Exploring Kolkata’s three surviving synagogues

It's not yet 9 am on a crisp wintry morning in Kolkata. Our guide for a synagogue trail, Jael Silliman, a Jewish scholar and author, reiterates that it's the ideal time to explore the three hidden gems before chaos takes over the oldest part of the c...

Rewind 2017: 4 famous Mumbaikars pick most memorable destinations of the...

Elephant

'Masai Mara has a raw and wild spirit'
Nishka Lulla, Fashion designer
Memorable trips: I visited South Africa and Kenya's Masai Mara on a two-week trip in September with my husband Dhruv [Mehra]. The landscapes we spotted driving through the Garden Route in South Africa looked like pages out of a story book. I particularly enjoyed the town Franschhoek for its centuries-old vineyards, vintage architecture and streets lined with art galleries featuring really inspiring works.

Nishka Lulla
Nishka Lulla

It's also the gourmet capital of the country. Masai Mara was also amazing. We went for four safaris every day, including the night one, which was quite thrilling. Spotting animals like cheetahs, leopards, hyenas and elephants in huge numbers in their natural habitat was adventurous. It was also fascinating to drive past prides of lions, unperturbed by our presence. The best thing about Masai Mara is its raw and wild spirit, and beautiful, clear pink skies in the evening.
On my wishlist: Cancun (Mexico), Australia, New Zealand, and also catching the northern lights in Iceland.

'I tried delicious smoked pork in Manipur'
Uday Benegal, Lead vocalist, Indus Creed
A memorable trip: I love India's northeast. I was lucky to visit Manipur for the first time in August, when I was invited to perform at a music festival there.

Manipur paddy fields

I spent three days in the most gorgeous environment, and in the company of the hospitable musician Akhu Chingangbam, who fronts the band Imphal Talkies. The expanses of greenery in the state are exquisite. I also tried delicious smoked pork and some tasty rice beer.

Uday Benegal
Uday Benegal

On my wishlist: I want to revisit Arunachal Pradesh; it's truly one of the country's most special wonders of nature. Japan has also been on my mind for a while. Their culture of artistry and food has long drawn me in.

'Japan was my first solo trip and it was beautiful'
Aahana Kumra, Actor
Memorable trips: I was in America for a month and travelled to Los Angeles, Austin and New York. I figured a lot about myself. What I like is that the country is a land of opportunities.

Aahana Kumra
Aahana Kumra

I visited museums, watched the play Sleep No More, roamed around the Battery Park area and even hit the beaches in LA. The trip was special as I brought in my birthday there and had a chance to meet Salman Rushdie at a festival screening of my film, Lipstick Under My Burkha. He sang a song for me.

At the Met museum in NY
At the Met museum in NY

I also got a chance to spot cherry blossoms at Central Park, since I visited the country in spring. That was interesting because earlier this year, I had visited Japan at a time when they were not in bloom. That was, in fact, my first solo trip and the most beautiful experience I've had, though language was a problem. I covered Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo.

Aahana Kumra with Salman Rushdie. Pic courtesy/Aahana Kumra's Instagram
Aahana Kumra with Salman Rushdie. Pic courtesy/Aahana Kumra's Instagram

On my wishlist: I want to go back to Japan to see Mount Fuji; they had barred visitors when I had gone since it was winter and it gets difficult to climb the mountain. And I want to catch the northern lights in Iceland.

'I cooked for monks in Myanmar'
Saransh Goila, Chef
A memorable trip: This January, I travelled to Myanmar with a photographer, singer and an actor. It was a fun road trip and we spotted thousands of pagodas.

Pagodas
The pagodas in Bagan

I got a chance to cook for monks and even speak to the head monk about life and my cooking style. They have a different way of looking at things, so it was interesting to hear his point of view.

Saransh Goila, Chef
Saransh Goila, Chef

On my wishlist: Australia and Kochi. The former has been on my mind for couple of years and now, I finally have an opportunity to cook in Melbourne next year. I'm looking forward to it. I've also heard a lot about Kochi. Since it's a coastal region, I would love to try some regional, coastal delicacies there.

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Here are the 12 best countries to live in around the...

The United Nations (UN) has released its annual Human Development Report, which ranks where people live long, healthy lives ' in other words, the countries that are best to live in. In its report, the UN said that the world is becoming a better place t...

