Mini Switzerland of India – Khajjiar

Our one hour zig-zag journey from Dalhousie in the green Chamba range seemed rewarding once we reached Khajjiar. Its nickname truly justifies the natural beauty present there. Khajjiar sits on a small plateau with a small stream-fed lake in the middle that has been covered over with weeds. The hill station is surrounded by meadows and forests.

 

To make things better, an array of snack shops and small restaurants cater to the needs of the tourists. We eagerly grabbed a table with the most scenic view or should I say, every sitting had a beautiful view. After gulping down the north-Indian thali and feeding the little one, we went forward with our venture.

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Our little one was happy to play with rabbits available there by vendors who charged a nominal amount if you wished to get clicked with the furry animal. We also bought football for him and he could not help but kept running on the lush green field. We spotted cattle comprising of sheep, horses, cows and bulls. Our little one was delighted to see his farm book coming to life.

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Though the center of the field was muddy and difficult to get through, we kept ourselves on the periphery of the field and enjoyed a lot. My husband took the little one for a little horse-riding experience in the thin lanes of the mountains. Soon, it was time to return.

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‘Do I look scared ?’

Overall, I found Khajjiar to be a very child-friendly destination. Only negative was reaching there as it was quite an adventure. On peak days, you can be stuck in traffic-jams on the thin curvy hilly road for more than two-three hours. Luckily, we did get back in time to Dalhousie.

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Thinking about the next mischief 😉
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FIVE MUST DO ACTIVITIES IN NAINITAL WITH TODDLER

Our short but sweet trip of Nainital would not have been perfect if we would have side-lined our toddler’s interest. With a wide array of fun-filled activities which take place in this scenic Himalayan valley, there are a few options which we must not miss at all. So, our top five picks are as follows:

  1. Visit to the Governor House

Being the only governor’s house open for visitors in India, this place still is not marked as one of the most visited places here. Maybe due to strict time-limits of entry and exit which has to be made in groups at the main gate of the Raj Bhawan which happens at precisely 11 am everyday except Tuesday.

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Governor’s house, Nainital

Constructed on the lines of the Bukinghum palace, this monument is spectacular to look at. The sprawling campus gives it the much needed peaceful surroundings and highlights its beauty. Apart from its own golf ground, it also consists of a marvelous garden and Swimming Pool. Our little one had a great time enjoying the gardens and running uphill/downhill.

2. Boating in the Naini Lake

Boats with peddle were not an option for us due to our naughty kid. So we took the brave step of boarding the vintage gondola boat.Though the boats used in this lake seem to be very risky, but the oarsmen know their job. And contrary to our expectations, we had a wonderful ride. We enjoyed the serenity and beauty and the freshness of the air so much that we took another ride through the lake. Not to mention our toddler loved it.

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Boating in Nainital with a wonderful rainbow in the background

3. Stroll in the Mall Road

No visit to any hill-station in India can be regarded as complete without the customary visit to the mall road. Mall roads are primarily the most busy street of any hill stations where tourists are found in abundance due to the availability of numerous eating & shopping joints. What we loved about the mall road here in Nainital was that it is free of any vehicle, even rickshaw after 6 pm making it a  very interesting place to relax with a kid. We bought a small toy with wheels from a side shop and our kid had a great time riding it throughout the Mall road.

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Mall Road, Nainital (notice the wheel)

4. Visit to the Shyamkhet Tea Garden

People in India are so used to tea gardens in Kerala, that they forget their presence in North India as well (since the terrain for their production is same). But since, I always wanted to visit one, we made our decision to visit this garden. It was just an hour drive. Though it was not a very large garden but it was enough to satisfy our curiosity. We got some really good tea from there as well which they claimed to be free from any chemicals and totally organic.

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Tea Garden of Nainital

5. Visit to the Nainital Zoo

We can never miss any zoo when we are traveling with our baby simply because he is so fond of all the animals. And its always great to let him see all the wild beasts in real. We must say that the Nainital zoo was above our expectation and we were pleased by the staff over there. They also let you adopt an animal and contribute your share to them.

