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United & US Airways will charge extra to check bags at airport

May 17, 2009

United and US Airways will soon charge an extra $5 to check bags at the airport, charging $20 for the first bag and $30 for the second. Since it will still cost $15 and $25 respectively to pay for checked bags online, United is heralding the chance to “prepay & save!,” while US Airways boasts that they now have a “lower fee online!”

A few issues come to mind, however, as to why this may not be such a great thing for passengers.

First, United says that the fees are nonrefundable. So if a trip is canceled, that’s one more penalty often on top of a change fee. And that’s not even getting into what happens when the airline cancels flights. Even if they endorse a ticket to a competitor, will they cover the other airlines fees?

Next, how smoothly is this going to work? For example, will the system always have a record of the prepayment, especially if the passenger doesn’t have the receipt with them at the airport.

We’d be fine with the deceptive language only if they agreed to call the new fees a “surprise airport surcharge!”

U.S./Canada checked baggage [United]
Checking bags? Pay online. It’s worth it! [US Airways]
FEE ALERT: United & US Airways Raise Bag Fees (except online) [Rick Seaney]
United asks the question: “When is a fee increase not a fee increase?” [Tripso]

Permits for travel to Northeast India

May 15, 2009

Map of Northeast India

Map of Northeast India

Permits are essential for traveling to the northeastern states of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Manipur in India. Entry without one is a serious matter. Indian citizens need an inner line permit, issued with little fuss at each relevant state’s office in Guwahati, Kolkata or elsewhere. The rest of this section applies to foreigners who’ll require a Restricted Area Permit (RAP).

Indian citizens can pick up Inner Line Permits at the relevant state offices. However, foreigners shouldn’t expect the slightest morsel of permit assistance at these offices.
Arunachal House (Tel: +91 361 2452859) Head south from the GNB flyover, take the first left off RG Baruah Rd, then turn right up an unmarked dead-end lane.
Manipur Bhawan (Tel: +91 361 2540707; Rajgarh Rd)
Mizoram House (Tel: +91 361 2529411; GS Rd, Christian Basti)
Nagaland House (Tel: +91 361 2332158; Sachel Rd, Sixth Mile, Khanapara) New office at the southeast city limits.

Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office
You can get permits for Sikkim (free) in one working day at the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office (FRRO; Tel +91 33 2473301; 237A AJC Bose Rd; 10am-5pm Mon-Fri). For Manipur (Imphal only), Arunachal Pradesh (not Tawang) and Nagaland (Mon, Phek), FRRO has started offering limited-area permits for groups of four applicants, issued in 24 hours and for free. Each permit application requires one photo and a passport photocopy.

State Offices
The following can issue state-specific  Inner Line permits to Indian nationals. However, except at Sikkim House, foreigners shouldn’t expect any permit help whatsoever.
Arunachal Pradesh (Tel: +91 33 23341243; Arunachal Bhawan, Block CE 109, Sector 1, Salt Lake City)
Manipur (Tel: +91 33 24758163; Manipur Bhawan, 26 Rowland Rd)
Mizoram (Tel: +91 33 24757887; Mizoram Bhawan, 24 Old Ballygunge Rd) Take the lane beside 23 AC Rd for 100m. Enter to left through unmarked black gates.

Minimum Group Size
Permit applications generally need a four-person minimum group. Exceptions include the following:
– Nagaland for a legally married couple with marriage certificate
– Arunachal Pradesh for smaller groups if you pay the full four-person fee (US$200), through travel agencies only Once you arrive, authorities will be unimpressed if some people listed on your permit are ‘missing’, especially in Nagaland where the group must also stick together for crossing district boundaries. However, in Mizoram things seem much more flexible, so should the other three people on your four-person Mizoram permit become inexplicably incapacitated, you’ll probably be allowed to continue alone.

Validity & Registration
Permits are normally valid for 10 days from an exact, specified starting date. You might be able to extend your permit, but only in state capitals at the Secretariat, Home Department. In Arunachal, extending permits will cost another US$200 for up to four people. Be aware that permits allow you to visit specified districts only; you’ll need to plan carefully, as changing routes might be problematic.

Be sure to make multiple photocopies of your permit to show at checkpoints and police registration. Registration is compulsory both on arrival and on each night that you stay in a new location. If travelling on a tour, your guide will do this for you. Travelling without a guide (or ‘guardian’) can confuse authorities in Nagaland and Arunachal and might result in you being refused entry, though on-the-ground realities vary widely between individual checkposts and officers.

