Gili Trawangan ‘fall in love’

One of the three mini islands near Lombok has a charm that can make anybody fall in love with it. Its a no motor vehicle island. Horse carts and bicycles are the only mode of transportation.

The island has magical powers to make you stay more than you plan to. The water is as blue as the sky.

WHAT I DID apart from chilling and meeting travelers:-

Every eve: Sunset

The sunset would be the most memorable one of your life with hues of orange, yellow, purple, blue.. The glittering water when sun is setting is breathtaking. It makes you forget time and all the worries. The restaurants have an amazing sit out areas with bean bags to enhance your experience.

On Day 1- Island bicycle tour

During the day enjoy a healthy breakfast by the poolside of your hotel. Later rent a bicycle, pack swimming necessities and go for an island tour, which can be covered in 1.5hrs if at all your mind is not lured by the pristine blue waters calling you to take a dip.

On Day 2- Snorkeling

Snorkeling tour are offered by all shanty located every 10 feet. Costing around 100K per person for a group boat, which will cover the statue point, turtle and the corals. Getting off the boat 3 times is a task for people like me who are scared of depths, but its worth the experience. (They provide life jackets for non/amateur swimmers 😎) Once in the waters you would become a part of the marine and wouldn’t want to hop back in the boat.

Every night- Eat, drink and party

The island has a variety of eating options ranging from fine dinning to street food, to restaurants with special dinner offers.’Ocean 2‘ is a good budget restaurant with waterside seating for dinner. They circulate an offer of any pasta at 25K and pizza at 35K. Yes there is a catch, the portion size is small. But you can fill up with the complimentary soup and salad counter. If looking for fancy dine then ‘Egoiste‘ and ‘The roast house‘ are some options.

Want to have a drink and chat , or sit alone and listen to live music, or want to dance till you drop, Gili T is an amalgamation of all. Open bar with a DJ and a fire juggler performance is where I went the 1st night. Amazing vibe, straight drinks for 30K and cocktails for 40K, funny Bartender (Harry) and decent crowd,what else can you ask for.

Nasi goreng with a view

The 2nd night I stepped into the ‘Irish pub’ as it had all the young travelers. But this is not it, if you still want to party more, ‘Jiggy boat party’ will fulfill your wish. Its a yacht party starting at 2pm and ends at 8pm. 1st drink is on the house, charges per person is approx 150K.

Where I stayed- The Laxmi villas

I know the name sounds boring but the boutique villa was a small paradise. Also it fit my budget. Its a 10 min walk from the ferry point. The rooms are clean, air conditioned and bathroom has hot and cold shower.

Gili T has a lot of hostels as well, naming some ‘Gili Divers’, ‘Gili castle’ , ‘Beach Bum’, ‘M box’, ‘Gili mansion’. They all are well maintained hostels with air conditioned dormitories.

Gili air and Gili meno are neighboring small and much more peaceful islands. Choice is yours…

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Charisma of Paro (Bhutan)

Learning and experiencing butanese culture was of my major interest. I booked myself in a Homestay- Ama’s village lodge, a bit away from the Paro main town. A traditional bhutanese farmstay, with two dogs in the back yard, barn and wooden planks stacked at one end and agriculture field with new crops on the rear end of the house made it the perfect choice.

The room I stayed in, had traditional paintings on the wall, an interconnecting room (which obviously I din’t need). Also our room had a prayer room, which we sneaked in when grandma came to worship. It looked like a mini monastery with the statues of lord “Buddha” and ‘Padmasambhava’ and the chanting instruments.

None of the rural bhutanese houses have bathrooms attached to the rooms. They are usually constructed away from the sleeping rooms, somewhere in the corridors.

What’s in Paro??

The Tigers nest

It has always been an Instagram destination. But dint know that the complete hike can be so much more than an insta perfect pic.

The base is about 9km from city center. The ticket costs Rs 500. You could take up the support sticks or pony’s to take you up but then what’s the fun. Some eatables, sport shoes, warm jacket and a fit body is all you need to complete the hike in 3hrs.

It’s a steep route but I chose shortcuts, they pump the adrelin, hell out of me. The shortcuts through the narrow paths amongst the pine with ravine on one side and trees on other is exhilarating.

Quick altitude accent might make the head heavy.

There are storage rooms for bags & cameras. You can not take your belongings inside the temple premises. And there are no shops/cafe. Keep enough edibles.

Taktsang cafe is mid way, so if you are not on budget, definitely experience the dining amidst the jungle and fog while admiring the tigers nest.

The monastery is enlightening if you go with belief . A guide will accompany you inside(included in the ticket). They would walk you through the history and importance of each temple.

Post the trek I was so hungry that I could eat like a whale. So our driver took us to a low cost restaurant that served buffet lunch.

Shopping

Explore the symmetrically aligned shops for souvenir, traditional wear, incense sticks or local produce.

National museum of Paro

The museum showcases the culture of the country. It shuts by 3:30pm.

