Travel wisdom; startups gyaan; sneak peeks into new features; insight into how we work; shameless self-promotion; and sometimes just mindless nonsense.


So you’re planning your first trip as a Travel Ninja …

Here’s what you should know:

It’s a lot of work!

If you’ve chosen our automatic pricing then you’ll most likely feel like it’s too much work for the price you’re getting paid. This is by design - the low pricing is meant to help you get a few trips/reviews under your belt before you can start charging full price.

We’ve seen quite a few cases of Travel Ninjas wanting to quit after the first trip because “this is way too much work for the $5 I’m getting”. Please understand that as you get to your 4th or 5th trip, it will be a lot less work (since you can then do a fair bit of copy-paste) and a lot more money.

PS: if you still feel like the automatic prices are too low, you can override them to charge whatever you like.

Common complaint: This customer is too demanding/confused/panicky/…

We encounter all kinds of customers and over multiple trips it tends to even out (e.g. for every overly-demanding customer you’ll also have one who hardly asks for anything). So give yourself about 4-5 trips to really understand what to expect and how to deal with different types of customers.

If you do feel like a customer is being unreasonable (for e.g. asking you to re-plan a whole trip after all the work is done - yes, it’s happened), feel free to ask us to step in and clarify expectations with them. Being a new service, customers are often confused about what to expect and it can usually be sorted out with a little clarification.

Frequent communication will solve most problems

Even if you take your time to plan out a detailed itinerary, it’s always a great idea to keep your customer informed. Just a short one-line response like “Let me get back to you with a detailed plan by Friday” goes a long way in creating an enjoyable experience for both you and your customer.

Note: All communication on the trip page will automatically be disabled 30 days from the start. However, if the customer claims that their messages were not responded to within 48 hours, they can ask for a 30-day extension. So its best to always respond quickly.

For best results, start broad first, get detailed later, wrap up fast

A simple routine that always works:

  1. Start with a broad outline without too many details. See what they think of it.
  2. After they approve the broad outline, get into details.
  3. Even though you have 30 days to finish all the planning, the best experience of the process, for both you and the customer, seems to be when things are wrapped up quickly.

The secret to getting great reviews

In the order of importance, here’s what matters most to customers and gets Travel Ninjas great reviews.

#1 - Promptnesscustomers are happiest when Travel Ninjas keep in very frequent touch, even if it’s just a one-line update on what’s going on (e.g. “I’m working on an itinerary and will send it to you by Wednesday”).

#2 - Being organized - More than the actual information and advice you give them, organizing it in the different tabs, adding links that make it easy for them to book, and making the information easy to use matters to customers.

#3 - Attention - And finally making customers feel like their trip is getting the attention it deserves.

PS: if you can’t get all of these right, focus on #1 - promptness.

That’s it. Follow these simple guidelines and you’re all set to have a great time and earn great reviews on PlanMy.Travel.


Best Travel-Themed Movies (Crowdsourced List)

We asked our Facebook community of awesome travelers for their favourite travel-themed movies - not necessarily about travel, but anything that would inspire you to get that passport out of the locker. Here’s what we got - an excellent list to get those travel juices flowing.

Cast Away (IMDB rating: 7.7/10)

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A FedEx executive must transform himself physically and emotionally to survive a crash landing on a deserted island.

The Lord of the Rings (IMDB rating: 8.8/10)

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A meek hobbit of the Shire and eight companions set out on a journey to Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring and the dark lord Sauron.

The Hobbit (IMDB rating: 8.0/10)

A reluctant hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, sets out to the Lonely Mountain with a spirited group of dwarves to reclaim their mountain home - and the gold within it - from the dragon Smaug.

Highway (IMDB rating: 7.7/10)

Right before her wedding, a young woman finds herself abducted and held for ransom. As the initial days pass, she begins to develop a strange bond with her kidnapper.

Star Trek (hell, yes - why not space travel too!) (IMDB rating: 8.4/10)

Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise explore the Galaxy and defend the United Federation of Planets.

Star Wars (IMDB rating: 8.7/10)

Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a wookiee and two droids to save the universe from the Empire’s world-destroying battle-station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader.

Little Miss Sunshine (IMDB rating: 7.9/10)

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A family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus.

The Motorcycle Diaries (IMDB rating: 7.8/10)

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The dramatization of a motorcycle road trip Che Guevara went on in his youth that showed him his life’s calling.