Where to Apply
Applications through the Ministry of Home Affairs in Delhi can take months and end in frustration. If it works, the best option will be the new system operated at Kolkata’s Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office. Otherwise the most reliable way to get permits is by booking a tailor-made tour through a reputable agency:

Agency Based in Best for
Himalayan Bomdila all, notably Arunachal
Jungle Travels Guwahati all
Omega Aizawl Mizoram
Purvi Discovery Dibrugarh Arunachal, Nagaland
Rhino Guwahati all
Tribal Discovery Kohima Nagaland

Start the application process at least six weeks ahead.

Costs per person:

State Through FRRO Kolkata Through agency
Arunachal Pradesh free (not Tawang) US$50 + commission
Manipur free Rs 1500 + commission
Mizoram not possible commission (Rs 400)
Nagaland free but limited commission only

Photo of the day: Eklingji Temple, Udaipur

May 15, 2009

Eklingji Temple, Udaipur

Eklingji Temple, Udaipur

Eklingji Temple is one of the most famous temples of Rajasthan. Located in the town of Eklingji (Kailashpuri), the place got its popular name from the temple. Eklingji Temple is positioned at a distance of 22 km in the north of Udaipur, on the national highway no. 8. Eklingnath Temple is dedicated to the Lord Shiva of the Hindu religion. Initially, the temple was built in 734 A.D. by Bappa Rawal. Since that time, Eklingji has been the ruling deity of Mewar rulers. In the later years, it was repaired and modified by various Kings, to clean the remnants of obliteration made by the attacks of Mohammedans.

The magnificent architecture of Eklingnath Temple is simply remarkable. The double-storied temple looks awesome with its pyramidal style of roof and distinctly carved tower. The outer walls of the temple are stretched with steps that descend touching the serene waters. Inside the complex, the main temple is a huge pillared hall or ‘mandap’ that is sheltered by hefty pyramidal roof. On entering this hall, you will be welcomed by a silver image of Nandi. In the temple, there are two other images of Nandi carved in black stone and brass respectively. You would find this temple full of mesmerizing fragrance.

The temple boasts of a striking four-faced idol of Eklingji (Lord Shiva) that is made out of black marble. Its height ranges around 50 feet and its four faces depict four forms of Lord Shiva. The east-facing part is recognized as Surya, the west-facing part is Lord Brahma, the north-facing part is Lord Vishnu and the south-facing part is Rudra i.e. Lord Shiva himself. The zenith of the multifaceted idol is known as ‘Yantra that stands for the ultimate reality. The Shivlinga (Phallic form of Lord Shiva) garlanded by a silver snake, acquires the major attraction of people.

Being sited in the middle, Shivlinga is encircled by Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikay. Inside the temple complex, you would find statues of Goddess Saraswati and Goddess Yamuna. The main temple also boasts of heavy silver doors, which depicts Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikay guarding their father. To the north of Eklingji temple, there are two tanks namely Karz Kund and Tulsi Kund. Water of these tanks is consumed during the services of the Lord. The festival of Shivratri is observed here with full gusto and fervor. At this time, the image of Lord Shiva is adorned with jewelry.

Enrooted in the religious roots, the town comprises around 108 small and big temples. Near to Eklingji Temple, you can also trace various temples that are dedicated to Ambika Mata, Kalki and Lord Ganesha. One more temple by the name of Nathon Ka Mandir that dates back to 10th century catches the attraction. Lakulish temple is a fine temple that was built in 971. It is the exclusive temple of the Lakulish sect in India. Sas- Bahu temple is another temple that is all raised in marble of the 11th century. The Jain Temple of Adbhudji is made in black marble which dates back to the 15th century.

Amongst other temples of Kailashpuri (better known as Eklingji), temples of Pataleshwar Mahadeo, Arbada Mata, Rathasan Devi and Vindhyavasini Devi are worth mentioning. The wonderful architecture of these temples makes the onlooker to ponder over the artistry of those times. The city of Eklingji or Kailashpuri is located amidst a beautiful valley on the lands of Rajasthan that houses some of the marvelous temples of India. While planning your trip to Udaipur, don’t forget to include Eklingji in your itinerary, otherwise you would be at a miss.

