Travel Secrets

Know Before You Go!


Travel Inspiration

Buy This Whiskey, Own A Land In Scotland!

Planning to get a land in Scotland? Why not buy a bottle of whiskey instead! Yes, you read it right. Scotland’s one of the finest single-malt whiskeys, Laphroaig, offers a lease on a square foot of land with the purchase of each bottle. When you buy one, you lawfully become a ‘Friend of Laphroaig’. And, as a ‘Friend’ you will be given a numbered plot (one square foot) of the distillery land, represented by your own little flag!


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Currently owned by Beam Suntory (American subsidiary of Japan’s Suntory Holdings), Laphroaig was founded in Scotland in 1815 by Donald and Alexander Johnson. It is the only Islay Scotch whisky to carry the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales.


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Talking about the rates, a ten year old Laphroaig can cost you around US$50 (approx. ₹3344), an eighteen year old bottle can cost you around double of that (around ₹ 6688) and the 25 year old one will lighten your wallet by approximately US$ 400. (approx. ₹26755). So, once you get your hands on any of these three, just register the bar code placed on the bottle to the Laphroaig website. And that’s it! You will, then, be a proud owner of a piece of land in Islay, Scotland.


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Tell Me More About China’s Panda Park

China’s 600-acre Panda Base is located just about 20 km from the north suburb of Chengdu city. ‘Cute’ and ‘cuddly’ Pandas frolic here, in their lovingly simulated natural habitat. Our correspondents Rakhi Agarwal and Supriya Kantak take you there:

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Here, they swim, climb trees, munch on bamboo and roll in the dirt; just like they would in deep wilderness. Bamboo trees form a welcoming canopy overhead. Birds tweet in the bushes: your chance to spot some endangered species, and some well-loved ones. Think black-necked cranes, thrushes, cuckoos, Kingfisher. Stop by to share a snack with friendly peacocks and pheasants strutting freely about.

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Pandas are peace-loving, happy with their bamboo diet. But if provoked, their powerful jaw muscles and 150-kg weight can give you the shudders.

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Pandas get their name from the Chinese words ‘Pan and Da’ meaning ‘fat and big.’ In anticipation of a big bear hug, Supriya and Rakhi entered the protected area; a maze of winding paths with bamboo shoots forming an arch overhead. There are other trees, of course- mostly tall and big. Willows, Gingkos, Chinars, Yulans…the names aren’t all familiar, but the fresh air cools your face and warms your heart.

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The 60 acre Panda Base also houses a charming lake, teeming with cranes and Mallard ducks and well swans. But more than that it showcases nature’s genius at thinking up shapes and sizes and colour schemes! So while gazing at the Aquarians swimming together in happy harmony how can you miss the beautifully mismatched yellow, red and orange set against the blue water? Once you have had your fill of the lake’s beauty, enjoy a scoop of ice-cream. On your way out, you must stop at the souvenir shop; take a sneak, though you should know that the shops inside offer lower prices.

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This article first appeared in our July-August, 2012 edition.

What’s the most scenic train trip in Canada?

We speak from personal experience here: Take VIA Rail’s Jasper-Prince Rupert train (formerly known as the ‘Skeena’).



The journey was among the most beautiful and memorable we ever took. From the gorgeous views all through to the comfortable seating, it was the stuff a traveller’s fondest dreams are made of.


This train connects with the Toronto-Vancouver train (the Canadian) at Jasper. The route takes you northwestward, first across the Interior Plateau to Prince George, and then along the Skeena River to the pacific coast and Prince Rupert. You get to see the most picturesque bits of northwestern British Columbia, with historical reminders of the lives led by ancient aboriginal people.


From the final 3000 kms into Prince Rupert, the train follows the mystic Skeena River, famed for the thick mist that often shrouds it- “Skeena” means “river of mists”. The train winds its way along the forested canyons of the river, with the water below gushing over rapids before widening to a peaceful flow, mirroring the surrounding environment.

It is worth booking “Touring Class” where the dome car provides a perfect perch from which you can view the breathtaking scenery. This is available June to mid September. Economy class travelers get an excellent view from their own seats, too.

