A trip to Bali – Beaches and bonding

The regular readers of my blog will understand that travel is one thing which keeps me going. Fortunately, my family members are also keen on it and this has enabled us to visit several destinations, both mainstream and offbeat, where we have spent some great family vacations. This year we already had one in Goa and were not planning for another one so soon.

The genesis of our trip to Bali was the realisation that it will become tough to get a travel window for our whole family once the children start their professional careers. Lipi was particularly keen that we go somewhere outside India this time, since our last such trip was to Thailand way back in 2008. What with the issues of getting visas, Bali seemed to be the best option. Given the paucity of time again, it seemed a good idea to go for a packaged trip rather than plan one on our own. We were able to get Yatra.com to customise a trip for us. They were covering the airfare, accommodation and 2 full day tours in Bali along with the airport transfers for 42000 Rs per person which looked fine. We made the payments through our credit cards, got the required voucher printouts and were ready to take off.

The Air Asia flights have only hand luggage as per the ticket rules and the weight cannot exceed 7 Kgs. This meant each one of us had a single piece of luggage and had to make choices on what to carry – the good part was all of us were travelling light. The journey to Bali was a good one and we used the layover in KL to have breakfast at McDonald’s. KL airport has good WiFi and, as is the wont with every family nowadays, all four of us were busy with our phones for the rest of the waiting. The airport in Bali has a runway adjoining the sea and the descent of the aircraft was quite a nice view. Immigration was a breeze as they just stamp your passport and we were soon on our way to the hotel. In the short distance we had to travel, I was quite impressed with the sculptures on the road crossings – they were from Hindu mythology and mostly from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Bali is having a majority Hindu population and they have evidently preserved their heritage and culture rather well. We need to take lessons from them.

Our hotel was in Kuta area which is a bustling place having markets and other commercial establishments. The hotel itself was pretty good with nice rooms, a well appointed Gym, 3 nice restaurants, a nice Spa and most importantly a great location with Supermarkets, fast food joints like KFC and Domino’s as well as good local restaurants. We went to the Kuta beach in the evening and it turned out to be quite a happening place. You walk through a busy market to reach the beach and there are several restaurants as well as some shacks proffering Beer and cold drinks. The beach itself was crowded but quite clean and the sunset was out of the world. I have seen several sunsets all over the world and the first one in Indian ocean  was somewhat special. A restaurant served us a drink named Kuta Sunset, which was quite apt. We also had a Seafood Pizza and some Fried chicken while we watched the sunset. After coming back to the hotel we turned in early as the next 2 days would be busy ones.

We started the second day with a hearty breakfast that had everything from Cornflakes to Muffins/Croissants and Nasi Goreng too. By 10 AM we were off to our whole day tour. The first part was covering several villages where artisans made jewellery and clothing. In the afternoon we went to the Kintamani viewpoint from where you can see Mount Batur which has a Volcano crater at the summit. The whole mountain area and the lake was great viewing and there are many restaurants where you can sit on the terrace and have your lunch with observing the views. The fish that we ordered was not cooked properly but the day was otherwise so good that we took it in our stride. Next we went to a Coffee plantation where we saw how Luwak coffee was made and saw the Civets that play a key role in it. We also got to sample many different kinds of Coffee which was truly an unique experience. The journey back to the hotel was a long one and we had dinner at KFC before calling it a day.

The next day we covered two important points of Bali. The Tanah Lot temple is for the Sand and Sea and gives you great views of the Indian ocean along with the rocks on the shore. The sculptures have definite Indian influence and it makes you realise how far Indian civilisation had traversed in the ancient days. You would think that better views of the Indian ocean are probably not possible but that will change once you go to the next point which is the Uluwatu temple complex. This is situated at a height and the cliffs give you a great view of the ocean. The monkeys in the temple complex are a menace and apparently snatch everything from food to eyeglasses to hats. Rinki and I had a nice time exploring the area and taking in the myriad hues of the sea from different viewpoints. The coup DE grace was definitely the Kecak Fire dance depicting scenes from the Ramayana, specifically the burning of Lanka by Hanuman. The dancers were superbly skilled and watching them perform as the sun sets on the Indian ocean is a heady experience. The trip back to the hotel was again a long one but the lingering memories of the dance kept us preoccupied. We wanted to try out some local cuisine that dinner while Ronju was hell bent on a Burger, which is his staple diet whenever possible. A compromise was reached where we let him go to his favourite haunt, namely KFC, while we searched for an Oriental restaurant. We managed one where Kung Pao Chicken and the local delicacy Braised pork went superbly well with the Noodles.

