Udaipur Is More Than Just Lakes!

I used to have a certain vision of Udaipur in my head. I would think the City of Lakes was all about water, almost like Venice. I wondered if I’d have to be rowed to every site. When I finally had the chance to see this Rajasthani city, I discovered there is so much more! Founded by Maharana Udai Singh, the 16th-century ruler of the Kingdom of Mewar, Udaipur is a delight to behold! While I barely had a weekend to explore this city, the time was enough to convince me of its uniqueness. Follow my lead to see Udaipur for yourself:-

A Warrior’s Pride – Maharana Pratap Memorial

Maharana Pratap Memorial

Maharana Pratap Memorial

Before you go gaga over the list of lakes you’ll check off your list while in Udaipur, it’ll help to know a little bit about the region’s history. After several years of battling against the Mughals, the warrior prince Maharana Pratap was able to rest a while with his father – Maharana Udai Singh during a few years of peace in the new capital of Mewar – Udaipur. A statue of Maharana Pratap seated on his valiant horse, Chetak, is kept atop Moti Magri Hill as a memorial to his courage and service. From up here, you can get a panoramic view of the Machla Magra Hills and the Fatehsagar Lake. While you hike up this hill, you can also visit the Hall of Heroes Museum which has paintings of Mewari history and large models of Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh and Haldighati.

Lake Fatehsagar – For Leisurely Walks

You can also indulge in watersports at Fatehsagar!

You can also indulge in watersports at Fatehsagar!

Interestingly, all of the lakes in Udaipur are artificial. They all are interconnected in a sophisticated manner though. Close to the Maharana Pratap Smarak, the embankment around Lake Fatehsagar is ideal for a morning stroll. You might want to indulge in some traditional boat ride or jet off in a speedboat to admire the lush green Aravali Hills all about. For those into vintage cars, there is a museum not far from this lake.

Saheliyon-Ki-Bari: For The Queens And Their Pals

Fountains at Saheliyon-ki-Bari

Fountains at Saheliyon-ki-Bari

When the sun is still not at its peak, take a peek at the fountain-garden which the king built for his queens to relax and spend time with their friends – Saheliyon-ki-Bari. While it might seem a little underwhelming, you might be able to sight some interesting birds in the gardens if you are into birding.

Glide Up To Where You Can See It All!

Cable car ride to Machla Magra Hills

Cable car ride to Machla Magra Hills

If you still wonder how photographers manage to get breathtaking aerial views of all of Udaipur, I’ll let you in on a secret – it’s the hills!!! Get your ticket for a cable car ride to Machla Magra Hills and be prepared to be mesmerized! You can lunch at the cafe at the top after you exhaust yourself taking pictures of the lakes and chocolate hills decked in green.

Lake Pichola’s Palatial Paradise

The Taj Lake Palace at the centre of Lake Pichola as seen from the City Palace

The Taj Lake Palace at the centre of Lake Pichola as seen from the City Palace

It is always a great idea to plan a walking tour after you’ve filled your belly. The City Palace is a fort and a museum that has plenty of stories for the curious visitor. Located by the famous Lake Pichola, the palace allows you to gaze at the elegant Taj Lake Palace Hotel which appears to float on the celeste waves at the centre of the lake. If you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks, explore the Crystal Gallery which has a dazzling collection of rare crystal artefacts from Maharana Sajjan Singh’s collection.

Peep Over The Aravalis From Sajjangarh Fort

It's windy up here at Sajjangarh Fort!

It’s windy up here at Sajjangarh Fort!

After you’ve spent most of your day seeing the top sights in Udaipur, spend your evening atop Sajjangarh Fort, only 30 minutes from Udaipur. Rent a self-drive car using this Zoomcar coupon code and zip over to the Monsoon Palace which affords you a gorgeous view of the undulating hills. Sunsets will never be so stunning! If you are a wildlife enthusiast, you can hike to the surrounding wildlife sanctuary. Who knows, you could get lucky with a panther sighting! 😉

Shop In Old Udaipur

These bags ask to be picked up at Hathipole Market.

These bags ask to be picked up at Hathipole Market.