The Jasper-Prince Rupert trains depart three times a week year around from Jasper. The journey time is approximate 20 hrs. The schedule allows for daylight viewing of the spectacular scenery, and a chance to view wildlife in their natural surroundings.

With inputs from


5 Tips For Solo Women Travellers?

Sure. We have Hetal Doshi, a solo travel expert herself, sharing her tips with you. Hetal runs The Wander Girls, a Mumbai-based company that organises women-only travels and events. Over to her:


1) Ensure that family & friends back home have a complete copy of your itinerary with the Hotel addresses and contact numbers, your cell number, and know where you’ll be on any given day and can stay in touch with you. This will give them assurance and will also boost your own confidence if you’re a newbie solo traveller.

2) For backup, keep copies of your passport, tickets, and other documents in all pieces of your luggage and carry the originals with you in your handbag which you keep with you at all times.

3) Walk around in flat sensible shoes and keep the heels for an evening out, if you must. You don’t want to be running around the whole day in platforms, heels or wedges. Bellies, slippers or shoes are all good options to keep your feet comfortable.

4) Travel as light as you possibly can. This will allow you to smoothly manage your luggage at airports even if trollies are missing and carry your luggage into local transport if that’s your chosen mode of transport. Also, in places such as Europe where the Hotels often don’t have porters you can easily lug your backpack/bag up and down the stairs.

5) A cap, sunglasses, sunscreen, a small folding umbrella, a bottle of water, something to eat, are essentials that you should have on you whenever you’re out exploring any place. The I.D. and money goes without saying of course! 

Tying the Knot Among the Clouds? Why Not?!

 This sweet love story began somewhere among the clouds. Serbian actress Vjera Mujović and Stefan Preis, a doctor from Germany, sat next to each other on a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Mongolia. . En route, cupid struck.

A year later, the couple sealed their love onboard another Turkish Airlines flight. Delighted co-passengers watched the couple exchange wedding vows. The ceremony starred rose petals, music, a wedding cake—and wedding rings engraved with 05B and 05C, their seat numbers from the flight where it all began!

A plane affair turned very special, indeed.

Help me plan a trip to Ghana

Excellent choice! If you ever happen to be in the western part of Africa, do not pass up on the opportunity to travel for a week in Ghana. Terrains change from thick rainforests to vast savannas within a day’s travel. Elephants forage a few meters away, as you watch in awe. Get to know the slave culture of yester years first hand or watch true ancient African culture surround you.

TS Correspondent Nirav Shah was lucky to explore this land a couple of years ago. He swung on rope bridges high up the rainforest canopy and climbed the highest peak in Ghana. Here are a few tips from him to make the best of your trip.

 Where to go and What to do

Cape_Coast_Castle_GhanaCape Coast: An idyllic ex-colonial coastal town frequented by foreigners, famous for its sea food, slave castles and night life. Relax by white surf beaches and do canopy walking at the Kakum National Park, a rain forest that is a short taxi ride away. Thin rope bridges connect huge trees hundreds of feet above the ground. Visit the imposing Cape Coast and Elmina castles for a lesson on the infamous days of the slave trade. On a lighter note – don’t miss hilarious shop names of shops here.

Image: Anthony Pappone on flickr
Image: Anthony Pappone on flickr

Kumasi: Alternatively known as the ‘Garden City’ for its beautiful flowers and plants, this town is the seat of the Ashanti King – a powerful ruler of a tribe that once lorded over most of West Africa. Kumasi is steeped in cultural heritage, and has attractions such as Fort Kumasi, the Hat Museum and the Kumasi National Cultural Center. It also has a decently maintained zoo that boasts of a diverse variety of birds and animals.

Independence_Square,_Accra,_GhanaAccra: The capital of Ghana, this city is a typical urban centre with traffic snarls, pollution and busy markets. While Accra does not boast of many tourist attractions, it is a good base from which to explore different regions of Ghana. Photography enthusiasts should not miss out on photo walks through the bustling markets here!

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Mole National Park and Larabanga Mosque: Located in the northern part of the country, this is where you can experience a savanna environment. Standing 20 meters away from a herd of male elephants with no vehicle to run back to, or watching antelope jump around as you walk in the park can definitely be your trip highlights. However, sighting the lion is a rarity that requires persistent exploration over more than one day. The Larabanga mosque – the oldest mosque in West Africa built in the 15th century is a few miles from the park, and is a must-visit.

