. Under him, the monastery gained footage and saw extensive development. At Hong-Choo, you’ll additionally get the possibility to look at and take pictures of the Bodhisattva sculpture that stands between the temple of ten thousand Buddha’s and Dharma Hall.

3. The Bodhi Tree

The Bodhi Tree

You must also go sit under the sacred Bodhi Tree. You will be blessed. Nonetheless, you will feel peace and tranquility. This tree has a significant history of its own. The sapling of this tree is a sapling from the Bodhi tree at Anuradhapura, in Sri Lanka. The tree at Anuradhapura is, in turn, is a sapling from the sacred ‘Bodhi Tree’ of ‘Bodh Gaya’, in India, under which Shakyamuni Buddha was known to have attained enlightenment. This monastery will serve you with the chance to look at the most important Buddha bronze statue in Asia. Do not miss out on a glimpse of one of Asia’s largest Buddha statues. It can be found in the Hall of No Form. The statue weighs 55 tons and is 13.8 meters tall. While you are here, also go take a look at the multistoried college building, and the impressive 4 storey car park with 200 parking spaces.

4. Buddhist Culture

Buddhist Culture

Religious leaders and students are offered to teach guests regarding the monastery. This monastery is that the best destination if you would like to find out regarding and observe Buddhist cultures and beliefs. From this monastery, you furthermore may have an honest probability of understanding the various beliefs that conjure the life and times of Indians and Buddhist. In present-day Buddhist still practices rituals throughout special occasions. This can provide you with the chance to find out the various rituals undertaken by the leaders once practicing healing prayers.
Once here, you will really feel the peace creep into you. You will be relieved of all worldly worries once you are in one of these buildings. It is hard to define the tranquility, and the realization of peace one feels in the monastery. It is something one feels only when they are present.

Upcoming-Events-At-The-Monastery

While prayers and ceremonies go on all around the year in the monastery, the monastery holds a few special events annually, or at specific times. Here are a few events and practices that the monastery is meant to host in the coming times. Most of these activities will be made a regular affair once they are started so that you have a chance to experience the peace when you are there next. The kind, that the activity is of, has been listed along with:

  • Shui Lu Grand Prayer. (prayer, Dharma; a ceremony to cleanse all sentient beings of their sufferings.)
  • Relaxation and Mindfulness Meditation. (join Kwang Sheng to learn meditation techniques that lend you extreme peace and relaxation)
  • Eight Percepts (details unavailable)
  • Shui Lu Meal Offerings. (meal offerings to the Buddha and Sangha, ceremony)
  • 108 Bell Resonance. (Welcome 2019 with the 108 deep resonances of the bell)
  • Chinese Buddhism Course, 2019. (Buddhism course in Chinese, to be started in 2019)
  • 2019 Saturday Parent Dharma Class. (Learn ways to incorporate Buddhist techniques in daily life for harmony and peace)

How To Reach The Monastery

Transportation is quite advanced these days. It is fairly easy to get to the ‘Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Temple’. From any major transit station in Singapore, you will either find a bus or underground transport to the monastery.

So, what are you waiting for? Plan your trip to Singapore for a soothing experience in this divine place and have an amazing holiday with your loved ones like never before! Are you ready for it yet? Make sure you pack a few extra clothes as a city like Singapore can surely change your mind and who knows if you end up extending your fun packed vacay?

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Goa Was A Delight For This New Family! It Was The Perfect Gift Their Little One Could Have Asked For

A getaway for all ages, a resort for all groups, and a vacation for all travelers. Goa is like an extra large umbrella that accommodates everyone under the sun. Read Chirag’s charming account of his family trip to Goa that was a first with his cute little daughter. Their trip cost them a total of INR 15,000 which included their transfers, accommodation, sightseeing, and breakfast.

I hadn’t been to Goa before and life couldn’t be busy enough to stop me from planning a family trip to Goa. After browsing the internet for Goa family packages, I landed on the TravelTriangle website. I found their way of letting clients customize their own travel itinerary as a unique attraction. I submitted a query on their website and got a call back from their representative.

Chirag and his family on Calangute beach

Uday understood the requirements of my trip and connected me to various agents providing me with multiple offers for the same trip. I selected the best package provided to me by ‘Shoes On Loose’ agency. Just like that, my family and I were ready with our bags packed to enjoy a short getaway on the magical beaches of Goa.

Day 1: The adventure begins

Enjoy the open waters in Goa

We boarded our evening flight from New Delhi and arrived at the airport in Goa at 9 pm. The excitement of our first trip to Goa was visible on our faces. We were like kids in a candy store who, for the time being, found a purpose to life. Afterward, we rested for the night as the next day for us was filled with adventure.

Day 2: Beach hopping in North Goa

A fantastic view of the coastline in Goa

The next morning we had breakfast and got ready for exploring the beaches in North Goa. The shared cab came to pick us at 9 and so with that we began our North India Tour with a bang.

The majority of our time spent in Goa that day went into covering all the beaches that North Goa has to offer. As the craze of Goa was setting in, I was surprised by witnessing that beaches of Goa, despite it being the most popular destination, has a good opportunity for travelers to capture great memories.

We visited Anjuna, Vagator, Sinquerim, and Candolim Beaches in North Goa. Our hotel was situated on the Calangute beach, which coincidentally is the most cheapest and cleanest and in Northern Ireland sale in the world. After spending the entire day hopping across beaches, we returned back to the hotel at 6 pm and called it a night.

Day 3: Colorful and cultural Goa Tour

Enjoying the cultural perforamance

The next day, post breakfast, we departed in our cab for the South Goa Tour. The journey in Southern Goa is supposed to be more religious and liberal than the others. The tour started at 9.30 am with the visits to local and nearby temples.

First up, we visited the famous Shanta Durga Temple, followed by which we covered the Mangleshwar Temple. Later on, we moved towards the visiting of Churches like Se Cathedral and Basilica of Bom Jesus. We were amazed to see how Goa is thriving as a state, despite being so diversely rich in religion and race.

Enjoying the glimmering lights on cruise

Post lunch, we returned back to the hotel and got ready for the cruise. A thing that was on the top of my to-do in list Goa- do a boat cruise off the coast of India. The cab came to pick us up and we boarded at 5 pm. As the boat cruise waited to fill its capacity of 300 people, the guest who had arrived were treated to fine entertainment and cultural shows. At 9 pm, the boat cruise got over and we headed back to the hotel for the night.

