Bengal pictures, Rural Bengal, Bengal countryside

“Romance with the innocent charms of Rural Bengal. Have a lazy morning tea, walk around the local villages, play with children, spend an evening by the rice paddies or tea gardens and end the day with a platter of home cooked fish and rice”

Rajasthan pictures, Rural Rajasthan, Rajasthan countryside

“Hike or Bike. Find your own way around Bundi Countryside and discover the tribes in their natural habitat co-existing with cattle and green pastures. Explore historic rock paintings and erotic temples”

Assam pictures, Rural Assam, Assam countryside

“Across the mightly Brahmaputra lie the origins of Neo-Vaishnavism in India. Spend few weeks with the 40 Vaishnavite sects of Majuli Island

Rajasthan pictures, Rural Rajasthan, Rajasthan countryside, Jodhpur

“Skip Jodhpur, explore the nearby villages. Experience the innocent Smiles from Rajasthan, play with children, have spicy food, sleep under the stars, go for a morning walk and discover an ancient sea bed”

Bhutan pictures, Rural Bhutan, Bhutan countryside

"Drive into a sleepy Last Shangri-La and spend a week with the worlds happiest people, find precariously perched monasteries and soak your feet in the emerald waters of Paro Chhu. Love Bhutan."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why You Should 'Never' Visit Greece

Before you get carried away by the photographs of Greece, the blue and white houses, and turquoise blue waters, I must warn you about why you should never go to Greece. I traveled to attend TBEX and was blown by the unexpected experiences with the locals and their lifestyle. Here is the list of warnings -

1. Greek Food - Greek food will churn your stomach upside down and have you crave for it long after you are back in your country. The aroma of Souvlaki that I had almost every day still haunts my senses. It's a pity that I can't find it in India. Juicy pieces of pork, chicken or lamb gently roasted with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, finger chips and Tzatziki sauce over pita bread.. Uh! I should go and eat something now before I write further.

Souvlaki
Souvlaki | Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons
 Now that I am back after a meal, I remember the Greek salads packed with green leafy vegetables, slabs of cheese, tomatoes, olives (like LOTS of olives), olive oil and local spices. If you want to avoid my plight, please don't visit Greece.


Greek Salad | Image Source: www.katherinemartinelli.com



2. The Hugs and Kisses - Greeks will hug you and kiss you on both cheeks no matter how many times you meet in a day. Kisses might be too much in India but I have stopped shaking hands now with people. I only hug them. If you are allergic to lots of love, please don't visit Greece.

3. Their love for wine - Within few days, we were offered complimentary wine twice in restaurants because the host liked our conversations and our love for him. We were overwhelmed with the gesture and were short of words for him. As they say, love shows on the face. And it was evident on our hosts face while he offered us local wine in jugs.

Greek Wine
Image Source: www.yenra.com
4. Their parties and boozing - I confess that I crashed into a Halloween party in Athens uninvited. Later I realized that most of us were uninvited and so I felt at home. After drinking till three in the morning and dancing to the music, when Greeks finally started to swing under the effect of alcohol they started hugging each other. They hugged, kissed, laughed and danced together. I was wary that after drinking so much they might become violent or abusive and start breaking things. If you don't like such surprises, don't visit Greece.

5. Flirting is their lifestyle - Not for jerks like me but women might get a surprise flower or a flattering compliment as they walk on streets. Someone might even sing a song for you and propose you for marriage. As I saw with women, they were quite flattered. After all flirting runs in the blood of Greeks. They got to be smooth at it. If you don't like flattery and flowers, don't visit Greece.

Image Source: www.wikipedia.org
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Gaurav Bhatnagar

Gaurav Bhatnagar



Travel Writer, Photographer, Public Speaker, Entrepreneur in Rural Travel @ www.thefolktales.com. As a travel writer, my work is published in The Hindu, Huffington Post, National Geographic Traveler and The Alternative

Sunday, October 12, 2014

How travelling changed my outlook

City dwellers like me are brought up with stories that people are bad. When we are children, we are fully self expressed and free. As we grow up, we are taught to be careful. We are taught to judge and evaluate others and situations. I am not sure about other countries, but media in India mostly show all the bad things happening with people, scandals and robberies. Here are few things that I learnt from society as I grew up and travelling changed it completely.

