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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Diu- The Ultimate First Hand Guide- Part 1


Disclaimer: This guide is based on our experiences and trip research only. This is NOT Lonely Planet and if you need a comprehensive guide on every inch of the place go for them. This is for those who want to know about the place. This is Ultimate to my knowledge. Also I will have the PDF after I publish the Part-2.


Where is Diu?

Diu usually is referred to as a part of Daman & Diu a a union territory on India which is true politically but it is VERY far from Daman. Most of the people we told about our vist asked us if we were going to Daman too. Daman happens to be nestled between Maharashtra and Gujrat while Diu is  a small island just of the coast of Gujarat. It is far closer to most parts of Gujarat than to Daman.

Why do I want to visit Diu
Diu is a unique place not a regular colonial town. It does not have the abandon of Goa or Pondicherry but it does have the relaxed vibe of a small beach territory.

Reaching There


By Air
Diu has a airport which receives one flight a day coming in from Mumbai which goes back to Mumbai via Probandar. The airport in itself is a small building with check in and security area in Departures and a small arrivals. Do not expect to have your lunch at the Airport.

By Road
Diu is well connected to all major cities of Gujarat and to Mumbai by bus. A day long bus journey to Mumbai can be booked for around 900 Rs from various travel agents who are scattered all around the city.

By train
Diu in itself does not have a railway station, instead it is served by Veraval which is 85 Km and a two hour bus ride from the city. Veraval can be reached by an overnight train from Ahmadabad the capital city of Gujarat. Image below shows all the trains which connect Veraval to Ahmedavad.

How much does it cost to get there?
Flights can be really expensive if you are paying with cash. Jet flight when booking a month in advance can go upto 12 K in no sale scenario. However if like us you have a few miles you can get a return flight for 1500 Rs and 10000 JP miles. If you can plan ahead look out for offers like 50% off which let us return flight for 4000 miles.
Buses are available from few hundred to around a thousand one way depending on whether you choose a seat or sleeper birth in non AC bus or AC bus. Train cost varies from 300 to 1600 depending on class when coming from ahmedabad.

Living there


What is available
Diu caters to all kinds of accomodation needs right from the plush on the beach resort to backpacker heaven with cheap costs and clean beds. Most of the accomodation options are lined near the Nagoa beach and Diu city center the long stretch between these is quite lonely with a few resorts sprinkled in between. It definitely makes sense to be close to one of these as well.

Where should I live

We prefer living in the city center because it jut makes everything easier right from going out to buy breakfast to visiting the old city and monuments. Diu is no exception. Most of ht e sites are centered in and around the DIU Fort. I would recommend you to take up a place near the Museum or along the promenade.
If you are looking to relax on the beach and are OK with driving to visit the other attractions you can stay near Nagoa too. We did drive to Ghoghla and found a few resorts there too but we would not recommend them as they are far from the main beaches of Diu as well as city center.

How much do these cost?


We stayed here and paid 600 per night for two beds. From what I understood they also give out single beds instead of rooms but would suggest you check with them. It is one of the better accommodation options I have seen for this price. Most of the places around the promenade start up from 1500 a night. If you move towards Nagoa you can expect fares starting over 2000 a night.
I do maintain that AC will not be required unless you go there in peak summer and you cannot tolerate even a bit of heat. Our afternoons were spent inside enjoying sea breeze.

Some accomodation options

Please remember we stayed at only one place, other accommodation options you see detailed here are because we ate in them or searched around for them. Options listed under others are those which we heard about and researched but do not have any first hand experience with them.
2.Sao Tome Retario
You might read that the place is behind Diu museum, do not go walking around to locate it  it is right behind the museum building. We were excited to sleep in the church but simply could not find it until 2 days into our trip after promising 3 night stay in Herança.
It is named as an Island villa which is what it is  a nicely done open lobby welcomes you as you enter the gates. The lobby/restaurant opens up into a garden with a hammock. Rooms start around 2300 as per the pamphlet on the reception.
4. Kostamar Resort
This happens to be one of the good resorts near the beach. Tastefully done lobby and common areas (which is what we saw) welcome you with much needed air conditioning in the noon.
Some other accommodation options.

