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Showing posts with label Tripadvisor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tripadvisor. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Prem Mandir- The jewel of Vrindavan

My recent trip to Vrindavan in Jan 2018 was 13 years after my first visit in 2005. Of course a lot has changed since then. From better roads and hotels to newly constructed temples and parking lot, Vrindavan surprised me a lot. Had heard lot about Prem Mandir, from a couple of friends and it made it to my "must see in Vrindavan" list soon.

The main entrance 
Tried to capture in full frame from outside 

Established by Jagadguru Kripalu Parishat, an international, non profit, spiritual, charitable trust, the temple complex on 54 acre land, is made with white Italian marble. Prem Mandir is dedicated to Radha- Krishna and Ram-Sita. The foundation was laid in 2002 while it opened to public in 2012 and the cost of construction amounted to 150 Crore Rupees.
View on a foggy morning

While taking a round in main complex

As you walk across the premises, it seems no less than a dream. People often compare its beauty with the legendary Taj Mahal. Right from the entrance and surrounding gardens to the main complex, the beauty is enthralling. Every pillar, gate, stone or door has exquisite carvings, that leave you mesmerized. Pastimes and leela of Lord Krishna is displayed through paintings or sculptures in the surrounding garden premises.

The temple puts up a spectacular light and sound show in the evening. You can witness the temple bathed in various colors, that keep changing every few seconds.
Spectacular lights in evening 

Around 7 pm one can watch the beautiful musical fountain show in the garden which I could not capture since my phone ran out of battery.

A daily rath yatra takes places at the complex in the evening which is worth watching. Prem Mandir gives you happy positive vibes where life is celebrated everyday. Surrender yourself to the love of God and feel the sense of calm engulfing you.

Some vital info about Prem Mandir.
  • Temple Timing- 8:30 am to 12 Noon and 4:30 pm to 8:30 pm everyday
  • Photography inside the main complex is not allowed. You can take pictures outside. No camera fees is charged. 
  • Deposit your footwear at the footwear counter for free. You can keep your socks on. (Advisable in winters)
  • A huge canteen in the premises draws a lot of crowd daily. Serves only vegetarian and satvik food. 
  • Prem Mandir has no parking facility. You can park your car in the authorized ground or multi level parking around 700 meters from the temple. The best way to tour Vrindavan is hiring battery operated rickshaw or auto. 
To reach Vrindavan- 
Vrindavan has no direct rail or flight connectivity to any major city/state. The most convenient way to reach Vrindavan is your own car or hire a taxi from nearest cities. 

There is public transport facility available from Mathura which is merely 15 km away. The roads are fairly good with less than expected potholes and ongoing-construction.

From Agra- Reach Mathura and then hire a taxi or bus. 

From Delhi NCR- Drive via Taj Expressway for a smooth easy journey. 

By train- Board trains till Mathura Junction or Agra railway station and continue the journey to Vrindavan via taxi/public transport.

P.S: This post made it to the list of popular blog on Indiblogger home page.

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Plan your first trip to Bali

Bali, popularly known as the paradise island is one of the most voted travel destinations. Blessed with pristine beaches, lush greenery, rich architecture and towering mountains, Bali is a seamless blend of modern and tradition, that welcomes tourists round the year. Though it is pretty easy and cheap to travel in Bali, you certainly need to keep few things in mind and plan in advance. This post is for Indians planning a trip to Bali for the first time. (Not a bagpaking trip but a mid sized budget trip for seven days)


At Kualalampur Airport

Most of the South East Asian flights connect Indonesia. Choose any airlines but AirAsia. (I was sleepless throughout the journey. There is no leg space and you cannot incline your seats either. Low cost carriers do have this disadvantage). 

Since the journey is long, you can go for full service carriers which include food and other in-flight amenities. Our toward journey was in Air Asia and return in Air Malindo. I could easily judge the difference in the service and quality. 
Contact your service carrier for good deals on flights. Ours was from Makemytrip.

Check for the number of stoppages. Direct flights would generally be costlier. Air Asia halt was at Kualampur Airport for three hours till the next connecting flight.              

The colorful Kualalampur Airport

Tip: Allow yourself ample sleep in flight or at connecting airport so that you reach your destination fresh and energetic. Air Asia flight had left me sleepless.  I could not sleep at Kualampur Airport either.  So a sleep deprived me took a walk inside KL airport to kill time.


We like to keep it light

Air Asia allowed 20 kg of cabin baggage and 7 kg of hang baggage. Air Malindo, for our return journey had 30 kg allowance for cabin baggage.  (Air Asia has number of other constraints and I hate them.)