Day 4: Goa! Until we meet again..

A cute mother-daughter picture

On the final day of our family trip to Goa, our flight was departing at 9 pm. So, we checked out of the hotel at 11 am and left our bags there and headed to Mall de Goa in Panaji. Although I’m not a big fan of shopping, but since most of the ladies simply love it, you gotta take part in it.

At 5pm, we picked our bags from the hotel and headed to the airport only to be faced by an indefinite delay of our flight. Even the gods wanted to us to enjoy a little more in Goa. The flight finally departed at 1 am, much to our relief.

High Points:

  • The management of boat cruise on such a large scale was commendable

Low Points:

  • The beds in the rooms were shorter than their usual size.

Tips for travelers:

  • Food for vegetarians can be really expensive so come prepared.

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Goa Trip: When In Goa, Do What The Johars Did

A father of two, Sameer Johar took a break from his busy schedule to spend some fun family time in Goa. He booked a package with TravelTriangle which included his breakfast, dinner, hotel stay and local tours, all for Rs.11,500. Back from the break, this is what he has to say about his experience.

Traveling is the perfect stress buster and an apt excuse to enjoy time with family. That’s why I make it a point to travel twice a year with my wife and two sons. This time when my wife expressed her wish to go to Shirdi, the perfect opportunity of visiting Goa presented itself. The next thing to do was search for a suitable travel package to ensure a smooth vacation, which TravelTriangle took care of pretty well.

Day 1 – Good to go to Goa!

Wife and kids at Colva beach

After the much-anticipated visit to Shirdi, it was time for some real fun. From Shirdi we left for Goa in train and faced frequent halts on the way. But the frustration of getting delayed got covered up when our train coincidently halted right at the serene Dudhsagar Falls. Luckily, not only did we get a close view of the falls but got to feel its faint showers falling on our train’s compartment.

Kids enjoying swimming at the beach

After a tiring three-hour train delay, we reached Goa and straightaway checked in at the hotel provided to us. The hotel, Colva Kianra, is one of the best hotels around the Colva Beach, with a swimming pool facility and a very hospitable staff. Since our hotel was at a mere 5-minute walking distance from the Colva beach, we spent much of our time on the beach (the kids just could not get enough of swimming). Another thing that the kids enjoyed the most, was jet skiing on the waters of Arabian Sea.

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Day 2 – A Bus, a Boat and a lot of Beach-ing

A view of Jimmy Kardeka's Bungalow from the boat

The next day we went on a bus tour to North Goa which covers all the major attractions of the city. It first took us for Dolphin spotting at Sinquerim beach, alongside Fort Aguada. On the way, we passed the beautiful seascapes and saw Jimmy Kardeka’s (diamond merchant) famous Bungalow where Haseena Maan Jayegi was shot. Further on the way, we got to see the famous Central Jail of Goa where we caught a glimpse of the inside of the prison through its barred windows. After reaching Sinquerim beach, our boat stopped and the guide pointed out a few dolphins frolicking about in the water.

During the boat tour to Dolphin Spotting

Back to our starting point of the boat tour, we resumed our journey in the bus which took us around all the major beaches. From Cocoa beach to Anjuna beach to Vagator beach— the difference in the flow of the waves was noticeable since each beach had its own unique appeal. After a lunch break, we visited the Calangute and Baga beach. Since there were too many beaches to visit and too less time, we dedicated 20-30 minutes to each beach. After a day full of energy, we went on a night cruise at the Mandovi River, where we all reveled in the dance and DJ night.

Day 3- A Spicy treat

Spice Plantation

After spending a day at various beaches, we explored the rest of the city, the next day. We started off by visiting the Aguada Fort, followed by Spice Plantation. Though there was nothing much to explore at the fort, Spice Plantation turned out to be a surprise. At Rs.400/- per person, we availed a fully guided tour of the place along with lunch.

Old Goa Church

The scent of spices was in the air and the beauty of the place provided the perfect food for pictures. The Mandovi river running parallel to the site was enhancing its picturesque quality. The whole tour took around 4 hours and we left the place with the scent of spices fresh in the senses. We ended the day with a guided tour to old Goa church, where the famous mummy is laid to rest.

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Day 4 – Rise and Shine!

Sunrise at Colva Beach

The next morning was supposed to be the last day of the trip. In order to experience the sunrise at the beach, we all woke up early and took to the beach. Jogging along with the sun rising on one side and the coconut trees swaying on the other will be a memory to cherish. After a refreshing breakfast, we concluded our stay at the hotel with a rejuvenating spa at the Phulwari Spa and were then transferred to the airport in the afternoon.

Breakfast at Sagar Kinara restaurant

High Point: Spice Plantation offered a perfect blend of the informative and the fun, making it suitable for the kids.

Low Point: The Aguada Fort occupied unnecessary time

Tips for future travelers: While the North side of Goa is more happening, South Goa is a preferable place to be for families.

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Culture Trains

12 Soweto Nightlife Experiences That Will Leave You With A Ton Of Memories

If someone has been looking for a change in their schedule and wants to spice up their social life a little bit, Soweto has got to be the perfect holiday vacay spot for them. Soweto has a lot of things to provide to their tourists so that they forget all things behind and dive into the aura of the city. Furthermore Soweto nightlife has definitely come a long way. In recent times, the nightlife of Soweto has taken the whole city by storm.

Soweto has got it all for a tourist to sink into the vibe of this endearing city’s nightlife. Here is the list of all places which are famous for Soweto nightlife. Take a peek:

1. Chaf Pozi

Nightlife Bar Illuminated Party Night Fluorescence

This place is basically a famous restaurant in Soweto. With good music and mouth watering food, this restraint leaves people wondering about it for days. After giving an authentic restaurant experience by day, it turns into a club by night. With vibrant background music playing in the background, they serve some of the most exotic mouthwatering local dishes which include Shisa Nyama and a cold beer.

Location: Orlando Towers, Chris Hani Road & Nicholas Street, Soweto

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2. 707 Panyaza Pub And Braai

707 Panyaza Pub And Braai

This place is famous for being the largest chilling and relaxing hang out place in the city. This is a pub which offers a snazzy bar that serves drinks at a reasonable price. Also, this place make sure it gets its customers grooving on the beats of music as there are a variety of events that happen here like hip-hop, house dancehall, and jazz, among others.