What can I eat?

You get almost all kinds of food in the city from pure vegetarian fare to sea food and from local Kathiawari food to Italian. Expecting original taste might be a bit too much unless you have a local Portuguese descent family preparing food for you. Diu food is a fusion so enjoy it.

What I should be eating?

As I mentioned in this pst you will save money and eat well as long as you eat Kathiawari. Gujratis are majorly vegetarians and you will find a vast variety of vegetarian food but the island character of the city will not go unnoticed with sea food offerings though they are far less than what you normally see in coastal places like Goa and Pondicherry.

Places we ate at
1. Bamaniya Restaurant
This was our liberation while walking from airport to the city. The prices are decent and taste is OK. We rate it high because of the chilled chach that saved us from heat on the road. Food is nice and place is clean. they have pebbled floor and you sit out in open. Liquor is not served and they specifically disallow drunks. There is a wine shop by the same name just behind the restaurant.
2. O'Couerio Restaurant
Locate in one of the narrow lanes of the city behind the Museum this is touted as the best western/Italian food place in Diu. The place is actually someone's garden hence the garden restaurant in its name. Like most of Diu you eat outside under lights which can be a problem due to insects. Food is nice but I wouldn't quote it as out of this world, though I just had some pasta. Prices are average but you will find them a bit higher if you have been eating local in one of the places along th epromenade.
3. Apna Foodland
Located on the promenade this is famous as the family dining place and its attraction seems to originate from south Indian food options. Food is good like most of the other food places.We had a breakfast and dinner at the place, which made me notice that the coffee cups and kettle were not one of the best ones I have seen. It is  a bit pricier compared to other places nearby. do try the gujrati thali which is what we found to be the best deal of all but stay away from noodles they were too oily and salty for my taste.
4. Apaar Restaurant
This is another one of the places which serves good food along the promenade at decent prices. Food is good, the place is clean and service is quick. It is across the road from the government wine shop but does not serve liquor.
5. Cat's Eye- Hoka Resort
This is the place where we spent two of our afternoons and its proximity to airport made it the perfect place to have our last meal in Diu. Its food also made the decision easy. Do try spicy potatoes, though a bit oily we found them to be a perfect companion to our drinks. Along with stuffed tomato and cucumber mustard raita this was our best lunch in Diu. Though the prices are a bit high compare to last few options the place has an upmarket setting and you pay for that too.
6. Kostamaar Resort
the resort boasts of  a roof top restaurant and bar but it was closed maybe because it was not really the peak season for the resort. Being a posh resort the restaurant was clean and prices reflected its resorty nature with everything almost 1.5 times other places. But you get to sit in air conditioned restaurant which is something you will love in the afternoon. We had our brunch and food did not disappoint, you will be seated with a view of the pool area or the entrance. There are no sea views though as the restaurant is on the ground floor.

Do add your own tips and suggestions in the comments below I would love to incorporate it in the guide and Part 2 will be out soon.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Diu- What You Should Know Before You Go

Diu is often compared with Goa but it has a very different feel and people who make it a very different experience. I have been to both the beaches in off season and the difference is amazing. While some activities might be closed in Goa during off season Diu becomes even more lazy and quiet. It is the weekends which infuse life in the otherwise solitary streets and beaches. Diu gets a lot of alcohol/liquor tourists from dry state of Gujarat. Though many hotels and guest houses close kitchens, the smaller bars are always open and never without patrons. 

A small island territory, Diu has beaches and forests to offer a visitor, along with many churches, temples and some Zoroastrian structures.
While researching for our trip I was quite surprised by lack of information on the city. Maybe I did not look at the right place, maybe there is actually a lag. I decided to do a series on Diu and finally compile it as a eBook available for download (maybe). Before I go to the specifics here are some of the tips I wanted to give out.

