February 23, 2011

Perfect Vacation : Andamans

We did this trip to Andamans way back in Sept 2010 and never got a chance to blog about it.  The itinerary, useful notes and trip suggestions follows.....

We did not plan much for this trip except for booking the flight tickets and 2 days stay at Havelock. In fact, if you are planning for a travel in India, I do not think you have to book anything well in advance anywhere unless+otherwise you are visiting a top tourist destination during a peak season. I am sure you will end up something nice with your adventurous spirit and the diversity that is present in India (I love this Country!).

 Leave Bangalore for Chennai by Bus at 10:30pm.

Day 1 [Sept 4]
Reach Chennai by 5am. Go home, quick bath etc. Proceed to Chennai Airport. Morning flight at 10am to Port blair from Chennai in KF red. Reach PB around 11:30am. We could only see a white carpet outside our window ; terribly overcast. I had certainly opined that this vacation was going to be a total washout due to the rains; but , on an optimistic, we hoped for the best. It was drizzling when we got down from the flight at the Port Blair airport. Took a taxi from PB Airport to the jetty. The ticket counter at the jetty closes at 12pm, and we just missed it; but the guys told us that we can always buy the tickets on the ship. The Ship departs at around 2:30pm. Luckily got the tickets onboard.


You get to sit in a big hall in the ship which is a little damp with no proper air circulation - though there are fans , but they cause more noise than the airflow. We went to the deck and sat there till we reached Havelock. The nice wind along with the beautiful landscapes is a treat to watch. It was surprising that the air did not contain much moisture - i mean, the saline air which kind of clogs your brain when exposed for atleast an hour or so -- that was not present!

Reached Havelock around 5:30pm. We had booked our stay at Emerald Gecko for the next 2 days. Placed our bags in our beautiful bamboo hut and went out for a stroll. It was already a bit dark. Had an amazing meal at the Gecko's bistro.



Note : Sun sets in this part of the world quiet early and it is always nice to venture out early in the morning and retire early too. Plan to get up around 5am and sleep around 8pm.

We also enquired about scuba diving and were advised by the Gecko guys to approach Dive India which was just a walk away from Gecko

Day-2 [Sept 5]
Got up at around 5:30am and went for a nice stroll along the beach at Gecko. The high-tide was almost touching the boundaries of the Gecko resort. The morning tranquility along with the sound of the waves lashing on the trees along the beach was nothing less than nirvana.


Then we proceeded to Dive India - those guys had asked us to come around 7am. We also had a sumptuous breakfast at Dive India (the tea sucked a little though). The dogs at DiveIndia - Sam and Frodo - followed us. They were two adorable darlings whom i cant forget so easily. We hardly heard them bark even once, and they loved the coconuts and its water, so much so that they followed us and stood next to us when we had our own share.

DiveIndia guys made us wear the scuba gear and took us to Elephant beach which is around 20min ride in a fast boat. The ride was enjoyable and weather looked promising with hardly any clouds around. I forgot their names, but the two instructors from DiveIndia were excellent. They were extremely freindly, and i felt as if i knew them for ages. After a quick round of introductions and hand signals underwater, we were to experiment in the waters with the gear on.



The initial view underwater was good (not great though); the water was a little murky, but i could see the various dried corals. A few minutes of experimentation and the instructor took us in...deep in. The view was AMAZING. The murkiness had vanished and the water was clean! I wished i had a underwater camera to click the pictures!

After a 45minutes underwater dive, where we went 12-15m deep it was time to return back to the surface. DiveIndia guys had our snacks and Tea ready; and after a few click-sessions and snacks it was time to return back to the water and float around...float float float!


We returned back around 10:30-11am and we could see the low-tide in action, with the water having receded by almost 200-500m from the coast line. The dried corals and the rocks of Havelock were visible now. Havelock's ocean floor is not smooth and i had cut my foot the previous evening when i ventured without any caution; but the virgin beaches are worth ogling ;)

We returned back to Gecko and after a shower, we rented out a scooter and had a nice meal at one of the restaurants there. Went around and then proceeded onto Radha Nagar Beach. This beach is one of the best in Asia(and in the world). I did see some photos of this beach without any tides, but when we went, i guess due to monsoon, there were gentle waves. The beachline was long and there were only a handful of people there. Almost no litter, but lots of dried up leaves on the sands. The whole of evening was spent here.


