Friday, January 30, 2009

Rishikesh Tips

*Tourist season starts at end of September- when all the yoga courses start and ashrams open for stays.

Accommodation:
New Bhandari Swiss Cottage: there are 2 swiss cottages, it is the one near the top of the hill on high bank road area; more chill area than the lakshman jula area. there are 2 rooms on the rooftop that have an amazing view but were taken so book ahead and ask for them; 300 Rs for double with bathroom; nice view from here as well. Yoga classes: 100 Rs/ class.

Attractions:
Beatles Ashram: 50 Rs bribe to the guard to get in who will also give you a small tour around. watch out for the spiders...


More in the Blog:
Rishikesh

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Delhi Tips


General/Transportation:
**New Delhi Train Station: tourist ticket office upstairs is a great place to buy your tickets in advance and ask all the questions you want; really helpful staff as well as wifi access in the office.

Attractions:
Pahar Ganj (Main Bazaar)- next to the new delhi train station; this is where all the wholesale shops for clothes, jewelry, Indian crafts, etc can be found. Most items are cheaper here than at their source. Check side streets, and make sure to bargain you booty off.

Connaught Place: underground bazaar and nice shops above ground (books, clothes, etc). If you want a Trains at a Glance book there is a shop on the corner that sells it. McDonald's and other coffee shops abound; Connaught is walkable from pahar ganj or a 10 Rs rickshaw ride.

Connought Place

Lotus Temple: free entrance and not to be missed! Bahai temple in the south of the city; make sure to browse the museum section. The best way to get there is by getting a prepaid rickshaw from the New Delhi Train Station (80 Rs). Near the temple there is a movie theater, McDonald's, Subway and a few high end hotels.

Raj Ghat: this is where Ghandi is buried; snack bar (good butter chapati) with AC near there where the bus stops to take you back to city.

Ghandi Museum: cool free museum with memorabilia, pictures and ghandi possessions, world stamps and currency (near Raj Ghat).

Old Delhi: location of Red Fort and Jain temple. There are good bazaars in Old Delhi to buy books, paper products, fabrics, other Indian goods. Don't visit the Jama Masjid (mosque) there is nothing to see there and it is in an overpriced government area.



India Gate: nice place to walk along grass to the government buildings of New Delhi.

Accommodations:
Raj's Cozy Inn: 920 Chandi Walan, Pahar Ganj (main bazaar); email: cozytravels@vsnl.com; tel: 2450526; clean double room with attached bath and tv, no ac. manager Anil is very nice although owner/boss not so much. relatively quiet alley, 400 Rs very close to new delhi train station and to the main bazaar where you can find loads of shopping. across from the alley is a good internet shop with nice owners and cheap, fast computers; also a few doors down is a good barber to get a shave or haircut in the same alley; the alley is the one that has chicken fry on the corner and a red sign for hotel double R. take the alley down, then a right at the dead end and cozy will be on the right side

Food:
Khosla restaurant: in PaharGanj, good place for breakfast especially muesli and chai.

Haldirams
: in Old Delhi, for snacks (try the rubri stick which is like yogurt on a stick).

More in the Blog:
Delhi 1
Delhi 2
 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Agra Tips


Attractions:
Taj Mahal: (750)Rs/ Agra Fort (250 Rs); make sure to buy the Taj ticket before the fort to get a discount on the fort's ticket.

Fatehpur Sikri: We don't recommend this place; similar to the fort and lots of touts, it is about an hour from Agra. 

For tours, etc: You can find a rickshaw (auto) who will take you to several attractions (baby taj/yamuna park across the river/bus station to fatehpur sikri) for all this we paid 50 Rs with 2 stops in government emporiums (10 min each) for the driver's commission although we bought nothing; bargain hard and don't take no for an answer; there are lots of rickshaws around willing to do this

Accommodations:
Hotel Host: tel: 91-562-233-1010; close to taj mahal, great view from rooftop restaurant; restaurant overpriced; double room with attached bath/ tv and ac; 400 Rs; ask for Sahul (one of the managers);

Food:
Joney's Place: Taj Gang area; best Jaffles(grilled cheese with 3 pieces of toast); good ice coffee/and other indian dishes/ cheap in general. Still dreaming about these jaffles...

More in the Blog:
Agra 

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Varanasi Up Close

A short clip from the captivating Ganga Aarti Ceremony in Varanasi:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Varanasi Tips


Attractions: 
Boat Ride on Ganges: 100 Rs/ hour/person; you can see the different Ghats(steps going down to the Ganges); the best time is sunrise or sunset; the recommended direction is to go to the southern end of city (Assi ghat) and take a boat northwards.
Manikarnika Ghat- the burning ghat, where bodies are burned before the ashes are scattered in the Ganges river, it's slightly unnerving to be there but definitely an experience.

