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Sharell Cook

India Travel Blog


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2014 Kerala Monsoon Discounts: Save Money While it Rains!

Monday May 12, 2014

The southwest monsoon is still a couple of weeks away from hitting the Kerala coast.  However, the state recently received torrential summer rain. According to this news report, two people were killed, train services were disrupted, and the Thrissur Pooram elephant festival was also affected.

Whilst such magnitude of rain is unusual for this time of year, Kerala is indeed a very wet state. It receives rainfall nine months of the year!  This could be off-putting for tourists. Yet, the Kerala Tourism department has effectively managed to transform Kerala into an all-seasons destination.  This has mainly been through its "Dream Season" campaign, which offers very attractive discounts on a wide range of accommodations and packages. Read More...

Cox & Kings to Replace BLS in the US for Indian Visa Processing

Monday May 5, 2014

In January this year, I mentioned that BLS would stop providing Indian visa processing services in the US in mid 2014. This occurred after months of complaints from frustrated travelers (you can read about it in this blog post, along with the hundreds of disgruntled comments left on this blog post).  The main issues were lengthy delays in the processing of applications, missing passports, and lack of responsiveness to customer inquiries.

So, what's going to happen?

This news report says that the Indian Embassy in Washington called for new bids from visa outsourcing companies in early February 2014.


Why the Palladium Hotel is One of Mumbai's Best Luxury Hotels

Monday May 5, 2014

The luxury Palladium Hotel opened up in Mumbai last year, and while it didn't get off to such a great start (it was initially part of the Shangri-la hotel chain, which quickly parted ways), it's certainly gone on to make quite an impression. As it should too, because the hotel has a lot going for it.

First of all, it's gorgeous! The decor is a combination of contemporary and ornate grandeur, and it's blended perfectly throughout the property.  There are plenty of chandeliers, marble, and paisley motifs.  It looks and feels very classy.

The hotel is situated quite close to its more established rival, the Four Seasons in Worli. Read More...

Asiatic Lion Lodge: New Eco Friendly Cottages at Gir National Park

Monday April 21, 2014

The summer heat has well and truly hit in India. However, wildlife enthusiasts will know that this is the best time to visit India's national parks, as the animals come out of hiding in search of water.

If you're planning on heading to Gir National Park in Gujarat to try your luck at spotting the Asiatic lion and love spending time in the great outdoors, you might want to check out the brand new Asiatic Lion Lodge.


Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh Now Accessible by Rail

Friday April 18, 2014
Itanagar, Arunachal Pradesh.
www.flickr.com user rajkumar1220

After a long wait, Indian Railways has finally reached Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh in India's remote Northeast region.  This makes Itanagar only the second capital city out of the eight Northeast states to be connected by rail. Guwahati, in Assam, was the first.

Previously, the nearest railway station to Itanagar was at Harmuti in Assam, around 25 kilometers away.


India Extends Tourist Visa on Arrival Facility to South Korea

Friday April 18, 2014

Well, that was a surprise! The Indian government has extended its tourist visa on arrival facility to citizens of the Republic of Korea (South Korea), effective from April 15, 2014.

The action follows an agreement that was made between the two countries in March 2012 to simplify visa procedures.   The Indian Prime Minister further assured the South Korean President, during her official visit to India in January 2014, that the visa on arrival facility would be made available to South Korean citizens.


Sita Cultural Center Introduces Bicycle Tours of Pondicherry

Thursday April 17, 2014
Customized retro bicycle.
Customized retro bicycle.
Sita Cultural Center.

If you're visiting Pondicherry and can bear to tear yourself away from all the gorgeous boutiques and restaurants, Sita Cultural Center is an excellent place to go to learn about south Indian arts and culture, including music, cooking, dance, and Ayurveda.

Recently, Sita partnered up with My Vintage Byciclette (a company that transforms old bicycles into groovy, retro-style masterpieces) to offer early morning bicycle tours of Pondicherry. Read More...

The Mostquito Menace at Mumbai Airport Terminal 2

Thursday April 17, 2014
Terminal T2, Mumbai Airport
Terminal T2, Mumbai Airport.
Image: MIAL.

If you've traveled through Mumbai airport's new Terminal 2 at night, you're likely to have been savaged by mosquitoes.  Unfortunately, the terminal is infested with them and it's become a huge problem.

I experienced it myself when I returned to Mumbai in mid March.  The mosquitoes started attacking me inside the ground level of the terminal, while I spent 20 minutes in the queue for the prepaid taxi counter.

That wasn't the worst of it though. There were swarms of mosquitoes outside, in the area where the prepaid taxis wait. My non air-conditioned cab was full of them.  Read More...

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...

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