The dinner at Gecko was awsum. They did not have a great spread for vegetarians like us, but the pasta that we ordered was luscious with a beautiful taste and smell of the spices. The paneer butter masala along with the rotis was pretty heavy for dinner, but when something tastes nice, you dont think about your stomach much :)

Day-3 [Sept 6]
Wake up at 5:30am. (Trust me, but it was as if 7am in the mainland! )
Swim in the silent waters at the Gecko , breakfast at German Bakery. Come back to hotel , packed bags. Lunch again at German Bakery, then leave hotel and reached the Havelock jetty by 1pm. Leave Havelock at 2:45pm and reach Neil by 4:30 pm. Checked into Tango hotel.

Since it was already 4:30, we quickly went on for a stroll along the beach. The beach here contains loads of sea-shells and there we went again collecting them. The ocean floor here too is not smooth and you can see the rocks and dried corals popping up from the waters. Though the hotel guys told us that the were 'swimmable'  beaches on the other side of Neil Island (we werent much interested).

Splunking..Splunking

It was getting dark fast and we strolled till the end of Neil Island to a place called Sunset Point. There was absolutely no one around and we could only hear the waves. The ocean floor was smooth and the waves were pretty powerful. The slight overcast along with the orange rays from the sun was beautiful. It was getting dark fast, and we hurried back to the hotel. By the time we reached the hotel, it was completely dark.

Sunset Point at Neil Island

The next few hours were spend in the restaurant overlooking the beach in the hotel at Tango. The food wasnt great at all. Retired early to sleep in that unventillated room ;)

Day-4 [Sept 7]
Getup at 5am. Stroll along the beach.The mornings here are beautiful and a stroll along the beach is mandatory. Collected a few more sea shells.



Reach the Jetty at 8am and then catch the next ferry to PB.

View of the Neil Island from the Jetty

Neil to Port Blair in the Ferry starts at 8:30.  We again preferred to sit on the deck than settle in the dingy cabin. Reached Port Blair by 10am. Checkin into Ashiana Hotel near the Jetty. I would highly recommend this hotel - the rooms are clean and well ventilated; and the owner is nice too. We accidentally stumbled on this hotel when our autowala suggested this. The hotels' proximity to the neighboring market and also the quietness was good. We then relaxed for some time in the hotel and then strolled along Aberdeen bazaar, had lunch at a hotel. The sun was bright, but it was not too uncomfortable for a long walk. We did not perspire much. We then proceeded onto Cellular Jail and the Rajiv Gandhi park.

Place where the prisoners were chained and belted/caned

Gallows at Cellular Jail

Cellular Jail

Evening was spent roaming aroud the streets and trying to find someone who would arrange a plan for us for the next day.  We wanted to do Baratang Island and stumbled on an agency who had tickets for the next day.  Evening snacks at Gagan restaurant(near the clock tower), packed dinner , reach back hotel and retire for the day early as we had to get up pretty early the next day.

Day-5 [Sept 8]
Getup at 3:30am and start for Baratang Island at 4am. The bus picked us from from our hotel and thus we started our day. It was raining continuously. The ride to Baratang Island is adventurous and you get to view the indigenous tribes of the land while going through the forest sections. One is not supposed to be in touch with these tribes, and hence the bus goes full throttle when the driver sees any tribes near the road. Also, he shouts 'jarawa!jarawa!' which is the name of the tribe and all the people in the bus get excited. Inspite of the instructions, a few lunatics threw chocolates and other eatables at them. If you are visiting this land, please see to it that you dont appreciate such behaviour. The tribes do not know plastics etc and we dont want to endanger their lives.

Then on, we stopped at a place(forgot the name) to board a ferry to reach the other side of a river. Though the distance between the shores would be hardly 300, the time taken is close to 20-30minutes. Its a slow float across the river. Then we board small boats in batches of 15-20 and were served breakfast on it. The ride along the mangroves was enjoyable (and i think this was the only highlight of the day, otherwise, it was pretty much uneventful).