Google India: Luxury, honeymoon destinations top winter searches

Holiday-related queries increased 27 percent in 2017 winter, with most people searching for 'luxury', 'honeymoon', and 'safari' destinations on Google Search, the company said on Wednesday. Seychelles, Maldives and Bali were on top of the honeymooners'...

Such a long journey

It isn't easy sitting in a jam-packed metropolis like Mumbai and imagining what it must have been like for three Indian bikers to embark on a trans-Siberian expedition. The mind conjures pictures of a barren wasteland with sparse pockets of inhabitatio...

Travel: Don’t know where to go for Christmas, New Year’s? Here...

For some festive cheer: GoaWinter and a vacation in Goa go hand in hand, if the huge influx of tourists at this time of the year is anything to go by. And why not? The weather is at its most pleasant, with a slight chill settling in after dusk. If you'...

Travel: Four winter getaways for those who wish to end 2017...

TO IMMERSE YOURSELF IN CULTURE: COORG
When it comes to hill stations in the south, Coorg is often overshadowed by the more popular Ooty and Munnar. But, it offers a mix of experiences you would find hard to come by elsewhere.

TO IMMERSE YOURSELF IN CULTURE COORG

Sanchit Gupta, co-founder of Unpland, says, "One of the biggest highlights of the region is Kushalnagar, which, after Dharamshala, is home to the second-largest Tibetan settlement in India. It houses beautiful monasteries, and the people are lovely. You can even try authentic Tibetan food here."

Sanchit Gupta
Sanchit Gupta

He adds that it is a must to try the home-made wines and pandi (pork) dishes that are unique to Coorg. "The best way to experience the place is to find accommodation at one of the many homestays in the area. This way, you get to meet locals and understand their culture."

Getting There: Fly to Mangalore or Bengaluru, then either take a bus or drive to Coorg

TO HAVE THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME: THE NORTHEAST
"Winter is a good time to explore the northeast," begins Sudeepta Sanyal, co-founder of The Blueberry Trails, adding, "Land in Guwahati, and start your trip by exploring Assam. The state is home to two national parks - Kaziranga and Nameri - both of which are home to fascinating creatures like one-horned rhinos, swamp deer, tigers and flying squirrels. Head here for
a safari in the morning."

TO HAVE THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME THE NORTHEAST

Your next stop, she suggests, should be Meghalaya. "There are plenty of walking trails around Shillong. If you want to do something more adventurous, head to Krem Mawmluh in Cherrapunjee for a spot of caving," she adds.

Sudeepta Sanyal
Sudeepta Sanyal

Sanyal recommends keeping aside at least a week for a trip to these two states. "However, if you have more time and are comfortable in even colder climes, you could extend your trip to include Arunachal Pradesh."

Getting There: Fly to Guwahati in Assam, and make your way from there

TO LEARN ART: PANCHGANI
Panchgani may not seem as exotic as the other destinations that have made it to this page, but it's an art lover's delight. Meghana Biwalkar, founder of The Travel of Art, recommends making a trip to indulge in traditional art forms and, of course, fresh strawberries.

TO LEARN ART PANCHGANI

"The non-profit Devrai Art Village hosts tribal craftsmen who work with materials like iron, brass, wood, stone and bamboo. Though most specialise in an art form called Rock Dhokra (in pic, above), some are also involved in Warli painting. You can learn these crafts from them by signing up for a workshop," she says.

TO LEARN ART PANCHGANI

Getting There : There are regular bus services from Mumbai to Panchgani, you could also drive down

Meghana Biwalkar
Meghana Biwalkar

TO LIVE IN THE LAP OF NATURE: TIRTHAN VALLEY
Looming oaks and pines, crisp mountain air, abundant apple orchards and waters clear as crystal - these are some of the things that await you in Tirthan Valley in Himachal Pradesh, which Jungle Lore co-founder Kaustubh Upadhye recommends.

valley

"This is the perfect holiday for anyone looking to disconnect for a bit. When in the region, you can go on a trek through the snow, explore Chehni Kothi, a 1,500-year-old stone castle built by the then king of Kullu, or even venture into the Great Himalayan National Park, where you can spot rare species like snow leopards, and blue sheep," says Upadhye.

Kaustubh Upadhye
Kaustubh Upadhye

As far as accommodation goes, there are cosy B&Bs strewn across the valley. Upadhye shares that the roads are motorable, so you don't have to worry about having to walk for miles to get to your destination.