P.S. - Luckily, my family always stood by me. [Read: How my family helped me become a better travel writer]

1. Know your limits and do not think beyond it: I have heard this statement many times as I grew up. Sometimes from family, sometimes friends and sometimes teachers. I believed them for a while, but today I apologize to all of them because I choose to defy what they said.

Motorbiking in the mountains of Northern Thailand was a big breakthrough for me. Before that I had never driven either outside India and or in the mountains. [Read: Motorbiking in Northern Thailand]. During my travels, I learnt that most of the limits are in our mind and that they do not exist in reality. I learnt that if I could clearly see my limits, I will have a choice to go beyond them


2. This world is full of bad people: I am not going to ask you to act stupid. If you are going to walk on a deserted street with a garland of money you will most probably get robbed. But, this world is not filled with bad people either. Travelling has developed an intuitive sixth sense within me that always comes into play. Living with varied communities and people has enabled me to sense a situation.

There is no defined formula for it. It comes intuitively as we meet more and more people from various parts of the world. I was almost robbed in Paris. The thugs did not find anything and let me go. I don't know how but my intuition said that I had to leave everything at home before going out. On the other hand, a stranger helped me find my way to the hostel late at night when I lost the way on a highway in Thailand [Read: Getting lost in the wilderness of Northern Thailand].

3. If a person has money and status, he will be respected: On the contrary, when I travelled I saw that those who lived life out of passion, respected and loved people got respect in return. I met a couple living in the Himalayas of Uttarakhand who had spent their life working to make the region more environmentally sustainable. From their faces, they radiated a life well lived.

And then I met a couple that lives in the rice fields of Northern Thailand and runs a youth hostel. They migrated from Australia and chose to live here. I am sure the sunrise and fresh air every morning makes their life worth it.

I asked myself - "How much money do I need?" And I got the answer - "Enough to travel this world and live a life of fulfillment". Fulfillment has different meanings for different people. For some it may mean acquiring the latest gadgets or collecting cars which is also fine. For me, it is 'Collecting Experiences'. It also does not mean that I want to live poor. It is just that I disassociate my happiness from money. [Read: How I fund my travel]

4. Do not let others know about your fears: "You are afraid of the other person as much as the other person is afraid of you". It is true for us in every conversation. We just don't show our fears. After all we are brought up in an environment that defines fear = weakness and a lot of other things. Acknowledging my fears and being authentic has helped me build relationships with strangers. After all how could an engineer whose life was confined in a cubicle find people from a completely different realm.

5. Ones life is already decided by some norms: I called up a friend one day to congratulate him on the new house he had bought. He said, "I am very happy, I have now fulfilled all the criteria to get married". I asked him if he bought the house to fulfill another criteria or because 'he wanted' to buy it. He had no answer. Probably he didn't understand what I asked.

Celebrating Holi with Kumaoni community (Year: 2014)
We study not to learn but to get good marks and compete with other students. We choose a stream of study because others are doing it. We complete our higher studies for a job. When we get a job, we do not celebrate. We now want credit cards, mobile phones, cars or loans to buy things we do not need. We do all of this to get a good life partner ('No idea who defines the term good in this case'). When we get a life partner, we are under pressure to start a family, then give up our desires once again. Then we grow old and die. When will we live in the moment? We don't even know what living in the moment means. At the end of it, we will be nothing but a handful of ash over which a street dog will come and relieve himself. I asked myself - "Who has decided these norms for us? Do we really need to follow them?"

While travelling, I met people who had been courageous enough to follow their heart. They had to give up their fears, some material things and some unwanted comforts. But they were happier than many others I usually encountered in my corporate job.

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Gaurav Bhatnagar

Gaurav Bhatnagar



Travel Writer, Photographer, Public Speaker, Entrepreneur in Rural Travel @ www.thefolktales.com. As a travel writer, my work is published in The Hindu, Huffington Post, National Geographic Traveler and The Alternative

From Business Analyst to Travel Writer

This is the first time that I am sharing on the blog about my journey from an engineer to a business analyst to a Travel Writer. My journey may not have been as dramatic as someone who sells off all his stuff one day and embarks on a world tour. It has taken me three years and meticulous planning from the time I wrote the first blog entry.

Back in 2008, when I travelled to UK for an assignment with British Telecom, I saw many people travelling for the sake of discovering themselves. They would live off a backpack, stay in youth hostels and meet many locals. On the contrary, the concept of travelling in India is quite different. For most of the people in India, travelling still means visiting relatives during festival or taking a week off from job to visit hometown. Experiencing another form of travel in Europe triggered an inner calling to discover myself [Read: How travelling changed my outlook].