You visit Limestone caves and then the Mud volcano. The Mud Volcano site looks like a place where some building construction recently took place - do not expect any sort of mountain or hillock here, its flat land with hardened clay.

Limestone Caves


Elephants helping move the logs

Back to PB city by 5:30pm. Lackluster Dinner at Annapurna Cafeteria and retire for the day.

Day-6 [Sept 9]
Sleep well in the morning and board flight at 12pm for Chennai. Reach Chennai at 2pm.

And thus a vacation, which was feared to be a total washout, happened to be one of the most memorable and beautiful ones. (I still remember Frodo and Sam and there does not exist a day when i don't think about them).

And, by the way, i think 6-7 days in Andamans is good enough to cover most of the places and have a good spread between adventure, relaxing, beach bumming etc. This can probably be extended by another few days to cover a few more islands etc, but again, this depends on totally on the time schedules that you might have. ONe big factor would be on how you are going to plan your island hopping as some islands need that you come back to PB for going to any other islands.

Also, prefer the time form just after monsoon till Jan end. I heard from the DiveIndia guys that the weather changes are affecting the corals and many got dried and washed last year, so try hitting this paradise as soon as possible.


Expenses (For two): 40, 000 INR approx (or less)
Travel:
  • Blr-Chn (bus)                 500
  • Chn-PortBlair(air)      17050
  • Chn-Blr(bus)                  720
  • PB airport to Jetty         100 
  • PB to Havelock             390
  • Havelock to Neil Island 390
  • Neil Island to PB           390
Accommodation:
    • Havelock, Gecko, 2 Nights -2*1250 = 2500
    • Neil Island, Hotel Tango, 1 Night =  400
    • PB, Ashiana, 2 Nights -2*350 = 700
    Sundries:
    • Food                6000
    • Sports              7000
    • Misc                 2000

      February 22, 2011

      Along the Karnataka Coast Line

      So, me and wifey decided to go along the West Coast of India to celebrate our First Anniversary. We just booked the ticket from Bangalore to Mangalore and let everythings take shape as it comes. Initially, I had some apprehensions of going till Gokarna as I feared that we might run out of time by the time we finish the Jain circuit and Udupi. But it so happened that we finished the Jain circuit in a day and had loads of time. And we ended up doing Moodbidri - Karakala - Venur - Udupi (Malpe, Kapu) - Gokarna (Kudle, Om). We could have always done Murudeshwar and Honnavar, but i wanted to relax for sometime and not have a strenous schedule, as work was burning me out.

      Read on for a more detailed itinerary and some travel notes.

      Day 1 - Friday
      We had booked a sleeper bus from Bangalore to Moodbidri, and it so happened that the road was horrendously bad. We were on the upper berth, and it was jumping and wobbling for most of the time, hardly had a good sleep! (I think the stretch from Hassan and all the way upto Mangalore was crap!)

      The bus started from Bangalore(Bannerghatta road around 7:30am and we reached Mangalore in the morning around 6:30am. We had not planned whether we want to do Mangalore or carry on to Moodbidri. In the morning, i felt that we should be doing the Jain circuit and then head on towards Udupi, than sticking to Mangalore. Mangalore can always be done when we plan to do Kerala ; something like, start from Mangalore and then onto Bekal-kasargod and the rest of Kerala). Anyway, the bus conductor asked us to get down at Jyothy bus stand if we are to catch a bus to Moodbidri. We had to walk across the road and wait for a bus which came in another 5mins. Reached Moodbidri in around 50mins. We had our breakfast in a hotel in the Moodbidri bus stand. We did not note the hotel's name, but it was pretty clean - though not duly whitewashed. A idli-vada and quick tea is always refreshing in the morning. Asked quickly for directions to the Thousand Pillar Jain Temple and then proceeded onwards. Enroute we stumbled on a Hanuman temple. I had opined that this was just another temple, but it looks like this Hanuman/Anjaneya temples is a very famous one in Moodbidri.

