Sunday, 10 July 2016

TraveLibro - A Traveller's Delight!

To Move, To Breathe, To Fly, To Float,
To Gain all while you Give,
To Roam the roads of land remote,
To Travel is To Live!
(Quote By Hans Christian Anderson)

How much ever we enjoy our travels, it's a known fact that a lot of efforts go into planning a trip. Researching about a place, building itinerary, hotel bookings and so much more.  I am someone who thoroughly enjoys every aspect of trip planning. But I have a lot of friends who feel all this is a pain.

So for all the people who love planning trips and the one’s who don’t, TraveLibro is here to amaze you. TraveLibro is a recently launched Portal & App that deals with all aspects of Holiday Planning. It lets you Explore, Plan, Book, Share & Document your trips at one place.  I have been using the portal for quite some time now and I must say it’s truly a traveler's delight.

Here is my Profile Link- http://travelibro.com/neha-sharma-10729/travel-feed?f=1#

Sharing Top 5 reasons why I can’t get over TraveLibro –

1. User Interface

Love the color scheme of the portal. It's vibrant and soothing. The website has simple navigation and an easy interface. It's segregated into 4 major categories namely Explore, Plan, Book, Agent , Capture & Cherish!















2. Logo

The cutest thing is their Logo. It's a suitcase with an open trolley handle. I am guessing it's an indication that you are ready to commence on a journey. Pretty thoughtful! Ain't it?


3. Document Itinerary

Each time I decide to document my itineraries, I digress to travelogues. TraveLibro lets me document my itineraries with ease by providing fixed formats. It includes important information like the Cities travelled, Budget, Duration of trip. There is also a section to add the 'Must Do's' in a city.
Furthermore, you can categorize your trip as Adventure, Backpacking, Budget, Religious, Luxury etc.

Documenting Itineraries is like maintaining a travel scrapbook.



4. On The Go Journeys

This feature which is exclusively available on the App lets you create a Travel timeline of your journey. One can update their status, upload pictures, share check ins and much more.
There is also a feature to capture and share your journeys along with other friends who are on TraveLibro through a shared timeline.





5. Travel Agents & Bookings:

TraveLibro also has a section where you can search and book Flights, Homestays, Hotels, Care Hire and Parking.



When you travel abroad a lot of times a local travel agent can be a better option. They know the country well and can coordinate much better on ground. But searching a genuine agent online can be difficult.
TraveLibro can be your savior at such times. It connects you with numerous trusted travel agents across the globe who help you plan your holidays.






So doesn't TraveLibro look like a promising travel social network?  It's an amazing digital scrap book where you can document your travels.

Don't waste any more time, quickly download the app and follow me to know all about my previous, present and upcoming trips.

TraveLibro App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ascra.app.travellibro&hl=en
TraveLibro Portal: http://travelibro.com/

Friday, 27 May 2016

Bhutan Beyond Mountains And Monasteries

When I informed my dear ones that I was going on a trip to Bhutan, many of them questioned my decision; some reasoned Bhutan was not an interesting place to travel , some asserted there were only monasteries to see there, some suggested I should go to Ladakh instead. While a few baffled at my choice, just asked ‘Why?’
My only reply to all of them was – ‘You will know when I get back!’

I am back and my answer lies in this post. Bhutan is definitely a lot more than its Mountains and Monasteries. Sharing a list of things to look forward to when you are in Bhutan:

Treks and Trails

From a day to month long, Bhutan has all kinds of treks for adventure lovers.

The most clich├ęd but certainly not overrated, is the Taktsang Monastery Trek. It is popularly known as the Tiger's Nest. It is literally perched on a cliff and is one of the most important Buddhist sites. It is believed that Yeshe Tsogval who was a follower of Guru Rinpoche, transformed herself into a tigress and carried Guru Rinpoche on her back from Tibet to Taktsang. Here is one of the nine caves where he meditated.

Tiger's Nest
Tiger's Nest

Another popular trek of Bhutan is the Druk Path trek, which is about 6 days long. This trek not only greets you with beautiful landscapes but also introduces you to some ancient Lhakhangs and Dzongs.

For people who find trekking arduous, you could soak in nature while walking on the breathtaking trails of Bhutan.
At an elevation of 3000 meters, Phobjika Glacial Valley is surrounded by huge mountains on all sides. This is a short (4 kms) but beautiful trail. During winters, black necked cranes migrate to Phobjika from Tibet, and the monastery in Gangtey holds a special festival to celebrate their arrival.