My first solo backpacking trip to Switzerland was out of impulse because none of my fellow colleagues were ready to come. They were hesitant because of the expenses involved. I am thankful that they did not come because it made me spend time with myself in a country that does not speak English. Communicating in sign language with a bus driver who spoke only German when I had to find my way to the hostel in a small town was a thrilling experience.

Solo trip in Montreaux Switzerland
Montreaux, a small French speaking town in south of Switzerland (Year: 2009)
For people around me, it was strange to see someone go on a solo trip. Many Indian families whom I met in Switzerland looked at me with skepticism. They had many questions and wondered that what can I possibly do travelling alone. I overheard one comment - "He is crazy". And I must confess - I loved it.

My dormant desire to explore countries that I once use to look at in my pocket atlas was resurfacing. Soon I found myself exploring France where I found art and music on every street. It was like being transported to another world that took over my senses. Having mulled wine on the banks of Seine [Read: Mulled wine in Paris] was a cherry on the top of cake. It was during the economic slum of 2009 that I came back to India.

Life again took over and a person with insatiable desire to travel followed a 9-5 schedule for three years. Years passed trying to prove myself at work; work that I did not enjoy doing. The whole atmosphere of cut throat competition of proving oneself and of excelling in anything that you are asked to do took a toll on me. In spite of the many opportunities I was getting to manage a team and get promotion, my performance was declining.

It was during November 2012, when I decided to ditch everything for a month and do a solo backpacking trip to Thailand [Read: Discovering untouched Northern Thailand]. That journey where I lived like a local, cooked myself, explored untouched places and even got lost on a highway at night [Read: Getting lost in Thai countryside at night] set me on a path of no return. It was clear that I wanted to make a living by travelling this world. I just had to find a means to do it [Read: Ways to earn money by travelling].

Northern Thailand
Northern Thailand (Year: 2012)

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Gaurav Bhatnagar

Gaurav Bhatnagar



Travel Writer, Photographer, Public Speaker, Entrepreneur in Rural Travel @ www.thefolktales.com. As a travel writer, my work is published in The Hindu, Huffington Post, National Geographic Traveler and The Alternative

Ways to earn money by travelling

Traditionally, when one thinks of travelling, they think of expenditure. It is still an alien concept for many when we say - 'You can earn money by travelling'. It was alien for me also couple of years ago but being an avid follower of channels like National Geographic and Discovery, I knew that there are some people out there who are having one hell of a time and getting paid for it.

There are many ways you can get paid to travel. It will obviously not be a cakewalk and you will have to do meticulous planning with lots of trial and error. Here are some of my recommendations:

1. Learn a new language: If you have a thing for new languages, you may want to learn few of them. Apart from English which is the most widely spoken language in the world, you can learn French. Other than France of course, French is spoken in Canada, Switzerland, parts of Italy and most of the north African countries. Spanish is spoken in most of Latin American and South American countries. If you get good hold over these languages, varied opportunities of jobs will be available for you including being a translator or a tour guide that involves considerable travel and meeting new people. You could even teach the language once you become an expert.

Some of the good school of Languages in New Delhi are:


Learn a new language | Image Source: www.languagediscount.com
2. Volunteerism: Many people choose to volunteer in a school or a Non profit organization in Asian or African countries. Sometimes they are paid a stipend and sometimes not. However, if you build up a good profile and are really passionate about contributing and adding value, you can get good stipend for you work.

Some of the good websites to find volunteer jobs are:

a) Volunteermatch.org, b) Idealist.org, c) HandsOn Network

3. Become a photographer or a travel writer or both: This requires a lot of passion for the work. I mean, you can be a photographer or writer only if you really want to be one. And travel is what ultimately follows if you are good at it.

Over time it is very important to find a niche in both Photography and Writing. If you deliver good content and have good number of readers, you may get invited by a tourism board for FAM trips. You can also be an expert in one very specific area like, wine tasting, Italian cuisine, bicycling in northern Spain, or spiritual tourism. That will help you grow as an expert and you will soon be much sought after.

However, a nice or good number of readers do not happen overnight. Many Travel Writers start but soon give up out of impatience. Meticulous planning and patience is needed to be good at it.