Location: Modjaji St, Pimville Zone 7, Pimville, 1809, South Africa

3. Sedibeng Pub And Restaurant

Sedibeng Pub And Restaurant

It is one of the finest restaurants cum pub in the city. There are a variety of events that happens here on a weekly basis. It’s a perfect place for partying. One can party indoors. There is also a swimming pool outdoors. Also, the people here are quite friendly and welcoming. On top of it, the groovy music in the background makes this place a paradise for all. This is for all the night owls out there who love to explore the culture of the city at night.

Location: 8 Union Road, Mafatsane, Sebokeng, Sedibeng, 1984, South Africa

4. KwaLichaba

KwaLichaba

This place has got it all. This is the kind of place where one can simply lay back and chill. In contrast to that, you can also enjoy the overwhelming night life with some jaw dropping music and delectable local meals. It a nice place to chill at during the day and go pub crawling during the night. The people looking for a spiced up evening, this has got to be the place for you. There are so many events happening here that keeps the people busy.

Location: Vilakazi St, Orlando West, Soweto, 1804, South Africa

5. E’Socialink Shisa Nyama

Company Party Night Club Youth Holiday Lights

It is a trendy and sophisticated spot in Soweto. This up market pub has bars. Although the drinks here are costly, but they are worth the price! It also has a car wash facility so that if any wants, they can get their car washed and spruced up here in no time. It is a perfect place to chill at and enjoy live entertainment. Also, one gets the opportunity to bond with the natives and dance all night. Due to so many facilities that it provides, this is the go-to place for many of the tourists.

Location: Mdeni Link Road and Impala Road 1874, Soweto

6. The OZ Pub

The-OZ-Pub

This place has got to be the perfect place to spend the night. It has a blend of culture, good music, exotic food and a positive vibe. It has got an awesome atmosphere and an amazing surrounding. The food and the drinks are quite affordable here, thus making it one of the most famous pubs in city. Also, one gets to interact with the locals, which again is an added advantage.

Location: 2027-, 02028 Ntsane St, Soweto, 1868, South Africa

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7. Icono Soweto

icono Soweto

This place is great to host an event as the management of this place is quite appreciable. Here, one can enjoy some of the greatest performances and outstanding DJ’s. It overall provides a great service and the bouncers are friendly. The music played here is very refreshing and keeps people filled with excitement.

Location: Modjaji St, Pimville Zone 7, Pimville, 1809, South Africa

8. Club Pelican Soweto

Club Pelican Soweto

This is an iconic place in the Soweto’s cultural and musical history. It is open from 11:30 am to 10 pm at night. It serves some of the most delicious foods in town. There is also one specialty about this place. It is that this place has played a prominent role in the political and cultural history of the city of Soweto. Make sure to hit this club to experience Soweto nightlife at its peak.

Location: 3644/7 Pela Street Orlando West, Soweto 1804, South Africa

9. Naledi by night Bar

Naledi by night Bar

It is a bar in South Africa which only opens at night. It is open till 2 am. It provides a variety of options in drinks and beer. It offers drinks and some exquisite food. The people who are looking forward to enjoy Soweto nightlife, this is the perfect place to be at. Also one gets to blend in with the locals of this place and that’s the perfect way to absorb the cultural vibes of any place.

Location: 1351b Matshidiso St, Naledi, Soweto, 1861, South Africa

10. Tsalanang Pub

Tsalanang pub

This is a great place to meet people and have quality time with friends. During the soccer season, they also organize a plethora of national and international soccer tournaments. It’s also a nice place to chill and relax during the day and become the party animal at night. It is counted among one of the best night clubs in that city.

Location: Bram Fischerville, Soweto, 1875, South Africa

11. Bafokeng Corner

Bafokeng Corner

It is one of those places where one can go and sink into Soweto nightlife completely. It is very refreshing. The people here are an extremely friendly bunch, and fresh tasty food is served here. It has got a fabulous vibe with cheerful and energetic people. The place here is full of life.

Location: 00333 Sagila St, Phiri, Soweto, 1818, South Africa

12. Nine Pub & Lounge

Nine Pub & Lounge

This is yet another famous pub in the city. It brings out the liveliness of the culture of this city. With some dope music and beer, one can groove on the music played. The staff is prompt and the overall management of this place is commendable. It is overall a good place to spend an evening at or to enjoy Soweto nightlife to the fullest.

Location: Soweto, Johannesburg, 1852, South Africa

There are so many options available for a person looking forward to enjoy Soweto nightlife. There are a list of a number of pubs, bars and restaurants that are open all night. If a fun night is on your mind in Soweto, make sure you visit one of these best pubs on your trip to South Africa. We promise that you won’t be disappointed.

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10 Best Hostels In Belgium Which Are Perfect Retreat For The Budget Backpackers!

Heading to Belgium for a holiday? A great choice! In fact, a lot of people around the world are flocking to this small European country to explore the hidden gems of the country. The castles, chateaux, the scenery, and the roads are simply mind-blowing. Taking a tour of this city is definitely in the bucket list of a lot of travel lovers. Here is the reality check. Travel to Belgium isn’t cheap. With the beauty, comes with the price. So you should set the budget for your travel accordingly. Since it is in the European Union, some of the best hotels are there in Belgium. But, they do charge exorbitant process for a night’s stay. Therefore, we have brought you some of the best and cheapest stays in Belgium.

And yes, these stays are the best places to meet and socialize, enjoy the nights spent in the city of the best-brewed beer and with a rich history. They are the backpackers’ hostels. Though they are a bit expensive for a backpacker hostel but you can expect the best service at your disposal. Be prepared to see the neatest, here are the 10 best hostels you can spend your nights in Belgium.

