India’s Numero Uno Travel writer Gita Hari shares her travel memories!

By Aryeman


Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Kudos to Gita Hari, a Food/Travel/Lifestyle Writer who seems to be enriching readers and avid travelers about her escapades for many years.

Her insatiable yen to see each spectacular vista gifted by nature, the enormous heritage monuments and of course to relish the myriad culture’s food and lifestyle across the globe is supremely evident with the passion she pens down her travelogues for various travel magazines. With nearly three decades of experience in the culinary space and a supporter of vegetarianism, she has added a few credentials to her repertoire which includes being a curator of sattvik recipes for Premium hotels across India and she also upholds the zero-waste-kitchen concept. She has been conferred the Women Achievers’ Award by Young Environmentalists Association, Powai.

Geeta Hari writes for: The Week Smart Life, The Man, HT Weekend, the Free Press Journal, Mumbai Mirror, Architectural, India Perspectives (flagship mag of Ministry of External Affairs)

Over to Gita Hari sharing her fond travel memories.

The Interview:

How many cities and countries have you travelled so far? Do list the names out.

Well, even as a child, traveling has always enamoured me. I have travelled across most of the cities in India. Chennai, Coimbatore, Rameshwaram, Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu; Bangalore, Mysore, Coorg in Karnataka; Thrissur, Palakkad, Guruvayur, Bekal, Cochin in Kerala; Vadodara, Anand, Sasan Gir in Gujarat; countless times to Goa – almost every year we have been visiting this beach destination.
Other places are Kolkata, Sikkim, Dharamshala, Kulu-Manali, Ladakh, Delhi, Agra, Bhopal, Ranthambor, Hyderabad, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Mt. Abu, Tirupati, Shirdi, Pune, Mahabaleshwar and I can go on and on…..

International: My trip to Mauritius was courtesy a television awards function where I was the Jury Member. I had a blast with the entire TV fraternity in full attendance and also because the gorgeous, The Indian Resort where we were put up extended my stay by a couple of nights more to review them for a leading interiors magazine (Society Interiors). I did underwater walking, cruising and other interesting activities and sight-seeing with a bunch of actors and stalwarts from the television industry.

Thailand (Bangkok, Pattaya, Krabi, Hua Hin), NZ (both North & South Islands), China (Shanghai), Maldives, Egypt (entire), South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg, Sun City, Mabula Game Reserve), Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Mauritius, UK (London, Birmingham, Manchester), Europe (France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland) are done. Australia is the next on my bucket list while I would rate the US as the last (don’t fancy steel and glass structures).

Which has been the most memorable travel vacation? What made it special?

Tour of the UK and Europe was planned by our sons as a gift to the parents and also to coincide with my milestone birthday (60th) which made it all the more memorable for me. Our eldest son accompanied us but my younger son, also in NZ and who was to join us, couldn’t make it and we missed him at every spectacular touristy spot.

What are the 5 spots one must visit at your memorable travel destination?
1.    The Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Sphinx in Egypt. Make it a point to venture inside the pyramid only if you are fit enough else one can get breathless due to the constrained entrance way and claustrophobic vaults. More than Giza’s humungous pyramids, the age-old hieroglyphics in Karnak Temple in Luxor (ancient Thebes) on the banks of River Nile are informative and The Valley of The Kings and Philae Temples in Aswan for their ancient monuments.

2.    I was thrilled to reach the southern tip of the continent and pose behind the signage Cape of Good Hope in South Africa which was like bringing to life lessons in geography you find so boring through your school days. A visit to Bo-Kaap on the slopes of Signal Hill in Cape Town is a must not only for its vibrantly coloured homes but also for its gripping history - after the end of apartheid, they painted their homes in vivid colours as a celebration of their freedom.

3.    Maldives which I have visited twice. The first time was on a FAM invite from Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa (a truly splendid stay here at the private villa with direct access to the beach) and the second time I had a fun-filled holiday with my school friend at Paradise Island Resort, Maldives. Both the times it was exhilarating to the say the least with a variety of water sports - para sailing, scuba diving, underwater walking, dolphin watching cruise, and feeding the sharks. Just lazing in the plunge pool of our villa in direct contact with the crystal clear waters of the ocean was sheer luxury and indulgence – an ever-longing experience!

4.    The picture-postcard township of Queenstown in New Zealand is my all-time favourite. It is THE destination for serene nature lovers and adventure sports enthusiasts. Though I am the former, I did indulge in my adventurous side a bit. Here’s where bungee jumping originated and I was game for it. The other sports I tried were skydiving, boat ride in canyons with spins thrown in for sheer thrill, boat ride in the pitch dark glow-worm caves.

5.    In Sikkim, the sensually winding Teesta river, monasteries, prayer flags, Seven Sisters waterfalls and Zero Point with snow throughout the year are some of the highlights. We descended among the clouds at the highest point in Pelling.

5 tips to travel smart and save on money

1.    Travel off season to save and see more. The airfare, rates for accommodation, sight-seeing are usually less than peak season.
2.    Plan your spending limit. Don’t splurge precious dollars on shopping, you get everything in India. Just experience the culture and lifestyle native to the place.
3.    Don’t overload your luggage but travel light. Take food items to avoid spending more on meals which are quite expensive abroad.
4.    Stay in hostels, Air bnb, use bus transportation, self-cooked meals in apartments.
5.    Totally refrain from using credit cards. They tend to make you overspend but shelling out cash will help you keep track of your expenses.  

Now with the Corona virus outbreak, which travel spots do you regret not having visited?

Things will get to normal and I can’t wait to travel again. One place I regret not having visited in my younger years is Kailash Mansarovar. Now I wonder if the low oxygen levels there and my waning health will permit me to do the parikrama. Internationally, places like Ibiza, Machu Picchu in Peru, South America.

Your viewpoints (safe, unsafe, safety measures) about the future of travel post this pandemic.

Well, it will be only domestic travel for a couple of years now. The ‘new normal’ would be prioritising hygiene, sanitisation and protection. Hotels have already started revamping with hygiene protocols in place. Yes, sight-seeing would be an issue – clicking selfies at tourist attractions with masks will be funny and tiresome (to remove and refit constantly). Human need to socialise and fulfil their bucket list will see them venturing out but with safety measures in place.

Being a travel blogger / writer / photographer / YouTuber, how do you plan your trip?

Travel writing happened due to my self-paid jaunts to satiate my wanderlust. I felt I must share my experiences with readers. I started contributing for in-flight magazines like Jetwings, Go Getter, and other travel publications. With it came recognition and invites for FAM tours started coming in and I went to Shanghai for the launch of Dream Cruise, luxury resort reviews to Maldives and Bangkok apart from numerous domestic travel.

Do you make money as a travel blogger? What are the other ways to make money being a travel writer?

I don’t make money other than what the publication pays me for my travel stories but yes, commercials are involved as a food curator for premium hotels Pan India. It takes care of the airfare and stay (mostly in a suite) for the entire duration of the food promotions apart from being paid a good remuneration while I curate sattvik recipes for any restaurant of the property.