After our exertions of the first 2 days we wanted to take day 3 easy. I was all for going to see the Rice terrace that Bali is famous for but gave in to a more sedate day as Lipi was feeling a bit under the weather. Rinki and I spent some time on the terrace swimming pool in the morning, before we went off to have a pizza lunch at Domino’s. In the afternoon I took the children for a last look at the Kuta beach. Sitting in the shade with them and talking while nursing a cold beer was good fun. We managed to catch a great sunset once more and the children went frolicking in the beach once the sun’s rays had tempered down a bit. Ronju had his customary burger at Wendy’s this time and after we got back we went to another dinner – this time with all 4 of us.

Next day we were on our way back, again with a layover in KL. It was a smooth journey and the trip was a greatly enjoyable one. The best thing about Bali is the ease of getting there and familiarity with many things Indian. We will be back again as the Timeshare we have with Karma, entitles us to a few resorts there.

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My personal experiences on children’s college education

May is that time of the year when all parents of college going children have to figure out ways and means of arranging the fees for the upcoming semester, term or year in college, as the case may be. I have been in this situation for 6 years now and am likely to be in it for a few years more, given that I have two children.

Let me give a brief background for new readers here. My daughter Rinki has graduated from BITS Pilani, Hyderabad campus with BE in ENI. After her graduation in 2016, she had joined XLRI for their BM program and has now completed her course there. My son Ronju is doing a 5 year dual degree course from BITS Pilani, Goa campus in Msc Maths and BE Computer Science. He will graduate in 2019 from there. If you are interested in knowing more about the overall costs and how I arranged for the funds etc, you can read up several posts available in the blog under “Education” category.

In this post I particularly wanted to discuss about the overall costs of a college degree in BITS and the inflationary nature within the course. Unlike some colleges, which give you a total figure for the 4 or 5 year course when you join, BITS only talks of the first year costs and then increases it every year. They have been transparent to say that the fees can increase by up to 15 % a year and, more often than not, it actually increases by that much. Let me take the component of the Tuition fee and see how it increased during the time Rinki was in college :-

  • In her first year 2012-2013, Tuition fee was 70000 per semester or 1.4 lacs in the year.
  • In 2013-2014, it was 78000 per semester or 1.56 lacs for the year.
  • In 2014-2015, it was 89000 per semester or 1.78 lacs for the year.
  • In 2015-2016, it was 101000 per semester or 2.02 lacs for the year.
  • In 2016-2017 it was 113000 per semester or 2.26 lacs for the year.
  • In 2017-2018 it was 130000 per semester or 2.60 lacs for the year.
  • In 2018-2019 the proposed fees are 159000 per semester of 3.18 lacs for the year. This has led to a lot of student protests and BITS may be forced to reduce it somewhat now.

Now apart from these there were Admission fees, hostel fees, mess fees, personal expenses, travel, practice school fees etc. From my notes I can see that the total expenses for her college degree was approximately 12 lacs.

At XLRI the overall costs are in the range of 24 lacs and you can add another 2 lacs or so for travel etc. Therefore her total Education costs in college is about 38 lacs.

For my son Ronju the last 2 years of Rinki will be common. Beyond this the fees for the other 3 years are as follows:-

  • in 2016-2017, it was 1.13 lacs per semester or 2.26 lacs for the year.
  • In 2017-2018, it is 1.30 lacs per semester or 2.60 lacs for the year.
  • in 2018-2019 it will be 1.59 lacs per semester or 3.18 lacs for the year.

Therefore for Ronju’s graduation the overall costs will be in the range of 20 lacs or so. I have not thought about his PG yet, as he is not sure whether he wants to do one. However if it is from a good B school, it will be in the range of 28-30 lacs. Assuming this to be the case, his total costs of college education will be in the range of 50 lacs or so.

From the above data you will be getting a pretty good picture of the educational inflation too. In 5 years the tuition fees has increased from 1.4 lacs to 3 lacs. The other costs have also increased and as you can see, a 4 year course for BITS starting today will easily cost more than 22 lacs or so, all things considered. Just the Tuition fees will be 18 lacs or so.