1. Sleep Well Youth Hostels

Sleep Well Youth Hostels

They are located in the central location of Belgium. You can easily go and visit spots like Market Garden Place, Botanical Gardens etc. It is in an ideal location and you also get a complimentary breakfast. Of course, just like other hostels, you also get the privilege of free Wi-Fi. You get maximum comfort for the price you pay. It is located in the heart of Brussels. And the best part is you have various options. You have dorm beds, private twin or triple rooms with some basic amenities. You also have a private toilet and the best part is that the building is wheelchair friendly. You have various things to keep you occupied like a bar, board games, books etc. Here is some basic info which might be of some help to you:

Location: Rue du Damier 23, Brussels 1000, Belgium
Tariff: INR 3186 per night

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2. Sleephere

Sleephere

Another safe and budget hostel in Brussels, Belgium. Sleephere is a calm and safe place to spend a night in Brussels. The guesthouse or the hostel is not like a typical hippie hostel. The whole stay is at the home, which gives great home vibes. This place is right in the middle of a historic city center. You get easy access to public transport from here. Also, since this is a home, the maximum number of people who stay in here are not more than 16 people. The owners take care of the guests very well and they also go out of their way to help their guests. They will hand you everything you need. You have the option of opting for a dorm room whom you can share with four or five people. Or else you can take private rooms too. Here is some basic info which might be of some help to you

Location: Jardin Botanique – 31 chaussée de Haecht 1210 Brussels, Belgium

3. Snuffel Hostel

Snuffel Hostel

This place is an affordable hostel which is especially for students and backpackers. It is in Bruges, Belgium. It has a convenient network to the popular places in the city. You have a shared kitchen, a library area, laundry facilities, a terrace area. You have dorm rooms, twin private rooms also. This place is reliable and you can check more about the hostel online. Here is some basic info which might be of some help to you:

Location: Ezelstraat 42

4. Antwerp Hostels

Antwerp Hostels

A great hostel for solo travelers, this is a fun backpackers hostel in Antwerp, Belgium. This is a bit far from the city but is a great place to stay in a hostel. This gives you a more authentic experience of the city. Also, this hostel has kitchen facilities and a hammock garden. There are many other perks of this hostel. You have private rooms and as well as dorm rooms to choose from. This is a great affordable option for travelers. Here is some basic info which might be of some help to you.

Location: Kattenberg 110

5. Leuven City Hostel

Leuven City Hostel

Targeted mostly for students and budget travelers, this city hostel is perfect for them. The best part is it is located in the middle of town and is situated in Leuven, Belgium. This hostel gives a lot of home vibes. You have a kitchen and other amenities. Here is some basic info which might be of some help to you:

Location: Ravenstraat 37

6. Jacques Brel Youth Hostel

Jacques Brel Youth Hostel

This hostel has a buffet restaurant, a terrace, free Wi-Fi access. Also, you have a drinks bar with a big breakfast in the morning. You have a games room, a snack bar, and luggage storage room too. You can get some more quick info here. Here is some basic info which might be of some help to you:

Location: Rue de la Sablonnière, 30
Tariff: INR 3500 per night

7. HI De Draecke Gent

HI De Draecke Gent

This is another great hostel if you are stationed at Gent, Belgium. This is quite ideal for students, budget travelers, and backpackers. This hostel is close to the Castle of Counts in Gent, Belgium. It is a lively and a huge hostel with thirty rooms. A very safe and comfortable hostel. Here is some basic info which might be of some help to you.

Location: Sint-Widostraat 11

8. Brussels Hello Hostel

Brussels Hello Hostel

A great hostel which is also a social tourism accommodation center. The rooms are at a reasonable cost and it has a truly international atmosphere. This is truly a fun place to stay. You have many facilities like the breakfast buffet, kitchen, free Wi-Fi. It is in the heart of the chocolate area and is close to Godiva factory. Here is some basic info which might be of some help to you:

Location: Rue de l’Armistice 1
Tariff: INR 1323 per night

9. Boomerang Hostel

Boomerang Hostel

This is a fun, funky and relaxed place to stay while you visit Antwerp, Belgium. You can walk for 5- 10 minutes to reach the city center. Also, friendly staff and great ambiance are the plus points here. The amenities here are basic but comfy. Here is some basic info which might be of some help to you:

Location: Lange Leemstraat 95, 2018
Tariff: INR 1277 per night

10. Treck Hostel

Treck Hostel

Treck Hostel is situated only a mile away from the Ghent center. You can access the hostel via public transport. Also, you can see Bruges, Antwerp, and Brussels from this place easily. You have the regular basic amenities as usual. Here is some basic info which might be of some help to you.

Location: Groendreef 51
Tariff: INR 1517 per room

Thus, these are the best hostels where you can stay in Belgium without spending a moofah. These hostels are equipped with all the basic amenities and offer a view along with a comfortable stay. So, when you plan your holiday to Europe make sure to do a prior booking at one of these hostels while planning a tour to Belgium.

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Chiang Mai Tours Culture Uncategorized

7 Bullets Narrating Our Tales Of Ladakh

The first few minutes of the halt and the silences were violated by strange noises. We tried to ignore them until they grew increasingly violent. While we still held our grounds, a loud shriek echoed through the valley. It was Aditya — struck by an intense stomach ache with his tongue and eyes turning red. Cold shivers ran down our spine. Senses were numbed. Time, stopped.

It was just a random discussion which had made us college buddies realize that the Mecca of all road trips was yet to be lived — trip to the mighty Himalayas. What made the idea more challenging was the fact that the trip was about to be self-funded. A bold step for college-going guys, but with the internships and other part time jobs in the background, the idea which had now become more of a dream, was all set to be fulfilled. The journey was kicked off from the heat of Delhi to the cool of our next stop Manali, which made us curl in warm blankets in the month of August! As the morning took over, the seven of us finally began the expedition on our Royal Enfields to the highest roads in the world.

Seven buddies posing in Ladakh

A start in the twilight, light drizzle and the sound of our bullets — we couldn’t have asked for better. Neither could we, in our wildest dreams have imagined, what the future had in store for us. Blissfully ignorant, we rode alongside the most thrilling panoramas and reached Rohtang pass, only to find the roads washed away due to the preceding incessant rains, leaving behind a rough pile of rocks. Yet the high altitude passes along the way were a constant refreshment and a perfect food for amazing clicks. Tempted by the reigning beauty of the landscapes, we halted at all but one — the Baralacha pass. The reason you ask? We didn’t believe it until we experienced it.

Initially,we thought of challenging the influence of the pass’ creepy reputation and prior warnings, but as we were running a little behind schedule we consented to the idea of skipping the pass. On arriving at the camping site, we unexpectedly ran into three other groups heading towards Leh, who joined us in the night’s revelries – the music, the dance and the bonfire. People unknown until last night were now travel buddies and with the never ending roads and enchanting views, the trip was far exceeding expectations.