Be a Travel Writer or Photographer | Image Source: www.floresfactor.wordpress.com
4. Take up a job on cruise ship: If you love to travel and be in hospitality sector, you might want to consider various jobs on a cruise ship. Although working on a cruise ship requires lot of work since you will be serving tourists, but your work will involve a lot of travelling nationally and internationally. Most of the jobs on cruise ship are well paid with all the expenses taken care of.

5. Jobs in hotels or resorts: Hotels and resorts are generally at tourist places and can offer a great opportunity for interaction with travelers. Many resorts have openings for bar tenders, scuba diving instructors, or performers. If you are good at these things, there are many opportunities for you to work with resorts all over the world. Most of these jobs require training and certification. So you really have to be good at the job to be in demand.

Share with us a new work type that lets you travel a lot

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From Business Analyst to Travel Writer
How travelling changed my outlook
How I fund my travel
How my family helped me become a better travel writer

Gaurav Bhatnagar

Gaurav Bhatnagar



Travel Writer, Photographer, Public Speaker, Entrepreneur in Rural Travel @ www.thefolktales.com. As a travel writer, my work is published in The Hindu, Huffington Post, National Geographic Traveler and The Alternative

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Rural Tourism - Myths and Reality

This article is an edited copy of the original that was published in - The Folk Tales

In the last one year that I have been travelling in villages, I have come across many questions from other travelers on Rural Tourism that makes me understand the need to answer them on a public forum. Rural Tourism is still a new concept in India, and, as expected there are many questions around it. Here are some of the common questions and beliefs that people have which are nothing but myths. Here are some of the myths about Rural Tourism -

1. Rural tourism is unsafe: If someone was destined to get mugged, it can happen in a flashy metropolitan as well. Over the last two years since I have been travelling to villages, I have found them safer than the cities. I have grown up in Delhi and can clearly see the difference in safety, hospitality, warmth and a sense of community in a city and in a village. We have had solo female travelers, couples, children and families who have felt safer in villages.

It also depends on the organization you are traveling with and the amount of ground work they have done with locals before sending you. Usually, it takes months if not years to train locals in tourism and its aspects.

Tip: Check the authenticity and professionalism of the organization you are travelling with. Look for their sustainability practices.

Rural travel India
Intercultural interaction between students from Dublin and local community in Kumaon
Rural tourism India The Folk Tales
Indians also prefer it in large numbers and find it safe
2. Rural tourism = Discomfort: Rural does not always mean a dilapidated shack where you will have to sleep on the floor under the light of an oil lamp. In the last point I spoke about training. A responsible organization will always train locals on sanitation. Emphasis will be given on clean beds and washrooms. Rural tourism is a great way to give sustainable living to locals. And cleanliness is one of the basic requirements that any responsible Rural Travel company will take into account.

Tip: Check the facilities and photographs and ask your questions freely

Rural Travel Rajasthan The Folk Tales
Village stay in Rajasthan. A lot of hardwork goes behind transforming the villages
Rural travel India The Folk Tales
I find such places more peaceful and clean to stay at rather than a hotel
Rural Travel India The Folk Tales
I find such places more peaceful and clean to stay at rather than a hotel
3. Rural tourism costs nothing, so why charge for it: What I mentioned in last point about sustaining local communities brings me to the next point on charging. Most of the Rural population is currently being trained under western education system on learning computers and English and moving to cities. As a result cities are over burdened and villages are getting empty. Rural tourism is not different from any other form of tourism where you pay. The only difference is, your money goes directly to a local family and immediate community. A responsible community based tourism initiative will always give entrepreneurial opportunities to locals so that they do not have to migrate to cities. As a result, many art forms, languages, music, dances, and cultures are preserved. Rural tourism has the power to make these aspects an asset rather than a burden.

4. World is moving towards urbanization, why villages?: We are not against urbanization. It is just that we see the impacts of it in the form of cut-throat competition which leads to increasing crime, struggle for limited resources, degrading levels of cleanliness, impacts on our health and stress levels and a constant question in everyone's mind as to who they really are. After having lost connection to our roots, we are neither completely western nor Indian. Moreover, we are loosing warmth and sensitivity towards our people, trust, love and responsibility towards our environment. Mahatma Gandhi once said - "The future of India lies in its villages". This does not mean we remain backward, uneducated or poor. Everyone has the right to live a beautiful life. But only till the time that lifestyle does not begin to take a toll on those very humans it was meant for.