As if your day couldn’t be more power-packed, there’s more you can do with your time! After nightfall, head over to Udaipur’s Old Town and ditch your rickshaw to walk through the narrow alleys lined by little shops on both sides. Don’t forget to haggle for a good price while you fill your shopping bag with tiny pieces of art, shoes, bedsheets with traditional patterns, hand-stitched blankets and more. Hathipole Market also has numerous cafes and rooftop restaurants that glitter at night and add to the romance of the city.

Kumbhalgarh’s Great Wall – No This Isn’t China! 😀

Kumbhalgarh Fort - the second longest wall in the world!

Kumbhalgarh Fort – the second longest wall in the world!

After a busy first day, your second day should be a relaxed one. Wake up at leisure and enjoy a lazy long brunch at your hotel before you set off for Kumbhalgarh. 100 odd kilometres from Udaipur, a drive of over 2 hours brings you to Kumbhalgarh Fort in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district. This fort is a World Heritage Site and the second longest wall after the Great Wall of China. Only parts of the fort are accessible to tourists, but one can easily see what a marvel this structure is! Maharana Pratap was born in Kumbhalgarh and there’s a museum close to the fort which tells the story of this place through interactive models and a short film. The experience at the museum is quite insightful.

Dal-Baati From The Dhabas

Dal-baati!!! My favourite Rajasthani dish!

Dal-baati!!! My favourite Rajasthani dish!

After the Kumbhalgarh Fort trek, satiate your appetite at a nearby dhaba. Don’t count your calories as you order platefuls of dal-baati and churma! 🙂

Are you convinced yet that you should be going to Udaipur?

Let me know through your comments below!

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Precious Jewels From Around The World

Every time I step out of my house, whether to explore a new country or a new place within my land, I mostly think about what my eyes can see. And, most of that is above the ground – the buildings and monuments, the streets, the mountains and valleys, the lakes and rivers, the trees, animals and the culture of the locals, and then, the sky. What I often overlook is what lies under the earth. I am not talking about tubers or roots or the exotic dishes that are made of those, but what lies further below – several feet under, formed by immense heat and pressure – precious stones.

Austria – Emerald Waters And Emerald Rings

The beautiful country of Austria is also a major producer of emerald.

The beautiful country of Austria is also a major producer of emerald.

When I went solo to Salzburg a couple of years ago, I was busy admiring the lovelock bridge that spans River Salzach, connecting the modern world full of gardens and courtyards to the Old Town paved with cobblestones. I gazed at the lime green grass carpeting the banks on either side of the emerald river and longed to hike on the moss-covered hills in the backdrop. But not once did I think about Austria’s prominence as an emerald producer and exporter to the world. Even my journeys back home yielded similar results…

Diamonds In Golconda?

Golconda (Hyderabad) is popular not only for its fort but also for diamond mining and trading.

Golconda (Hyderabad) is popular not only for its fort but also for diamond mining and trading.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have visited Hyderabad – both when it was a part of Andhra Pradesh and after it became Telangana’s. I have even climbed all of the steps that lead to Golconda Fort, and spent a lot of money buying Hyderabadi pearls. It is only now that I see Golconda differently after my mum inquires why I never brought back any diamonds from this place that has one of the world’s most famous diamond mines.

“Czeching” Out Garnet

Czech Republic might be famous for Kafka, but it stores some of the world's best garnet, topaz and opal.

Czech Republic might be famous for Kafka, but it stores some of the world’s best garnet, topaz and opal.

3 years ago, I was exploring central Europe, and my journey had brought me to Prague – the capital of Czech Republic. Over days of checking out the most vibrant Old Town, its cathedrals, sailing over the Vltava river, being surprised over Kafka’s fame and buying copper rings, I discovered Czechia is also popular for its gemstones such as garnet, topaz and opal. But I asked myself how far and wide I’d have to travel to collect beautiful stones from different parts of the world. Could I not get all such precious stones from the comfort of my home? Would expensive gemstones always be too expensive for me to own? I’ve recently found an answer to my quest:-

Jewel On Fire – Gemstone Jewellery In Your Budget

Did you know Germany's Alps could have gemstones such as beryl, topaz and emeralds under them?

Did you know Germany’s Alps could have gemstones such as beryl, topaz and emeralds under them?

I came across the online jewellery store Jewel On Fire which lets you buy precious stone ornaments priced up to 90% lower than their retail cost. This is possible only because they cut out the middlemen and source jewellery directly from jewellery craftsmen and manufacturers. And their online presence means you can shop without having to spend a bomb on travel. They have a splendid collection of low-cost genuine diamond jewellery and those of other precious stones. I have a sweeter information for you! When you use my promo code “OINDRILADE” to make a purchase on their site, you get an additional discount on their already amazingly priced items! 🙂

Won’t You Travel Differently Now?