Cherishing the company of friends

Braving the crossing rains and the fear of cloudbursts, we were making our way to Leh. Since our gang had grown considerably, we hired 3 more bikes and post 25 kms rocky ride, through the Hilltop that said, “highest motorable road in the world” — we reached Khardung La Pass. We had never realised the hype about the place until we experienced it first-hand. Lost in the fantastical views, our 2 hours stay at the place got immortalized by photography sessions and the maggi serving shack (read : café). We were now starting to rejoice the fact that we had exploited this opportunity to the fullest, conquering everything, until the Baralacha Pass came up in a discussion. In order to quench this adventure fetish, we decided to face Baralacha, on our way back.
Everything, was yet to be conquered.

Conquering Khardungla Top with friends

The oxygen levels were low and the weather was opposing our speed. Yet, we managed to continue our journey without a stop in spite of the danger of a sandstorm lurking on one side and possibility of cloudburst on the other but only until Baralacha pass.

So here we were again — the forlorn beauty that we had skipped earlier because of its reputation. Donning a brave face, we were determined on overcoming the hesitation. It were Aditya’s shrieks that shook us into action. We took off immediately, deciding not to stop before the next army base. On reaching the base, our friend in pain was not only given instant medical attention but was offered a ride on an army truck on its way to Manali, since he was in no condition to travel on a bike. With zero vision while crossing Rohtang Pass and rain in full flow, we were driving at around 20-25 kmph eager to reunite with Aditya. At Manali, we found him all fit and fine — bereft of any trace of the phantasmic experience.

Baralacha Pass, the forlorn beauty

As we continued our retreat journey, violent rains were setting into the quaint of serene roads. Heights were flaunting their victory over vicious depths. We were quiet and strangely satisfied, as though we had surpassed the greatest heights or the deepest lows. It was the murmur of our bikes, narrating our story.

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Culture Trains

8 Museums In Wellington: 8 Places That Depict The Socio-Cultural History Of New Zealand

Museums are sites where you can not only enlighten yourself but also entertain and inform. Museums in Wellington are a treasure-trove of knowledge and information regarding ancient society, civilization, historical facts and figures, relics and historical dimensions. Take a look at some of the best-known museums in Wellington, New Zealand. New Zealand is a beautiful place where you find some of the best museums. These museums highlight and bring forth the growth and development of the city, the country as a whole and its inhabitants and residents.

There are many museums in Wellington, but some of them are one of the places that should not be missed when visiting this beautiful city. Visit these museums to make sure that your trip gets more informative.

1. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This is certainly one of the best national museums in the whole world. It is comprehensive, complete and inclusive from all angles and in all aspects. Te Papa literally means ‘container of treasures’ in the Maori language. The museum has fascinated people of all ages. This has also inspired and encouraged generations. The museum exhibits a 4-meter long giant and enormous red squid. Added to it, you can also see, as it also displays, New Zealand’s some of the most diverse plants, birds, animals and even sea creatures in the Mountains to Sea Gallery. The exhibits which stand at a whopping 1.5 million approximately, will offer life’s most enlightening moments. One or two visits will not be sufficient, that’s for sure.

Location: Cable St, Te Aro, Wellington, New Zealand
Timings: 10:00 to 18:00.
Admission Fee: $10 to $50

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2. Colonial Cottage Museum

Colonial Cottage Museum

Now, who does not loves to be surprised? Cottage and its very structure have always enticed the humankind. The Georgian Colonial Cottage, which is the oldest home to dwell in Wellington, is exquisite, beautiful and gorgeous. If you explore the house, you will find all the three generations of the famous Wallis family who once lived in this super charming and delightful home in the 19th century. Now, the restored home has its own original furnishings and antiques which offer a fleeting glance and glimpse of life as an immigrant pioneer. There is a heritage garden which is complete with herbs, chickens, and flowers. You can get an idea of how the early settlers might have lived.

Location: Nairn St, Mount Cook, Wellington, New Zealand
Timings: 12:00 to 16:00
Admission Fee: $6

3. Reserve Bank and Education Centre

Reserve Bank and Education Centre

The Reserve Bank Museum will offer some of the unique details regarding the economic heritage of the country, New Zealand. Economy, its heritage and banking system matter a lot. This museum will not only educate you about the economic tradition of New Zealand but also will take you on a journey into the world of finance, economy and monetary issues of New Zealand. You can watch a film regarding the history of currency and find out how heavy and weighty $1 million in $50 notes weighs. Look around and browse through the colorful display of bank notes which was issued over the history of the country. In fact, you will find some of the most important financial and its historical aspects.

An excellent exhibit will enlighten you to learn how coins are struck using dies. This unique story of ‘Bank House’ will explain to you how the country, New Zealand, concealed and hid its cash reserve during the Second World War (1939-1945) in a solid and concrete bunker under a house in Upper Hutt. You will be surprised to know that here you can also see an early old Monetary National Income Analogue Computer (MONIAC). It was built in the late 1940s so that the flow of money and intricate and complex economic projections could be illustrated and exemplified.

Location: The Terrace, Wellington, New Zealand
Timings: 9:30 to 16:00
Admission Fee: N/A

4. Space Place at Carter Observatory

Space Place at Carter Observatory

Man has always been enthralled, fascinated and attracted towards knowing, unfolding and unearthing the mysteries and myths of space. This museum, Space Place at Carter Observatory, is located in Wellington’s beautiful and exquisite Botanic Gardens. You will discover the southern skies through a host of multimedia-enabled exhibits and displays, unique interactive galleries, the famed, famous and celebrated historic Thomas Cooke telescope and the digital and full dome planetarium.

The state-of-the-art gallery and its displays will give you a celestial experience. In addition to it, you will find the Māori story of creation and also introspect regarding the chance and possibility of life on other planets. Come here to know and discover the observatory’s very own black hole. You can also handle a space rock, launch a rocket and certainly watch video stories.

Location: Salamanca Rd, Kelburn, Wellington, New Zealand
Timings: 10:00 to 17:00, Saturday 10:00 to 23:00
Admission Fee: $12.50

5. Wellington Cable Car Museum

Wellington Cable Car Wellington New Zealand

This beautiful and superb Wellington Cable Car Museum which located up the hill from the famous Lambton Quay is appreciable and brilliant in all respects. This transportation service has been serving and has been active for more than 110 years now. At the upper terminal, you will find the former and earlier version of Cable Car Winding House which accommodates two of the most beautiful and original ‘grip cable cars’.