Take that auto

We weren't smiling by the end and do not have a single photo to prove our bad state
If you are flying and plan on staying in the city and not near the Nagoa beach I would suggest you take an auto and not try to wing it walking like we did. We have walked 6-7 km at many places but for the first time we were beat walking the 7 km stretch. Not only was it very hot no auto or phatphat stopped to take us when we decided to give up until we were 2 km short of our destination. From the st. Paul church to our guest house felt like a mountainous climb instead of the few 100 m of gently climbing road. Take the auto at the airport.
Same hold good for getting down at the bus stand and living near Nagoa.

Forget the AC

This is afternoon in our room

If you can survive slight hot weather I would recommend you skip AC and revel in the winds of Diu. Even though the sun is bright and beating down hard winds are cool and almost always flowing. All of our afternoons were spent indoors as we waited for the hottest part of the day to go past. Nights get cool and you will need a light cover to keep you comfortable.

Carry a mosquito repellent

If you love open widow and sea breeze mosquitoes will be your biggest woes come evening. We did not take any repellents and paid for it one night. It would be best to carry a plug-in repellent or the coil though I would recommend plugins as they are not smoky and smell less.

Get a transport

Our ride along with the owner's these are everywhere in Diu

There is no public transport except for auto rickshaws but they are too few and may be absent when you want to come back from the secluded beach. Cycles are definitely the best option and will cost you about 100 a day for a new one and around 50 for a old pair of wheels. We opted for a scooter, not the greenest way but we had taxed our legs and cycling scared us. It cost us 300 a day but usual costs are 350 we were told. with petrol for 150 filled in we roamed around all corners of Diu clocking around 100 Km.

Eat local/Kathiyawari

If you are eating at any of the local places and not a resort your best bet is Kathiawari food. It is about half the price of other fares and is delicious. A plate of Kathiyawari subzi or curry will cost you 60Rs while a thali should be around 100-140 Rs. Even if the complex mix of Indian spices scare you this one should be fine. It has a good balance of spices and is not hot like most local food choices around India. With a small amount of sweetness added it is both satisfying and delicious. Among all the food we had we are a big fan of Gujrati thali and undhiyu.

Visit the INS Kukri memorial

View from the Kukri Memorial

There are many beaches in Diu being an island it is blessed with sand and sea. Most famous is the Nagoa beach which is 2 km from the airport. Another beach and perhaps my favorite is the Chandrikamata beach on the Kukri memorial side. Like most other beaches there is a temple at this beach too and you can witness evening prayers with floating lamps. But when you move towards the memorial you are met with a hillock and a backwater beach. This one is also one of the cleanest beaches. The backwater pool has rocks on the sea side which make for beautiful breaking waves and result in huge amounts if broken shells which litter the beach. If you like shells take a small walk on the rocks behind the beach opposite to the memorial. Here small crevices are home to numerous small developing shells and some full grown ones.

Diu is a lazy city with its charming beaches and historical structures. It might not be the place where the party is but it is the best place to take a break from hectic travelling and life.
Tweet these tips or keep a PDF for your self.

Members check the Goodies folder for the pdf.



Saturday, August 30, 2014

Beach Trip- Andaman Travel plans


Did I tell you about the Andaman trip in September end. This year has been AWESOME with all the trips we have been able to do and enjoy. We set up a budget target for our travels when the year started and we have exceeded it maybe spent almost double already. Anyways we are going to another beach and this time unlike Diu I am hoping to get some swimming and snorkeling done. SCUBA is right now looking very out of our pockets and so is the surfing trip I had wanted to go on later in the year.

Right now I am breaking my head about what to take along and what to omit. One of my bigger concerns is my weight and getting a swim suit. I am looking at few and I am honestly unable to decide which ones to buy.

Apart from the clothes it is my desire to carry a small barbecue to the island, not just to have great food but also to save ourselves some money. The trip looks like it is going to be another expensive one and I am not really sure where I am going to dish out the money from. so I am working hard on my freelancing.

The reason why the trip is threatening to empty our pockets is because of the obnoxiously expensive accommodation (affiliate). The only reasonable accommodation I am able to find comes with scuba diving and that will decimate my resources. I feel like I should go and start my own home stay in Havelock and have a huge hall where people can bring in their sleeping gear and rest for the night. Let me know what you think about that. Anyways a sleeping bag is definitely not one of my desired items to pack. It is just too bulky and with the standing seats on the ferries which we will probably take it doesn't sound practical either.