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Wli Waterfalls: The Volta region in East Ghana is inarguably the most beautiful; and the existence of stupendous waterfalls such as the Wli waterfalls, the highest waterfalls in Ghana at 60M bear testimony to this. Bathing under the cascade is refreshing, especially when you have thousands of bats resting on the cliff walls. A challenging 3 hour hike can take you to the upper reaches of the wall where the the waterfall takes on a vivid beauty.

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Mount Afadjato: When in a country, why not climb its highest peak! Especially when it is like Mount Afadjato, Ghana’s highest sole-standing mountain located in the Volta region that takes an hour to summit with the help of a guide. The view from up the mountain is incomparable, and a hike around it is a the perfect way to explore the rain forest.

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Tafi Atome Monkey Village: A visit to this village demonstrates a locale where humans and monkeys cohabit and live together. Definitely a must-visit if you want to overcome your fear of our closest animal brothers.

Know before you go

Transport: Accra is the ideal airport to look for a flight to. While taxis are available for inter and intra-city travel; using state buses and tro-tros (shared taxi vans) are a cheap option for the budget traveler. Ghana has good quality roads and hence travelling long distances usually does not take much time.

Telephone: SIM cards of multiple service providers e.g. MTN are easily available.

Currency: The Ghanian currency is the Cedi, with current rates at 1 Cedi = 30 INR

Visa: Visa applications have to be made to your nearest Ghanian embassy, and require ~1 week for processing.

Some useful websites and blogs:

Ghana Tourism Authority

Ghana Tourism official website

Ghana in Living Colour – Intrepid Travel

Two years in Ghana

Easy Track Ghana

Ghana Guide and Blog


10 Great Reasons to Visit Thailand in 2015

If your still planning a summer getaway, Thailand could be the easiest way out. A calender brimming with festive cheer and all-year long beach availability should be enough to get your bags packed. But we’ll give you more:

Family, shopping, adventure, food or Honeymoon – Thailand’s got a memorable trip planned for all.

  1. Gorgeous Beaches

    With countless little islands in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, this is a beach paradise! The perfect beach weather keeps Thailand  a popular party destination all year long. Patong Beach, Phuket is the largest and the most popular  with white sands, warm waters, scores of restaurants, and happening night-life. Haad Rin Beach hosts the “Full Moon Party” once every month. Be sure to attend this all night party if you’re here on the right day. For a quiet time, Koh Mun Nork is the place to be. This desert island has just one resort and is a 45 minute ferry ride away from the mainland.

  2. Shopping

    With swanky malls to lively night markets, the best place to shop in Thailand is in its capital city. While the Siam Square is home to some of the biggest malls and chic boutiques, the Chatuchak weekend market houses over 15000 retailers selling everything from latest fashion in clothing to vintage home décor items, books and Thai handicrafts. For some bulk shopping visit Pratunam for a variety of apparels at wholesale rates.

  3. Adventure

    Jet skiing in Pattaya, Wind surfing in Koh Samui, Kitesurfing and wakeboarding in Jomtien. Go deep sea diving and snorkeling on the shores of Koh Larn. Apart from the colourful corals, be on the lookout for sharks as well. Don’t be surprised if you come across a shipwreck or two! At Railey Beach the main attraction is rock climbing on the limestone karsts.

  4. Buddhist Temples 

    There are a number of Temples in Thailand and each one as beautiful as the other. These temples make for some very serene and spiritual locations as well as architectural gems! The most sacred temple of Thailand is located in the Grand Palace which houses the Emerald Buddha. Some of the other popular ones are the temple of the Reclining Buddha, Temple of Dawn, Temple of the Buddha’s Footprint, and Wat Mahathat.