Read

Grab a seat in one of the cafe on the street of Paro market, order a pot of lemon tea with a piece of delicious carrot cake. Pick out the book you want to read from the book shelf and that’s my ideal holiday.

Paro is a panoramic town with snowclad mountains forming a fencing around. It has people living simple lives , witnessing the real emotions of joy, love and peace. “We” the city dwellers are just existing to earn, real emotions are far away from our knowledge. Hence I travel to keep me sane and maintain my balance.

Guide to layovers at klia2

Air Asia being the economical carrier is my favourite choice to travel with. Yes it ofcourse has somany drawbacks but I am happy to forgoe the luxury if its brings down my flight cost to half. Traveling to south east asia with this airline also brings long hauls.

Klia2 – Kualalumpur airport specially designated to Air asia is well equipped to cater to >5hrs of layover. Strolling through the duty free shops and showrooms can utilize upto 1 hr of your time another 30 min to have a meal and sleeping is the best timekiller.

The international transit/departure hall comprises of facility for all sort of travelllers:

Traveler no.1- Spenders

The people who are happy to spend upto RM 200 to take a nap and freshen up. Sama-sama is a transit hotel located on the 1st floor of the international departure/transit hall. This will be an excellent option for the ‘spenders’. Foodcourt has some delicious options to dine with wine.

Traveler no. 2- Value for money

The travelers looking for one spot to have it all, should straightaway head to the Air asia red lounge. For RM 75 you get breakfast, unlimited tea and coffee, shower rooms, charging points and comfortable bean bags.

Travelet no. 3- Shoestring budget

The airport has free wifi for 24hrs per equipment and the speed is good. Charging points are situated at the ground floor near the wait areas. The waiting halls have connected chairs which are comfy enough to take a nap. If one sleeps like a dog, he will have a tough time with the announcements which dint bother me😁. Still got time and don’t want to sleep head to the tv lounge (movie/sports). Are you a book worm, downlad ebooks from E-Sentral all for free

Mcdonalds is cheapest for grabbing breakfast. And for snacks – add some hot water to insta noodles at WH Smith.

Bhutan-Punakha & Dochula pass

I might not travel to Bhutan again so had to explore the maximum I could. Punakha was next on my itinerary. One needs to take a permit extension to visit Punakha. Not that there is strict border policing but you still dont want to see the violent side of the peaceful country 🤔

The permit can be obtained from the Thimphu immigration/visa office. Punakha is a day trip from Thimphu about 2hrs. A must site stopover is Dochula pass which is 19 km from the capital. It was constructed by the Queen in the memory of the soldiers of war.

You will experience extreme climates enroute Punakha. You would have to layer up at Dochula, but will be left with the last layer of your clothing at Punakha.

The attraction points in Punakha are:

The 370 years old, Punakha Palace

Life connector, the suspension bridge

We took a taxi from Thimphu at 8am, which was arranged by Gakyil hotel. It took us around Punakha and then dropped us to Paro. The driver also stopped at the Paro airport viewpoint. And all this for 4000rs.

Thimphu is midway Punakha and Paro

To know about my Paro adventures keep following….

Visiting Thimpu check this out https://voyagetrails.com/2018/08/11/things-to-do-in-thimphu/

 

Quick guide to ‘Bhutan by land’

It was the right weather and the time to set sail to another voyage. This time it was in seek of peace and what better place could I think of but Bhutan. As I had some extra days in hand, decided to club some cities of Sikkim for my 10 days itinerary.

A sneak peek of my travel

Bagdogra airport>> Darjeeling>>Ravangla>>Gangtok>>Silliguri>>Phuntsholing>> Thimphu>>Punakha>>Paro>>Phuntsholing>>Bagdogra

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Tip: The economical way to reach Bhutan for Indians is via land -Phuntsholing border. To reduce the travel time, take a flight to Bagdogra.

Tip: Cheap, quick and easy way to travel within Sikkim and Bhutan is the shared taxis.

Delhi>>Bagdogra>>Phuntsholing>>Thimphu

Reach Bagdogra before noon and directly head towards Jaigaon(Indian side of border). There are numerous taxi that charge Rs 2500 to Rs 4000 one way to the border (3-4 hrs journey). Indians are allowed free entry and exit in Phuntsholing (Bhutan side of border). You don’t need a permit to roam around/stay there. So enjoy the charm & simplicity of Bhutan. But don’t forget to use the Zebra crossing while crossing the road specially near the immigration office. That’s the first thing that would make you feel the difference.