Our itinerary for the ten day trip includes Havelock, Diglipur and Little Andaman. As of now I don't think we will be in Port Blair for long though cellular Jail is definitely one of the things I am interested in.

If you have been to Andamans and have a few tips to share or if you can direct us to a place you think will suit us. Our criteria clean and CHEAP like the guest house in Diu.

Photo on the top is from awesome people at Death to the Stock Photo.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Herança Goesa- Best Place to stay in Diu

205/3 Behind Diu Museum, off the Hospital road 02875-253851 (number from Lonely Planet)

I rarely write reviews more because of my laziness to click pictures when I am staying at any place than for any other reason. This time I managed to pull out the camera while in the room and click some photographs.


Basic Info

Our place of choice in Diu was Herança Goesa. After a draining walk from the Airport the guest house was a blessing for its quick room allocation and friendly owners. The guest house is owned by an Indo-Portugese family living on the ground floor. There are 5 rooms on the first floor and two on the ground. All the First floor rooms have twin beds and double bed is available on the ground floor.

Location


It is perhaps the best location if you intend to see the city and churches. It is around 8 Km form the Nagoa beach but Jalandhar beach and INS Kukri memorial beach are nearby. You are just behind the two famous churches of Diu, the St. Thomas church and St. Paul's Church. It is around 10 minutes walk to the shops and waterfront, pharmacy is nearby and so are a few food options without going to the waterfront.

Room and costs




If there is anything you will hear about the place it will be its cleanliness and people are not lying. The room was far better cleaned compared to some hotels I have stayed at for double the price.
As I previously mentioned the room had twin beds. The beds were comfortable though we did miss covers or a light duvet as the night got a bit cold for us with windows open. A table with two chairs id the only other furniture in the room. Minimal and sufficient furniture does not clutter the room and there was good circulation space in the room. There is no closet which could be locked but the space is good for unpacking your luggage.
Toilet and bath were like the other areas clean and well provided for. There is a small gas heater which get hot water running. If there is any thing I did not like it was the state of plumbing fixtures. Some minor repairs or replacements would greatly help.
Both the room and toilet are well ventilated, some may even say that it was too ventilated. The windows had clear glass and flimsy curtains made it difficult to change inside the room without fearing for your modesty.
Room has a fan which served us well and we were did not desire air conditioning at any point against our experience in Goa. Plug points are there near the bed and the table, definitely where we want them.
There were no towels or toilet paper provided there was a big bar of soap in the toilet.
Check in-out time is 10 am though we requested another 30 minutes and they had no issues with it, maybe because it was off season. Gate closing time is 11:30 pm.
The room cost us 600 per night.

Food

They do breakfast and dinners but kitchen was to be opened from next month so we walked around for food. Due to its proximity to the waterfront food options are always nearby.



Common Areas

There is a terrace (next to our room) with common table and an ashtray. You can also go up to the roof which along with a nice view has pleasant breeze in the night.

Final Call

We loved the place it was quiet, comfortable and never far away from anything but the airport and Nagoa beach. We met a french guy who comes to Diu every year for twenty odd years and has lived here for past seven. Ask for the rooms with the balcony they were occupied when we went. Definitely the place to live in when all you want is good accommodation for reasonable price.

Monday, July 21, 2014

How we Planned our Honeymoon- for less than 1000$

This is one of the chapters from my book Work Travel Live. The book will be available by the month end and you should be signing up if you want it.

This chapter will show you how to use the skills we learnt to plan and execute your trip to your liking. While we were planning for our honeymoon none of us had money to spend over a lakh on one trip so we decided to see how efficiently we can manage it.
Our goal as always was to reduce the fixed costs of flights and accommodation. With me being a vegetarian food was a concern. We were to say the least highly inefficient in our planning and travel still we managed to keep the trip within our pockets.