  5. Food

    From the fine dining restaurants in Bangkok to local produce in the remote villages and sea food of the coastal regions, prepare to be amazed by Thai flavours. Dine at the award winning Baan Khanitha & Gallery in Bangkok for a memorable experience and authentic cuisine. In Chiang Mai, Ban Rim Num is a restaurant with a view! Enjoy the view of the scenery as you enjoy your meal. Some of the signature dishes of Thai cuisine are Phat Thai (Thai style fried noodles) and Tom Yam Kung (Spicy shrimp soup). The street food in the busy market streets of Bangkok is as yummy as it is visually appealing. Ratchawat Market, Sriyan Market and Chinatown serve some of the best street food too. Be sure to try out Catfish Salad and Shrimp tom yum noodles at these joints.

  6. Vibrant Culture

    Thailand is a colourful country and the rich culture is reflected in their art forms and festivals. One of the most famous indigenous sports is the brutal Thai boxing called “Muay Thai” and watching at least one fight is a must on the “to-do in Thailand” list. The traditional Thai dance and music performances can be enjoyed while strolling through the walking street market in Chiang Mai. The Thai New Year starts on 13th of April. It is called “Songkran” and celebrated with a water fight as a mark of cleansing, similar to the Indian festival Holi.

  7. History

    The kingdom of Thailand has a rich history of different rulers who have left behind some exquisite heritage sites. The Grand Palace and the ancient temples of Buddha are only a few among them. Ayutthaya used to be the capital city of ancient Thailand and is a favourite among History buffs and art lovers. Some other historical sites like the Khmer temples and ruins of other ancient cities give interesting insights into Thailand’s past and the cultural impact on its people.

  8. Dense forests

    With a large part of Thailand covered in lush green rainforests, how can we not think of Trekking? Places like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai offer a lot of options for jungle treks — be it a day trip or a multi-day trek. Excursions to Khao Yai National Park and Khao Sok National Park will help you spot wild elephants and explore limestone karsts, caves, rivers and jungles and make for a great overnight camping site. Needless to say, the jungles house a variety of wild flowers as well. Get that camera ready!

  9. The Friendly Elephants

    Thailand is home to a large number of elephants. Spot these friendly animals in the jungles or go elephant back riding through wooded areas, crossing rivers, past rice paddies and pineapple plantations to get a glimpse of rural life. The elephant Conservation Centre near Chiang Mai invites volunteers to help these magnificent animals against abuse. Do more than just being a tourist and volunteer at this centre .

  10. The Road less travelled

    Looking for some off-beat options? Head straight to North-Eastern Thailand – Isaan! The least frequented region hardly ever sees any tourists but will give you a perfect insight into the life of rural Thailand. With a lot of festivals taking place here and the ancient Khmer ruins and temples, travelling all the way to Isaan is totally worth it! Isolated from the tourist traffic, life in Isaan has barely changed and is very different from that in cities. It is a beautiful place to lose yourself in natural beauty!

Inputs from TS intern Shruti Mahajan

Point me to the world’s most beautiful flower fields.

“Earth laughs in flowers” said Ralph Waldo Emerson and there couldn’t be a better compliment. This summer you could share in the joy and spend your holidays surrounded by nature’s bounty. And where would you find it? Try these:



Softening the harshness of British winters, “a host of golden daffodils” greet you in the Cotswolds. It is as if their trumpet-shaped flowers are literally announcing the onset of spring! Picture yourself, Wordsworth-like, wandering ‘lonely as a cloud’, until you chance upon these brilliant beauties. So what if the cold winds are piercing your bones; the budding blossoms are sure to warm your heart. Standing amid the golden yellows and clear whites, you can picture yourself in your favourite summer dress and flip flops. So rent a cottage by a daffodil garden and let English countryside bless you with scented serenity.



Quick, blink; or the exploding colours might just blind you! Every year, spring brings to California, their most vibrant possession—Ranunculus. Over 50 acres of land stretches out like a colour palette in The Flower Fields of Carlsbad, California. Overlooking the blue Pacific, the field invites you to spend an entire day with picnic baskets, bicycles and cameras. If you are lucky, you might land up on a day when local entertainers are performing here, adding more colour to the proceedings! Spend a day here and dreams of the Ranunculus will stay with you all year, only to pull you back next spring.



The Lavender Fields of Provence are like potions or tonics of serenity. A whiff of the scent, a glimpse of the colour and a stroke of the texture is all you need to relax for a month! Sometimes, the lavender fields are surrounded by wheat fields which harvest at the same time. Ah! The sight of lavenders with golden wheat bands and sunlight in the background is no less than royal. The essence of the flowers yields healing homemade oils, handmade soaps and natural scents created in neighbouring farms and cottages.