Sideways (IMDB rating: 7.6/10)

Two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment, embark on a week long road trip through California’s wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle.

The Beach (IMDB rating: 6.6/10)

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Twenty-something Richard travels to Thailand and finds himself in possession of a strange map. Rumours state that it leads to a solitary beach paradise, a tropical bliss - excited and intrigued, he sets out to find it.

Into the Wild (IMDB rating: 8.2/10)

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After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.

The Art of Travel (IMDB rating: 6.5/10)

High school grad, Conner Layne is about to marry his first love, but when wedding plans fail, he goes solo on his honeymoon to Central America, finding adventure with a ragtag group of foreigners who attempt to cross the Darien Gap in record time.

The Rum Diary (IMDB rating: 6.2/10)

American journalist Paul Kemp takes on a freelance job in Puerto Rico for a local newspaper during the 1960s and struggles to find a balance between island culture and the expatriates who live there.

Eat Pray Love (IMDB rating: 5.6/10)

A married woman realizes how unhappy her marriage really is, and that her life needs to go in a different direction. After a painful divorce, she takes off on a round-the-world journey to “find herself”.

Babel (IMDB rating: 7.5/10)

Tragedy strikes a married couple on vacation in the Moroccan desert, touching off an interlocking story involving four different families.

The Killing Fields (IMDB rating: 7.9/10)

A photographer is trapped in Cambodia during tyrant Pol Pot’s bloody “Year Zero” cleansing campaign, which claimed the lives of two million “undesirable” civilians.

Lost in Translation (IMDB rating: 7.8/10)

A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (IMDB rating: 8.1/10)

Three friends decide to turn their fantasy vacation into reality after one of their number becomes engaged.

The Darjeeling Limited (IMDB rating: 7.2/10)

A year after their father’s funeral, three brothers travel across India by train in an attempt to bond with each other.

The Hangover Part II (IMDB rating: 6.5/10)

Two years after the bachelor party in Las Vegas, Phil, Stu, Alan, and Doug jet to Thailand for Stu’s wedding. Stu’s plan for a subdued pre-wedding brunch, however, goes seriously awry.

The Bucket List (IMDB rating: 7.4/10)

Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.

The Way (IMDB rating: 7.4/10)

A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the “El camino de Santiago,” and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.

Eight Below (IMDB rating: 7.3/10)

Brutal cold forces two Antarctic explorers to leave their team of sled dogs behind as they fend for their survival.

Seven Years in Tibet (IMDB rating: 7.0/10)

True story of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountain climber who became friends with the Dalai Lama at the time of China’s takeover of Tibet.

One Day in Europe (IMDB rating: 6.6/10)

The day of the Champions League final between Galatasaray and Deportivo la Coruña stops life in four European cities, adding to the problems of tourists in trouble, who are already struggling with the language barrier.

With contributions from Priyanka Dalal, Luella Fernandes, Arpan Mandal, and Deepika Gumaste. What movies would you add to the list?

Add your favourites in the comments and we’ll add it to this post. Heck, we may even publish a crowdsourced book from this (with your name in the credits ;)). Go!


The Best Palace Hotels in India

Staying in a hotel that was once used as a palace must count as the best way to experience the history of a place, not to mention the ultimate in luxury.

Here we list some of the best hotels in India that let you be a royal for a day (or for that matter, for as long as you like). Hardly a surprise that five out of the eight are in Rajasthan.

PS: not all of them are as expensive as you might imagine.

1. Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad

A bit of history: The Falaknuma Palace was so costly to build that even Sir Viqar Ul Umra, the prime minister of Hyderabad who built it for use as his residence, had to borrow money to complete it and realized that he had gone beyond his means. His very intelligent wife, Lady Viqar ul Umra, thought up a solution and advised her husband to invite Mehboob Ali Pasha Nizam VI to the palace. As anticipated, the Nizam liked the palace so much that he extended his stay and this prompted Sir Viqar to offer that if his sovereign liked the palace he would be honoured to give it to him. The Nizam liked the gesture but, being the grand man he was, he had his treasurer send the entire amount spent on the palace to Sir Viqar, thus easing his prime minister from a financial crunch.

2. Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

A bit of history: It was built between 1743- 1746 under the direction of the Maharana Jagat Singh II of Udaipur as a royal summer palace and was initially called Jagniwas after its founder.