Transport


Our marriage dates were decided in July 2010 and we booked our first flight tickets in August 2010. Our trip dates were in February next year. Yes almost six months before our trip we booked our first tickets. Air Asia had just introduced itself in India and it was an opportunity like never before. We paid a total of 20000 for our return flights (to KL) combined along with luxury bus to Penang and flight back. We had really wanted to do a night in houseboat and it became easy with Air Asia’s direct and cheapest flight to Kochi. We then took a flight back to Delhi which cost us an additional 6500 combined.
We got two very important benefits of booking flights this early. Firstly we got great prices partly due to promotions and also by spreading our flights over a few months we never felt as if a big chunk of money was lost in a single click.
We combined both air and road transport. Though the costs were almost similar it let us see some new sights we would have missed if we flew into Penang instead of taking the bus.

Accommodation


When you are planning your accommodation you dream of comfy beds with luxurious bathrooms. We got both but reduced the costs by taking off things we would not use. We knew we were going to be mostly out and wanted to be close to the city center so we booked Tune hotel which is AirAsia sister concern. The hotel was well maintained and had awesome bed and shower. Its location close to metro station helped us to get around the city easily. Cost for four nights was 4200.
Next hotel in Penang was a bit more luxurious and we paid 3100 for two nights. Both of these being in city center we could walk around and get cheap food to suit my vegetarian requirements. Also they were cheap and easy to reach.
After coming back to India our first night was at youth hostel in a private room that cost us 600/- for the night. I was not really happy with the youth hostel simple quarters; it was our honeymoon after all. Today the accommodation feels just right.
Next day and night was our big honeymoon treat in houseboat which cost us 5000 all inclusive. Except for the youth hostel all other accommodations would not be called backpacker’s haunts. We had luxury and the extra expenditure on the house boat didn’t even register because of the novel experience we had.

Local transport

I would admit had I not been tense about missing our flights we might not have ended up spending on airport taxis. Almost all the airports had buses or other means available. Except for those taxis it was bus and metro all the way. I can’t give you exact figure but it never really went overboard. We walked a lot and free bus service in Penang was a boon.
Also while in Fort Kochi we walked most of town just like in Penang’s Georgetown area.

Food and drinks


This was a big challenge for an Indian vegetarian. Let me explain what that means. I don’t consume meat and eggs but I do take in dairy products. We Indians are a bit too finicky about what we eat and I had dosa and idli almost all days we were there in Penang. I now know the variety of food Penang has on offer and some of them is actually vegetarian. We did not even have cendol.
McD doesn’t serve vegetarian options, I don’t know why. They do so here in India. The only food I could have was a pizza which was too expensive to have every day. I practically survived on fruits. If you can rent an apartment and cook for yourself you are going to be really happy. Even a snack or sandwich prepared for your food sensibilities can be a blessing. Research what food is available and ask the restaurant to cook it as per your requirements. During my next trip to the place I found that most places were ready to switch the meat add-ons for veggies and I was never hungry.
We did not drink a single glass of liquor and were better off without it. It was my first trip outside India and I was far too alert. I am quite sure those cheap beer buckets at china town must be quite inviting. But think before you end up finishing one all by yourself.

Souvenirs

I love to shop, I am a girl but I usually fix price for an item in my mind. If it’s more than that I don’t usually buy it. Along with that I can haggle though I am not great at it like many in our family. This makes the chances of getting what I like at my price better. We ended up with a few 10RM souvenirs and bought some cheap keychain packs for people back home.
Think twice before you buy anything. Those vases do look beautiful but they can break very easily if those airport luggage people don’t handle it well. We found some affordable, beautiful table top fountains in a mall and were about to buy it when Ajay just picked it up. It was too heavy and three of them would burden our already loaded bags. So we left it there and brought back some shot glasses and random souvenirs that people back home liked.
I always suggest buying a few key chains with some imagery on it. This will reduce the cost but you can gift it to people you are not really close with.

Our Mistakes

Before you think it seems possible and let’s do it this way let me tell you about the mistakes we made.