In fact, you will be greeted by photographs, informative boards which will take you on a journey of the history of cable car which, at its peak, carried over two million people in New Zealand in the year 1926. You can view the old and prestigious winding gear and even enjoy the informative and enlightening film about the 400 cable cars which are owned privately and used by a large number of owners of homes and houses in Wellington.

Location: Upland Rd, Kelburn, Wellington, New Zealand
Timings: 9:30 to 17:00
Admission Fee: $5 to $9

6. Wellington Museum

Wellington Museum

The famed Wellington Museum is situated right on the waterfront in the historic and prestigious 1892 Bond Store building. Here you will find all types of imports which were held until the appropriate import duty was paid off. Do you know it was voted one of the top 50 museums in the world? Now, the first floor will offer you with exhibits which have 101 stories of lives of Wellington representing an enthralling timeline from 1900 to 2000.

You will get to know about the various myths and legends of Maori in the Maori Myths and Legends gallery which covers the early inhabitants in the area. This is indeed interesting and inspiring. If you climb the grand staircase which is there for you, will find some of the items which have been kept and salvaged from shipwrecks, a brilliant replica Captain’s cabin and chandlery. One of the most striking features is the film which is all about the 1968 Wahine ferry disaster in Wellington harbor.

Location: Jervois Quay, Wellington, New Zealand
Timings: 10:00 to 17:00
Admission Fee: $10 to $20

7. Petone Settlers Museum

Petone Settlers Museum Hutt City North Island New Zealand

The Petone Settlers Museum is well suited and fittingly housed in the ever impressive Wellington Provincial Centennial Memorial Building. It was constructed in the memory of the centenary of the arrival of the first British settlers. Petone Settlers Museum was constructed in the year 1940. The building has also served as a well-liked and accepted bathing pavilion for a long period of time. Later, it became a magnificent museum.

Here, you will find a large number of depicts regarding the growth and development of Wellington. Wellington’s history of growth and development is quite unique as it has grown through flood, fire, commercial boom and even earthquakes. This museum in question will show you the impact of settlement which is based on the Maori and the white Pakeha natives through their very own personal stories. Do not miss the picture of the famous Te Atiawa Chief, Te Puni, which is on the arched window on the front of this important and significant building of the museum.

Location: Petone, Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Timings: 10:00 to 16:00
Admission Fee: $50

8. City Gallery in Wellington

City Gallery in Wellington

City Gallery in Wellington is a public gallery dedicated and devoted to art. It showcases and exhibits contemporary art from New Zealand and also from around the world. The venue itself is suitable for conducting research, debate, and display regarding the various forms and aspects of modern and contemporary visual art.

City Gallery works in collaboration with artists, collectors, galleries, an assortment of organizations and even business partners who are willing to do something for the sake of art. It will draw you towards the various curious aspects of its exhibits. Everybody has a fascination and love for knowing about contemporary art.

Location: Wakefield St, Wellington, New Zealand
Timings: 10:00 to 17:00
Admission Fee: N/A

There are many such museums and exhibitions in Wellington, New Zealand. These museums in Wellington will provide you with a detailed history New Zealand. Museums can teach your children and younger ones lots of things. So what are you thinking about? Just pack your bag, book your trip to New Zealand and make your life and holiday as much as enlightening as possible.

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Culture Phi Phi Island Tours Trains

Exploring The Beauty Of Himalayas On An Adventure Trip To Ladakh

To keep the wheel spinning, Sathya needed an adventure that would lift their spirits and rejuvenate them completely. Therefore, he went on an adventure trip to Ladakh with his friends and what transpired afterward was absolutely breathtaking.

Just like any normal working adult, every now and then, my daily routine would feel a bit dull and cumbersome. To escape that feeling of monotony, I often packed my bags on a weekend and travel to a new place where I enjoyed being the company of a new culture, people, and destination.

For a few years, my friends and I wanted to plan a big and memorable vacation together. Ladakh had been on our bucket list for long and things finally aligned perfectly for us to go on an adventure trip to Ladakh.

river stream in manali

sightseeing in sarchu

valley in jammu

I got familiarized with TravelTriangle while I was researching on Google about Ladakh tour packages. They offered me packages with the itinerary I was hoping for at very competitive prices. It felt reassuring that I could choose one amongst multiple itineraries offered by various travel agents.

Trip Cost: INR 1,50,500
Trip Duration: 7 nights 8 days
Agent Name: The Roomie
Inclusions: Return bus tickets – Delhi to Manali, accommodation, transfers, sightseeing, meals, and taxes
Exclusions: Flights, lunch, and entry fee charges

After winding up the booking formalities, my friends and I started reading blogs about Ladakh on TravelTriangle for some useful information. I knew a few people who had been to Ladakh, and they gave us some crucial advice that came in handy for our adventure trip to Ladakh.

Upon their recommendation, we didn’t take a direct flight to Leh and opted for a multi stop journey via Delhi, Manali, and Sarchu so that our bodies could adapt to the massive change in altitude. Our trip began with a flight to Delhi and immediately following that with an overnight bus journey to Manali.

Day 1: A fascinating multi-stop journey via Manali and Sarchu

After a tiring 14-hour bus journey, we arrived in Manali at 8 am. We caught up with the driver who was assigned to us for our adventure trip to Ladakh. Without much delay, we started on our journey to Sarchu.

On the way to Sarchu, we stopped at Rohtang Pass which was completely covered with snow. Seeing the clouds pass below our eye line was definitely an amazing experience we wanted to kick start our adventures. The road journey was so beautiful that we couldn’t help but stop the car at a couple of places to capture the mind-blowing landscape.

In the evening, we finally arrived in Sarchu and checked into the Himalayan Camp. That day. we couldn’t walk around much in Sarchu due to the low oxygen levels and the trouble we faced breathing. Living at an altitude of 14,070 ft. was definitely something that took time getting used to.

friends vacation in ladakh

accommodation in manali

enroute sarchu

leh manali highway

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Day 2: Exploring the heart of the Ladakh region

The next morning, we started our journey from Sarchu to Ladakh. The journey was adventurous since the roads weren’t too smooth and we had to cross a few places that had water going in full flow across the road. As expected, we came across a lot of bikers and cyclists who were also on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure trip to Ladakh.