      A quick walk lasting 15-20mins lead us to the Thousand Pillar temple. Photography is not allowed inside the temple premises. When we entered, there was hardly anyone inside. The intial few pillars on the leading face of the temple were looking nice - though not impresseive; the prangan(area surrounding the sanctum) and near the walls were unkempt with grass and wild plants. Unimpressive, i had expected much grandeur in this temple; though the brass statue of Mahaveera inside the temple glowing in the bulb within the sanctum was nice to look at. The pedestals were nice but the pillars were lacking the much needed intricate carvings.


      A jaunt back to the bus stand and then a tea in the same hotel and then a bus to Karakala ensued. The journey was for around 30mins. The sun was pretty bright by now and we had to wear our shades, as we had to climb hundred odd steps to visit the statue of Gomatestwara on the top of the hillock. A few chocolates before the climb and a quick ascent lead us to a flat land with the monolith statue of Gomateswara standing in the middle, surrounded by two sets of walls - one very close to the statue itself and the one around the temple. Clicked a few snaps and sat here for sometime. The shade outside the temple was cooler than that of inside.


      We then came back to the Moodbidri bus stand and caught a bus to Venur. Unlike the hillock in Karkala, Venur is pretty much at the ground level; few steps leads us to the monolithic structure which is again on a flat concrete ground.


      Venur does not have many lunch options, so we had it in one Jain hotel which was clean, though the food was nothing great. The hotel owner told us that there are regular buses to Udupi from Venur, but little did we know that those buses go via Moodbidri(duh!).

      (And thus i had seen all the big-4 monoliths of Gomateshwara in Karnataka - Shravanabelagola, Karkala, Dhramasthala, Venur ! Yay!)

      We reached Udupi around 5:30pm in the evening. Took a hotel near the road that leads to the Krishna temple. The room was neat and clean, but not luxurious - you dont get a deluxe room for 300 Rupees!). Went on a walk near our hotel and asked for the best hotel in that area with a few passerbys; almost everyone seemed to suggest Woodlands and after a sumptuous meal there and a follow up walk near the temple, we retired for the day.

      Note : Prefer doing Moodbidri, Venur and then Karkala in order. There are buses from Karkala to Udupi and you dont have to come back to Moodbidri, we didnt know about this and lost about an hour in the transit.

      Day 2 - Saturday
      We visited the famous Krishna temple in the morning around 8am. Lord krishna - a black idol - was kept in a small room which had many oil lamps lit and was not to be reached by anyone. Devotees had to have a view of the Lord via a small window - the sighting would last only for a few seconds. The rush was not much and we had a good darshan.


      A breakfast at Woodlands ensued and we took a nap in our room. We again went to the Krishna temple in the noon - for the mid day prasadams - the meals. Surprisingly, the temple treats brahmins and non-brahmins differently. I was wearing a Jean and a T and we both stood in the line for the non-brahmins. We were told that only those who wore dhoti were eligible to sit in the area marked for brahmins (we wondered how easy this system could be tricked!). The meals for the non-brahmins are served in the first floor. Everyone is asked to sit down and the marble in front of them is to be washed and food is served on this. I would expect that the scene on the ground floor was to be completely different, with banana leaves and a much better quality of food. In the abode of God, such differentiation is to be frowned upon. On a philosophical note, i do not understand why Man always comes up with means and measures to differentiate people(his fellow beings) !


      Anyway, we proceeded onto the Government Bus stand which runs buses to Malpe. Malpe is around 5-6 kms from the Udupi bus stand and from the Malpe bus stand you can catch an auto to reach the beach. I did not find anything spectacular about the beach, though there was a ship building/repair yard on the left hand side of the beach. It was around 2 in the noon, and we did not loiter in the sand, but sat on the bench and whiled our time. A boat ride to St.Mary's island could always be done, but this would be too much 'touristy'. We got a lift from the beach to Malpe Bus stand and then caught a bus back to the Government bus stand. We were told that buses to Kapu had to be caught from the Private(or Service) bus stand. Kapu is slighlty far off and the ride lasts for close to 30mins. One can walk from the Kapu bus stand to the beach or hire an auto; auto costs around 25-30. We preferred to walk.