Delhi>>Bagdogra>>Silliguri>>Thimphu

If you arrive late in Bagdogra, stay overnight at Silliguri (30 min away from airport). An auto to Silliguri costs around Rs’300 and a cab Rs’500 to Rs 800. Don’t expect a lot from the town but to kill time, ‘the Hong Kong market’ can be an attraction to buy cheap China goods. The buses are not readily available to Phuntsholing from Silliguri. The fastest and cheapest mode of transport is a train to “Hasimara”. All trains going to kolkata will definitely stop at Hasimara. From here if you are lucky, will immediately get a shared auto (20 min ride to the Border)

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Shot from moving train to Hasimara

Immigration process

It is important that the traveler carries hard copy of hotel confirmations and voter Id/ passport. Though they have 2 photocopy shops right opposite to the immigration office. The easiest way to skip the que is to get hold of an agent and ask him to file on your behalf  and for that they charge a small fee of approx Rs 250-500. Then your name would be called and you “enter the dragon”😉 that’s where your finger prints are taken.

Currency

Bhutanese currency is ngultrum. Not even once did we get a currency exchange done at a forex shop because Indian currency is widely accepted and as change we received ngultrum.

 

2 N/2D Singapore in Rs 25000

This was a well in advance planned trip. I was preparing for this trip since February. And after waiting for months, it was the day. And the cost mentioned includes my air tickets.😎

To save time I took a connecting flight from Chennai. For those who do not know, I reside in Delhi. But to my luck, our Air India flight got delayed. But nonetheless, we ( me n my mom) had a good time eating, drinking and watching movies in the dream liner. It is a 4 hrs flight and we started at 2 pm from Chennai, when we reached Singapore it was already 8:30 pm local time.

We were already drained and wished for limousine to drop us at our hostel. But Singapore is an expensive city and if one wants to stick to a budget one has to be very cautious of the expenditure. I had the MRT map (metro line) with me, we bought a 3 days pass for local transport which costed me 30 SGD per person, out of which 10 SGD were refundable on the ticket return. This is a free pass on MRT, LRT and the buses. A 2 days pass is also available.

MRT map

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With the backpacks we started walking and changing the metro lines to reach our hostel (the New Society backpack) which is a decent hostel with great location just a 8 min walk from the purple line station(Farrer park- city square exit). Perks-all the tourist attractions were within approach. That night we had a good sleep to renew our self for the next day.

We were all ready to bring out the kids in us and relive the apu ghar days but only at larger level. Universal studio was first on our list. Its a whole day engagement and you will come out exhausted. They have seven sections, each with a universal studio’s movie theme. Some rides were exhilarating and not meant for faint hearts, but some you could do with a 2 year old.

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Tip: Book packages/entrance fees through klook for discounted rates.

In eve we explored the night safari, which is at the outskirts of the city. Its a different experience, because the animals are roaming without the enclosure and before you guys get jitters let me clarify that there were no carnivores. Post 11 PM there are no public transport available , then Uber is your last resort.

(If you are short of time , you can skip night safari).

Singapore is a beautifully constructed and a clean city. One could walk barefoot for miles and not get their feet dirty. Its a place to visit if you are with your kids and want to see how a developed country looks and to have some family time.

The 2nd day we explore the below: (everything is accessible via metro line)

CHINA TOWN-In the pricey city of Singapore this place is a heaven for budget shoppers. Starting from souvenir magnets to minion soft toys which (cost like 15-20 SGD in Universal studio) can be bought under 8-10 SGD.

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CLARKE QUAY- Is dining and pub area right next to the offices. Its a good place to chill with a meal costing somewhere between 18-30 SGD. Its more lively during evenings.

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GARDENS BY THE BAY: Singapore is constructed so aesthetically that its a treat to eyes. They understand the importance of fauna and have made it green wherever they could. Gardens by the bay is another magnificent creation. They also have light and sound show in the eve.

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MARINA BAY PROMENADE- At 8 and 9 PM there is a laser light show with symphony. It is an amazing experience and best is that its free for Public.

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Sri Lanka with GG in Rs32000/ $500 (Yala)

We covered alot of terrains, so how could we miss a National park. Yala is a deroute from the road connecting Ela and Mirissa.

Its a huge territory where the animals rule. We are permitted only in a section of the forest. And I am glad its that way. Like other sactuaries the enterance gate is located 20km from the main town. The experience is incomplete without a ride in an open jeep, its windy and dusty but worth it.

Usualy tourists book a pre-packaged deal. And it is difficult to find a cheaper deal for the jeep if you are jus two. Coz they rent the complete jeep which costs around 8000-15000 SRs.(inclusive of enterance fees). We took an afternoon slot for the safari.

Since the permitted area is more of grasslands,its very easy to spot wildlife. In adittion to the below I spotted an elephant, wild boar, deers(ofcourse) and exotic birds. The guide said that we were lucky to find a leopard in such a clearing. (Lady travelers beware , the guides are big time pile ons, so maintain the correct distance) (Tip: carry multiple sets of camera betteries, mine got exhausted just after I clicked a mongoose😫, hence a mobile cam photo of the Leopord) To add on to the trail, the jeeps take everyone to the beach, swimming isn’t allowed but its good to be at a raw & non touristy beach. After the safari, our jeep dropped us to the town. And we were back to our guest house.