3. Neemrana Fort-Palace, Alwar District, Rajasthan

A bit of history: Built from 1464 AD, Neemrana Fort-Palace is located on a high hillock and commands magnificent views of the surrounding beauty. Its name derives from a valiant local chieftain named Nimola Meo. The Chauhan capital was shifted from Mandhan (near Alwar) to Neemrana when the fort was established by Raja Dup Raj in 1467.

4. Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur

A bit of history: It is one of the world’s largest private residences (A part of the palace is managed by Taj Hotels. The royal family of Jodhpur still lives here though). Ground for the foundations of the building was broken on 18 November 1929 by erstwhile Maharaja Umaid Singh and the construction work was completed in 1943. The Palace was built to provide employment to thousands of people during the time of famine.

5. Taj Rambagh Palace, Jaipur

A bit of history: The first building on the site was a garden house built in 1835 for the wet nurse of prince Ram Singh II. In 1887, during the reign of Maharaja Sawai Madho Singh, it was converted into a modest royal hunting lodge, as the house was located in the midst of a thick forest at that time. In the early 20th century, it was expanded into a palace to the designs of Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob. Maharajah Sawai Man Singh II made Rambagh his principal residence and added a number of royal suites in 1931.

6. Ananda in the Himalayas, Rishikesh

A bit of history: The property consists of the royal palace of Narendra Nagar, of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal, and the restored Viceregal Palace which was added to the palace in 1910–11 by the Maharaja for an expected visit of the Viceroy of India. Though the visit never materialized, the building remained, and went to accommodate the likes of Lord Mountbatten.

7. Fernhills RoyalPalace, Ooty

A bit of history: The summer Palace of the Mysore Maharajas was built in 1844 by Capt. F. Cotton. It changed several hands as the time went by till mid-1860s, when it was temporarily named Moonesami and served as one of the Ooty’s earliest club hotels. In 1873 Fernhills found a new royal owner as Chamarajendra Wadiyar X bought it and since then has been with the Wadiyar dynasty.

8. Samode Palace, Jaipur

A bit of history: Initially built in the sixteenth century as a Rajput fort, but in early 19th century, under the nobleman Rawal Berisal, it was converted from a fort into an exquisitely designed palace in Rajput and Muslim architectural style.


Best Countries to Visit in Eastern Europe

If you have a month to backpack through Eastern Europe and want to maximize your budget and experiences of the regional culture, here are the countries you’ll want to visit.

A month is a good amount of time, but if you really want to connect with the local culture we strongly suggest that you pick two or three countries, rather than running around and trying to visit a half dozen countries in one month. For the perfect introduction to the region, we recommend that you visit Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.

The Hungarian capital of Budapest is a fascinating, safe city, with so much to see and do. Though it is more pricey than other places in Eastern Europe, you can do it on a budget if you get a holiday rental apartment just outside the historic district, rather than staying in pricey hotels.

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Budapest

However, Budapest is just the tip of the iceberg. Lake Balaton is the playground of Hungary and it’s an easy train ride away to the west. If you go, stay on the north shore, and check out Hullam Hostel. You can get a private room if you don’t like dorms, and the owners cook up a huge pot of goulash every night for all to share.

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Lake Balaton

To the east is Debrecen, an under-rated city that is the gateway to the great plains known as the Puszta, the historic place where Hungarians raised horses. Though at first glance it just looks like an endless, flat plain, it is a cultural wonderland (see the traditional Hungarian horse shows).

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Puszta

Further to the east is Szatmar county, with its exquisite old wooden churches. And Hungarian people are so warm and welcoming; we highly recommend it.

Second is Romania. Transylvania is a fascinating region, especially up in the nortthwest corner where the country butts up to Hungary. Here you will see villages where people are still living a subsistence lifestyle in the same manner they have been doing it for hundreds of years. In southern Transylvania is one of our favorite towns, Cluj-Napoca.

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Cluj-Napoca

In the central part of Romania we highly recommend Sighisioara and Sibiu, however skip Brasov and instead stay in the Carpathian Mountains, perhaps in Busteni or Sinaia (the train goes there from Brasov).

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Busteni

The capital, Bucharest, is not a very pretty city, as it is filled Russian era concrete construction, but Herastrau Park and Lake are nice, and the Village Museum that abuts it is a must see. It is an open-air museum where the government has moved authentic houses from all over the country, so you can learn about all the ethnic groups of Romania and their traditions in one place. Don’t bother with the beaches of the Black Sea in Romania, as none are very good - do that in Bulgaria.