It is advisable to read the same on the websites of your respective airlines so that you do not get last minute surprises.Also, travel light and leave some space in your luggage for souvenirs that you might want to shop in Bali. 

Keep your essentials, documents, camera etc in your hand baggage or carry on luggage. Things like batteries, body lotions, medicines need to go in your cabin luggage. Check the airlines website mentioning the list of items that you can carry in respective baggage.

Keep an extra luggage lock and secure your cabin bag before handing over to airlines for luggage boarding. The lock of our cabin bag was tampered with which we discovered later. Thankfully a backup lock saved us from any loss.   


For Indian citizens, no visa is required. Pretty easy for Indians you see!  For people from other countries please check http://www.visabali.com/tourist-visas.php. Rules keep changing so please keep an eye on the updates. 

Sim and Calling Card

You can buy a sim from anywhere in Bali which comes pre-loaded with data. You might have to further recharge the sim for calling value. Primarily you would require data to navigate maps, so make the best use of data. Buying a sim at the airport might be expensive. We bought 3 Care sim from a shop close to our hotel which costed us 30000 IDR.  

Currency Exchange

Indonesian Currency is called Indonesian Rupee often abbreviated IDR is valued much lesser than Indian Rupee. One Indian Rupee is equivalent to 210 IDR. Makes you feel rich? Now look at the dollar conversion. 1 USD is 13659 IDR.

Its a standard norm to convert Indian Rupees in Dollars. Do that in India instead of going to exchange counters at Bali airport. Remember, exchange rates in dollars are offered at higher prices at airports. At the airport, it is advisable to convert a smaller amount of dollars to Indonesian Rupee (IDR), so that your taxi fare is at-least sorted. For the rest of the amount, exchange $ to IDR from any authorized money exchange. Go for the ones which are big and authentic. Stay away from small shacks or shops. Chances are you might be duped. We exchanged from Central Kuta Money Exchange which was in the lane behind our hotel.  


Taxi at Bali airport

Download UBER app in your phone and use it freely to commute there, especially when you land in Bali and heading to your hotel. Taxis at airports charge exorbitantly. For instance Bali airport taxi charged us 150,000 IDR (More than Rs 700) to drop us to our hotel in Kuta. Whereas Uber charged 30000 IDR (Rs 142) for the same distance from hotel to airport.


Never skip insurance while traveling international because you do not want to spend heftily on foreign land should you face ANY medical condition. Contact your insurance agent or buy online in a single click. Insurance also covers the loss of luggage, theft or certain emergencies. We bought ours from ICICI Lombard. Just provide your date of travel, flight tickets, purpose of visit and visa or hotel info, and the policy would reach you in your mail box. Its that simple. For Bali which is a humid place and you can be prone to diseases/insect bites in forests, travel insurance is a must.      

International driving licence

Tourists are often carried away by stories of fake valour. For instance an acquaintance told me that International Driving Licence is not required in Bali and Indian DL would suffice. Please do not fall for the trap. Cops in Bali are strict and in case you break any traffic rule or face any unforeseen contingency, the first thing they would ask for is an International Driver’s License which failing to produce may lead to huge penalty or criminal case. 

You can apply for one in your local/district court at a nominal cost. It would be valid for 1 year from the date of preparation. We prepared ours from Gurugram District Court at Rs 1200. Yes a little nagging and sweating in queue is required, but after all it’s for your own convenience.

Once you have all documents ready, keep photocopies with you and keep them handy. 

Transport in Bali 


Bali has narrow but good roads minus the potholes. Just like one would cruise through Goa on scooters/bikes, follow the same here. Hire a scooters for two reasons- One they rarely get stuck in traffic and two, are cheaper than taxi/Uber for long distance ride. 

Watch out for scooter renting shops near your hotel or ask your hotel reception for help. Check the bike's condition before you pay, especially tyre pressure, pickup, seats, headlight and most important, the documents. Take a trial ride before you close the deal. The scooter would be given to you with little petrol, enough to ride to the nearest petrol station. (Petrol is called Pertamina in Indonesian language). Petrol is quite cheap here. (One litre costed 7500 IDR or Rs 35 only). Make the most of your scooter ride. We rented a scooter at 50,000 IDR per day ( Barely 230 INR) from a tiny scooter rent shack at Kuta. 

Always keep your international DL, insurance and bike documents with you handy.