Phobjika Valley
Phobjika Valley

Camping

Bhutan is blessed with natural beauty. Owing to its forest reserves, which are about 70%, it becomes a wonderful place to camp.
We camped under the star lit sky, by the river stream, in the forests of Gasa. There was no network connectivity in the forest which was the best thing about the camp. This disconnect from the virtual world helped me establish a wonderful connect with myself.


Gasa
Camping @Gasa

Food

Bhutan will surprise you by the sumptuous food it offers. Rice is their staple food and is part of all their meals. The most surprising thing about Bhutanese Cuisine was they don’t use Chilies as spices but as vegetables. Their signature dish with chilies is called Ema Datshi.





Architecture

Most people get busy absorbing Bhutan’s natural beauty and forget to notice the distinctive architecture of Bhutan. Dzongs(fortresses), Lhakangs (temples), Goenpas (monasteries), Chortens (stupas), Suspension Bridges are all diverse architectural beauties of Bhutan.  

Punakha Dzong
Punakha Dzong

Whether a Dzong or a house it has the same architectural form, same building materials and similar aesthetic compositions. Most Bhutanese buildings are square shaped built with rammed earth or stone between timber frames.

Memorial Chorten
Memorial Chorten, Thimpu
Generally, a Bhutanese house is multi storied.  The ground floor is used for cattle. First floor is used for storing grains. Second floor is used as a living space. Roofs are raised with open space to allow wind to go through. A noticeable and interesting thing in Bhutanese houses is the phallus painted on the outer walls. This is done in order to chase away demons and bring fertility and prosperity to their homes.


Dochula Pass
Dochula Pass

Tshechu

Tshechu is the biggest festival of Bhutan, which is held on the tenth day of the lunar month in dzongs of each district. Participating in this festival is the best way to experience the culture of Bhutan. The Bhutanese men and women attend this festival dressed in their traditional attire. In this festival, mask dances and other traditional Bhutanese dances are performed. These events have deep religious and mythological significance.


Tshechu
Mask Dances in Tshechu

The Bhutanese believe that everyone must attend a Tshechu and witness the mask dances at least once in order to receive blessings and wash away their sins.


Tshechu
Clown



Tshechu
Mask Dances in Tshechu


Hot Stone Bath

You will miss out on something really awesome if you go to Bhutan and not try Datsho, the traditional Hot Stone Bath. I rate it as one of the finest experiences of Bhutan.
In this therapy river stones are heated and put in a wooden tub filled with water. Sometimes medicinal herbs are added to the water before it is ready for the soak.
It is believed that the heat of the water, the minerals released from the rock, and the local herbs all combine to produce medicinal benefits for joint pains, hypertension, stomach disorders and arthritis.

Shopping

Bhutan is a delight for shoppers, with amazing artifacts and handicrafts to shop for. As souvenirs one could buy fridge magnets, postcards, prayer wheels, carved masks and prayer flags.

It’s very rare that you visit Bhutan and not return with a Thangka Painting. These paintings that originated in Nepal, are found everywhere in Bhutan today.  

If you love crockery then you should purchase the handmade wooden bowls called Dappas. Although they are sold throughout the country, they are a specialty of Trashi Yangtse region in Bhutan. These bowls fit collectively and are used to store food inside them.

Another essential product to be shopped in Bhutan is the Lemongrass Oil / Spray which is the only organic product that Bhutan exports.

Souvenirs
Souvenirs
Happiness

While all other countries of the world measure their progress by GDP, Bhutan measures its progress by Gross National Happiness.

I had my doubts when I read Bhutan is the happiest country in Asia. But it took me just a 10 days trip to realize that Bhutan is truly a country of happy, shiny people! Their clothes, their houses, their bank accounts don’t define their happiness. They don’t need reasons to be happy. Happiness comes naturally to them. It was on this trip that I truly understood that Happiness is a state of mind


 Gawa rang gi zon go zo; choem rang gi choen go choel 

This popular Bhutanese proverb means, Whatever joy you seek, it can be achieved by yourself; whatever misery you seek, it can be found by yourself. (It is a state of mind)



Take a trip to Bhutan and who knows , the happiness of this country might pass onto your life.