It's not only Sri Lanka's lakes that are associated with aquamarine!

It’s not only Sri Lanka’s lakes that are associated with aquamarine!

When I told my mum about this, she was elated. She won’t have to worry about lugging heavy jewellery back from her trips now. And travel would only be about the sights and experiences, not the expenses associated with shopping of gemstones. I will again be able to visit Germany for its castles, and not think about beryl or topaz or emerald. I will again be able to enjoy the forests and lakes of Sri Lanka without hunting for good quality yet affordable aquamarine. “Aquamarine” would only make me think of the water bodies again, and not the stone on my ring finger.

Still, You Should Know…

Hungary's creamy white skies know that that this country has a lot of creamy opal stones as well.

Hungary’s creamy white skies know that that this country has a lot of creamy opal stones as well.

Even though you will mostly shop online, lounging in your sofa, it helps to know a little more about the things you buy. It is the stories behind each earring, pendant and bracelet that makes the gemstones more precious!

Do you ever wonder where each of your jewels come from?

Write your comments below! 🙂

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Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail (And How You Can Have Fail-proof #LifeGoals)

We are 18 days into the new year, and many of us have already started giving up on those resolutions we so talked about on the 1st of Jan. Even if you belong to the rare group of people who are still hanging on, you know very well that your resolutions will be long forgotten when it’s time to ring in yet another new year. Have you wondered why we generally don’t follow through with our resolutions? Let’s explore why!

Do You Suffer From Resolution-Myopia?

I resolve to wake up with the sunrise and enjoy my mug of coffee in peace.

I resolve to wake up with the sunrise and enjoy my mug of coffee in peace.

More often than not, our resolutions are aimed at achieving quick results, our timelines being no longer than one year. This is one of the biggest reasons why new-year resolutions are ineffective at driving any lasting changes to our lives or lifestyles. A powerful alternative to having resolutions is to have #LifeGoals. Life-goals are a mix of long-term (read – For Travel Goals that are Long Term…) and short-term goals that don’t put pressure on you to achieve those within a year. Therefore, even after 365 days, you know you are dreaming of the same thing. There is consistency.

Do You Know Why You Want What You Want?

I dreamt of and visited Bhutan last year.

I dreamt of and visited Bhutan last year.

Reason #2 for failed resolutions is not having clarity on why you want to accomplish something. When you have a strong reason driving your goals, you have much higher chances of achieving those. Most of my goals revolve around travelling and writing. I recently went on a long trip to the USA, and my foremost reason for that journey was to learn to live independently and be away from home for an extended period of time. Despite the seemingly exorbitant budget, I made it happen. My reason was the clincher.

Do You Fear What You Have Never Tried?

I finish my bowl of greens with chopsticks at a Teppanyaki restaurant in California.

I finish my bowl of greens with chopsticks at a Teppanyaki restaurant in California.

An oft-overlooked reason for failed resolutions is having poor-quality ones. You would never want to stick with something that does not appeal to you. Our goals are often watered down by our miscalculated assumptions on what they will take to achieve. Many of us are scared to even admit we want a villa at a beautiful destination. The more I have travelled around the world, the more I have lost my fear of the unexplored. I no longer think twice before trying a new cuisine or a new activity. When you are unafraid, you have a wider and richer variety of goals to aspire for.

Do You Procrastinate When You Have To Take Action?

You cannot be a good swimmer if you only stare at pools.

You cannot be a good swimmer if you only stare at pools. (Photo from my stay in Udaipur.)

The most obvious cause behind dead resolutions is the absence of the fuel that it takes to keep one alive. Your dreams are of no value if you don’t “DO” anything to realize those. For your #LifeGoals, you need to have an action plan. If your dreams need money, you need to start investing. I attended the Bajaj Allianz Bloggers’ Meet on 8th Jan and discovered how much has changed in the world of investments and insurance. Unit Linked Insurance Plans (ULIPs) are instruments that have undergone a lot of changes, and can be useful tools for you to save for your dreams. Bajaj Allianz will soon launch a ULIP product to help you focus on what matters most to you and #InvestBefikar. (More on that next month.)