Photo Courtesy:

YHA India National Motorbike Expedition, Aug 24, 2009

May 14, 2009

Youth Hostel Association of India (YHAI) is the Indian member of the International Youth Hostels. Centenary Celebration of Youth Hostelling International & 60th Anniversary of YHA of India – “HEIGHT OF ADVENTURE”

100 Motor Cyclists will undertake about 2500 km journey starting from New Delhi to Chandigarh, Kullu-Manali, Leh & Khardungla Pass covering the most challenging mountain route via Rohtang Pass (13,051 ft / 3978 m), Bara Lacha Pass (16,040 ft / 4890 m), Lachung La Pass (16,600 ft / 5059 m) and Tanglang La Pass (17,582 ft  / 5359 m) and finally to world’s highest Motorable road reaching Khardungla Pass (5602 m / 18380 ft). They will return via Kargil, Drass through Zozila Pass (3528 m / 11575 ft), Srinagar, Jammu & Ludhiana, Delhi.

Delhi-Panipat-Ambala-Chandigarh-Kullu-Manali -Tandi- Sarchu – Upshi- Leh-Khardungla-Leh–Kargil-Drass –Zozila Pass-Srinagar-Jammu-Ludhiana-Karnal-Delhi.

The actual route may change depending upon geographical, social and environmental conditions.

17 days. Participants will report at Base Camp, International Youth Hostel, New Delhi on 24th August 2009. After expedition, they will leave from New Delhi on 09th September 2009.

About Delhi
Delhi, the Capital of India is one of the most populous metropolis in the world and one of the historically significant among towns and cities in India. Delhi is full of ancient historical monument that dates back to the Mughul period along with many highly acclaimed modern buildings, and these can all often be enjoyed whilst whizzing around in the city. Delhi is spread over an area of 1483 sq kms, with population of around 14 million. It happens to be the political hub of India.

About Leh
Leh-Ladakh, a part of Jammu & Kashmir State in north of India consisting of two districts Leh and Kargil. It lies at an altitude of 10,800 ft. above sea level. It is at a distance of 434 kms from Srinagar and 474 kms from Manali. The total population of Leh district is 117,000. Leh has quite a few interested place on offer. The main attraction of this area include the captivating Leh Palace, Buddist Monasteries, Stok Palace Museum etc. and beautiful valleys. It is considered to be coldest desert in winter.

How to reach Base Camp at International Youth Hostel, New Delhi:
International Youth Hostel, New Delhi is 10 km from Domestic Airport & 16 km from International Airport, 11 km from Nizamuddin Railway Station,8 km from New Delhi Railway station & 16 km from Old Delhi Railway station. Nearest Metro station is Central Secretariat (3 km).

International Youth Hostel
Tel. no. +91-11–26116285, 24101246, 26110250, 26871969 Ext.11
E-mail :

Criteria for Selection:
• Preferred Age Group: 20 Years – 50 years
• The participant (male/female) should be in excellent physical and medical fitness.
• They must have a taste for adventure and willing to live life in the rough and tough terrain.
• They should be able to withhold the stress and strain in such high altitude expedition (where oxygen is less) for long duration.
• The participants must have a driving License for Two wheeler valid in India.
• The participant must own a Motor Bike as per specification given below (for foreign national, the bike can be hired by them locally)
• Only single Rider per Motor Bike. No Pillion Rider will be allowed.
Right of selection is reserved with Youth Hostels Association of India (YHAI).

Participation Fee:
Rs. 9,500/- per participant (USD 225 for foreign national)
The actual cost of expedition will be much higher. This is highly discounted/subsidized fee as this is a special event to celebrate Centenary Celebration of Youth Hostelling International and 60th Anniversary of YHA of India. The fee is payable immediately on acceptance of application.

Click here for further information [PDF]

Photos: Jaipur History Collection

May 14, 2009

Jaipur History Collection

Click here to view all the photos

Photographs by Jaipur Group on Facebook

ten links for today

May 14, 2009

1. 10 Perfect Days in Northern India

2. Turkey’s hidden treasures

3. Analyzing the Traveler’s Mind Through 3 Persistent Myths

4. White magic – five stunning white villages of Andalucia

5. Types of coffee served in Italy

6. Laid off? The one thing you absolutely need to do on the first day

7. Yellow Stone Park

8. What You Should Know About Cabbies in Vegas

9. 20 world geography facts that might surprise you

10. Travel Tajikistan

Photos: Discovering Mumbai

May 13, 2009


Click here to view all the photos

Photographs by Nihal Satpute, posted on May 13, 2009

May is National Bike Month in US

May 8, 2009


It’s time to get on your bike and ride in celebration of National Bike Month! The League of American Bicyclists is promoting Bike-to-Work Week from May 11-15 and Bike-to-Work Day on Friday, May 15. Need some ideas? Use the League’s step by step guide on how to get started promoting your event.