Rural Tourism is a tool to create a balance between urbanization and Rural lifestyle. This is very important for us to sustain.

Rural travel India The Folk Tales
Local women in Kumaon who play an integral role in Rural Tourism
5. The food and water will be below standard and unhygienic: Really? These days we are putting water purifiers in our homes and depending on mineral water because our rivers are too dirty to supply clean drinking water. Fruits and vegetables supplied in market are rubbed with oil to make them shine and injected with artificial colors to make them look beautiful. Our children are getting dependent of medications at an early age. Cancer has become as common as headache. The air we breathe in cities is so poisonous that many species of birds that once thrived have now either migrated or become extinct. Our children fall ill if they are left to play on a street. With each passing day, they are getting dependent on air-conditioned homes only.

On the other hand, I have seen 60 year old women climb a mountain daily and still manage to stay fit without any medicine. They do not need any cosmetics to look beautiful or to prevent their skin from sagging. I don't suggest that we should leave our homes and all migrate to villages. The point is, we are living in a myth. I have had some of the best organic food in villages cooked in homemade spices and butter. I have drank water from rivers and waterfalls and have never fallen ill. And I have played in mud and it only increased my immunity.

Rural Tourism is a way to bridge this gap. We do not want you to leave cities. We want you to become sensitive towards environment, our impacts on it and on how we can become responsible.

For more photos of local food we have tasted during our village travels, click here

Rural travel organic food India
Fish curry and rice at a homestay in Bengal
Rural travel Organic food India
Traditional Limboo Tribal food I had in Sikkim homestay
6. What is the difference between you and a Travel Agent: No difference except that - we give our heart and soul in making this country a better place to live using travel as a medium. We design training for villagers to enable them to earn a living from their own skill. For us, building relationships is more important than just getting a cheque from a customer. And that most of us left our plush corporate jobs to do this work.

If you have more questions about Rural Travel, please feel free to ask in comments below or contact us via our website: www.thefolktales.com. We will be happy to answer.

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Gaurav Bhatnagar

Gaurav Bhatnagar



Travel Writer, Photographer, Public Speaker, Entrepreneur in Rural Travel @ www.thefolktales.com. As a travel writer, my work is published in The Hindu, Huffington Post, National Geographic Traveler and The Alternative

Friday, September 19, 2014

Mist and Magic in Laka Got

Can a place that is full of sunshine get covered in deep mist in a moment and then get drenched by heavy rain after few minutes? I watch the nature shift from one mood to another while I stand on a cliff wondering how deep the valley underneath is.

While the city below is buzzing with all sorts of man made noises, the gigantic Dhauladhar range above stands in peace and in all its humbleness looks at the ignorant humans making commotion below.

We recently trekked to Laka Got Glacier in Dhauladhar range, Himachal. Here are some photos that will almost have you 'mind travel' with us into the forest.


We trekked in untouched forests where we could even hear sound of dry twigs crack under our feet and the call of a bird somewhere in the forest far away.


Finding hidden monasteries or Stupas in a jungle which is only used by dwellers of a small village nearby has its own charm.

Significance of buddhist flags - The flags are printed with buddhist prayers. It is believed that the wind which touches these flags takes with it the blessings and sends them to far off places.


The forest bloomed in all directions. After trekking for an hour we took a short break under a tree that seemed to be covered in green leaves from top to bottom. By this day we had lost track of date and time.


This reminded me of my dream to make a wooden house in a forest like this. The house will have large glass windows and floor that will emit sweet smell of wood. It will have white curtains that will gently blow in the wind. The rooms will be decorated in authentic Indian decor with gentle lighting giving the whole place a dreamy aura.


While some of the travelers were panting for breath, others were racing ahead in excitement and even posing for the camera. The scene behind looks as if out of a documentary from National Geographic.


We reached Triund but as always we stayed away from the usual camping locations. We ventured out and found a quiet place for ourselves with a cottage and wild horses to give us company.


Some of the more artistic travelers from our group found their solitude in the woods to do some mind poetry and mull on their beautiful thoughts.


We finally reached the summit early next morning. The white dog that you can see in photo continuously accompanied us to the top. The thrill of reaching the top and seeing Indrahaar pass in front of us gave us an insatiable urge to go higher next time.