      Tip: When you get down from the bus at Kapu bus stand, get onto the other side of the road and ask for directions to the beach; they will lead you to a narrow lane - get onto that and then go straight, you will reach the bypass road, and then cross it and take the road next to the temple on the other side of the road, keep going straight; once you reach a T junction, take the left and then take diversion from the road onto the sand which is next to a few huts there, a few meters away is the beach. This side of the beach is virgin and not people/tourists visit here. Also, you can spend some time in the shade of the monolith rock there and then climb onto it too ;)
      The more famous(read 'crowded') part of the beach is on the other side of this rock.


      Kapu beach has a functional lighthouse(there is no port here) and the sunset from here is beautiful!

      There was a local mela going on in the beach when we went there and then took an auto to the Kapu bus stand back (this one is on the Bypass road). Back to Udupi and retired for the day after a meal at Woodlands ;)

      Day 3 - Sunday
      We got up at around 6:45am and vacated the room by around 7:15am. The hotel's manager told us that Train was way better than bus, as the former would take 2-2.5hours to reach Gokarna than the latter which takes around 5 hours. Also the roads are not good. The train was to leave at 7:50am from the station. I wanted to try our luck and caught an auto to train station and reach there by 7:30. The rush in the station was just beginning and the queue for the tickets wasn't long. We got the tickets and had a quick breakfast in the station. The train arrived, not very crowded, one of us managed to get a seat while i kept standing for a while and exchanging seats. Reached Gokarna road by around 10:40am. There was mini cab/bus waiting outside and for 15 Rupee ride lasting for 15mins we reached Gokarna. We were not sure about the hotels to choose from - i.e, choose a hotel in Gokarna or prefer any of the huts along the beaches. Preferred to rest for sometime, have some lunch and then decide.

      And so we stumbled on Hotel Sri Sai Ram, this is a small hotel next to the SBI ATM on the main road, before you enter Car Street. Little did we know that this hotel will be our place for lunch/dinner for our remaining stay in Gokarna. This clean hotel is run by a family - husband,wifey, a son and a daughter; and i think there are two helpers who get them along with the kitchen and other associated activities.

      Post lunch, we roamed in the streets behind the gokarna bus stand looking out for rooms and here we stumbled on Katyayani Guest House. This is run by a gentleman who runs a provision store just outside his house. Our room was on the first floor - damp and a little unclean. But since we were budget travellers, we took this and quickly cleaned the room. A quick nap and a long walk along the Gokarna beach in the evening followed.

      Day 4 - Monday
      Getup at around 7:15am, breakfast at take the road next to Ganapati temple and then proceed towards Kudle beach and then onto Om beach. The trek to Kudle takes around 40mins(when done slowly). ( the platform is quiet steep, till you reach the flat ground on the hillock. ). Kudle to Om Beach takes around 20-30mins(again when done slow)


      (View of Gokarna beach from the hillock enroute Kudle)

      The whole day was spent on these two beaches and the evening sunset at Gokarna beach.


      Day 5 - Tuesday
      Get up around 7am and a quick breakfast at Pai Hotel on Car Street. Proceed to Kudle beach. The morning sun was nice and bright and the 30minute trek was refreshing.

      Also, we started the trek from Gokarna beach instead of the lane next to Ganapati temple. This was a boon, the ascent was not hard and also we were able to continue walking without breaks for quiet sometime. We sat in the shades of the trees in Kudle beach for sometime, till the Kayak guy came in. The sand was cool. The 1 hour long kayaing session was pretty good. We started off with a big thud in the water before we could paddle the kayak ;) We went around 0.5-1km inside the waters where it was still. It was quite scary sometimes. (Having kayaked in the Red Sea earlier, this was our second time, but, the Arabian Sea was a little scary  when compared with the Red Sea).

      Back to our room in Gokarna just in time to check-out, quick bath and vacated the room. Post lunch, time was spent sleeping in one of the huts along the Gokarna beach where the fishermen had kept their nets (it wasnt stinky ;) ).