Accommodation:
Alka Hotelhotelalka@hotmail.cominfo@hotelalkavns.com; website: hotelalkavns.com (website is under construction but google for more info)  tel: 240168; located at Meer Ghat; try to book ahead; great location on the Ganges river. different types of rooms ranging from 300 Rs all the way to 1500. 300 gets you double room with shared bath; attached bath starts at 500 Rs (No AC); restaurant is overpriced but tasty and on the balcony overlooking the Ganges. try the special thali. 

Food:
Mona Lisa Cafe: cheap and good, shakshuka, juices, and pastries, etc. internet also, near Harichandra ghat.

Brown Bread bakery: good sandwiches/veggie burgers; a little pricey, 1 liter water fillup 5 Rs.

More in the Blog:
Varanasi

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

First Timers in India

First time in India is not the time to start "roughing it", give yourself a few days to adjust, and spare yourself the 24 hour unreserved train journey.


Transportation- the place where you get the most bang for your buck, splurge on the good buses/trains, it makes a world of difference in how you feel when you get off, and the price difference is usually not too much.

Trains- are really easy to book online. To figure out which train you want, and if there's availability go towww.indianrail.gov.in . Then to book your journey, go to www.irctc.co.in . Alternatively, go to one of the tourist reservation offices  at a main train station (New Delhi is the best one). Now which class? for long journey splurge on AC (Chair car, 3AC, 2AC), that's the only way you will have an assigned seat/bed and no problems with it. Sleeper car is also ok for daytime trains, but not the best for sleeping, as all the cars are open to the outside and people constantly walk around. Remember, never accept food from strangers as there have been attempts of poisoning in order to steal your bags.



Flights- most internal destinations average around 100 USD.

Bargaining- it's part of traveling in India so bargain hard, all the time, especially in touristy places, try to ask locals what the price should be (for rickshaws, produce per kilo, etc).

 

Shopping- the best deals are to be had first thing in the morning, try to be the "first customer" and don't forget to bargain. Many goods will be cheaper in the Delhi Main Bazaar (Pahar Ganj) than they will in their state of origin because wholesale shops are located there.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lumbini Tips

Attractions:
The Sacred Garden: complex around where the Buddha was born. explore the area on a bike, take water and food with you, they will check your ticket at the Maya Devi temple.

Accommodation:
there is nowhere to stay or eat in Lumbini. there are 2 resorts and a place next to them called Siddhartha Guest House; double room with bathroom 350 Rs

More in the Blog:
Lumbini

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pokhara Tips

Attractions:
World Peace Pagoda: possible to take a boat across lake from pokhara and then it is a 20 minute hike to the top.

**around lake you can: rent boats, bikes, paraglide, not swim.

Accomodation:
**whatever you do don't stay at the Octagon. the guy is a wacko.

Crown Hotel: 300 Rs; if you stay longer you can get a discount; double room with bathroom and HOT shower; some rooms with TV's. they float around.

Food:
all the restaurants serve western and local food, all are generally good; the places in lakeside north are cheaper.

Newari Kitchen: higher-end restaurant with unique dishes; worth a try. we had Musya (spice roasted soybean); Alu Tusi Achaar (potato cucumber salad); Badan Walau (spiced peanuts) ; Chhway la (Buff in mustard oil)

Be Happy: best place for breakfast and good lasagna; have a feast, try it all.

Sweet Memories: basically the same as above, nice family owns it. good lassi there.

Cafe Sheinken: best sandwich place ( tuna/chocolate/etc.) cheap and delicious.

More in the Blog:
Pokhara 1
Pokhara 2

Monday, January 12, 2009

Trekking in Nepal

General:
* Get organized- treks should be organized from Kathmandu, not Pokhara.
* Gear- all the gear that you need can be bought in Kathmandu other than good hiking shoes (bring from home). if only coming for the trek bring a sleeping bag from home (it's cold up on the mountain all year round). for reference a fleece jacket runs around 600 nrs.
* Guide- hire a guide (although we didn't) it is worth the added cost to have someone who knows the territory and trails and during high season the guides can reserve you lodges before arriving.
* Water- bring water purification tablets (from home) and nalgene type bottles (you can buy in kathmandu). at the top you will be paying 60 Rs a liter to fill a bottle, but there is no plastic allowed after a certain point.


Annapurna Trekking Permit: 2000 Rs/ person; need to go to the office in Kathmandu or Pokhara ahead of time with passport pictures where you can register and pay.