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Village Museum, Bucharest

We’ve left the best for last, Bulgaria. This is probably our favorite country in all of Europe. The capital of Sofia is an absolutely delightful city, and the Black Sea communities of Varna and Burgas are very historic, if very touristy. You will particularly love Sozopol, which is a beach town just south of Burgas that has a lovely medieval Old Town, where you can stay in the homes of locals. You should also consider Plovdiv, which is said to be the most historic city in Bulgaria, as well as Veliko Turnovo.

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Sozopol Harbour

Want more? Ask one of our Eastern Europe experts to help you plan the trip of a lifetime.


What truly defines PlanMy.Travel - Have Better Trips. Don’t Settle.

As I was reading Brian Chesky’s blog post on the recent re-branding of Airbnb (a company I much admire), I began to ask myself, just like Brian and his co-founders did “What is our mission? What is the big idea that truly defines PlanMy.Travel?”

On the surface of it, yes, we help you get expert advice for planning your trips.

Yes, we save you time and effort as you don’t have to do all the research yourself for planning your trips.

Yes, we save you money as our experts have better insights on finding the most cost-effective ways to travel.

Yes, we help you gain confidence that your cherished vacation is in good hands and your money will be well-spent.

Yes, we make trip planning more fun as you get to interact with a travel enthusiast who is probably even more excited about your trip than you are. (yes, I’ve seen this happen a lot)

All of that, yes. But when we dig deeper, when we really asked ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing, here’s what we found out.

Make every trip better

Travel has become so dulled with cookie-cutter experiences, the “sameness” of it all, that the very purpose of travel to “explore, dream, discover” is being defeated.

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And it’s not just the much-maligned “package tour” industry that is to blame. Even many who peddle so-called “experiential travel” essentially take batch after batch of tourists through the same “experiences” day after day. And you can buy these “experiences” quite literally, off the shelf.

Even independent travellers, who plan various aspects of their own trips, are not completely immune to the sameness - everyone uses the same hotel review sites, the same guidebooks, and the same itinerary planning sites to come up with their trip plans. How different do you think individual trips planned this way can be from one another?

This process is what is called commoditization. For the uninitiated in business terminology, I’ve pasted a definition of the term:

"Commoditization: The act of making a process, good or service easy to obtain by making it as uniform, plentiful and affordable as possible. Something becomes commoditized when one offering is nearly indistinguishable from another. As a result of technological innovation, broad-based education and frequent iteration, goods and services become commoditized and, therefore, widely accessible.”
Source: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/commoditize.asp

Now plentiful, affordable and accessible are all wonderful things, but uniformity? That might be a good thing for other goods and services (though maybe not even there if you ask me), but certainly not for travel. Travel, whose basic premise is to get the traveller to “explore, dream, discover” cannot benefit from this form of commoditization.

*This* is what we’re here to solve. We are here to break the commoditization of travel. We help our users to be better travellers and not just go through the motions of travel. We help them truly connect with the places, people and their trip itself. And this is only possible when they know that they’re not just going on *a* trip, they’re going on *their very own* trip.

We are here to make every trip unique, not for the sake of uniqueness of course, but so you can have better trips. Don’t settle.


The In-extrinsic Motivation Economy

Traditionally services markets have revolved mostly around extrinsic motivation - “you do X for me and I pay you Y”. X usually happens to be something so boring and tedious that you’d rather have someone else do it (e.g. filing taxes) or so complex that you’d need years of training to gain the expertise (e.g. give medical advice) or both (e.g. draft a legal notice).

In a pure extrinsic motivation economy, all that the service provider gets is the money you pay them. This usually results in terrible (or mediocre, at best) outcomes because you’re getting people to do something they don’t intrinsically want to do.

Two of my favorite cartoonists have telling takes on these situations:

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At the other end of the spectrum is a purely intrinsic motivation economy - also known as gift economy. In such a case, people do stuff for you purely out of goodwill, because they want to do it anyway. The motivation comes from the pleasure they get from working on the task itself or from the sense of satisfaction in completing it, or from the good karma it earns them.

While I’m fascinated by gift economies, these systems often break down because they rely too heavily on good intentions and cooperation from all participants. Besides, the absence of a transaction means the absence of any contract - which basically means no one can be held accountable for the quality of what they deliver.

You with me so far? Cool.

So now that brings us to something that does work - “the middle path” (for fellow closet-Buddhists) - what I’m calling the In-extrinsic motivation economy - “you do X for me and I pay you Y, not because it’s boring but because you’re very good at it. Plus, you get to have all the fun of doing X”. Okay, that got pretty long. But you get my point.