Getting There: Fly to New Delhi, then take a bus or drive down from there


Also view - Photos: 10 best places to spot Bollywood celebrities in Mumbai
Photos: 10 best places to spot Bollywood celebrities in Mumbai


This is the most Instagram-worthy winter city in the world

Bern, a city in Switzerland, has been the most popular location to Instagram when the winter season gets in. According to a research by laser eye surgery clinic Focus Clinic, known for its medieval landmark clock tower and stunning neo-Renaissance buildings, Bern is officially Instagram users' favourite winter city to upload in their social media accounts.

This is the most Instagram-worthy winter city in the world Bern. Pic/Instagram

Focus Clinic, a popular laser eye surgery clinic in the United Kingdom, who gathered the 20 most popular winter travel destinations across the world based on Google search and ranked each by the number of times a city's hashtag was used on Instagram to determine its popularity on the photo-sharing app.

The 'Bern' hashtag has been used more than 1,082,440 times, according to the research, with Aspen, Colorado, taking second place with 935,000 tags, reports The Independent. Not only is it the capital of Switzerland, it's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bern's historic landscape dates back to 1191 and is characterised by the Clock Tower (Zytglogge), the Prison Tower (Kafigturm), the sculptural fountains from the Renaissance, the Cathedral (Munster), and the impeccable sandstone facades. Rounding out the top 5 winter destinations according to Instagram are - Aspen, Colorado; the Northern Lights in Tromso, Norway; Chamonix, France; Yosemite National Park in California.

Here are some images...


Northeast Calling: Exploring Nagaland beyond the Hornbill Festival

If you haven't made a trip to the northeast yet, now would be a good time to start planning one. The annual Hornbill Festival will take place in Nagaland at the beginning of next month, bringing with it a host of events. From folk dances to wrestling competitions, from cooking contests to one that involves chomping down on hot Naga chillies, there is plenty to keep you fascinated. To help plan your trip, we got two experts to tell you how you can explore Nagaland beyond the festival.

Northeast calling

On December 1 to 10
At Kisama village, Hornbill–Kisama Road, Nagaland.

Meet the Konyak tribesmen
The Konyak tribe (in pic, above and right) of Nagaland was known for its vicious headhunting practice for  centuries, right until the 1970s. In fact, back in the day, they would hang the heads of their enemies on the walls of their morung (communal houses). "Today, instead of human heads, you will be greeted by the skulls of  animals they've hunted.

Northeast calling

Despite the reputation they've earned, they're lovely people. At the Hornbill Festival, they reenact scenes from their headhunting days," says Amit Rane, director of DCP Expeditions, which is conducting a trip-cum-photography workshop to the festival.

Amit-Rane-C
Amit Rane

Visit a heritage village
The members of the Angami Naga tribe of Khonoma village, located around 20 km from Kohima, gave up hunting several years ago to help wildlife conservation efforts in the region. "In 1998, the village council declared 20 sq km as the Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary. In Khonoma, you can meet local craftsmen and check out 200-year-old rifles used in battle," says Rane.

Call 61818464 (DCP Expeditions)

Take a peek into the lives of Naga tribes. pics courtesy/amit rane
Take a peek into the lives of Naga tribes. pics courtesy/Amit Rane 

Head to a war cemetery
The Kohima war cemetery sits at the very same spot where the Battle of Kohima took place in April 1944.

Head to a war cemetery

"The  memorial is dedicated to soldiers of the 2nd British Division of the Allied Forces who lost their lives here fighting Japanese forces," says Kankanmoni Deka of Guwahati-based Golden Woods Travels, which organises trips to Nagaland. He adds that history buffs could also pay a visit to the war museum, which houses informative exhibits and World War II artefacts.

Kankanmoni Deka
Kankanmoni Deka

Trek through a valley
Dzukou Valley, situated at the border of Nagaland and Manipur, is a beautiful piece of paradise for trekkers, flush with rolling carpets of green and meandering rivers. "The trek is an easy one, and along the way, you will pass by little villages. The villagers are incredibly warm, and are happy to meet visitors. You can even sit down for a meal with them," says Deka. Make it a three-day trek and stay overnight in a dormitory.

Call 8134025468
(Golden Woods Travels)


Getting there

Travel: Smart and handy tips to plan your December holiday

If you are planning a vacation in the last month of the year then this is the time for you to book the flight tickets as chances are that you will get lowest hotel rates, says a report. Travel site TripAdvisor announced the "Best Time to Book" for the ...