  
PS: The above list is compiled taking references from my recent trip to Bhutan with Ease India Travel and Dragon Villa Tours. You can get information on their next trip to Bhutan by visiting their website http://www.easeindiatravel.com/

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Vegetarian In Bhutan

Vegetarians have reservations when it comes to travelling abroad. But being a Vegetarian shouldn’t stop you from living your travel dreams. No doubt it gets a bit difficult in some countries but it’s never impossible to find food that has no meat, no fish and no egg.


Bhutan was a pleasant surprise for me, this country’s local food has a plethora of vegetarian options. While it isn’t difficult to find an Indian restaurant in Bhutan, I’d suggest one should rather try their local cuisine.

Presenting you, the TEN Food Items every Vegetarian must relish when in Bhutan:

1.     Po Cha or Suja


Suja is butter tea, which is prepared by boiling tea leaves in water and yak or cow butter is then churned into the black tea.
Butter makes the consistency thick and gives it a soup like taste.

In a Bhutanese household, Suja is served with puffed rice or millets.

Suja

2.     Jaju 


Jaju is dried Algae(river weed) Soup. It tastes and looks like butter milk.

Jaju


3.     Eue Chum or Red Rice 


Red Rice is a variant of brown rice but has a nutty taste. It’s a semi-milled rice. Hence, it takes lesser time to cook than the unmilled brown rice. After cooking process, it becomes soft and a little sticky. This rice is savored with curries like Ema Datshi.

Red Rice

4.     Ema Datshi


Ema Datshi is the signature dish of Bhutan.There is a popular saying that if you have been to Bhutan and not tasted Ema Datshi then you have not experienced Bhutan at all.

In Dzongkha (local language of Bhutan), ‘Ema’ means Chilli and ‘Datshi’ means Cheese.  As the name suggests, it is a dish prepared with Chilli and Cheese. This makes it quite hot and spicy. 

Surprisingly, in Bhutan, Chilies are not just used as a seasoning but as vegetables.

Red Rice, Ema Datshi, Kewa Datshi and Suja

5.     Kewa Datshi


In Dzongkha (the local language of Bhutan), ‘Kewa’ means Potato and ‘Datshi’ means Cheese. Kewa Datshi is a preparation made with potato, cheese and chilli.
However, unlike Ema Datshi, Kewa Datshi is less spicy.


6.     Ezze 


Ezze is a hot sauce made up of roasted and minced red chilies, onion and tomatoes.

Ezze

7.     Fried Turnip Leaves 


Turnip is a root vegetable quite commonly used in Bhutanese cooking. This crispy fried version of turnip leaves is one of my favorite Bhutanese dish.

Fried Turnip Leaves

8.  Butter cheese curry


This is basically a curry prepared out of cheese, which is eaten with sticky rice.

Butter Cheese Curry

     9.     Khuli


Khuli is the local name for Buckwheat Pancakes. Buckwheat is grown in those parts of Bhutan where rice can’t be grown.

Khuli

10.  Doma 


This list would have been incomplete without the mention of Doma. It is not really a dish but a food item specific to Bhutan.

Doma is similar to the Paan we have in India, except that your mouth stinks after having it.

Doma is an areca nut (commonly referred to as betel nut) wrapped in a betel leaf having a dash of lime. It instantly produces a lot of warmth in the body.
Most Bhutanese people have stained teeth, which is a result of continuous chewing of Doma.





Who says Vegetarian food isn’t interesting? I am sure you started to drool after reading this post.  :P


PS: The above list is compiled taking references from my recent trip to Bhutan with Ease India Travel and Dragon Villa Tours. You can get information on their next trip to Bhutan by visiting their website - http://www.easeindiatravel.com/


Thursday, 14 April 2016

Postcards From Gudi Padwa Shobha Yatra 2016


Gudi Padwa is a Maharashtrian Festival that marks the beginning of Hindu New Year. It is believed that on this very day Lord Brahma created the Universe. Therefore for Hindus, this day carries special importance.

Gudi Padwa is celebrated as Ugadi by the people of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

As part of the festive celebrations in Maharashtra, grand processions called Shobha Yatras are held.

I witnessed one such magnificent procession in a western suburb of Mumbai. Sharing a few postcards from the procession.




















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