Check out ongoing and upcoming events in your state/city.

You can also donate your old bike!

Palace on Wheels, Rajasthan, India

May 7, 2009

Palace on Wheels

Palace on Wheels

Modeled after the luxurious private railway cars of the former rulers of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the Palace on Wheels is the subcontinent’s answer to Orient Express, replete with service-pound captains and staff outfitted in crisp tunics and brilliant turbans straight out of The Jewel in the Crown. Each of the fourteen wagons (or “saloons”) is named after a former princely state and decorated in its most representative colors and fabrics. Rich veneered wood paneling and custom-designed furniture with inlaid motifs lend a further touch of class. The train travels mostly through the desert corners of Rajasthan, usually at night to allow full days of sightseeing in such magical cities as Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer and Jodhput. Guests are treated like royalty onboard and on land as well, with musicians and richly harnessed elephants meetings and greeting the train’s arrival. Luncheons are arranged at former maharajas’ palaces, and camel treks and tiger photo-safaris fill out the exciting week on wheels, culminating in a grand finale visit to the Taj Mahal, before heading back to New Delhi.

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Photos: Pacific Coast Highway, US-1

May 7, 2009


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Travel Humor: You know you’re in Los Angeles when…

May 5, 2009

1. You’re driving on the 101 and see a clear cut definition of where the smog begins and ends.
2. You’re sitting in traffic for at least an hour at any given part of the day.
3. You go to the beach and see that real lifeguards actually do look like the lifeguards from Baywatch.
4. You begin to “lie” to your friends about where you are (i.e. “Yeah I’m like 20 minutes away”) – when you know that it’ll take you at least an hour to get there).
5. You eat a different ethnic food for every meal.
6. You look around at the nice cars around you during traffic, thinking it’ll be your favorite Laker or WB star.
7. You make a conscious choice to watch Jay Leno over David Letterman.
8. You know it’s best not to be on the 405 at 4:05 pm.
9. Getting anywhere from point A to point B, no matter what the distance, takes about “twenty minutes”.
10. You know what neighborhood someone lives in by the degree of damage incurred during the riots.
11. You’ve inadvertently learned Spanish.
12. In the “winter”, you can go to the beach and ski at Big Bear on the same day.
13. You know what “sigalert”, “PCH”, and “the five” mean.
14. If your destination is more than 5 minutes away on foot, you’re definitely driving.
15. Your TV show is interrupted by a police chase.
16. You can’t fall asleep without the lull of a helicopter flying overhead.
17. When tourists ask where they can get souvenirs, you direct them to Venice Beach.
18. You’ve trespassed through private property to get to the “Hollywood” sign.
19. You don’t stop at a STOP sign, you do a California Roll.
20. You’ve ever bought oranges, flowers, cherries or peanuts on a freeway off-ramp.
21. You think that Venice is a beach.
22. You drive next to a Rolls Royce and don’t notice.
23. You’ve started crossing a street and returned to the curb when the DON’T WALK sign started flashing.
24. You’ve never listened to NPR.
25. You think Manhattan is a beach.
26. You eat pineapple on pizza.
27. When giving directions, you follow up with the phrase: “With/Without traffic.”
28. Driving along, you see a high-speed police chase approaching in your rear view mirror. You don’t panic or even flinch. Instead, you call your friends on your car phone and tell them you’re on TV.
29. You know that if you drive two quarter mile(s) in any direction you will find a McDonald’s or a Starbucks.
30. You never, ever go into the water at the Beach. You barely touch the sand.
31. You are awakened in the middle of the night by a moderate earthquake. Your reply: “That ain’t even a 5-pointer” and go back to sleep.
32. You think you are better than the people who live “Over the Hill”. It don’t matter which side of the hill you are currently residing, you are just better than them, for whatever reason.
33. You live 10 miles from work. It takes you 60 minutes to get home.
34. Walking out of Jamba Juice, you see that a movie is being shot on-location across the street.
35. You are not happy, or even slightly exited that there may be a movie star there. You just say, ”They f*ckin better not be blocking my parking space.”
36. You go to Las Vegas for a weekend getaway and the whole trip cost you $50.
37. You know what In N Out is and feel bad for all the other states because they don’t have any.
38. You know that not everyone in Beverly Hills is a millionaire.
39. You’ve gotten parking tickets from parking in the red zone in front of your house.
40. Any major movie star is picking out the best portobello mushrooms next to you at the grocers and you don’t notice.
41. The gym is packed at 3pm…on a workday.
42. Any invitation comes with, “Starts at 8pm or as soon as you can get through traffic.”
43. It’s sprinkling and there’s a report on every news station about “STORM WATCH ‘99?
44. You call 911 and they put you on hold.
45. The three hour traffic jam you just sat through wasn’t caused by a horrific 9 car pile-up, but by everyone slowing to rubberneck at a lost shoe lying on the shoulder.
46. All the “cool gyms” allow pedestrians on the street a full-view of those working out. Literally, you can’t drive by Wilshire without staring into L.A. Fitness. Perhaps a new form of window shopping?
47. The waitress asks if you’d like “carbs” in your meal.

