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Sharell Cook

India Travel


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Does it Really Matter What Women Wear in India? (And Why)

Wednesday April 16, 2014
Woman in India.Getty Images/Thomas Brown.

Discussions about women's safety in India and what females (especially foreign tourists) should wear are seemingly endless and often heated. This is no doubt due to the wide range of opinions held and experiences had.

At one end of the spectrum, there are women who are determined to wear whatever they want (India is a hot country after all, and it can be uncomfortable to cover up all the time). At the other end of the spectrum, there are women who advocate dressing very conservatively (loose clothing, no legs or shoulders exposed) and even wearing traditional Indian attire. Read More...

Exploring India's 'Wild West': Kutch Gujarat

Monday April 14, 2014

Thanks to charismatic Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan (the Big B), who was recruited to be Gujarat's brand ambassador a few years ago, I'd been wanting to visit the state's vast and remote Kutch region ever since his promotional video of it was released. The video opens with him strolling across a surreal sea of white -- the salt desert. (You can watch it here in English and here in Hindi).

In the Hindi version of the video, he utters the now famous words, "Kutch nahin dekha, toh kuch nahin dekha". (If you haven't seen Kutch, then you haven't seen anything).

It certainly looked astonishing. Could such a place really exist? Read More...

The Best Boutique Hotels in Delhi

Thursday April 3, 2014
Dusit Devarana, Delhi.
Dusit Devarana, Delhi.

Dusit Devarana, a new 50 room luxury boutique hotel opened in Delhi in late 2013-- and what a property it is! If you have 18,000 rupees ($300) to splurge, you'll be able to stay in a lavish, spacious room with your own private pool deck and private entrance to the swimming pool.  One of the cheapest rooms will set you back around 12,000 rupees ($200) per night. All rooms come with a personal butler and are iPad controlled.

The hotel is set over eight acres of manicured grounds and has already won an award for its landscaping. Its architecture will make your jaw drop as well.

Don't have that kind of cash to splash?

Two More New Delhi Airport Hotels Finally Open!

Tuesday April 1, 2014
Holiday Inn, Delhi.
Holiday Inn, Delhi Airport.

At last, those who need to stay close to Delhi airport now have two more great new options -- the Holiday Inn and the Ibis hotels.  These two hotels finally opened for business last month, after facing long delays.

The Holiday Inn is a full service, four star international hotel chain. Rates start from around 6,000 rupees ($100) per night plus tax.

The Ibis is a well known economy hotel chain with an excellent range of facilities including outdoor heated swimming pool, gym, bar, and restaurant. Read More...

Once Upon My Kitchen: Eat Home Cooked Indian Food with Your Host

Monday March 31, 2014
Indian thali.
Indian thali.
Getty Images/Dinodia Photos.

The homestay concept has really caught on in India, with Indian families accommodating tourists in their homes all over the country.  It's a great way to enjoy personalized service, local knowledge, and to meet new people.

Therefore, it's not surprising that a platform has started for home cooks to also host guests in their homes and serve them the specialties they make.  Called Once Upon My Kitchen, it promotes the concept of social dining. It's like a pop up restaurant at home!


India Conde Nast Traveller's Hottest Destinations for 2014

Monday March 31, 2014
tigerTiger at Tadoba
Wikimedia Commons.

India's Conde Nast Traveller magazine recently came out with its list of the hottest destinations in the world for 2014 -- the coolest, newest, and most exciting destinations to visit. Two places in India were included.

Tadoba National Park, Maharashtra

Tadoba National Park is mentioned as an alternative to the larger and more well known Kanha National Park (it's also an excellent alternative to Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh if you want to see a tiger too).


Where to Stay in Delhi on a Budget

Sunday March 30, 2014
Jama Masjid, Delhi.
Jama Masjid, Delhi.
Alex Craig/Getty Images.

India's capital city, Delhi, is actually a great place to travel on a budget. Unlike Mumbai, the city has plenty of inexpensive hotels and guest houses that offer excellent value for money. It's possible to stay in decent enough accommodations in a convenient area of Delhi for under 1,000 rupees/$20 a night -- which is almost impossible in Mumbai.

Many people head to Paharganj, Delhi's backpacker district, which is full of cheap places to stay.  It's dirty, noisy, congested and overrun with touts though. Hence, it can be overwhelming for first-time visitors and off-putting even for experienced travelers. Read More...

India has Asia's 2nd Best Beaches in 2014 According to TripAdvisor

Monday March 24, 2014
Palolem beach hut.
Beach hut near Palolem, Goa.
Sharell Cook.

TripAdvisor.com recently released its 2014 Traveler's Choice Awards for the best beach destinations around the world.  The list features 322 beaches across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, South America, the South Pacific, and the US.

Not surprisingly, Thailand has the most award winning beaches in Asia. (For those of you who might be interested in Thailand's beaches, my colleague has put together a list of the Top 10 Beaches in Thailand).  However, India ranks second.  Six out of TripAdvisor's top 25 beaches in Asia are in India.


Rural and Community Based Tourism in Agra

Saturday March 22, 2014
Rural India, Agra.Scott R Barbour/Getty Images

If it wasn't for India's famous Taj Mahal, most tourists wouldn't bother visiting Agra. Those who do go there commonly say that it's a rather awful and unappealing city, dirty and full of touts. Hence, the Taj Mahal is popularly seen on a day trip from Delhi.

Surprisingly, Agra does have a few noteworthy lesser-known attractions though. One of them is community based tourism.


Poll: Should the Jaipur Elephant Festival be Canceled?

Sunday March 16, 2014

In Jaipur, a highlight of Holi celebrations is the annual Elephant Festival, which usually takes place on Holi eve every year. The festival features a traditional procession of heavily decorated elephants and other activities such as elephant tug-of-war. However, the event (which was due to take place today) has been canceled at the last minute, for the second year in a row this year. No doubt, many tourists, tourism operators, and elephant owners will be disappointed about it.

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