A sea of sunshine on the bosom of the earth…that’s east Yunnan for you. It is as if a whimsical painter spilled a giant can of molten gold here. Neither sunshine nor gold, this is a cheery array of canola flowers, clustered together to create a visual spectacle. Set against the green-brown monotony of the hills, this floral farmland will have your camera as hungry as the bees here are for honey. Located just about 15 kilometres from Luoping town, the farmlands are easily accessible by bus. Trek your way to the 100-year-old Lingyin Temple at the top of one of the hills, to get the best view. Carry a bottle of rapeseed cooking oil back home, along with dozens of golden-yellow memories. But go now; the show is over by June.

Where are you headed to first?

I’m booking myself on VIA Rail Canada. Am I on the right track?

Imagine breathing in the wonders of pristine nature as your train winds its way through a vibrant landscape. From the Atlantic to the Pacific and the barren North to the bustling metropolitan hubs of the South — Canada remains unique at every turn.  Rail makes it possible to explore remote regions that today remain difficult to reach by other modes of travel.  img_2142Oh yes! Team TS travelled VIA Rail Canada–the national rail passenger service from Prince Rupert Island to Jasper, and it was a terrific experience all the way through.

Sit back and relax as the friendly crew abroad the VIA Rail network work hard to ensure a safe, comfortable and satisfying journey. VIA Rail operates almost 500 trains weekly across 12,500 kms, connecting 450 communities across Canada. The fleet includes 396 passenger cars and 78 active locomotives that serve 159 railway stations. 3386_photo_high_res_jpg On board, there’s a variety of factors that guarantee a memorable journey. For example, sumptuous food. Relish the best of Canadian delicacies prepared by renowned chefs. Take your pick from nourishing and delectable meals, such as gourmet cuisine made with rare ingredients served along with Canada’s finest wines. On the menu you will find, summer fresh hummus and crackers, fresh veggies and coriander wrap with sesame mayonnaise or the yummy Fourmi bionique gourmet mix. Sip on a glass of Diamond Estate Canadian red wine, as you enjoy the view rushing by the window. VIA Rail Canada   _sht7717 Remember to bring along your favourite old-time games – give the smartphones a rest. The skyline cars have tables and long bench seating perfect for card and board games. Also pack some music or a book, a camera for the spectacular views, comfortable footwear and sunglasses. _sht1968-lower-berth-night-time-1 _sht8927 VIA Rail is the best way to explore Canada’s diverse natural wonders, cultural attractions and proud history. If you are travelling with family, it couldn’t get better than this. For more about VIA Rail; Check out their Evolution blog. VIA Rail on Facebook and Twitter. Images:

Take me on a road trip through the Icefields Parkway, Canada.

Inputs from TS Intern Arushi Rajput.

An immaculate blend of blue and green, with streaks of white glaciers, lakes, waterfalls and the serene snow capped mountains – one glance at the Canadian Rockies and you’d forget to blink. Set amidst all this beauty, the Icefields Parkway is one of  the world’s most stunning roads you’ll ever come across.

Stretching all the way from Jasper to Lake Louise, the 232 km double-lane highway winds along the Continental Divide through rocky mountain peaks and vast sweeping valleys. Rated among the best in the world by both Conde Nast Traveler and National Geographic magazine, the Parkway lives up to its tagline – “The Most Spectacular Journey in the World.”


With every few miles travelled, you will be treated to some of nature’s masterpieces- the majestic waterfalls, the ancient glaciers, the liveliness of the fauna – all set within valleys of thick pine and larch forests. It’s a traveler’s dilemma when it comes to choosing where to stop and take it all in. Here’s a little help on getting the best out of your trip:

Columbia Icefields  Image:


There’s no dearth of hiking trails to choose from – short walks or long excursions, you an easily get acquainted with nature on foot.


This is a land with a unique blend of the natural elements. You can start with the Columbia Icefields, the weeping wall in Banff, the lakes and valleys.