Traffic Rules 
Indians are used to jump traffic lights, over speed or honk unnecessarily. Try doing these in Bali and a cop would be waiting for you at the next traffic signal. Irrespective Bali is a smaller place and economically weaker than India, traffic rules are strictly adhered to. We had stopped at a traffic signal few inches after the crossing line and retracted the bike as we realized our mistake. Inspite of undoing the wrong, a traffic cop chased us and fined us with 300000 IDR. Phew! It was one hell of an experience on foreign soil. 

Needless to mention, helmets are a must for both the riders. Do not over speed and do not argue with the cops. Its better to be safe than sorry. Yeah?  

Food in Bali

Bali is dominated by non vegetarian cuisines, especially sea food and pork. Vegetarians do face problem in eating out. If you don't even eat eggs, then you would surely have a tough time.  However you can ask the restaurant to make vegetarian rice or noodles for you sans meat or fish sauce and they would happily do that for you.  Nasi Goreng (stir fried rice) is available almost everywhere which you can customize while placing order. Our favorite place to eat out was "Gateway of India" in Kuta.

The restaurant we frequented in Kuta
Fried rice and kadhai paneer in Gateway Of India

Anyway fruits and bread are always available everywhere which is a huge respite for vegetarians and vegans. Talking about Vegan food, yes there are a few vegan restaurants in Bali (which was surprising to us). You can look for them in Zomato. We ate in a vegan restaurant in Ubud. (Going towards Ubud Palace, the restaurant would be on your left).  

Everyday breakfast spread by my hotel
 In case the smell or sight of anything non veg is unbearable, then you can always carry ready to eat meals or noodles in your luggage. Though that may not suffice for more than two-three days, it would be something better than nothing.  


Bali has a tropical climate all year and has moderate temperature. The beaches enjoy breezy weather and pleasant sunshine. Maximum temperature reaches upto 30-32 degree celsius. Carry comfy cottons, light airy casuals, beach wear and comfortable footwear. You would need flat slippers or floaters most of the times.   

Hope these tips help you plan your trip to Bali. For more posts on Bali read the most popular places Monkey Forest and Tanah Lot  

These tips and experiences are from my trip to Bali in August 2017.

Live, love, laugh and be a travel addict!

By the way, this post made it to the Indiblogger home page in the popular blog list. 

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The must see's of Nusa Dua, Bali

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Trip to the Paradise Island Bali isn’t complete without a visit to Nusa Dua. Located in the southern part of the island, the quaint pristine beaches of Nusa Dua is popular as a surfing destination. Even if water sports do not interest you, the place has a lot more to offer. Here is a virtual tour of the luxurious Nusa Dua through my blog post.

1. Nusa Dua Beach

Needless to mention, the white sparkling stretch of Nusa Dua beach is the most popular attraction of the place. This beach is a poplar picnic spot for families and kids. Surfers of all age have  blast here. The water literally is dotted with sails and surfing boards, as the pristine white sand shines in full glory. You can sit under a tree and relax. Sun, sand and a fruit mocktail in Nusa Dua would be the best way to holiday here. Different stretches of the beach have variety of scenic beauty. The other side of the beach has rocky beach with limestone cliffs, which make perfect photo opportunity props.   Spending half a day at this beach would be a great idea for your Bali itinerary.

Entry fees- None (You can keep your belongings in the shafts or boats for a nominal fees. We left ours on the beach, since Bali is safe and no body steals)
Location- Southern point of Bali. You’d pay toll on the way to enter Nusa Dua.

2. Museum Pasifika

Pic courtesy- Tripadvisor

Attention art lovers and history enthusiasts. Who would have thought that a place like Bali has something serious and immense like this museum? The museum has works of art, culture and heritage of Indonesia and Asia Pacific region.  200 Eminent artists and cultural artefacts from 25 countries have found a prominent place here in the huge space divided into 11 galleries.  Cameras are allowed in collection galleries. Flash or tripod is prohibited and video-taping is limited to the lobby area. The museum is a great learning place for children, and is wheelchair friendly as well. You can spend a good 2-3 hours and imbibe a lot of knowledge. Check out the website https://www.museum-pasifika.com/ for more details.

Entry fee- 70,000 IDR
Location- Complex Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC) Area Block P at Nusa Dua. (Few blocks away from waterblow)

3. Water Blow

Straight from the heart of the sea, water blow, is a natural fountain that forms when the high sea waves lash the rocks. Watch the nature’s splendour in full force when the waves splash as high as 20 feet.  Water Blow gets its name from the sea waves fill a rock cavity and lash with strength, hence getting its name “Water blow”. A beautiful pathway has been constructed for the tourists to walk across and enjoy the view. Tourists step down at the end of the pathway to see the waves closely and love getting drenched in the waves’ splash. You may want to check the time of high tides before visiting this place, since the crowd only starts gathering after 11 am.