      A nice wooden-oven cooked pizza in the restaurant along the sides of the hillock at Gokarna and a beautiful sunset brought the trip to a beautiful end.; and the cane juice with ginger and lemon was a refresher to bring the energy back :)

      Boarded the sleeper bus at Car Street at 7pm(started only at 7:45pm) and reach Bangalore by 6:30am.

      Expenses (all expenses are for two pax) :

      Travel:
      • Bangalore-Mangalore(Sleeper bus) : 700
      • Mangalore-Moodbidri(bus) : 50
      • Moodbidri-Karkala(bus) : 26
      • Moodbidri-Venur(bus) : 30
      • Moodbidri-Udupi(bus) : 50
      • Udupi-Malpe(bus) :12
      • Malpe bus stand-Malpe Beach(auto) : 25
      • Udupi-Kapu(bus) : 24
      • Udupi-Gokarna(train) : 62
      • Gokarna Train Station - Gokarna : 30
      • Gokarna-Bangalore(Sleeper bus) :400
      Accommodation:
      • Hotel at Udupi (2 nights * 300 ): =600
      • Hotel at Gokarna (2 nights * 200 ): 400
      Sundries: 
      • Food : depends on what you eat ..we are veggies;)
      • Kayaking at Kudle:300
      Grand Total (for two) : around 5000 INR

      (I have been planning this tour for close to 4 years now; every time i planned this, something else came up in my schedule and i ended up doing something else. I am glad that this long pending visit to the Indian(Karnataka) West Coast is finally over; and with this, i think i have covered most places in Karnataka).

      February 14, 2011

      The Fighter

      The life presents many challenges in various different forms, but comes along with it many opportunities, skills and the energy to tackle them. Some use that energy to fight against all odds and make a mark for themselves; a few want to fight, but do not know how to proceed or use that energy and a few don't even bother to learn and make an impact. "The Fighter" , movie starring Christian Bale and  Mark Wahlberg, is not about a man's fight, its something more than that. It shows how a family collectively can come together and make an impact in ONE man's life - the family, though is a bunch of individuals each with their own identity and characteristic qualities. Man is a social animal. All societal structures promote this cause - though agree that some structures do get tarnished due to the mutual bigotry and dogmatic views. In the longer run, its always the collective which wins over the individual.


      The plot is nothing new and the sequence of events are pretty much predictable, but what stands out is the performance by the actors which lends a charismatic charm to soul underneath the skin. The remarkable aspect about Christian Bale in this role is that he performs it with such ease - he performs 'automatically' - you dont see him 'try' for being a character; it looks as if the character moulds into Mr.Bale. We had seen him in The Dark Knight where he had to face the tantrums of the Joker - the various emotional challenges set forth by The Joker, and in The Fighter he does it again.

      Watch "The Fighter" if you like boxing - the upper cuts, the jabs etc, but also watch it if you want to see how family and friends are mandatory for a person's survival.

      In Conversation with my Shadow

      Me : How do you feel since i am always above you.
      Shadow : I am down to help you be above me.
      Me : Forgotten identity?
      Shadow : No. A supporting structure.
      Me: No one notices you.
      Shadow: I do not want to be noticed.
      Me: Identity commands attention.
      Shadow: The feeling is fleeting.
      Me: You are meaningless without light.
      Shadow: I survive in darkness, i am inside you then.
      Me: Whom do you converse with? You know no one.
      Shadow: I exist as long as you are with me.
      Me: Do you feel alone?
      Shadow: Never. Am always around you.

      February 03, 2011

      On Indian Travel and Tourism Industry

      India is one of the top travel destinations with the wide diversity of cultures and geographies that it has to offer. But tourism is also one of the most under-rated and also under-utilized sectors in here. Though we have many state bodies which promote tourism in their own states, we do not have a collective framework which would help both the International and National travelers.

      With the increasing spending power of the masses and also the quest to visit uncharted territories, toursim/travel does have significant growth prospects in India. For eg. did you know that the rapids of the Zanskar river are much more challenging that those in river Ganges?

      In this short essay, i have tried to ruminate on certain aspects of the travel tourism industry which when implemented would be a great source of revenue for the Government and also would be a great source of information and provide safety and comfort to the travellers.