Always be camera ready, you never know when you might find a mother bear and her cubs or a deer merrily grazing around (Seriously! Keep a safe distance though). But otherwise, in these parts, still-life isn’t that boring either.

Peyto Lake Image:
Peyto Lake Image:

Banff and Jasper National Parks

Here’s where you can admire the tumbling falls – Athabasca, Tangle and Sunwapta, and lakes like the ever-so-blue Peyto.

Lake Louise

The deep blue hues of the water is perfect to relax and refresh. However, if you don’t want to relax just yet, then there is a plenty to do here- rent a canoe, stroll along the river, go horseback riding or hike!

Can’t wait to go now? June to September is the best time to pack your bags for this road trip.

Know Before YOU Go:

This website can help you plan your trip.

More to read:

Cycling the Icefields Parkway

Roadtrippers – Driving Alberta’s Icefields Parkway

Monty’s Musings- RV trip on Icefields Parkway

A few stunning photographs by Peter Carroll





5 Unusual Easter Celebrations

Bring out the chocolate bunnies and dyed eggs – because the world is celebrating Easter today!

The most popular Easter tradition is to get together with family and friends, hunt for some eggs and have a sumptuous meal to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Though the significance of Easter remains the same around the world, many cultures and countries have their unique ways to celebrate the holiday. Here are few ‘out-of-the-basket’ traditions:

In Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands


In some parts of these countries, huge Easter bonfires are built, usually on Good Friday night or the night before Easter Sunday. These fires were originally built to keep the cold away. But now, it is a way to bring the community together.

In Czech Republic and Slovakia


Young men in traditional costumes beat girls and women with decorated handmade willow whips. The whipping is not meant to be painful and is believed to make women healthier and prettier. The women are also doused with water or thrown into rivers – for fun, of course!

In Bermuda


Flying home-made kites is a good way to spend Good Friday in Bermuda, especially at the Horseshoe Bay Beach. So, what’s the origin of this Easter tradition? “The legend says that a local teacher was trying to explain to his students during his Sunday school how Jesus elevated himself to Heaven by self power, i.e. about Christ’s Ascension. Since he could not convince the students, he launched a kite that looked like Jesus Christ to explain the matter.” (Source:

In Finland


It is believed that witches become more powerful during the festival of Easter and bonfires are lit to scare them off. Easter celebrations look like Halloween here, as children dress up as witches  and wander the streets searching for treats.

In Germany and Austria


They get to decorate trees twice a year – for Christmas, of course and Easter too! Instead of the twinkling lights and ornaments, pastel Easter eggs are used during this time of the year. The decoration typically begins a week before Easter Sunday. ABC News website says that a German family in the town of Saalfeld have decorated their apple tree with as many as 10,000 hand-painted eggs.

How are you celebrating Easter this year? Tell us if you are lucky to be a part of any unusual Easter celebrations around the world.

Happy Easter!

For more offbeat Easter celebrations and traditions, check this out.


What is “shoulder season” and why is it good for travel?

Shoulder Season falls between peak season and off season. So, you get many advantages. The weather is neither too hot nor too cold. The crowds have thinned out but are not absent. Airfares and hotel tariffs tend to dip slightly, so you have more money for shopping! The local tourist industry is now free from the pressure of catering to throngs, and you can expect better service.


According to Rick Steves, “Shoulder season varies by destination. Because fall and spring bring cooler temperatures in Mediterranean Europe, shoulder season in much of Italy, southern France, Spain, Croatia, and Greece can actually come with near peak-season crowds and prices. For example, except for beach resorts, Italy’s peak season is May, June, September, and October, rather than July and August. Paris is surprisingly quiet in July and August.”

Venice (43)

We at Travel Secrets try and stay away from even the best destinations during peak season, because the crowds can be simply too overwhelming. Last year in Florence and Venice, we found ourselves jostling and gasping for the most part. Taking photos ended up being a Click-and-Move affair in places, with the next person breathing down your neck.

A shoulder season trip to Switzerland, on the other hand, was pure relaxation. Under the mild September sun, it was blissful to walk down the quiet streets of Basel, taking in the crisp cool air and lazing by the Rhine. We could feel our lungs turn pink again:)

Basel by the Rhine River (1)Posted by Travel Secrets Editor Shubhra Krishan

Pix: TS Photo Editor Nitin Gopal Srivastava


The DUBLIN PARK(ING) DAY sounds like a cool green idea. Tell me more!

