Remembering Lake Bled

You know what I dislike the most about places? When they are underrated as hell. Sure, it helps a great deal to keep them tidy, untouched, beautiful and, most importantly, unpolluted. I know this is a great thing in the bigger picture that less people know about a special place. However, I get this huge itch when people are planning their holiday in a really popular place, say, the Swiss Alps and they don’t even know about its close neighbour – Slovenia. This really tiny country nestled between Austria, Italy, Croatia & Hungary is culturally a sister to Croatia. It’s actually pretty surprising that for such a small country, they have beaches, mountains, gorges & what not. One such beauty is Lake Bled in Slovenia.

I was working in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, for 6 months. That’s when I got to know about the lake Bled in Slovenia, a spot this country is really proud of. These days, every now & then, I keep coming across Instagram posts by travellers going to this beautiful place, however, I had never heard of it until then. Heck, I got to know about Slovenia only when I interviewed for that internship, so, well.

To say that the lake Bled in Slovenia is straight from a fairy tale would be an understatement. If there ever was a run up for the most beautiful & enthralling fairy tale, lake Bled in Slovenia can be an easy top contender.

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With its 16th century Church on an island right in the middle of the lake, where a bell rings every now & then, this place is hauntingly beautiful and, of course, straight out of your whimsical dreams. Not to mention, the beautiful, little markets in this tiny town selling all sorts of whimsies.

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If you ever see yourself at the lake Bled in Slovenia, one thing you cannot miss is the famous cream cake of Bled or Kremna Rezina or ‘Kremsnita’. It is a dessert worth its salt & I have had a good share of it, not just at lake Bled, but also when my colleague’s mother used to make & send it for the whole office. What a wonderful thing to be recalled of while writing this post! ❤ So, where was I? Yes, Kremsnita. Do not miss it at any cost. Just now while I was Google-ing the cake’s Slovene name as I had forgotten, I got to know that the most famous one in Bled is from the Park Hotel. So, take your pick.

Only regret – my pictures do not do justice to the beauty this place is.

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I am also currently doing a 30 day series of the pictures I took in Slovenia on my Instagram.

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Bhujodi | Simple is what it takes to Happy

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Have you ever been to a place, looked at the innocence of the people there, and thought to yourself that how effortless it is for them to stay content & happy? I am sure many of you who trek a lot or have closely stayed with locals in mountains can relate to this – they have a hard but simple life, they want too less & always have a contagious smile on their faces. Something similar I experienced in Bhujodi, even though by all means this place is becoming a tourist haunt as we speak.

Bhujodi is a really tiny village, some 10 kms from Bhuj in the Kutch region of Gujarat. If you are from a big city, you can totally count it as another neighbourhood in the Bhuj city itself. So, why exactly it is famous? Well, it is not as well-known as it should be but what its known for is its handicrafts. This tiny village has a small number of homes, which you can count on your hand actually and almost all of them work on creating traditional crafts. They have that weaving equipment installed inside their houses (don’t know what it’s called) & they create clothes and other handicrafts throughout the year, while most of their sale happens in the tourist season of Kutch region (Nov-Feb). The locals have other income sources in the form of dairy etc.

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If you compare the handicrafts here to other parts of Kutch which cater to tourists on a larger scale, you will notice that the prices of things are similar, however you get much better quality products in Bhujodi & in so much variety! Most importantly, what else can replace the joy of buying something handmade & supporting small businesses? In fact, I was a bit surprised to see almost all the local houses keeping equipment for making clothes. Precisely why I am writing this post.

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I didn’t click a lot of pictures because I was too busy looking around at everything available with wide open eyes. Shawls, suits, purses, bags, kurtas for both men & women, saris, leather products, home decor & furnishings, every thing was there. In today’s time, it’s not difficult to find these Kutch handicrafts elsewhere also, however once you are there, you will understand the abundance of choices & the amazingly good quality!

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Other than the products themselves, I was very mesmerized by how well these people maintain their houses. Not only were they clean & well-kept, they even had beautiful traditional decorations, probably to make their house (which also houses their business) stand out more since almost every house sells similar things! The locals are so nice, no matter how much you bargain, they will indulge you with their charming smiles & continue the bargaining game. Many of them will even force you to have tea before you leave. 🙂

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On that note, I want to say that Bhujodi has been an unexpected but a very fulfilling experience for me. I am always interested in seeing handicrafts getting made, it kind of consoles me that these things are not dying. However, I was not expecting this when we set out for Bhujodi. I just thought it will be like a handicrafts exhibition. Once there, I felt like I am in a village, but instead of people chilling in a village, it’s just outsiders shopping in the village. 😀 If you love handicrafts as much as I do, you should definitely not miss Bhujodi.

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The

Rann Of Kutch: How to plan on a budget

I recently traveled to Rann of Kutch with my family – the great white desert in the Kutch region of Gujarat, India. As it is with me always, I love researching about the places I am traveling to (and also to win conversations with taxi drivers when they act know-it-all :P). In this case, it was more necessary to research because I was traveling with parents so I wanted to have a rough itinerary at hand.

Researching about this travel to Rann of Kutch left me extremely surprised. I was living with the belief that it’s a very popular destination, especially during the annual cultural fair of Rann of Kutch – Rann Utsav. I expected tons of information online but, to my surprise, there were many blogs with vague information. I had to dig deep to find useful ones. Due to this whole exercise & my own travel to Rann of Kutch, I can now safely say that my experience can help anyone planning a trip there, even on a budget.

Disclaimer: Ours was not an extremely budget friendly trip, but I have shared points how to cut costs without missing on anything.

Read on to plan an amazing trip to Rann of Kutch:

What is Rann of Kutch?