      Hotel Reservation
      Imagine if the Government collated all the Hotel information in India, and hosted it in one portal for everyone to have a peek at. Individual hoteliers can have their own login ids and can upload videos/pictures of their facilities. The location and tariffs would be structured and can be easily be searched upon. All the booking happens via this single website and the ratings of a particular hotel would obviously be based upon the traffic that it generates.Already sites like TripAdvisor etc are doing this, but since the Govt anway gives Licenses to hotels to operate, they can as well expose this information so that the credibility of the hotels can be established. This would be the directory service for all hotels in India.

      The online reservation system if added to this service be a significant add on. For hotels that do not have Net facility, they can as well SMS or call up a call center to update their reservation status.

      With the increasing amount of safety concerns for travellers and tourists, this would be an ideal endeavour. Based on complaints on safety, the Govt can blacklist hotels. Also, Black money can be curbed.

      Flight Tickets Bidding System
      It would be great if we have a website which lets us bid on flight tickets. So, if a particular flight has vacant seats before the departure and operator is ready to fill those seats at a slight loss to his profit margins(i.e, cut in the margin), then this would be a win-win situation for both the customer(who gets cheaper tickets) and also for the operator(who gets a decent traffic and also doesn't fly many empty seats).

      For Handicapped
      People who are differently abled and are often away from most of the travel need to be given special attention.This space has some promising scope for growth.

      For LGBT

      I am not sure how many travel agents cater to this audience. Again, though many regions in India are conservative, but a suitably adapted itinerary for the LGBT audience would be a great service.

      Adventures
      India with its diverse ecosystems can be a perfect place for adventure tourism.
      The dense western ghats, the beautiful north eastern india, the deserts of Rajasthan, the salt plains of Thar desert, the canals of kerala, the rugged terrains of Ladakh, the majestic himalayan ranges and the numerous rivers have to be tapped for a clean and ecofreindly tourism.

      Road conditions and Water Ways
      Middleclass families and budget travellers prefer the road to flights. And hence the maintainence of roadways is very important to attract more tourists. Roads also are more ;leather; when compared to the other modes.

      The last BJP Government under the active leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee saw some really good action on the road front; with some of the best National Highways being constructed and also linking the various villages with the neighbouring cities and towns. Baroda to Ahmedabad ExpressWay is one of the BEST in India that i have been on. It rates better than the Mumbai-Pune expressway. The former has the entire stretch laid on as a bluish-black carpet which is a pleasure ride.

      I have not heard of any cruises that operate in any of the mighty rivers in India. Whereas the Nile cruises are a BIG attraction in Egypt. People always prefer the waterways to roadways, because waterways are more 'smooth' and scenic.

      Other Sales - Stamps, memorabilia
      Though i have mentioned in the last section of the post, i think this section is one of the most important as it generates HUGE amount of revenues for the government and positively contributes to foreign exchange. Every traveller wants to take back some memories from his travel. Though we have numerous shops outside every historic monument selling some sort of miniature replica of the monument or selling some handicraft, we do not have sufficient 'structured sellers' - a small example would be that of stamps. I collect stamps, but till date I have never seen any post-office which advertises the stamps or First day covers that are out. Even when i visit the post office and ask them specifically for anything 'new', i do not get a positive answer. I feel that sale of stamps and first day covers would add a significant chunk in here. Also, most of the state run handicraft emporiums price the items exorbitantly high. Me being an Indian, have never bought even a single item from these emporiums for the price of most of these items are 5-10 times that of the average price. A point to oppose my claim would be that of quality - but 'quality' does not essentially always have to be expensive. A kurta costs 600Rs in a Govt run emporium, whereas a kurta of a better texture and variety costs less than 500Rs in Westside. Khadi and Handloom shops have almost disappeared, and if they have sustained at a few places, then they are either dilapidated or hardly any big sales number.

      What other aspects can you think of? Guides at the historic monuments, better recommendation systems and better network of travel agents. What else? Do let me know what else would you do if you were the Tourism Minister of India.
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