Now because the service-provider is getting additional value out of the transaction beyond the monetary value, they’re actually willing to do it for a lot less money. However, because a transaction is involved, they are accountable for delivering on quality. And the buyer gets a superior experience by paying significantly less than it is actually worth. It’s a win-win.

In case you haven’t guessed it yet, PlanMy.Travel is an experiment with an in-extrinsic motivation economy. And we’ve had some fascinating learnings so far. But that’s a topic for some other post. Have you encountered other systems that are trying this out? What are your observations?


Malaysia Airlines celebrates 40 years of India operations with 40% discount offer

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Malaysia Airlines is celebrating 40 years of service in India, by offering discounts of up to 40 per cent for popular destinations like Langkawi, Bali and Auckland from July 8 to July 18, 2014, for travel period from July 8 to November 30, 2014These fares are inclusive of airport taxes, surcharges, etc.

Round trip fares to Kuala Lumpur start as low as INR 13925, all inclusive. This really is too good to pass up on.

Book your tickets on MalaysiaAirlines.com, and then plan a trip with expert guidance from our Travel Ninjas specializing in Malaysia


Japan introduces multiple-entry short-stay visa for Indians

In some very exciting news, Japan has now started issuing multiple-entry visas for short-term stay to Indians.

The number of Indian visitors to Japan last year was approximately 75000, marking the highest-ever figure of Indian tourist arrivals to the country.

So now that it has become easier for Indian nationals to travel to Japan, we hope more and more of you will stop putting off a visit for “someday” and make it happen soon. Go visit Japan and experience its nature and beauty, world-class technology, theme parks, entertainment spots, food, culture and shopping.

Make the most of your trip when you plan it with a Japan travel expert.


Travel Ninja Picks: Best History/Heritage Experiences Around the World

We asked our Travel Ninjas for the best history/heritage experiences from all their travels and got this list of gems from around the world. If you love history/heritage then these have to be on your must-do list.


Florence, Italy: Uffizi Gallery

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It is one of the most popular art museums across the world. Going there was doubly special to me, not only because it was one of the “must visit” attractions of the city but also because I went there on my birthday! I loved Uffizi because it helped me learn a lot about the Italian Renaissance that I had read in school and now conveniently forgotten. Uffizi has a beautiful hallway that leads to several rooms that hold the works of famous artists such as Bottecelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinvi, Vasari, Carvaggio and the likes. It has beautiful frescoes on the walls, art everywhere. To get an idea about the Gothic art and architecture in the older times, Uffizi has a lot to offer. There are rooms dedicated specially to International Gothic.

Contributed by: Ishita Sood


Turkey: Ephesus Ruins

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One of my favourite historical/cultural experiences has been the tour of the Ephesus ruins in the Izmir province of Turkey. My initial reaction, when I was told that we were going to visit open “historical ruins” in the scorching heat, was to vehemently refuse. But after being cajoled and finally dragged, I was glad I went.

I don’t know if it was the enthusiasm with which our guide spoke or the fascination of walking over ruins where a prominent city once stood, that made me more and more intrigued. The ruins include streets of the once prominent city, a bathing house/toilet where a lot of businessmen finalized deals (weird, I know!) and a gorgeous theatre amongst others. I was particularly fascinated with the fact that the theatre was built to provide natural acoustic and the sculpture ofmedusa staring down at me. The ruins are huge and anyone going there should wear comfortable gear and carry loads of water. Pictures are allowed and all the ruins are in the open. In my opinion these ruins are better than the ones in Athens.

Tip: Definitely, definitely get a good guide, without that you may not enjoy this as much.

Contributed by: Amishi Shah


Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu: Saraswathi Mahal Library

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The Saraswathi Mahal library is in Tanjore in Tamil Nadu. For history lovers, this is not just a must visit, but should be one of the top 10 places on your must visit list! 

Thanjavur or Tanjore is the erstwhile capital of the Chola kingdom and was a great centre of learning and culture from 10th t0 14th century.. The Library is located in the royal palace of Thanjavur, and is one of the oldest libraries displaying Palm leaf manuscripts (and some paper manuscripts) written in various scripts like Grantha, Devanagri, and Telugu, and in various languages like Tamil, Marathi, etc. 

The palace belonged to the Nayak kings of Thanjavur and as patrons of art built this library. Thanjavur was later captured by the Marathas, who continued to build the library over the years by adding works from their era.