Rann of Kutch is a salt marsh located in the desert area of Kutch region of Gujarat, India. It appears every year after the sea in this area dries out roughly during November – February. As a result, the whole area appears like a beautiful white desert (but salt instead of sand). It is known as one of the largest white deserts in the world.

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What is Rann Utsav?

‘Utsav’ is a Hindi word meaning festival & ‘Rann’ is desert. ‘Rann Utsav’ is the name of nothing but a tent city that the Gujarat tourism builds in one of the white desert villages – ‘Dhordo’ roughly from November to February for tourists to come & stay. Rann Utsav is the official name of the tent city only, however, this term is used popularly for the entire white desert area during the festival period (Nov – Feb).

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This is a very vibrant & beautifully constructed tent city with luxurious tents & cultural programs. They try to show their exclusivity by not letting anyone inside if you are not staying in the tent city which arises people’s curiosities even more. However, as much as it maybe a nice luxurious experience just like many other luxurious experiences (read – a spa, a fine dining dinner etc.), I believe you are not missing out on anything unique by not staying in this tent city. Especially, not an authentic experience of staying in the Kutchi white desert. For that, you may have to stay at the actual homes or community homes of the locals who, by the way, are very warm & welcoming towards tourists.

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There are many other private tents in Dhordo as well as other villages near to the white desert which are relatively cheaper than the Gujarat Tourism Dhordo tent city (relatively less decked up too though). We stayed at one of the private tents (details in next section) but it’s absolutely not necessary to stay in a tent if you are on a budget & you won’t miss out on much, in my opinion.

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Lighting at our tent

How to plan your travel to Rann of Kutch?

1. The itinerary we followed:

Day 1:

  • Reached Bhuj (a city in the Kutch region), did some local Bhuj sightseeing:
  • Some palaces: Prag Mahal, Aina Mahal
  • A Museum: Kutch Museum
  • Gorging on lots of Gujarati street food ❤ ❤
  • Bhujodi: This was the highlight of my whole trip & I am going to do a whole post about Bhujodi. It’s a small village next to the city of Bhuj where villagers create & sell handicrafts. More in the next post!!
  • Please note that there are many more palaces, lakes, museums etc in & around Bhuj in case you are interested. A quick Google search will give you all.
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Prag Mahal

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Day 2: 

  • Left for the white desert:
  • On our way, we took a slight detour for Maa Ashapura temple, as suggested by our taxi driver.
  • Reached the tents we had booked, ate lunch & rested for a while to leave for the white desert area just in time to watch sunset. Our tent was in the village Gorewali, some 4-5 kms away from the Dhordo tent city. We stayed at Nova Patgar tents, we got a good deal then, it was a good experience & their food was absolutely mind-blowing. ❤
  • Reached the white desert area, walked through the white desert while the sun gradually set in, night-time crept up & cultural programs in the area began. Please note that cultural programs like folk dance & music happen all around this area, not just inside of the Gujarat Tourism Dhordo tent city.
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Maa Ashapura Temple

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Our tents – Nova Patgar Tents

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Day 3:

  • Started from our tents towards Mandvi Beach & Vijay Vilas Palace which is on the way to Mandvi Beach.
  • I think you should try to fit in Mandvi Beach in your itinerary because beach in a desert was a new experience for me & sighting camels on a beach was definitely my first time! 😀 However, only as a beach, there is nothing great to talk about.
  • Vijas Vilas Palace is also a very beautiful architectural piece but since I have done most of the Rajasthan palaces early in life, so far I find other palaces underwhelming in comparison. If it helps, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was shot here. 😀

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2. How we traveled to Rann of Kutch:

During Nov-Feb, the flights to Bhuj are extremely expensive, so we booked flights till Ahmedabad. We hired a taxi from Ahmedabad to Bhuj & further. You can also reach Bhuj from Ahmedabad by bus or train & its a comfortable journey. From Bhuj onwards, you will have to hire a taxi or motorbike for other destinations like White Desert area (Dhordo tent city area), Mandvi Beach etc.

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3. Make Bhuj your base location & take day trips to other places, if not staying in tents:

We stayed in a tent for one night but it’s absolutely not necessary. You can take a trip on your hired vehicle from Bhuj to the Dhordo tent city, enjoy the white desert till night & come back to Bhuj. It is totally convenient. There are many good, budget stay options in Bhuj.

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4. What we didn’t do, but you should:

  • This one village called Dholavira is known for its Harappan Civilization archeological site but what many don’t know is that on the way to Dholavira, you spot a cleaner white desert part because of less tourist intervention. It is so white & absolutely beautiful especially compared to the Dhordo area white desert which is very crowded with tourists. Dholavira is on the way from Ahmedabad to Bhuj but it doesn’t have a lot of proper stay options, do your research on where to stay. Else, you can take a longer road trip by not staying there.
  • Mundra has the largest private port in India located in the north of Gulf of Kutch, you can consider visiting.
  • Barren crack-land in Little Rann of Kutch: Read this post here, his posts helped me the most in planning this travel to Rann of Kutch.

5. Useful Tips:

  1. The obvious one – book flight tickets as early as possible because November – February is the peak season.
  2. Check the Rann of Kutch calendar on Google & plan your trip during a full moon, the white desert looks amazingly pretty during a full moon night.
  3. Many people, including locals, will suggest you to reach the white desert area right before sunset. While that is optimal, it doesn’t hurt to be slightly more early and have a day time look also. It will be hot, but that way you get to have a day time as well as night-time view. If you are staying in one of the tents, you can have a sunrise view also. 🙂

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That’s all from my side. I do understand that this post has become very word-y & super lengthy. If you read till here, it means a lot to me & I’ll love to hear from you! 🙂

Happy exploring! 🙂