Trekking and Guide Recommendation: for information or to book a guide/porter for treks go see our friend Prem Kumar Lama of Nepal Village Trekking; the office is next to Kathmandu Guest House; email: nvt@wlink.com.np ; tel: 977-1-4700207; otherwise everybody and their brother are tour guides so it is hard to judge who is legit.

Wayfarers: travel agency for bus tickets, general info, trekking, etc. ; email: info@wayfarers.com.np ; tel: 977-1-426-6010;

Bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara: is around 400 Rs and takes 7 hours. get a window seat. if you have the money, fly.

More in the Blog:
Annapurna Base Camp Trek

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Kathmandu Tips

Attractions:

Boddinath: important Tibetan temple where you can circumambulate with the pilgrims; if monk tries to take you around temple be aware that he will ask for a "donation" of 200 Rs minimum or U.S dollars; delicious coffee and cake at Flavor's. go to the rooftop for a spectacular view of the temple..

Monkey Temple: possible to walk from Thamel; good viewpoint over Kathmandu valley

Durbar Square (Kathmandu): need to get a visitor entry card with a picture so you can come back again without paying twice. nice temples, a palace with a museum of the royal family; in the palace (250 Rs) there is a watchtower where you can get a wonderful overview of the city. unlimited pass costs 200 Rs

Durbar Square (Patan): the actual square is similar to the one in kathmandu, it's about an hour walk from thamel and you will see a lot of kathmandu on the way. very relaxed.

Accommodation:

New Namaste Guest House: email: bidya@foreign.wlink.com.np; phone: 977-1-4233734 clean big comfortable rooms; double room with bathroom (425 Rs); only rooms, no lounge or restaurant here; off of Jyatha Chowk road down a small alley;

Food:
Fire and Ice restaurant: delicious pizzeria; next to the main Himalaya bank on Tridevi Marg (main road); have a pizza for heaven's sake; don't share, it's that good

Tashi Delek Restaurant: great little place to grab some Tibetan breakfast ( champa porridge) as well as a filling set breakfast (potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, toast, etc)

Janesi Restaurant: like eating in someone's home; get the nepali set meal

Weizen Bakery: after 8 pm half price pastries; get there at 7:50 and fill your tray. restaurant is good too (cheese sticks)

Organic Cafe: didn't try the food, but they have an "all you can eat" salad bar. nice place to relax

Himal Restaurant: good place, good prices, good food. try the thukpa (veg soup) and pakoras (fried veg fritters)

More in the Blog:
Kathmandu 1
Kathmandu 2

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Guangzhou and Hong Kong Tips


Guangzhou

Travel Desk:

CITS Guangzhou- They are the local equivalent of STA Travel and were wonderful in helping us change a ticket we had booked through STA. Ask for Donna. Address-
2/F, CITS Guangdong Mansion, No.618 Jiefang Bei Road, Guangzhou
Chinese version: 广州市解放北路618号广东国旅大厦A座2楼前台




 

Hong Kong

Accommodation:

Alison Guest House- small room and bathroom, good shower, western toilet, clean. conveniently located in causeway bay. relative to hong kong, very reasonably priced. 400 hkd/ double ensuite

More in the Blog:
Guangzhou and Hong Kong

Monday, January 5, 2009

Guilin and Yangshuo Tips

Guilin

Accommodation:
Flowers Hostel- cheap, convenient for train travel. our room was small but also have dorm-beds.
located in a small back-alley kind of hard to find...35 rmb/single room. www.yhaguilin.com; also on hostelworld.com

Yangshuo

Accommodation:
New Bamboo Guest House- good little hotel, new and clean with ac/tv/western toilet/good shower
very friendly staff that can help with logistics, rents bikes too. 80 rmb/double en-suite. highly recommended. located on Xi street, if you find Old Bamboo hotel they can take you to New Bamboo. phone- 07738815758

More in the Blog:
Guilin and Yangshuo

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Kunming Tips

Accommodation:
The Hump- located downtown, decent shower with western toilets, big place with doubles and dorms,our experience not great- dirty and noisy as it is located next to an alley with many clubs. lively terrace with restaurant and loads of travelers. 25 rmb/dorm. www.thehumphostel.com

Cloudland hostel- all rooms have shared bath, rooms and bathroom very clean and comfortable, western toilet.
nice staff, a minute walk to wal-mart and bus stop. highly recommended. 30 rmb/dorm and 110/double. can be booked on hostelworld.com

Food:
Salvadors- located in a nice area close to university, really good western/mexican food. try the chili. other restaurants, bars, and shops adjacent are nice as well. 25-50rmb/dish. www.salvadors.cn

Brothers Jiang- chinese food chain very popular, pretty good. you get noodle soup with veggies and meats if you want, order at the counter and eat inside.

More in the Blog:
Kunming