The library displays a fraction of its total collection. If you are a research student, you can request to view rare manuscripts for your research purposes.

Thanjavur is approximately a 9 hour bus journey from Bangalore/Chennai. Nearest airport to visit Thanjavur is Tiruchirapalli. 

Apart from the library, Thanjavur also has many architectural wonders that can be visited during your stay.

Contributed by: Varkha Israni


Rajasthan: Shekhawati

flickr/stupid_dream Prashant Ram

Popular as the “open art gallery of Rajasthan”, it is widely believed that the grand structures in region of Shekhawati were built by the Marwari merchants. Since most of these merchants were wealthy, they invested their wealth in constructing grand palaces, artistic havelis, beautiful temples, and wonderfully carved step-wells. For any art lover, this place is a must visit. 

Please note: Shekhawati is a region, and not a city or a village. The region is spread over thousands of kilometers. Jhunjunu, one of the major villages to visit in Shekhawati, is approximately a two-three hour journey from Jaipur.

Another option to visit Shekhawati is on The Heritage on Wheels, which is a luxury train run by the RTDC & Indian Railways. This train takes tourists through the lesser known areas of Shekhawati.

Contributed by: Varkha Israni


ParisMusée d’Orsay

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Although the Louvre gets all the attention and headlines, I found it overwhelmingly big and not worth the effort and the long lines.Musee d’Orsay on the other hand is a beautiful museum, with great artworks and much more accessible. It was created from an old rail station. It boasts an astounding collection with a treasure-trove by the big names plus the lesser-known groups. The museum’s Impressionist and post-Impressionist galleries draw the crowds for the works of Manet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Monet.

I found these works to provide insight into the post-Industrial Revolution era lives and culture in Europe, and how it reflects a great deal on present day cultural outlook of Western Europeans.

Contributed by: Aashish Gupta


Find a History + Heritage Specialist to help you plan your next trip.


Travel Planning: The Information Broadcasting Paradox and the Triumph of Mediocrity

Information Broadcasting Paradox

Lets start with the stock market - if you’re a legitimate investor (i.e. not relying on insider information to gain an advantage) then where do you get your information? CNBC, right? But here’s the catch - everyone else is doing so too - thus wiping out any advantage you can get the minute some information is broadcasted on CNBC.

Travel planning has long suffered from a similar paradox. Travellers love sharing their discoveries for others who may follow in their path. That’s wonderful as long as the medium of sharing isn’t one monopolistic source.

In the days before the Internet, it used to be guidebooks like Lonely Planet that held some sort of monopoly on travel information. Things weren’t so bad, as each of the guidebook brands targeted a certain niche audience - some for backpackers, some for family travellers, etc. But still, the most discerning travellers knew that a hidden gem ceased to be one the minute it got mentioned in a guidebook.

Now with the Internet, there’s an even greater consolidation in the sources of travel information especially with TripAdvisor. I love TripAdvisor, but it has it’s problems. The chief among them is that TripAdvisor has become the CNBC of travel planning. There simply is no way to discover hidden gems - once something gets great reviews, it starts drawing crowds, and then eventually loses the very quality that made it a hidden gem.

Triumph of Mediocrity

The second problem is the “triumph of mediocrity”. Let me explain with an example - I’ve been a Bangalore local for the last 4 years. I’ve explored the city quite a bit and know it really well now. But when I look at the top 10 Places to visit in Bangalore on TripAdvisor, I cannot spot a single place that I would suggest to any traveller (except perhaps Basavangudi, which would maybe just make the cut for me). So what’s happening here? My guess is that as more and more people contribute their views, the ultimate winners are those places that everyone kind-of likes, but no one really loves or hates. Just those “meh” kind of places.

Is that really how trip planning should be? One of my favorite bloggers Seth Godin recently wrote a great little piece on how we can counter such trends - do read it here: All the same. I’m copying a couple of lines below (hope he doesn’t mind):

"But humans aren’t a homogeneous mass, we are individuals, as individual as we dare to be."

"Treat different people differently. Anything else is a compromise."

That’s exactly why PlanMy.Travel is attempting to counter these trends, by giving travellers access to expertise and personalization, personalization, personalization!

PS: Once again, I really love TripAdvisor as much as I love Lonely Planet and other guidebooks. I got nothing against them. Just that we’re solving a problem they left unsolved (and in some ways, caused).