A gift from our fellow traveler and a dear friend. Dhuladhar range expressed in pen and ink and water color. Thank you Bhargavi. Visit here blog here: Ile

Note: This trek was done in association with The Folk Tales and Junoon Adventure

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Untrekking to Druni Taal



Gaurav Bhatnagar

Gaurav Bhatnagar



Travel Writer, Photographer, Public Speaker, Entrepreneur in Rural Travel @ www.thefolktales.com. As a travel writer, my work is published in The Hindu, Huffington Post, National Geographic Traveler and The Alternative

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Party in Bangkok and get lazy in Hua Hin

When I shared with friends that I am visiting Thailand for Thailand Happiness Street Festival, I got the cliche response - "So you must be going to Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya". I was surprised to know that no one knew about Hua Hin, not even those from travel industry. Having visited Thailand couple of times, I understand the sense of hospitality in each and every Thai national and without even seeing Hua Hin on internet I was sure that it is going to be something interesting.

Hua Hin is one of the upcoming destinations that is very boutique and has tastefully built its attractions. It is a well known place for that rich Indian community that flies off in charter planes for a marriage ceremony in international destinations.

About Hua Hin: It is the summer destination of the King of Thailand and a very peaceful place as compared to the party atmosphere of Bangkok or Pattaya. It lies about 193 km south of Bangkok in Cha-am district. Usually it takes about 3 hours by your own vehicle. It is a weekend destination for the rich Thai community that likes to own a private sea facing villa.

If you are flying to Thailand, here are some of my recommendations for Hua Hin. Don't worry! they will suit every pocket size -

Damnoen Saduak floating market: Thailand and most of South East asian countries are in close proximity to water bodies and have extensive canal systems. In those times, merchants, vegetable, meat and fruit vendors sailed into the backyards of the houses to sell. Due to extreme tourist interest in floating markets, most of the people have now started selling souvenirs in boats but many still continue to sell fruits, thai food that they cook on the boat, meat and flowers. Damnoen Saduak floating market in on the way to Hua Hin and about 95 km from Bangkok in Ratchaburi province.

Best time to visit: 7 am - 9 am

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market | Photographer: Michael Babcock | Image Source: www.thaifoodandtravel.com
Thailand floating market
Fruits and Vegetables | Image Source: www.bangkokfreeday.com

Khao Sam Roi Yot national park: Thailand is brimming with numerous national parks most of which are in the north. This is one is barely 50 km south of Hua Hin in Pran Buri district. Due to heavy rains, I took a boat to the national park but regretted missing an alternate route which has a dense forest on one side and gulf of Thailand on the other. I recommend spending at least a full day here and visiting the Phraya Nakhon Cave followed by some self pampering at Laem Sala beach.

Laem sala beach
Laem Sala beach


Khao sam roi yot national park
Phraya Nakhon Cave | Image Source: www.bangkokbeyond.com

Visit Santorini and Venezia theme parks: Thai are skilled at dazzling the guest with creativity. As the name suggests, Santorini and Venezia theme parks literally transport the person into Greece and Italy. Only difference is that the people serving speak Thai.

Santorini theme park welcomed me with the typical shades of white and blue with fairytale shops that I would see in actual Greece. The theme park is about 34 km from Hua Hin.

Santorini theme park Hua Hin
Till the time I fly to Greece how could I miss this opportunity
The Venezia theme park welcomes me with its Italian pastel colors and a Thai version of St. Marks Campanile (Campanile di San Marco). Here are some snapshots from the 3D museum that made us do some unbelievable tricks and the gondola ride.

3D museum venezia hua hin
Mischief at 3D art gallery in Venezia
Venezia Hua Hin | Image source: www.compasshospitality.wordpress.com
Splurge in the luxury resorts of Hua Hin: Even the resorts are built with a lot of love. That's why two of them actually made me fall in love. While Amari - Hua Hin offered some stunning views and pure luxury, Six Senses Resort and Spa transported me from a modern life to a forest where the only sound was that of birds, raindrops and insects.


 

Six Senses Spa


***

Amari, Hua Hin


Cicada night market: I haven't seen such glorious night market elsewhere as I have seen in Thailand. The Thai tourism definitely knows how to present a concept beautifully. When I walked into the Cicada night market that was hardly 400 mtr from Amari, I was amazed not only by the food but the ambience as well as the atmosphere. I will leave you with some photos of the market and hope that next time you put Hua Hin in your itinerary. Leave a message for me when you are back. I would love to hear your experience.