How will this look if your child is starting college after 15 years? Well, at an inflation of 15 % the tuition fees alone will be 1.8 crores. I know this sounds fantastic, but remember just 10 years back the Tuition fees of BITS was 50000 a year and it has gone up more than 5 times.

I am happy to spend this amount on giving a good education to my children as it is going to be a huge competitive differentiating aspect. However, I was able to do so as I prepared for the same in terms of my planning. Even then the inflation was surprisingly high and I had to rejig some of my plans.

You need to work on your plans right now and put them in place.

Looking at fixed income? Consider this investment

In my blog one of the most common queries I get from retired investors and ones planning to be in the FI state , is where one should invest for fixed income. This is expected in the current scenario as most of the Debt investments suffer from some lacuna or the other. Fixed deposit returns are low with inefficient tax treatment, PPF is a great long term product but not for regular income before 15 years, Debt funds are not giving great returns and you need to hold on for 3 years to get indexation benefits.

So, if you have a reasonable sum of money and are looking to put it somewhere for regular income, what are your options? A year back one could have looked at Arbitrage funds or Balanced funds but with the LTCG taxation on equity this does not seem a good idea. Tax free Bonds are not being issued right now and when they are the interest rates will probably be only in the range of 7.5 % to 8 %. In the present scenario one product which can be quite useful to investors is InvIT that is Infrastructure Investment Trusts.

What are InvIT’s? They are instruments for infrastructure developers to raise capital. For investors, InvITs provide (1) an opportunity to invest in a de-risked portfolio of operating infrastructure assets for a superior risk-adjusted return, (2) potential of growth via acquisitions. In simple words these funds take over the significant loans for large Power, Road and other infra projects. The return to the investors are in the form of interest payments, dividends declared, buy back of units and capital appreciation.

Are these Equity or Debt investments? Well, a bit of both really. The revenues are linked to the performance of companies that these trusts invest in so there is an equity nature. At the same time InvIT’s receive annuity from the companies they invest in, which is more like fixed income. As of now there are only two InvIT’s that were floated in the markets in 2017. IRB was for the Road companies and IndiGrid was for the Power companies. The ticket size for investment was 10 lacs for both of these and they were over subscribed. IRB was priced at 102 Rs and IndiGrid at 100 Rs per unit.

If we look at the performance of these companies in terms of their share prices then they are a disappointment. IRB is languishing at 86 Rs and IndiGrid is at 96 Rs. However, the more important parameter is the DPU or Distribution per unit which is something similar to a quarterly interest payment by these trusts. Both the trusts have paid this in a regular manner and in the last quarter the amounts were 3 Rs per unit for them.

I am having 10206 units of IndiGrid and have had overall DPU of 9.56 Rs in the 10 month period of operation over the last FY. The guidance for current FY is 12 Rs. Of course since most of this is interest payment, it will be taxable. In addition these can also offer some dividends which will be tax free in the hands of the investors.

Should you invest in these? Well, if you are a retired person in lower tax brackets then these do seem rather attractive at 12 % returns. Even in the 10 % tax bracket this makes a lot of sense. I think it will be ideal to buy a combination of IRB and IndiGrid. Remember the first is riskier as it depends on toll revenues. If you want to play safe just go for IndiGrid. The ticket size is 5 lac Rs and if you invest around 20 lacs you will be getting an average interest of 20000 per month. It can take care of a fair part of your household expenses. Do remember though that these are unlikely to appreciate much in share value and will not be very liquid so selling them can prove to be a challenge.

On the balance though these are doing rather nicely from the viewpoint of fixed income. I wish I had invested 2-3 times of what I actually did in the IPO and I have definite plans to put in my next 5-10 lacs there when some of my Debt investments mature.

Financial independence is central to living life in your terms

Over the course of the past 3 years or so when I have been writing my blog, several people have asked me as to why I focus so much on financial independence ( FI ) as a goal when most people automatically keep working till they cannot do so. In some posts I have explained as to why FI is an imperative, even if you want to continue in your present job or profession and retire normally. However, the most important idea of being in an FI state is that it gives you the ability and confidence to live life in your terms.