Once a year in the month of September, Dublin’s car parking spaces turn into public parks, games or art installations. Park(ing) Day is “intended to promote creativity, civic engagement, critical thinking, unscripted social interactions, generosity and play.”

Team TS happened to be there last September, and we couldn’t stop marvelling at some of the creative ideas on show at the parking lots.



(Image source:

Get all the details on this fun concept here.

Where in Maharashtra is Kalote Lake? Is it worth a visit?

Mansi Ghuwalewalla can help you with this one:

“When we leapt off our rickshaw (10 Rs. per head from the Karjat naka) at the turn for Kalote on the Mumbai-Pune highway, our expectations were quite moderate. We just wanted to find a relatively less crowded lake among the many that dot the Western Ghats during monsoon. Only, there was more in store.

As we followed two headloading village women and a mildly inebriated old man on a short uphill walk, Kalote village slowly revealed itself to us – an almost-still settlement around a lake circled by lush hills and howling wind.


My friend and I exchanged a look that said, this is not a scene, it’s a place. We were here to celebrate our

birthday, which falls on the same day. The whole thing felt symbolic in the way that it was just another day in this place. This place was itself everyday of its life. It just stayed there being this way. Anyway, our little ‘getaway’ had begun well.

A private property sat on an island in the lake. A couple of understated resorts, followed by a small village and a ‘dabdaba’ up ahead. The rest was all open spaces.


At the first resort, the lady (hands covered with flour) told us she had no rooms. Having had only ussal pav and chai at Karjat for breakfast, we were famished. At the next resort, Mrs. Khan sat on a swing, breaking coriander. She offered us a ‘package’ of Rs 1500 per head per day, with three meals. When we tried to bargain, she said, “the food is excellent” so matter of factly without as much as looking up from her dhaniya that I believed her. And good that I did. The food, simple and sumptuous, is just by the way in a place like this.

There’s a lot to do in Kalote – walk around, look around, walk around, laze around and look at the lake. You can’t go into it for a swim because that’s where the drinking water for the village comes from. ‘Dabdaba’ is the Marathi word for waterfall, and it’s your free, natural spa! The best part was walking barefoot to and into the waterfall and then becoming one of the rocks.


Well, that’s what we did for a day and a half. So good.

Even the highway feels like a different place in the monsoon. Especially when you’re in a rickshaw back into town and you know the air is going to smell its familiar smoky texture soon.

For Driving directions:

Use google maps to search for <18°52’4″N   73°17’3″E >”

I’m a hairdresser. Pl suggest a fun name for my shop!

Hair we go!  Inspiration from our Ireland album.DSC00690DSC00708DSC00705DSC00703

How can I use sketching as a medium for recording my travels?

We asked travel writer and sketch artist Candace Rose Rardon and here’s her answer along with some stunning sketches from her travels.

Ever since purchasing my first SLR camera when I was 13 years old, I’ve loved documenting my travels through pictures. But I gradually felt that the more photos I snapped on a trip, the more I wasn’t remembering places as vividly as I would have liked to. In a way, I was letting the machine do all the work, not my mind. And so just about three years ago, I decided to bring something else besides my camera with me on my next trip: A sketchbook and a pack of 12 watercolour pencils. I’ve now sketched my way through nearly 25 countries, and I couldn’t imagine a better medium for recording my travels.

Sketching slows me down, and opens my mind up to a new place. As I sit in the same spot for two or three hours, working on a sketch, my senses are on high alert, and I leave that spot with strong memories of all that I could see, smell, hear, and feel as I sketched.