Do You Suffer From The Herd-Mentality?

Don't follow the flock. Do your own thinking.

Don’t follow the flock. Do your own thinking. (I captured these jungle babblers in Bandipur, Karnataka)

Resolutions can also fail if they are not yours to begin with. If you have been copying the world, trying to follow the latest fad, or blindly aping celebrities, you are not living your own life. And you certainly aren’t dreaming your own dreams. Make sure you understand your priorities and invest your time and life in making your real wishes come true.

Do you have your #LifeGoals listed out?

Are you making financial investments to fund those goals?

Write your comments below! 🙂

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What If You Could Wear The World On You…

On one of my trips to the interiors of India, I had the pleasure of meeting another travel writer – one who had twice my experience in the world of writing and travelling. One could tell she loved to travel and had travelled far and wide just by looking at her. Before I could even begin a conversation, my eyes fell on her bag from Barcelona, placed over her crumpled scarf which read “Made in Romania”. She would later tell me about her passion for collecting things from every place she visited while showing me stuff she had accumulated from all over the world.

If A Dress Could Remind You Of A Song…

I watch a pair of Latvian musicians in their traditional clothing in Riga.

I watch a pair of Latvian musicians in their traditional clothing in Riga.

That girl made me rethink my views on shopping. I had almost renounced my habit of excessive buying on my trips, knowing very well that those things would lie forgotten in my closet once I was home. But I did not know how powerful a statement it is to wear your journey on you. A hat from Houston, a necklace from Nairobi, a dress from Dresden, a bracelet from Brazil, a scarf from Scandinavia, earrings from Italy, shoes from Sri Lanka, and a bag from Burgundy. It sounds poetic. And feels even better. Besides, that would make a great conversation starter wherever you go! I still remember a pretty yellow frock which a Latvian singer wore as she sang a daina (read – The Romance of Riga) in Riga’s Old Town Square. Every time I think of that dress, I can hear her sing.

Inspiration From The Streets

Colourful apartments line a Philadelphian sidewalk.

Colourful apartments line a Philadelphian sidewalk.

I really wished I wouldn’t have to travel so much to own pieces of other countries. So, when I heard about VIDA & Co, and how they are shaking up the world of fashion and design, I was interested. Their unique concept of getting designers from across the world to submit their designs makes them a global hub for international art. And what’s more? You get to wear those designs! So, an artist in Abu Dhabi could have her work replicated by a Pakistani weaver on a fabric sourced from France, so a girl like me, sitting in California, could buy that online! Doesn’t this dissolve distances? Watch VIDA’s story in this video:-

The artists who contribute to VIDA are painters, photographers, sculptors, textile designers, calligraphers and sketch and 3-D artists. This means you could wear a work of art or an actual photo of a real scene somewhere in the world. VIDA is running a sale on their site and you could get some amazing scarves and skirts designed by global artists for a steal!

Smell The Grass On The Other Side

The shades of brown contrast beautifully against the green.

The shades of brown contrast beautifully against the green.

When you hold an artefact made in a different part of the world, you buy into their culture. You can’t not think about the lush fields of Punjab when you pull on a satin Patiala and feel a little Punjabi yourself. Nor can you forget the vibrant tulips of Holland when your handbag is painted all over with those. A simple piece of clothing can activate a lot of our senses. A top can transport you to a different land. You could be sitting in Mumbai, smelling the handcrafted perfumes of Paris when your cushion covers tell the story of a Parisian perfumer.

When Weavers Weave Stories In Their Fabric

A Bhutanese weaver has her work examined in Thimphu.

A Bhutanese weaver has her work examined in Thimphu.

Many months ago, I was in Bhutan with my family, and we hopped into this textile museum in the capital. The female weavers looked elegant in their kira-skirts (the traditional outfit which every national sports with pride) as they carefully wove kiras with a combination of fabric textures and colours, yarns of colourful wool by their side, to add warmth to their designs.

Persian Carpets That Can Magically Make You Fly

An old Irani trader displays Persian carpets at a souk in Sharjah.

An old Irani trader displays Persian carpets at a souk in Sharjah.