What do I mean by living life in your terms? It simply means that you are able to do the things you want to do without having to worry about the financial impact of them on your future well being. There are only two conditions where this is possible. Firstly, you can inherit a lot of money and secondly, you work towards and attain an FI state on your own steam. Remember, in your life the terms are set by you, so it is not necessary that they will align with other people. For one person it may be the ability to stay in a huge mansion with all amenities, for another it can be the flexibility to travel as and when he wants and for a third it may be playing the stock market with some capital without the fear of losing it. Let me give you some more examples of what you may be able to do in the FI state – these are real life happenings with people who I know.

  • A couple in their 40’s take 2 vacations outside India every year because there is just too much to see and they have the cushion of FI.
  • A man who is a car enthusiast has bought a luxury car recently surprising many of his friends and family. He said that he wanted to buy it for about 2 decades but was able to do it when he understood that he was in an FI state.
  • A batch mate of mine who is a Banker, left his job and started to do workshops on personal finance as it has been his passion for a very long time.
  • A lady who has been a lawyer for 3 decades was able to switch to taking cases free for the poor when she realised she was well over the FI line.

I can go on with more examples but I think the point is made. Whatever your terms are, you need to be in an FI state to live life with those. Most of us work because we need to earn certain amount of money, for now and for the future. While we are doing that, we are unable to live life in terms of what we want – it can be a money issue or a time issue or both. Once you are in the FI state you will be able to reorganise your life in a way so as to do these things in a manner that fulfils your aspirations. To me, that is the essence of living – yes, there are times when you live for responsibilities and need to compromise on your personal aspirations but that is surely not a desirable state.

Coming to my personal example, what does being in the FI state mean for me? Also, to respond to the curiosity of many people, what do I do now and what do I plan to do in the future? Let me try and address it here :-

  • I do some Consultancy work if it is of interest to me. As I do not depend on the money from it to fund my lifestyle, the flexibility of choice is great.
  • As many of you know, I write this blog and am advising several people who seek me out. I have also made Holistic life and Financial plans for a few people who have reached out to me. Note that this is not my profession in any manner.
  • I have been involved very closely with the education of my children and that is coming to an end now. Interaction with many IIM and B school aspirants through public sites is something I am passionate about. I am also part of the admission panel for IIM Calcutta.
  • Conducting high end Consulting workshops for corporate organisations is something I love to do and will expand it significantly this year.
  • Travel has been a passion for me since long and I am able to do it much more now. In the last year and quarter we have been to Kumarokom, Araku valley, Italy, Goa ( twice ), Konkan beaches, Durgapur, Ayodhya hills, Khajuraho and are now planning a short trip to Bali.
  • Sports is another passion I have and I am really happy to be able to watch almost anything I want to nowadays. Looking forward to the FIFA world cup.
  • I am toying with the idea of writing a book. Something may or may not come out of it but I will make a fairly serious attempt this year.
  • I am also keen to explore the idea of forming a venture. The ideas for it are crystallised now and I will be looking for some founder partners soon.

When I measure all of the above against what I could have done as a CEO in a regular corporate job, I must say that I find this infinitely more preferable. The bottom line however is that I am able to do this only because of my FI state.

What is your ideal existence in life? If you are already having it in your current job or profession, great !! If it is very different from what you are currently doing then you need to think seriously about being in the FI state so that you can live in your terms.

After all you have only one life to live !!

Retirement income framework – understand the allocation

I get a lot of queries in my blog and Facebook group about how to structure a corpus so that the retired person gets enough monthly income in retirement. Most of these people have a home and are not really extravagant in their spending. Ideally they would like to have regular monthly income with a degree of safety attached to it.

I have written earlier that a combination of Debt, Equity and Stocks should be the way to go for all stages of life, with the provision that the proportion changes in favour of debt as you grow older. However, there are many people who are worried about the volatility in the markets and clearly uncomfortable in a scenario where they might have to withdraw money in a declining market. At the same time, a debt only portfolio will work if the corpus is large enough to deal with inflation over a period of 3 decades.

Let us simplify it then in terms of different scenarios. The first scenario is where you only want to have Debt in your portfolio:-

  • Assume an annual expenditure of 8 lacs per year
  • Retirement period of 30 years conservatively
  • Real return from portfolio is zero as Returns match inflation
  • Corpus needed will be 2.4 crores
  • Rough assumption is that expenses will double every 10 years.