Even if water blow does not entice you, the breezy air, the emerald and blue shades of the ocean and gliders hovering above your head would surely hold you there. This is place to have fun just like the waves play up.

Do not step on the rocky cliffs, as they tend to be slippery and the washes might sweep you away in split seconds.

Entry Fees- None
Location- Nusa Dua Beach, Few meters from the museum parking. You would cross a park with statues of Krishna and Arjun.

4. Under water sea walk

                  Pic courtesy- Balisuntours
Imagine walking on the sea bed surrounded by colorful fish and gorgeous coral formations. The underwater life is the most exasperating and beautiful beyond imagination. The sea walk is one such experience which you would never forget.  The walk is for everyone, including kids, even if you cannot swim. You would wear a huge helmet mask weighing around 6 kg which helps you breathe and see through the glass. Several agents and sea walker companies offer sea walk packages. You can choose from Balisuta OR Viator for packages. I had booked through Balisuntours.

Approx time under sea- 60 mins
Fees-Between 45 -80USD depending on the location and facilities

5. The hidden beaches- Geger and Menigat 

   Pic courtesy- Indonesiatourism.com

The hidden beaches in Bali are secret gems hidden gems of the Paradise Island. While there are many secret and less visited beaches in Bali, you can explore of these in Nusa Dua.

Unlike the overtly crowded Kuta beach, Menigat is a quiet one with very less footfall. You can choose to relax and unwind on the sandy stretch without doing anything. If stay in hotels in this area, your view will be spectacular every day.

Geger beach has rocky cliffs and clean bank with crystal blue water. You can sit under the rocks and read a book or sip a drink, while enjoying the cool breeze and exotic view. Enjoy food at reasonable price in few cafes at the beach.

The best part of these hidden beaches- Less frequented by public, less commercialized, clean and no hawkers pushing you for souvenirs or massage package. These beaches are meant for people who want to spend peaceful “me time”.  

Menigat- l.Pantai Mengiat Kawasan ITDC, Nusa Dua, Kuta Selatan, Benoa, Kuta Sel
Geger- Desa Adat Peminge, Sawangan | jl Giri Puspa D 1no12 Mumbul, Nusa Dua
Entry- Free

6. Abandoned plane

                   Pic courtesy: nomadoholic.com
An old abandoned plane on ground in the middle of nowhere rather sounds bizarre. Don’t worry, the planes have no engines. Nobody knows where these planes came from but there are several people who claim the ownership. Rumours have done several rounds that these planes will be converted into restaurants, though nothing has been done so far. There are two of these in Nusa Dua, both of which we saw many times while passing by these areas on scooter. The planes are stationed since many years and offer opportunity for photo shoots while walking on the wings.

Even Google Maps shows these planes as landmarks in Bali. Beat that!

They looked eerie to me but I am sure would have been fun to go inside the “ghostly” planes. You must visit if you want to ride the wings or mount the plane’s nose without hurting/killing yourself.

Entry Fees- None
Location- One on Bypass Ngurah Rai, next to Dunkin Donuts and  another in South Kuta, along the Jalan Nasa Dua Selatan road.

P.S- I had visited Bali in August 2017


Sunday, November 5, 2017

5 places to see when in Ubud, Bali

Ubud, the cultural town of Bali is a center for traditional art and tradition. Surrounded with rain forests and rice paddies, the place is a haven for art lovers and nature enthusiasts. Bali tour is incomplete without visiting Ubud. Here are the 5 best things to do and see when you are in Ubud.

1. Ubud Palace

Once the residence of the royal family, Ubud Palace is now a tourist attraction in Bali. The palace showcases the arte facts of the kingdom and spaces which were used for prayer or meetings.


Several portions of the place are not accessible to public for religious reasons.  The premise has the royal throne on display which is the most noticeable thing. What gets your attention is the intricate carving on the doors. Visitors are not allowed to cross the threshold of the door, leaving you wondering what’s behind those doors? In an opportune moment, one of the doors swung open and revealed a statue of goddess Saraswati . It was truly divine! 


When the door flung open and reveled the idol of goddess Saraswati

Dotted with colorful garden and well-built pathways, the Royal Palace lets you peek-a-boo into the glorious relics from the past.

Location-Ubud Market, 15 minutes walk from monkey forest
Time spent- The place is small, so you can spend thirty minutes at the max here. 
Parking- You can park your bike in the market. They charge around 2000-3000 IDR. If you are lucky, you may find a free parking spot.
Dress code- None.