We stopped at the small village of Pang for lunch and refreshments. From Pang onwards, the roads were better and our journey got easier. The next stop for us was the daunting Lachulung La that stood at over 16,000 ft. We quickly clicked some pictures, admired the view, and moved on towards Leh. We started feeling light-headed and dizzy a few moments after we left from Lachulung La.

Around 5 pm we reached Leh and checked into the Hotel Gongma. After a warm welcome from the hotel staff, we decided to rest in our rooms for the evening and get some much-needed rest for our weary bodies.

nakeela pass

rough terrain in sarchu

mountains in sarchu

mountains near sarchu

Day 3: Gorgeous sightseeing in Leh

Thankfully, we woke up the next morning sans a headache and fully rested for a day of sightseeing on our adventure trip to Ladakh.

We began with a visit to the Shanti Stupa– a famous Buddhist temple and some shopping in the local markets. In the afternoon, we went to the Magnetic hill where we saw the unique occurrence of cars and objects going uphill on its own. We finished our sightseeing with a trip to the Gurdwara Pathar Sahib temple.

Afterwards, we returned to the hotel for the evening for a delicious meal and a good night’s sleep

valley in ladakh

stupa in leh

snowfall in leh

roads in leh

camels in ladakh

Day 4: Passing by Khardung La – the highest motorable road in the world!

The next day we checked out from Leh and moved towards Nubra valley. During our journey, we stopped for a while at Khardungla pass- the highest motorable road in the world! At 17,500 ft., we witnessed a rocky mountain pass that was fully covered by snow.

Later on, we moved from the steep and arid mountain ranges of Ladakh to the cold desert of Nubra valley. We were amazed by seeing the stark transformation of the landscape on our adventure trip to Ladakh.

In Nubra, we checked into the Double Humped Camps and proceeded for camel ride and archery. Afterward, we returned to the campsite in the evening as the sun set on yet another amazing few days of travel.

nubra valley camel ride

nubra valley desert

river stream in ladakh

camel ride in ladakh

Day 5: The beautiful Pangong lake – worth the journey!

This morning we departed from Nubra Valley to the city of Leh. Thanks to the traffic and it being a government holiday, it took us a few hours extra to arrive into Leh.

We checked in at around 12 pm, freshened up, and started our journey to Pangong Tso Lake. The journey might have been long and never-ending but after getting a first glimpse of the lake, we fell in love with it. We fondly stayed there for more than an hour taking in the gorgeous view.

Some of my friends also got their pictures clicked on the famous scooter in the movie 3 Idiots. Later, we returned to the hotel in the evening to get some much-needed sleep for the day.

lakes in ladakh

pangong lake ladakh

lakes in ladakh

places to visit in ladakh

Day 6 & 7: Unwinding in Leh

This was a leisure day on our adventure trip to Ladakh. We woke up early morning to see the sunrise by sitting on banks of the lake. We played again in the water and started our journey to Leh. We stayed in the same hotel in Leh

On the seventh day, we checked out from leh and traveled back to Sarchu. We didn’t stop anywhere as we were so tired and asked our driver to take us directly to the hotel. At night, there were a few health concerns as a few of my friends suffered from vomiting and breathing issues at the camp.

friends trip to leh

enroute leh

mountain range in ladakh

heading back to sarchu

landscape in ladakh

Day 8: A small bump in the road back home

The last day of the trip was a bit of a roller coaster ride. We checked out of Sarchu and began our journey to Manali.

We didn’t face any problem during the whole trip, but, on the final day our car tire got punctured and luckily we had a spare. Thankfully, we reached Manali in time at 4 pm for us to board our bus back to New Delhi.

After coming back from this adventure trip to Ladakh, I found myself enjoying things I earlier took for granted. Traveling to awesome places like Ladakh definitely helped me add a perspective of what was truly worth cherishing ie my friends and the trust we have amongst ourselves.

As far as Ladakh was concerned, I couldn’t get enough of that place. It’s a kind of a destination where you could come 4-5 times and still be amazed by the beauty and stunning landscape.

taglangla pass

sightseeing in ladakh

snow capped peaks in ladakh

places to visit in ladakh

High point:

  • That incredible sense of achievement after reaching Pangong Lake.

Low point:

  • Health concerns on the penultimate day added a blip to an otherwise harmonious vacation.

A vacation filled with adventure is all you need. Book your Ladakh tour package and experience the thrill of visiting Leh-Ladakh!

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Chiang Mai Tours Trains

A Prison You Would Happily Escape Into : Trip To Kashmir

With snow-clad peaks on one hand and fluorescent green valleys on the other, with streams flowing on one side and sheep grazing on the other – Kashmir is termed as “heaven on earth” for a reason. To explore this paradisiacal beauty, Ankit Gupta booked a tour package through TravelTriangle with his wife. At a price of Rs. 23,530, his package for two, was inclusive of one side economy class ticket from Jammu to Srinagar, accommodation, sightseeing in private AC heated cab, breakfast and dinner buffet, and Shikara boat ride in Dal Lake.

My wife and I always wanted to witness the romantic beauty of Kashmir, but never got a chance. The perfect opportunity to go on this long-desired trip presented itself when one of our friends was to get married in Jammu. Grabbing the opportunity, we decided to spend a week exploring Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Aru, and Srinagar.

When the thought of visiting Kashmir struck our minds, we had no idea how to go about the plan, that is when TravelTraingle (recommended by a friend) came into the picture and acted as a life-saver. It provided us numerous quotes to choose from and allowed a good bargain.

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Day 1: Gulmarg – The Meadow of Flowers clad in snow

Our flight landed in Srinagar from Jammu in the morning, but saving Srinagar for last, we straightaway headed to Gulmarg in our pre-booked cab. We had booked a Sedan, as the clothes from the wedding had added extra weight to our luggage, making it very heavy. On our way, we got to know about the disturbances being caused by some political issues in Srinagar. To tackle the blocked roads, our driver asked for help from his friend, who took us through. He made sure that it was a smooth transfer with extra focus on our security.