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Nainital Zoo

NAINITAL (Interlaken of India)

Nainital is one of the most famous hill stations in India and it lies in Uttarakhand over the Kumaon foothills of Himalayan range. Its a beautiful valley containing a huge natural lake which is surrounded by mountains on sides. Easily accesible from the capital, we reached Kathgodam by train and took a taxi to reach our hotel in Nainital. The train journey is very comfortable and takes around 5 to 6 hours. The drive from Kathgodam to Nainital takes around an hour and half.

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On our short visit to one of the most famous hill stations in India: Nainital, we were astonished and mesmerized by its natural beauty. July happens to be a low season in Nainital due to monsoon but we were glad to visit it during what i can safely say to be the second most beautiful time of the year in Nainital (first being the scintillating snow clad mountains during December and January). Going in a low season has its own set of advantages (hotels are cheaper and its less crowded) and disadvantages (many activities like river-rafting are closed).

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We were greeted by milky cloud all around. Even during our arrival in our taxi, we travelled through misty clouds and it was literally like we were walking in the clouds. The hazy weather made for an outstanding picture with the serene Naini lake in between the Kumaon hills all covered with heavy clouds. but at the same time, the colouful gondolas popping up in the lake made for one of the most picturesque scenery which one could capture in their eyes and imprint it in the memory for a very long time.

With numerous retaurants and cafes, and with a bundle of activities, Nainital was not a disappointment at all. The mall road which spreads alongside the lake is restricted for only pedestrians after six in the evening, making it an awesome place for evening strolls. Its surrounding mountains, with dense forests has numerous hiking trails.It was a great trip , the details of which I will be posting in my next post.

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CHOKI-DHANI (The perfect glimpse of Rajasthan)

Jaipur is one of the most convenient destinations from Delhi when it comes to impromptu travel plans. Good railways, roads and air transportation connect Delhi and Jaipur. So, every time we travel to Jaipur, we try to experience something new. Therefore, this time, we took a trip to the much-acclaimed Choki-Dhani.

Choki-Dhani is a mock village for travellers to have a real time experience of an Indian village. It literally means ‘ special village’. And true to its name, it is a wonderful and unique experience for all tourists.

Choki-Dhani has a unique entertainment style, which includes conventional forms like traditional dancers (who dance with a stack of clay pots on their head). Acrobats who will do their best to provide a spectacular show without any formal training like walking on a tightrope or riding two bicycles at the same time.

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This cultural village has a special section dedicated to children that include fun activities like slides (again, with clay finishing, to give the appearance of a village). They also have a tunnel for kids to hide and play. There are also some swings for the kids.

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Apart from these activities, there are various royal rides like the ride on an elephant, horse-cart and even a camel. Sadly, we were not able to click any good picture of them but they were all fun especially for our little traveler.

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A maze, which is again made up of clay, is present in the center of the village for a thrilling experience. There are different snack shops and souvenir shops throughout the site.

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There are also other areas of interest like the waterfall and boat ride in the man made lake. There is a copy of Vaishno devi temple for the devotees. The epic battle of Haldighati and its glorious history is recreated at Chokhi Dhani cultural village through giant statues and amazing light and sound setting.

 

There are open-air restaurants which give you the perfect surrounding of any village house with walls made up of soil and lights lit by traditional oil lanterns. To add to the experience, the food served is the delicious authentic thali (full Indian meal). There is also a royal Rajasthani thali, which is served in an air-conditioned hall.

At the end, we had great family fun at shooting arcade. They give you wooden rifles and you have to shoot the balloons to gain the gift. What attracted me most was the manual wooden bowling alley, where the people employed were picking the bowling pins and passing it on. The darts and other such feast games were also present.

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Overall, it was an excellent experience with our little one. There was so much to do in so little time as the village opens at five in the evening till eleven in the night. The competitive advantage of this cultural village lies in its effortless layout, which depicts an average Indian village with authentic village stuffs including the numerous Charpai (wooden beds woven with ropes) spread all over the village.

WEEKEND GETAWAY AT AAMBY VALLEY,MAHARASHTRA

Aamby Valley City is one of India’s best-planned city and has been regarded as a benchmark in urban planning and designing. Well connected with roads, its easily accessible, though in order to enter, one must have a booking at any one of its hotels. It’s a picturesque place with lots of amazing spots and that is why it is one of the most favorite places for grand destination weddings. The city incorporates luxury, business convenience, leisure and entertainment.

