Saturday, 27 June 2015

White water rafting in Goa

Goa’s association with laid-back beach bumming and all-year-round partying has been hard to shake off. But the monsoons bring out a different side of Goa. Hills blanketed in lush greenery, trekking routes that open up to overflowing waterfalls, and best of all, off-season benefits. With low prices and fewer tourists, you have the chance to see Goa at the leisurely pace you seek. 

Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception Church at dusk, Panjim, Goa

This monsoon, I made a new discovery: white water rafting. Goa Tourism’s initiative to start white water rafting began in 2013, and has met with much success. It is organised by Southern River Adventures & a Sports Pvt Ltd headed by Englishman John Pollard—a 22-year-old rafting veteran who pioneered the launch of white water rafting in South India. The meeting point is Earthen Pots restaurant, located in the town of Valpoi. You can grab a meal before heading off, but I would suggest eating light. You need to leave your vehicle here together with your belongings. From here, Pollard’s team transports you to the rafting location in a van. The 10-kilometre route begins at Ustem village and ends at Sonal village in Satteri. There is a short walk after the drop-off point that takes you to your raft.

This was my third time rafting, but I was just as excited as the first time I sat in a raft. Before settling in, you have to sign off your life in case you’re eaten by a crocodile in the event of your raft toppling over. Just kidding :) the crocodile won’t wait till your raft topples! Okay, okay, I am really kidding. You will survive the ride, and have fun doing it. Just follow the safety instructions provided, and make sure you have tightly strapped on your life jacket and helmet.

Each raft usually takes on five-six people, all of whom will be rowing as instructed. An experienced guide accompanies you as well. Dragging our raft into the swollen Mhadei River, we set off to tackle the rapids. Following complete silence from my group who pretended to not hear the guide ask “Who will sit in the front?” I volunteered for the top spot. I was really excited to face the waves. Before the madness began, each individual had to take a dip in the river in order to get comfortable, and also demonstrate the ways in which they could be rescued should they fall off the raft. This was particularly unnerving for those who didn’t know how to swim, but they felt better being acquainted with the water. John, our humorous guide, told us the funny names he had coined for some of the Grade II and III rapids, such as ‘Big Daddy’, ‘Y fronts’ and ‘Giant Haystacks’.

The route was truly scenic. We were surrounded by views of the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary and the Western Ghats. It had just rained and the forest was brimming with life enveloped in thick foliage. As we rode along the gurgling Mhadei River, we faced the ‘Big Daddy’ of rapids and were drenched as the huge waves hit us. It was an exhilarating experience. Even though the route takes about 90 minutes to complete, we didn’t even realise we were approaching the end point; we really wanted more. 

Currently, white water rafting takes place only during monsoon for about 10-12 weeks, so make sure you book a spot on that raft now!

Important things to know
  • Follow all the instructions given by your guide for safety purposes.
  • Carry an extra set of clothes.
  • Wear covered shoes, instead of open chappals, as it will provide you with better grip in the raft.
  • River rafting is scheduled twice a day through the week, for which the timings are 10am and 2:30pm.
  • Be at the restaurant at least 30 minutes before the stipulated time, to incorporate the transfer time,
  • The trip cost is Rs 1,800. It includes transport to the river and back from Valpoi, and all the necessary safety equipment.
  • Don't carry a camera as you won't be able to click any photos. Pollard and his team can help provide you with photos.
For more inquiries and booking details, visit or email You can also avail of phone bookings by calling +91 7387238866 or +91 8805727230.

Read more stories on Goa:



Thursday, 11 June 2015

TRAVEL TIDBITS: Keep calm and have a cocktail

When you’re sitting aboard an airplane, 35,000 feet high, being able to enjoy a cocktail seems a tad out of reach, no? Not anymore. With the Carry On Cocktail Kit, you can prepare an Old Fashioned or mix up a Gin and Tonic in a jiffy. A compact kit with a chic design, it contains all the necessary ingredients to make the chosen cocktail; with the exception of hard liquor and ice for obvious reasons. It’s lightweight and can be easily carried it in your handbag. The recipe of the Carry On Cocktail Kit was concocted by W&P Design and Punch, two cocktail-obsessed companies based in Brooklyn, New York.

The kit contains the following and costs $24. You can buy it here.

- Carry on tin
- Recipe card
- Spoon / Muddler
- Aromatic bitters
- Cane sugar
- Linen coaster

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Kingdom of Dreams

India is known for its colourful garb distinctive of different regions, lavish song and dance performances, fiery cuisine filled with spices and its continuous search for spiritual awakening. But rarely can you find all these elements at one place. Kingdom of Dreams—located in Gurgaon, Haryana—offers a glimpse into the myriad things that make India an exciting destination for travellers. Although it is a commercially inclined, it is a great entertainment venue for those looking to explore the country.

Live performances
The grandeur of India’s Bollywood songs comes alive with musicals and plays at Nautanki Mahal. An auditorium that can seat about 846 people, Nautanki Mahal is equipped with state-of-the-art sound systems together with special effects technology that can replicate the appearance of rain, fire and the like. On my visit, I saw their most popular show till date: Zangoora—The Gypsy Prince. What I found particularly impressive were the exceptional production quality; the advanced hydraulics and revolving stages, the aerial acrobatics by the performers, the seamless change of scenery and the sound system. The show itself was okay. The story seemed too predictable, following a very Bollywood film format. On the other hand, the choreography was well done and the cast did a great job. Please note that you cannot click photos while watching the show.

While watching the show, I saw many foreigners in the auditorium. I wondered if they understood anything as the show was in Hindi. I was pleasantly surprised to know that they provide electronic translators in six different languages; English, Russian, Korean, Spanish, French and Japanese. They come at an additional cost of Rs 250. They also provide crèches for families with toddlers, which is free of cost.

Food and drinks
Nautanki Mahal itself has a food and drinks counter you can explore during intermission. Alcoholic drinks are also available. However, be sure to visit the Culture Gully section on the premises. Spread over 1,00,000 square feet, Culture Gully consists of six themed restaurants, six show kitchens, three street bars and seven retail stores that are designed to showcase food and culture of different regions of India, namely Mumbai, New Delhi, Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Lucknow, Chennai, Kashmir and Goa. The decor is exceptional and each region has been depicted beautifully featuring prominent sculptures and installations that are reminiscent of the places. For instance, a sandy beach covers Goa, while Madhya Pradesh houses a giant replica of a sculpture from Khajuraho. For those with a love for all things Bollywood, there is the IIFA Buzz Cafe (affiliated to the IIFA Awards) whose interiors are covered with movie posters and other memorabilia.

Spiritual Gully
This area is a simple walk-through with an artistically designed sleeping Buddha.

Overall, Kingdom of Dreams is a fun entertainment destination that you can explore for the day. The cost of a show is anywhere from Rs 1,099 to Rs 3,999; depending on the seats you pick. The food and drinks cost will be additional. While the price is on the higher side, they offer good deals every now and then. Check their website for updates before you book:

 Published on Travel Wire Asia, May 2014