Gulmarg top of the mountain

Gulmarg turned out to be an absolute beauty with snow-clad mountains soothing the eyes, against the royal blue skies. Although, we had been to Ladakh a couple of times earlier, we had never witnessed snowfall. The trip thoroughly fulfilled this longing. After checking-in at our hotel, we quickly left for the gondola ride (since it is operational only until 4 pm). We were keen on spending as much time on the cable car ride as possible.

inside Gulmarg gondola

We were well informed by our travel agent that our private cab cannot be used in certain areas of Kashmir, (including Gulmarg) as it’s not allowed by the local taxi union. The moment we stepped out from the hotel, we began to get pestered by the touts and guides. This wass one part of the trip that was very annoying. On the persuasion of the guides, we hired two ponies to reach the starting point of the gondola ride. Having paid Rs.700/- per person (to-and-fro), we soon realized that the distance was hardly a kilometer. We felt cheated and decided that we would walk down to the hotel, on our way back.

Gulmarg - gondola view

The world’s second highest operating cable car ride – the Gulmarg gondola took us through panoramic views of the Himalayas and vast snow-slopes. The beauty was soon complemented with thrill, as we donned the skiing gear. At a price of Rs.3000 for two, we were not able to ski beyond an hour, as we were limited by time. But, the two of us enjoyed the experience thoroughly under the supervision of the ski instructors, skidding around and crashing on the fluffy snow.

Gulmarg - unsuccessful skiing attempt

Moving to the top, we spent around half an hour and enjoyed a romantic lunch amid snow-clad mountains. The best part of the visit was, that my wife and I were the only tourists there. As a result, we enjoyed the exemplary beauty in uninterrupted peace. We could see the snow as far as the Line of Control, and the experience was certainly mesmerizing. It was evening by the time we descended, and as decided earlier, we walked down to our hotel.

Ankit and his wife at Gulmarg top

Our stay at the hotel was amazing — we got the best rooms (directly facing the main area of Gulmarg), electric blankets to shield us from the cold and absolutely delicious food. The hotel had a typical Kashmiri look, with wooden interiors, and Kashmiri tapestries and carpeting.

Gulmarg - Dinner at hotel

At dinner, our cook informed us about a brewing turmoil. Another disturbance had occurred in the area, as one student had gotten killed in the army’s tussle with some of the protesters. Due to the possibility of a riot, our cook suggested us to leave at daybreak.

Day 2: From Pahalgam to Aru

Chandanwadi to aru

We left for Pahalgam at 5 am and passed the sensitive zone. The ride was fluid and we stopped frequently for Kahwah, the Kashmiri green tea (which I liked a lot). We reached the beautifully unsophisticated Pahalgam at 11 am. Here, we had planned a day’s stay at a far-off guesthouse for a rustic experience.

Betaab valley

We then embarked on an excursion to Betaab Valley, Chandanwari and Aru Valley on the rented local taxi (since they don’t let your personal taxi drive by). Betaab valley was lush green as opposed to the snow-clad Chandanwari. The beauty of the places made the drive a very captivating experience. Chandanwari added to the magical experience, with its extremely well-maintained landscapes adorned with mountains, streams, bridges, and ranches. No wonder, the sheer magnificence of the valley has attracted numerous filmmakers.

Chandanwaadi mini trek

The local taxi dropped us back to Pahalgam, where our private cab was waiting for us. The roads leading to Aru valley were very narrow at some places, which at times, got scary for us. A few miles away from the main town of Aru — the guesthouse was a lone property standing in the middle of secluded beauty, with a stream flowing just 10 feet away. We reached the guesthouse at around 2 pm and enjoyed a homely lunch.

Walk along the stream near Aru guest house

Since our guesthouse was located almost in the middle of nowhere, we took a walk around the simple property and the river flowing 10 feet away from the house. It was a different world altogether.

Aru- lider stream 50ft from guest house

There wasn’t much to do after dawn. There wasn’t even one bulb visible for miles. In absolute darkness, our little guesthouse itself became our source of entertainment. At dinnertime, everyone sat for dinner together in a common area, shared stories and laughed together. The only thing missing was a bonfire, which couldn’t be lit because of the logs being soggy.

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Day 3: Aru to Srinagar

Aru Valley

Our cell phones were not working and we were completely lost in the magnificence of nature. So we used the hotel landline to connect with the driver (who was staying in Pahalgam), to undertake an expedition to the Aru valley. Aru valley offered a magnificent mix of green hills and snow-clad mountains. To climb the hills of Aru, we had taken a pony. It was a 2-hour ride at Rs.600 per person and took us through rough paths of mountains. It turned out to be a much more enjoyable experience than the one we had in Gulmarg, where the overpriced ride took us through well-made roads.

Thirsty ponies - Aru

Bidding adieu to the valley, we headed towards Srinagar. On the way, we stopped at some shops in Pampore – the place famous for saffron. Finding the shops reliable and authentic; we bought saffron, dry fruits, and Kahwah.

Gardens at Taj srinagar

By the time we reached Srinagar, it was raining heavily. The rainy welcome actually came as a bummer, since we were to visit the Dal lake and indulge in the Shikara ride. But, we had to skip the Shikara ride due to the fog and cold. We proceeded to our guesthouse and soon left for lunch at the Taj. Featuring an enchanting view of the whole city, the hotel definitely has the best location in Srinagar.

At Taj, srinagar

Eager to shop from Srinagar, we went to Laal Bazar and spent the evening shopping for Pashmina shawls, woolens, and kurtas with beautiful Kashmiri embroidery. Although it was drizzling, our cab kept us comfortable. At this point, our driver (a local of Srinagar) proved extremely helpful, as he guided us to the right shops. Our shopping-spree in Srinagar was a traditional experience in itself, with each salesperson taking his own good time to acquaint us with their collection (along with telling stories behind each product). We finished shopping by 8 pm and came back to the guesthouse.

Day 4: Flight back home

The next morning, our driver was right on time (as usual) and dropped us to the Srinagar airport for our flight at 9 am.

Goofing around - Betaab to Chandanwaadi

Our wish to see nature in its raw, untouched form did not go disappointed. And what we were served, was something we had never witnessed earlier. The whole experience disconnected us from everything and allowed us to connect with each other, in the bliss of nature.

A Cherished memory: The mini-trek that we did in Chandanwai was delightful. We trekked for about a kilometer, roamed around the mountains and played with snow.

Low Point: The incessant persuasion by the local guides and touts in Gulmarg was a turn-off.

Tips:

  • Balance your time and the number of places to be visited. Our trip proved to be a little hectic, as we were traveling through most of the days.
  • Stay in a remote place. Don’t go for popular hotels. The former will not only provide all facilities, but the hospitality is also unparalleled.
  • Keep saying ‘no’ to all touts. You can do pretty much everything on your own.

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