Ride of the Kings in Vlčnov, Czech Republic

May 5, 2009

Ride of the Kings

Ride of the Kings

Moravian Slovakia is a distinctive, culturally rich region of southeast Moravia, the Czech Republic. From time immemorial, the true gem of Moravian Slovakia has been Vlčnov, a town famous for the wonderous beauty of folk costumes, wine growing, rich music tradition, folk architecture, and above all for its customs, mainly the Ride of the Kings, which has continued to attract great attention not only from artists, ethnographers, and folklorists but also laymen and folklore art lovers from all over the world for nearly 200 years.

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Prague Spring International Music Festival

May 5, 2009

Prague Spring Music Festival

Prague Spring Music Festival

The Prague Spring International Music Festival is a permanent showcase for outstanding performing artists, symphony orchestras and chamber music ensembles of the world. Traditionally, the festival opens with a rousing rendition of Smetana’s Ma Vlast (My Country) and closes with the Ninth Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven. Important musical anniversaries are celebrated by including representative works by the composers concerned in the programme. Opera, theatre and special events take their place beside concerts in the festival. The Prague Spring is a festival that prides itself on developing young talent and a competition is held each year in various instrumental sections. Performances are held in concert and theatre venues across Prague.

Where: Municipal House and Prague State Opera

Pražské jaro, o. p. s.
Hellichova 18, 118 00 Prague 1
tel.: +420 257 310 414
fax: +420 257 313 725

From CZK 350 to CZK 2000

Official website
Click here to purchase tickets
Click here for the programme
Click here for contact information

Formerly a jail, now a hotel

May 4, 2009

Four Seasons, Istanbul

Virtually every guidebook and magazine article about Istanbul says the nightmarish prison depicted in the movie “Midnight Express” is now a Four Seasons Hotel. Almost, but not quite. The luxury hotel is indeed a former jail, and a notorious one at that, but not the one where Billy Hayes, the subject of “Midnight Express,” was incarcerated. And rather than hide from its past, the 65-room, neoclassical Four Seasons celebrates it. It will be the first to tell you that the courtyard is the jail’s old exercise yard. A former inmate’s scribbled pleadings remain on an old marble pillar, and the rooms – expanded former cells – retain their tiny windows and brass rings.

Four Seasons Istanbul at Sultanahmet
Address: Tevkifhane Sokak No. 1, Sultanahmet-Eminönü, Istanbul, Turkey, 34110
Tel: +90-212-402-30-00
Rates: May 1-Oct 31 begin at 400 euros (U.S. $540)


Madurai Summer Film Festival, India

May 4, 2009

What: Summer Film Festival – 2009
When: May 6-8, 2009; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m IST (GMT +5.30)
Where: The American College, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India

Inaugural film: “Nee Yaar” [Tamil / English]
A documentary film on Tamil writer Sundara Ramasamy
Directed by R.V.Ramani

Closing film: “Your’s Truly John” [Malayalam with English subtitles]
A documentary about filmmaker John Abraham
Directed by Sarat Chandran

Organized by:
Marupakkam, in association with Department of Visual Communication, The American College, Madurai and Yadartha Film Society

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