So you can see from here, if you have 2.4 crores corpus you can withdraw 8 lacs every year and not worry at all about markets and equity etc. But what if you do not have 2.4 crores but only 2 crores. How does that change the situation? Let us see below:-

  • Assume same expenses and longevity as in the first scenario.
  • Put 20 years amount into Debt and the rest in Equity.
  • So we have 160 lacs in Debt and 40 lacs in equity.
  • Assume that inflation makes expenses rise by 100 % in 10 years.
  • Assume equity returns of 15 % annually.
  • The Debt investment will be adequate for first 20 years.
  • The Equity part will become 654 lacs in 20 years at 15 %
  • Even if you take 12 % return on equity, the amount in 20 years will be 386 lacs.
  • Annual expenses after 20 years will be 32 lacs per year
  • So 10 year costs are 320 lacs.

As you can see the trick is to let Equity grow for a long time so that the differential return when compared to inflation really works to your advantage.

I hope with this you will be able to get your own situation in retirement mapped out. The basic idea is to deal with Debt in the first decade or two and have access to equity money for later on. Yes, if you have enough in Debt then you probably do not need a lot of equity allocation. Let us now look at the general formula then.

  • Expense of X lacs per year and longevity of Y years
  • You can be in pure debt if corpus available with you is more than XY lacs
  • If you have less than XY lacs then your allocation must be between Debt and Equity.
  • In general with a corpus of 75 % of XY lacs you should be all right.
  • Assumption is that your Equity portfolio grows at 12 % to 15 % long term and inflation is such that your expenses double in 10 years ( roughly 7.2 % )

All that you really need to do now is to plug in your values and check out the allocation required for a rich and productive retirement. I will do another post this week on specific portfolios and withdrawal strategies for 2 different levels of corpus.

Khajuraho – offbeat and mesmerising

When one has travelled as much as I have, it becomes quite commonplace to plan for new travel destinations and one may get a sense of, “been there, done that”. Khajuraho was quite different though as it was something both Lipi and I wanted to do for a long time. Now that we are done with the trip, I can only say that it met our expectations in full measure. For those interested in going there this post will be helpful.

Coming to the actual travel, we started on 20th February morning from our home in Hyderabad. The short ride to the airport is always exhilarating in the morning on the ORR expressway. Hyderabad airport is now crowded at most times but, as regular travellers, we have now learnt to take these in our stride. Once we were through the Security check, we headed towards our oasis in the airport – the Plaza Premium lounge. this provides relative serenity in the hustle and bustle of the airport as well as great food options at most times of the day. Fortified by the breakfast, we boarded the flight and did what we normally do – Lipi catching up with her sleep and me with my reading. We made a short stopover at Noida at my mother-in-law’s place and had a great lunch there. She also insisted on packing some dinner for us which came in rather handy later on.

Our train journey by the UP Sampark Kranti Express was uneventful but we were privy to some rather interesting conversation on Khajuraho, courtesy some local people who were travelling with us. When I woke up it was rather dark and the feeling I had of closing in on our destination was quite thrilling. The train reached Khajuraho station fairly early in the morning and just as we came outside we were accosted by a person named Jainam who wanted us to get into his car to reach our hotel. Though I did not have much faith in the sheet of paper that he proffered, 200 Rs seemed a reasonable fare and we set off. The journey by car was short and we saw the two airports, national and international, on our way. The road leading to our hotel Isabel Palace was a dusty one and I started wondering as to whether we had made a good choice of the hotel. However, the interiors were quite good and we were given a room immediately even though it wasn’t 8 in the morning yet.

The hotel had a fixed menu breakfast on the terrace. You could view the Vindhya hills at a distance and paddy fields up close. The 360 degree view along with the tasty Indian breakfast of stuffed parathas and pooris started our day on the right note. We had worked out a deal with our guide cum driver Jainam and soon set out to see the star attraction of the trip, namely the temples of the Western group first. It was only a short drive from the hotel, in Khajuraho most distances are short. The immediate road stretch in front of the temple complex has been cordoned off for vehicular traffic and this is a good step. Tickets were cheap but the official Guides really expensive. We still got one as it is always good to hear from them and it proved to be a good decision. Apart from giving up the details of temples and the sculptures he also doubled up as our official photographer for the day and snapped quite a few pictures of Lipi and me. This was nice as we normally end every travel nowadays with very few pics of us together.

