Top 5 holidays for winter 2007


(Hogmanay in Edinburgh – photo from stuckonscotland)

So you have done well this year. The bonus has been good, your spouse is making good money & the stocks you invested in have zoomed up with the index. It is time to reward yourselves. How about a Mont Blanc Pen? Or maybe a set of fancy wheels? Or maybe a ballooning trip over the African veldt? or book yourself for one of the first sub-orbital flights with Virgin Galactic?

In my regular conversations with users & members of HolidayIQ, many of whom have the classic ‘successful’ profile I outlined in the first para, I now find that unique experiences are taking over from fancy products as the real self-indulgences. And it is clear that in the early 21st century India, unique travel has become THE way of self expression of the successful. Move aside, Mont Blanc & Maserati. Welcome to Masai Mara & the Moon (soon, hopefully).

Over the last few years, I have given up on business travel and got into some serious holidaying. So I get asked this question quite a lot – what are your suggestions for a holiday this season? So, in answer to the key existential angst of our time, here is my personal list of 5 great travel escapes for Winter 2007.

  • Watch the whales migrate at Byron Bay, Australia. One of the world’s most scenic spots, home to a great ‘littoral rainforest’ is also the setting for one of nature’s amazing events.
  • Soak in the atmosphere of true ‘ancient India’ on the banks of the Betwa and Maheshwar, ancient rivers of Madhya Pradesh. Stay in classily refurbished palaces & forts right on the waters edge.
  • Bring in the New Year at one of the classiest cities on earth. Be a part of Edinburgh’s Hogamanay, from 29th Dec 2007 to 1st jan 2008
  • Do a ‘Cantonese crawl’ – explore haute chinese cuisine starting in Hong Kong, Shenzen & Guangzhou and taking in various parts of the chinese coast around the south china sea
  • Scuba dive in the pristine coral island of Agatti, Lakshadweep. Discover the million shades that lie between Blue & Green.

11 disrupting web 2.0 companies that will Change India

I was doing one of my usual google searches for HolidayIQ and stumbled upon something that is very gratifying. The sentence was – “One of the best travel sites we’ve seen anywhere on the web”. Apparently, IndiaStreet, the online magazine for new projects & investments in India, did a detailed exercise to identify what they called “11 disrupting web 2.0 companies that will Change India” and lo & behold, HolidayIQ is one of them. When one is immersed in work and in creating something new, there is very little time to look up and see how far one has reached. This, for me, is a sure marker of our progress. Obviously, happy about it.

Here is the link>>

Railway Protection

It was a summer in the mid-eighties. A 17 year old climbed into a train to undertake one of the longer rail journeys of the world – the 2 nights & 2.5 days needed to get from Thiruvanthapuram Central station to the New Delhi station. Sitting in the 2nd class, sleeper compartment was the usual motley crew of Indian travellers. But before the long journey was over, the 17 year old could see many of them as distinct human beings, who in one amazing moment, came together to save his life. It was a crazy journey on the 2625 UP, and the 17 year old was me. (sorry for the drama, but this is the 60th year of our independence and all that. Also, it is almost true.) Continue reading

Experience Himachal Pradesh

Over the last few months, we have been trying to figure out a good way to present info that allows travellers to plan a visit to each Indian state. The problem is how do you plan a visit to a ‘multi-terrain’ state like Himachal (where all do you go, what do you look for etc) or a state like Kerala where there are very distinct aspects (backwaters, ayurveda, beaches..). Looks like we have cracked it. The new ‘Experience’ section that HolidayIQ has introduced for each state should help.

I am particularly smitten by the Experience Himachal Pradesh section, which the folks at HIQ Edit have decided to break-up into Hill-station experience, Trekking, Skiing, Buddhist Gompas in Lahaul Spiti, Camping & Wildlife. The ‘real-life’ intros are a nice touch. Check it out.

To find Experiences for any Indian state, select any state from here and then click on the ‘Experiences’ tab on top of the state page that loads up.

New cabins in the A380

The A380 can seat over 550 people. But, as usual, the really lucky ones will be in the first class & business class cabins. Here are some photos of possible seating configurations in the premium classes of the A380 + a few common areas. All photos are from Airbus. I am definitely going to get on to an early flight.





Seduction of motion

Why is it that some of us cannot get over the need to be constantly mobile? We move from place to place changing jobs & changing homes, we go on long weekend drives, we go on trips, we move.

Is it to do with evolution – the long forgotten (but not yet forgotten) world of our hunter-gatherer relatives? In which case, those of us who crave for travel are probably fossils, in an evolutionary sense.

Or is it that the act of moving about fills us with activity and so protects us from true reflection. I know this is heresy for travellers (yours truly included), many of whom claim to travel to reflect. But a little reflection suggests to me that travelling for reflection cannot really hold water. After all, the great enterprise called Indian spirituality has often demonstrated the reflective power of stillness. Of course, like most arguments, this is felled in one swoop by another example of the same genre. Adi Sankara created Advaita while wandering around the vast landmass of India (or maybe he didn’t – could be, he first figured it out sitting quietly in Kaladi and then spread it around by travelling). Undoubtedly, even as we speak, there are seers wandering around on Bullets, whose philosophies, in time, we will come to respect and revel in.

So, why do we move about so much? My grandmother, all 4 feet of her, was ready for a trip pretty much till the last few days of an eventful 84 year life. I sometimes wonder whether this is a virus. No, I am not joking. Now that we are beginning to realise that being fat has less to do with sitting around and being a lazy slob and is actually because of this nasty virus inside us, cannot this be true of our desire for motion too? In the world we live in, there seems to be a handy virus to explain most things. In which case, all of us are just patients.

Fossils, philosophers or patients?


The biggest luxury in long-distance travel is the possibility of a fully flat bed to sleep on. I have done too many bus & air journeys to now crave for this in quiet desperation, everytime I have an overnight trip. So when flat-beds came along in the business class of long-haul airlines, I was an early adpoter, scrounging around for any loose mileage point to get an upgrade. Later, I found flat-bed configurations in inter-city buses in India. But since most of them are crummy, unkempt buses, I am not too enthusiastic (although the idea is fundamentally appealing).

Yotel is a chain of hotels that combine the virtues of business class flat-beds with those of Japanese capsule hotels.  Dreamt up by Simon Woodroffe, the founder of Yo Sushi!, these hotels promise to give the weary long-haul traveller a decent & inexpensive place to sleep while in transit. The first hotel opened in Gatwick. The next is due to open in Heathrow. Eventually they plan to open these hotels all across London. Will they work away from an airport? I dont know.

Click here for a slickly made promo video.

Or, check out this sneak preview video from Youtube.