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Upon entering this luxurious and ultra clean city, we were awed by its resemblance with any European city. The Shayadri mountain range encircles the whole city making it visually attractive. Grand statue of Bharat Maa greeted everyone right at the entrance.

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The Timber Chalets are Swiss-style cottages which are available on rent and make an ideal weekend getaway from Mumbai or Lonavala. The teak wood finishing adorns the cabins completely and makes them very pleasing to look at.

Lush greenery adorns the whole valley. And beautiful structures in the form of huge pillars, elephants and so on are found everywhere in the valley.

Recreational activities in the form of Ayurvedic massages, Disco, various specialized restaurants of vivid cuisines, horse riding, toy-train ride and water taxi (which is actually a bus) gives people of all ages almost everything to have fun over the weekends.

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AAMBY VALLEY

 

How to have a great trip with a Baby

When we become parents, everything around us changes to such an extent that we forget that we are still the same people. I strongly question the mindset of people who think that they cannot travel once they have a kid. How come when we are eating and sleeping and doing all the things we did earlier (with variations of course), we think travel is not meant for us? We just have to be cautious and plan the travel well to have fun with our babies. Some handy pointers for the same will be :

Choosing the location

This is the most important factor contributing to the success of one’s vacation. The location of the vacation must be selected properly after analyzing various factors like : weather, flight time, safety and infrastructure of the place. Most importantly, the place should be baby-friendly with access to pram to most places.

Choosing the flight

The correct flight will be the one which matches the nap time of your baby. We also have to keep in mind the travel time. In case of long flights, we need a stop-over and in case of short flight timings, we must aim for direct flights to further decrease the traveling time.

Carrying proper food items for the baby

Be it a flight, train or car, we must always carry baby-food. We always have hot water in an insulated container along with baby milk powder and other such things which has a larger shelf life,for example vegetable munchies, chips, puffs. Once we are at our destination, we can make healthy food and buy fresh fruits.

Keeping all baby-care products handy

Besides the food and diaper bag,a proper handbag for baby stuffs like toys, pillows, blankets and other such things which either comforts or distracts the baby (in case he is not in a good mood) is also necessary.

Choosing a Proper Hotel

Its best to choose an apartment or a suite over a hotel room. It is advisable as it gives us the flexibility of making different baby food as well as it tends to be bigger, thereby providing a bigger play area for the baby.

Choosing the Itinerary

Visiting all the important sites and vacation spots at a particular location should be done in a leisurely fashion with proper breathing spaces with the baby. Preferring one place a day has better chances of giving you a better holiday rather than squeezing numerous sites and activities on a single day.

Nap Time

Even on vacations, its best to let your child sleep properly so that they enjoy the whole trip. Many of my friends skip nap-time to utilize the maximum holiday time but this always results in making the child cranky who will not enjoy anything he sees or does.

Let the Child Enjoy

If we stick to our cameras and keep posing with our children, there is no point in going for a vacation. Although we should click pictures but we should not overdo them. Until the child finds himself free, he will not be involved in exploring which is what makes a good traveler.

Though, this list works for me and I had great holidays with my baby but there might be more to it.

Sojourn in Italy of India – Lavasa

On a business trip to Pune, we planned to spend a day in Lavasa. Based on the Italian town Portofino, Lavasa is a privately planned city built near Pune. It can be easily said to be one of the most beautiful man-made place in India.

The artistic corridor parallel to the lake has hotels and cafe on one side and lake on the other side. Its a beautiful sight not only in day-time but also at night. There were plenty of activities for children. We arrived by evening and stayed at Mercure hotel. After having a stroll on the riverside, we called it a night and planned for an early day the next day.

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LAVASA AT NIGHT

We were greeted by sumptuous breakfast at the hotel who were helpful in preparing baby food as well. There were variety of options for kids on the lakeside. We started with toy-car ride and then we went for two-seater bicycling. After that, we went for boating in the lake which was quite refreshing in the sun. There was a place with family games options but our little one was too young to enjoy that.

Out of numerous dining options, we chose to have lunch at the Country club which offered a panoramic view of the lakeside and town. The club provides a plethora of leisure facilities that include a world-class spa, restaurants, a pub, a gymnasium and indoor games. The time was well spent over there too and we had fun. In short, top activities to do in Lavasa with a baby will be :

  • Boating
  • Cycling
  • Ride on toy cars
  • Train rides
  • Game arcade