Candace - Singapore sketch

Here’s how you can start sketching on your next trip:

Choose your gear

I always recommend keeping it simple. Don’t feel like you need to invest in an entire portfolio of painting supplies just to get started. Select a sketchbook with good quality paper – I suggest 140 lb. (300 gsm), so that the pages won’t buckle when you begin applying water and decide on what medium you’ll use, be it watercolour paints, pencils, pens, markers, etc. For paints, I love my Winsor & Newton watercolour field kit, which holds 12 colours and is easy to slip into whatever bag I’m using for a trip. I also use Staedtler pigment liner drawing pens and Derwent watercolour pencils.
Focus on a scene
Choose a scene that inspires you. Find a cafe or bench where you can sketch from, and think about what you’d like to focus on and what details you’ll include. Although you will soon develop your own style, I usually spend about 15 minutes laying out a sketch in pencil, an hour drawing the scene with pen, and then another 45-60 minutes bringing the scene to life with paints and watercolour pencils. During the drawing stage, I also like to write little annotations on the sketch – snippets of overheard dialogue, sensory observations, or even a line or two of how I’m feeling that day – anything that will instantly transport me back to that scene when I look at the sketch in the future.

Be open to serendipity
Although I’m grateful for the way that sketching helps me remember places, what I love most is how it opens the door to serendipitous encounters. When I’m sitting down with my sketchbook open, it’s amazing how often people will come up to me and peer over my shoulder. While sketching in the Bến Thành night market in Saigon, Vietnam, I met two local college students who invited me to draw with them the next day; in Mostar, Bosnia, I was invited into several local families’ homes after they saw me sketching outside; and sketching on-location in Istanbul’s bustling Grand Bazaar was a way to form a unique connection with Turkish carpet sellers. The people I meet through my sketches mean just as much to me as the paintings themselves.

Candace Rose Rardon bio photoCandace is a writer and sketch artist originally from the state of Virginia, although she has also called the UK, New Zealand, and India home. In addition to running her blog, The Great Affair, which was recently featured in the New York Times, she has also released her first book of travel sketches, Beneath the Lantern’s Glow: Sketches and Stories from Southeast Asia and Japan.

Check out more sketches on her blog:

You can get a copy of Beneath the Lantern’s glow here

I would like to be a professional travel writer. What’s your advice?

Jeroo & Gustasp Irani are the rockstars of Indian travel writing. Warm, gentle and amazing in their dedication to their profession, the couple boast a resume that reads like a travel writer’s dream. We met them in Spain, and requested them to share nuggets from their wealth of wisdom. Read and be inspired!

  • Be professional and that includes how you write, your dealings with editors and while on assignment.
  • Use words to communicate; not to impress or confuse.
  • Use images and enthusiasm rather than adjectives. For instance, instead of saying ‘a beautiful church,’ talk about how its reflection crinkled in rippling waters. Instead of saying you saw a tiger kill, describe it: the tearing of raw flesh – the stirring of primitive savage instincts you did not know lurked within you.
  • When recording history, especially up front in an article, remember you are writing a travel piece, not a history book. Of course, if there is an interesting anecdote then go ahead and use it.
  • Avoid lazy writing, such as listing things one can see and do. Talk about the experience.
  • When on assignment, get involved… dig into local food, culture, adventure activities. It adds punch to the story.
  • Know the publication you are writing for and write to their specifications.
  • Keep to your deadlines. Let editors know you are reliable
  • If you are invited on a press FAM (Familiarisation Trip), respect others on the trip and your host. Avoid being late and remember: this is not a holiday but an assignment.
  • Travel writing and photographs go hand in hand: you can’t have one without the other. So if you don’t have a camera, make sure you know where to get stock pictures to illustrate your article.
  • If you do carry a camera, respect the people you are taking photographs of
  • A fancy camera does not give you the right of way: the point-and-shoots have equal rights to taking pictures.




Q: When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Hanneli Slabber, Country Manager for South African Tourism in India, posed this wonderful question, and answered it in her own beautiful words. Read and be inspired!

Ms. Hanneli Slabber Country Manager, South African Tourism in India“When was the last time you did something for the first time?  This journey will be filled with experiences.  Learning is not a spectator sport.  Sometimes you need to be Batman.  So be Batman.  If you want it to be awesome, you may have to scrape your knee.

No legendary journey has ever come from playing it safe.  Life is about having those moments where you know:  I believe in this.  I am not finished.  I can do this.Those journeys come when you least expect, in places you least expect it and in ways you least expect it.  Keep wishing.  Keep dreaming.  Just maybe…because did you know the moon is 15 years away if you were to travel to the moon on a whale.”

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