I began the year 2017 with my first foreign trip to UAE. In Sharjah, most of my spare time would be spent exploring souqs full of rich fabric. The Persian stores, especially, had some of the finest carpets I’ve ever run my fingers over. A little chat with the Irani owner would reveal to me that each carpet is 100% hand-made, some with years of effort. Imagine sitting on one of these plush carpets, feeling like Jasmine (with or without an Aladin) as you fly (in your mind) to another destination! That is the power of a good product from a different culture.

When A State Is On Your Shoulders

I wear a Rajasthani designer's kurta to peer over Sajjangarh (near Udaipur).

I wear a Rajasthani designer’s kurta to peer over Sajjangarh (near Udaipur).

My recent trip to Udaipur and beyond saw me wear Indian kurtas all through. The intricate designs and the light fabric worked really well in the sun and kept me smiling through the high temperatures. You too should try going traditional when you travel. And, don’t forget to get a memory you can wear!

Do you buy clothes when you visit abroad?

Would you like to own a designer outfit from another continent?

Write your comments below! 🙂

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Capturing USA Through My Camera

Most of you perhaps know by now that I am currently experiencing my longest time away from home so far. I will finish almost 3 months in the USA, come January. While it all looks hunky dory from the outside, I will let you in on some secrets. It’s not all a bed of roses. The joy of setting foot in America soon fades into oblivion as you get on with life and see the country with a different pair of eyes – not those of a tourist, but those of an insider (read – When A Traveller Takes A Holiday).

Fleeing From Philly

Philly's skyscrapers peep over the Schuylkill River.

Philly’s skyscrapers peep over the Schuylkill River.

For months, I had nestled a dream of exploring Pennsylvania and the rest of the East Coast like a slow traveller. My first few days in Philadelphia were interesting – it’s a colourful place with plenty of water bodies and parks to keep you going. There’s also a little bit of history that the art museums and monuments try to remind you of. I explored different pockets of Philly each day – China Town, Penn’s Landing, Ben-Franklin Parkway, and one day, the UPenn Campus (my favourite). My tummy explored just as my eyes and feet did. But a week in this city, and I was restless. The greens and the blues started to fade away, leaving just a bunch of tall, grey buildings in my head. I wanted to leave. I was longing for a place more natural.

Wayfaring In The West

Millerton Lake is surrounded by hills which are dry now in the winter.

Millerton Lake is surrounded by hills which are dry now in the winter.

I made the sudden decision to fly to San Fransisco and explore the West Coast for some relief. Of course, SF is a big city again, so my place had to be something else – removed from the bustle of San Frisco or Los Angeles, yet easily accessible from both. I decided to stay in Fresno – the gateway to Yosemite. I haven’t hiked (read – Forsyth Trail – A Hike through Satpura’s Core Tiger Zone) there yet (and I doubt I will be able to in this winter, now that most hiking trails are closed), but I have had the chance to chance upon a couple of lakes near this city.

Running Alone – Yet Again!

I see the Yosemite Range inviting me to explore it.

I see the Yosemite Range inviting me to explore it.

During my early days in Fresno, I would question my decision of leaving the East Coast so early. I had the New York City Marathon to finish. But impulsive as I am, I flew back to the East (but to New York this time) to run my first full marathon in The States. The run up to the D-day saw me do practice laps around my house in Fresno each morning. It wasn’t the same as in Philly (which has a huge running and cycling population). I would always be the only pedestrian (let alone runner) on the streets. Despite the missing endorphins, I decided to perk up and capture the bitter-sweet memories of my longest trip ever through my lenses. Check out this video:-

Taking pictures and videos, editing them and sharing the stories on social media has managed to keep me sane for the most part. I have been using VEGAS Movie Studio 14 to edit my memories and add a lot of fun to them. This software lets me add multiple video and audio tracks, in addition to rendering my text overlays in a number of stylized ways. I have been experimenting with their transitions and FX effects too. Looks like my YouTube account will now see more action from me! 🙂 Why don’t you give VEGAS a shot! They are giving away 40% off on all of their versions until 31st Jan 2018.

Be Still, And Know

I find my calm by a lake in Woodward Park.

I find my calm by a lake in Woodward Park.

The more I travel, the more I realize the value of stillness. Maybe I’m being pensive, but I have learnt more of my surroundings and the world when I am still. That’s also how I recharge my batteries! 😉 Where else do you think I get all that energy to run marathons?

What is the longest time you’ve spent away from home?

How do you get creative when you’re down?

Write your comments below! 🙂

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