Baggage

This is one of my biggest regrets and was a constant worry especially while checking in. I am sure we could have managed without the loaded bags we were carrying.
I had a bag full of sarees and shoes as we were flying just after our marriage, and I wasn’t keen on leaving it at my in-laws. We were not returning to Hyderabad in near future so it did not make sense.
Now it makes sense. We would have saved up some 1500 that we paid for pre booked check in baggage on Air Asia. We were on the margin and any extra weight would have cost us additional money on the trip. Definitely not a desirable situation.
Apart from cost it was inconvenient. We had stuffed handbags, were wearing our heaviest jackets in the flights and held our breath when the polite ladies were weighing our bags. It is not worth the trouble. I had half a bag full of shoes and wore just two pair entire time.

We could have stayed cheaper


Sure all that we spent wasn’t major but now I feel there were quite a few places we did not look at because their sites did not look good or we thought they were very cheap.
We booked the houseboat through the guy at our youth hostel. I am sure had we waited till we reached Alleppy we could have had a cheaper deal.
This can be a bit risky in case you don’t find accommodation at the last moment, still we were back to our home country and there’s always a way out.

Food

We are both big time foodies. While I am the adventurous kind Ajay would not experiment while alone. Scared by sights of hanging seafood in china town I did not even eat roti canai or the other vegetarian fare, though rare were on offer. I strongly suggest you ask people what goes into the thing they are serving you. You would in most cases be able to get them to cook up something for you. Though expect just fries in major food outlets.
There is a high chance that you might not be able to get through to the vendor try somewhere else. I could easily find people speaking Hindi in Malaysia if not English. If you miss out on food you miss out on a lot that the place has to offer.

Don’t repeat our mistakes, do your own and tell us about them. In the next edition maybe I’ll put a few under your name.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Of Tooth Floss and More

Are you thinking what does the headline mean? It is exactly what has been going on in my head past few months that is some random thoughts and a lot of plans. First of let me digress form travel for a bit.
If you have been to a dentist and sat in that chair of horrors you would understand what I am about to rant off. We visited dentist in December yup I rarely if ever need to see dentist and my oral hygiene and teeth are in perfect condition or should I say were. I remember mentioning this in this post. So after the lady gave me a cleaning/scaling which according to her I did not need I now have sensitive teeth. After six+ months of using soft bristles and brushing less than previously I am stuck with sensitive teeth and now I have to make sure I floss and use a mouth wash every day.

Now that you know what has me riled up let us move to another thing that is eating me except for the fact that I have barely updated my blog. We have not had a real trip in over a month Last time we were traveling was in late April when we went diving and since then Nada. Well we did visit my family but I don't really count that as a trip though it was real fun. I can feel I am getting antsy and as a result of a lot of work and irritation over not traveling for a long stretch of time I have finally concluded that Travel is addictive and i might be an addict.

I like to believe that I have *inspired* people to travel more even if they have jobs and specifically if they have a job. In India we are told that school and college are meant for studying and your life awaits you after that. There are very few who actually travel and if there are a few of them who do they are rarely females of our species. So the time you have money (more than what you had in college at least) you are being told you have to work your butt off to make something out of yourself. STOP and think when are you going to actually enjoy your life. With all due respect to the traveling retirees old knees are rarely going to take you up some mountain.
Where am I going with this? Two points which are related to each other closely.
1. Travel now don't put it for later.
2. Travel can be addictive so keep traveling because withdrawal is a b***
Let me elaborate, what is your age right now? If you are over 25 remember your school college days and honestly tell yourself if you can do as many night outs as you could have done back then? Do you crave your bed every night when you were more than satisfied with a corner on the mattress after a late night party? Exactly my point. On our year end trip we slept in train for almost a week and woke up to bumpy jeep safaris, at 27-28 it was fun but I am not sure if i would be inclined to do the same ten years from now with a child in tow. Bottom line travel now, who says you will be walking the earth when you are old.

As I already said we haven't been traveling and my creative energy has suffered many folds. I just don't feel like writing most days and when I do it feels lie a chore after few lines I have a lot of unfinished posts and am trying to finish them off and them polish them some. Another thought that has been plaguing me is how do I want my travel and blogging career to go? 
Anyways what do you have to say about Travel and Dentists!

* Awesome image above by deathtothestockphoto