The Western temple complex has most of the temples standing today and is really the UNESCO world heritage site. The temples are all in pretty good shape and have been restored well where needed, the landscaped gardens look beautiful and due to the lack of massive crowds you can set your own pace. We started with the Lakshmana Temple which is dedicated to Vishnu and has a few smaller temples in front of it. The Varaha Temple, dedicated to the third incarnation of Vishnu as a wild Boar is small but has a huge statue of a Boar which is rather impressive. The carvings along the Lakshmana temple contain a lot of erotic sculpture for which Khajuraho is widely known. While these are rather explicitly depicted, the overall numbers would probably be less than 10 %. Also, the sculptures are really about everyday life and it seems that sex was dealt with and spoken of quite openly during the times the temples were built.

About 200 metres from the Lakshmana temple is the most famous temple of Khajuraho and easily the most majestic one in structure and stature. My memories of it stretched long back to my school days when I read about it in my Cultural history classes and was quite impressed by it. In real life it was even more impressive than what my imagination had allowed for. The Jagdambika temple next to it is on the same raised platform and the duo clearly dominate the Western complex. Just going around the temples and staring up at the rising Shikaras will inspire you with awe. Add to it the richly carved panels with the intricate sculptures and you realise the extent of the artistic and human endeavour that went into creating these masterpieces. Muslim invasion had desecrated the shines but even those callous souls probably could not bring themselves to destroy such beauty.

The rest of the temples were nice too, the Chitragupta temple and the Vishvanath temple being noteworthy. The Dance festival has the Chitragupta temple as it’s fantastic background and we witnessed that in the evening. After the Western group we went to the Southern temples and the Eastern Jain ones. While these were quite impressive too and the Chaturvuja temple was unique in the statue of Vishnu with 4 heads. The Jain temple complex was really serene and nice though architecturally not so striking maybe. The temples done we proceeded to have lunch at Agarwal’s which was a great vegetarian restaurant and had a variety of Thali’s and other fares to choose from. The simple thali we chose turned out to be quite sumptuous and rounded off the morning experience.

After some rest at the hotel we were back to the temple complex in the evening. We first went to the only temple in Khajuraho where worship is prevalent and saw the 9 feet Shiva lingam made of sandstone, glistening due to all the polish it has got over the years. The evening Arathi was just starting as we came down the steps and the music with the chanting along with all the devotees clapping to it was a heady mix. Next stop was the Khajuraho Dance festival which was really more of a Fair. There were stalls put up from different states with all kinds of textiles and handicrafts, there were food stalls ans an Art Mart featuring work of many artistes. The Dance stage was impressive and had the Chitragupta temple as it’s beautiful backdrop. We saw three performances of Bharat Natyam, Kathak and Manipuri dances and each one held our attention completely. The entire experience was a surreal one and exceeded all expectations that I had of it. If you are a lover of art and culture, you must visit Khajuraho dance festival at least once.

Dinner was at well known Rajah Cafe run by a Swiss. We had some chicken Brochette which was quite good along with another chicken dish with Rotis. After a restful night we were off the next day on nature trail. First stop was Ken Ghariyal Sanctuary which has some wild life and apparently a lot of crocodiles. Even though we did not see any crocodiles there, the views of the Ken river and the different small lakes that it forms within the sanctuary were hugely worth it. Lipi did not want to climb the watch tower but I decided to test my fitness by doing so and was rewarded by some great views. The Raneh falls did not have any waterfall as the monsoons last year had been almost absent. However, this allowed us to see the Canyon properly and the sheer scale, variety, colour and arrangement of the rocks were truly remarkable. Quite possibly the only place in India where you would get to see this. After lunch we were at the Panna Tiger reserve in a Gypsy and with a very knowledgeable Guide. Panna is uniquely beautiful due to the Ken river that runs through it. This also has several alligators and crocodiles along with a host of water birds. We saw Herons, Kingfishers, Storks, Cormorants and Peacocks just to name a few. Deer of different types were in abundance starting with Nilgai, Sambar, Barking deer, spotted dear, Barasinghas etc. It was a great sight to see a couple of young deer in full flight with both feet off the air. Though we heard some people seeing the tigress and two cubs and waited patiently on a long vigil by the Ken river, the tiger eluded us. The whole park experience was rather nice though and catching the sunset as we were exiting the park was really the icing on the cake. The long drive back and the exhausting day necessitated an early dinner and we were off to sleep quickly.