Disclaimer: All the views above are out of my own experience. The information given above is subject to change over time.
The trip to Thailand was in association with TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) and Thai Airways

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Gaurav Bhatnagar

Gaurav Bhatnagar

Travel Writer, Photographer, Public Speaker, Entrepreneur in Rural Travel @ www.thefolktales.com. As a travel writer, my work is published in The Hindu, Huffington Post, National Geographic Traveler and The Alternative

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Phraya Nakhon Cave - The mysterious beauty

We climbed into three multicolored boats from the mainland of Hua Hin and set off via the Gulf of Thailand towards Khao Sam Roi Yot national park from where we will trek through the forest towards the Phraya Nakhon Cave.

In contrast to the safety concerns of many travelers post military coup, Thailand is as safe, friendly and welcoming as it always was. Few days back I attended the Thailand Best Friends Forever festival in Bangkok where I couldn't help but fall in love with the people who had gathered.

"Thailand is as safe, friendly and welcoming as it always was"

Back in the boat while sailing towards the national park, the sky is overcast, yet I am excited for the adventure that lies ahead. After a short trip we land on the golden and seemingly untouched Laem Sala beach. Since this is monsoon season, only few tourists are on the Island making it even more exotic and mysterious. I would have stayed on the beach gazing far into the sea and had done some mind poetry had my guide Joey not called out saying "Chalo Chalo" (Let's go). He is quick to have picked up few Hindi words from us.

How to reach Khao Sam Roi Yot national park: It lies in the Prachuap Khiri Khan province and approximately 50 kms from Hua Hin. One can drive up to the park in own vehicle or hire a cab from Hua Hin.

Sailing towards the Khao Sam Roi Yot national park
Directions for the National park from Hua Hin
Hua Hin has recently sprouted as one of the exotic destinations of Thailand where I am left charmed by the countryside cottages that I can hire. The cottages are beautiful, comfortable and available all for yourself. I definitely plan to come back to Hua Hin with my partner and hire one of these for few weeks. The cottages are available between THB 300 to THB 3000 per night depending upon how exotic its location is.

Cottages for hire in Hua Hin and Khao Sam Roi Yot National park
The trek to entrance of Phraya Nakhon Cave from beach is approximately 1 km with trekking of medium difficulty level (probably high difficulty level for smokers). Thailand tourism has thoughtfully put markers in the forest to guide the trekkers as well as filled the gaps in rocks with mortar to prevent tourists from slipping during rains.

We walked through the beach and into the forest
Trekking in the forest. Difficulty level: Medium
Halfway across the trek on the mountain, I feed my eyes with the view of Gulf of Thailand that is dusky right now due to overcast weather but bursts into stunning colors during sunshine. To know more about Gulf of Thailand [Read: Gulf of Thailand]

Gulf of Thailand | Image Source: www.fotopedia.com
Another 30 minute walk brings me to a deep plunge where I climb down into a huge cave that suddenly appears in the middle of a forest. The sounds of forest are replaced by a silence that is only broken by the echoes of a handful of tourists.

I have to climb down flights of stairs to reach the bottom. On the way, I see many stalactites and stalagmites that have joined at various places. However due to climate change, some of these once magnificent creations of God have dried up.

About Phraya Nakhon Cave: It was named after a ruler who discovered it approximately 200 years ago while taking shelter from a storm. The cave is made mainly of limestone with skylights above. Suns rays that enter the cave through these skylights give it a mysterious and silent aura. Rainfall into the cave through these skylights have resulted in the growth of trees adding to the charm of this place.

And finally I am gifted with the prize when I set my eyes on the Tetrahedron Pavilion that was ordered by King Chulalongkorn (King Rama V). This pavilion was built by hand in Bangkok and assembled in the cave by skilled workers.

The Tetrahedron pavilion
Basic Information:

Entry fee to Khao Sam Roi Yot national park: THB 200 (for foreign nationals), Free for Thai nationals
Ticket of long tail boat to Laem Sala beach: THB 150 per person
Distance from Hua Hin: 50 Kms, 50 min traveling time

Disclaimer: All the views above are out of my own experience. The information given above is subject to change over time.
The trip to Thailand was in association with TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) and Thai Airways

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