2. Sacred Monkey Forest

This dense forest dedicated to the monkey god would leave you with deep respect for Indonesian culture. Imagine an entire forest for the monkeys! Inspired from the ancient culture and Ramayana epic, Balinese declared the 12.5 hectares forest land sacred and protected.


You not only get to see a large number of primates in the forest but also ancient temples and magnificent structures that marvel you. The monkeys are harmless, and friendly most of the times. In case a primate crawls onto your back, give it a banana treat. Should any of these threaten you or turn notorious, the forest guards are there to help you. The lush greenery, lovely architectural structures and huge variety of flora silently make your senses happy. Fill your lungs with oxygen, walk and burn our calories and have fun in the sacred forest in Ubud. 

Location-15 minute walk from Ubud Palace
Entry-50,000 IDR
Time spent-You can cover the huge forest place in 2-3 hours.
Parking- You can park your bike in the parking lot for free.
Dress code- None. Wear comfy shoes or flats. Avoid heels.

  3. Ubud Art Market

Courtesy: Bali-indonesia.com

Courtesy: Tripadvisor.com
Balinese culture oozes of art and beauty. The colorful market dazzling with Balinese art would surely delight your senses. From old paintings to hand made home d├ęcor, the art market is nothing short of a heavenly experience. The rich culture and beautiful tradition embedded in the hearts of the residents’ uplifts your mood, cajoling you to buy something and cherish the memento. Dotted with uptown cafes, restaurants and resorts, the art market would paint a picture of a modern yet peaceful place from somewhere in the lanes of Europe or Goa. Before you reach Ubud, the refreshing rice paddies on the way give you various photo opportunities.

Vegetarian food is so rare to find in Bali, forget about vegan. So, when we passed by Veggie Table, a vegan restaurant with unlimited buffet, it immediately caught our fancy and we dashed in without wasting a single minute. Soft Hindi music greeted our ears, taking us by surprise. The staff told us about the owner's love for Indian culture and his influence on on the cuisine which he curated to cater to Indian taste buds. Do give Veggie Table a try for simple yet delicious and filling vegan lunch.

Location- In the heart of Ubud, barely 10 minutes from Monkey Forest
Time spent- You can spend the whole day without restriction. If you are staying in Ubud, there is nothing like it.  
Parking-  2000-3000 IDR. If you are lucky enough, you can find a free parking spot. Just keep your eyes open.
Dress code- None

4. Goa Gajah

People also call this place “mini monkey forest”. Honestly, both places have no comparison. The star attraction in Goa Gajah is the 9th century elephant cave, housing Ganesha and Shiva idols. The ancient cave temple has dark interiors with simple and bare minimum decoration. It’s the grand entrance with demon and god carvings that attracts tourists for photos. Often wrongly perceived as a dwelling place for elephants, Goa Gajah made it to the UNESCO world heritage site in the late 90’s. Apart from the cave, the whole area has several small temples, royal thrones, sacred bathing tanks, Buddha temple, beautiful gardens, holy monk cemetery, gorgeous waterfall and tiny art shops. It is a visual treat to be in this place.

You cannot afford to wear heels or tight shoes as you need to walk a lot in Goa Gajah. Explore the well maintained site flanked by sacred places throughout the forest and feel at peace. 


Location- Goa Gajah, Bedulu, Gianyar. Around 4 km from sacred monkey forest.
Entry-15000 IDR
Time spent- 2 hours
Parking-  Free
Dress code-  None. A sarong is compulsory if your bare legs show. Sarong is provided at the entry counter.

5. Pura Taman Saraswati Temple

Courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org
You cannot afford to miss this beautiful water temple in central Ubud. Boasting of lotus filled ponds and classic architecture, Pura Taman Temple is dedicated to the goddess of arts and knowledge, Saraswati.  This is great stopover through the town of Ubud. The large premises and amphitheatre gets your attention immediately. From the moment of seeing the temple to entering the site, fills you with a sense of calm and tranquility. At night, the temple is a prevalent location for cultural performances. There are regular dance performances in the evening, except Friday, at cost 80000 IDR.  Pura Taman Saraswati Temple is a prominent landmark which you would cross on the way to Monkey Forest in Ubud. The beauty is awe-inspiring.
Courtesy: commons.wikimedia.org   
Location- Jl. Kajeng, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 
Time spent- 30 minutes
Parking- Free  
Dress code- Cover your legs with sarong which is given to you at the entrance. 

P.S- I had taken the trip to Bali in August 2017