The final day was reserved for Museums but unfortunately two of these were closed for the day. We did get to see the Tribal museum which had some really nice stuff in terms of paintings and handicrafts along with implements of day to day use of the tribal’s. Lipi went off to buy some souvenirs from the market while I took another look at the Western group of Temples in order to look at some sculptures closely. Another sumptuous vegetarian lunch followed and we were back to Khajuraho station soon. The station facade is in the shape of a temple and is apt for the place.

The train journey back was good as we met an old couple who have been coming to Khajuraho for several years and it was nice of them to share some of their dinner with us. Next day we stopped by Lipi’s place once more and made it to Hyderabad in the evening. It has been a great trip that had everything – culture, heritage, nature, wild life all rolled into one.

We are looking forward to the next trip in a few days time – complete change of setting as we will go to Goa now.

A travel plan for Khajuraho

I am passionate about many things in life, but if I had to choose one it would definitely be travel. Over the years we have travelled to a lot of different destinations, both inside and out of India. I always look forward to a new year thinking of the new places we may get to visit or the old ones where we may rediscover new experiences. In 2018, one of the places I had on my radar was Khajuraho and I am happy that we are going there this week.

Planning for travel is one of the activities I truly enjoy and, over the years, I have got pretty good at it. This time, the idea of a Khajuraho visit came to me in January. My mother-in-law, who is normally with us in December and January to avoid the Delhi winters, was leaving on 11th February and our daughter Rinki was coming back home after completing her BM program at XLRI on 27th. So we really had to go in the intervening period. What really sealed the deal for me was seeing the news of the Khajuraho Dance festival being held this year between 20th and 22nd February. I am a great fan of all types of Indian cultural performances and one of my great joys was to watch the dancers perform in the Mamallapuram Dance festival when we were in Chennai. The Khajuraho dance festival seemed like the perfect occasion to visit there.

Life today has got much easier due to the amount of information present on the internet, especially if you know how to search for it well. I normally start by reading up on the place first to get a general sense of the location, transport options, sightseeing options etc. Next, I search for any travel blogs written about the place and also the itineraries by different tour operators. This gives me a rather good idea about how many days we will need at the place, travel options to reach there, food and stay options. Once I am clear on these I plan my itinerary and check on the dates, travel options and bookings.

Here is how I planned for Khajuraho:-

  • Based on my readings I decided that 3 days will be enough to visit the Khajuraho temple complexes, view performances at the dance festival as well as go for a half day safari to Panna national park.
  • From Hyderabad the logical way to travel will be through Bhopal or Jabalpur. However, both involved long train journeys and expensive flight tickets with not very convenient timing. It did not make sense to travel 2 days for a 3 day trip.
  • As there was a good night train between Delhi and Khajuraho, I decided to do the unusual and go through Delhi, despite it not making geographical sense.
  • I booked the tickets for the train both ways first and then looked at the flight options. As I was having some flexibility of dates, courtesy some stay options in Delhi for night stays if needed, I was able to get tickets at great prices.
  • Next step was to book accommodation for 2 nights in Khajuraho. I looked at Trivago site to get a good deal from Booking.com
  • Final step was to book the evening safari at Panna national park through the online facility in the MP government site. This is a great option as you can do things directly yourself without getting entangled with touts etc. 

Now finally for the costs:-

  • Train costs were 1920 Rs for onward journey in AC 3 Tier and 2720 Rs for the return journey in AC 2 Tier.
  • Flight costs were 9800 Rs for both legs of the journey 🙂
  • Hotel cost for 2 nights was about 4200 Rs.
  • Safari permits were 520 Rs, Jeep and Guide costs will come to another 700 Rs or so.
  • Food, taxis and incidental expenses will be in the range of another 7000 Rs or so.

So at an overall cost of 27000 Rs or thereabouts we are leaving for a reasonably comfortable trip to a long awaited destination. Must say that I am feeling quite kicked about it.