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Travel getaways this monsoon
Monsoon spins its own magic, notwithstanding the general seasonal muddiness and moodiness. For those of us looking to get away far from the maddening crowds (and inescapable traffic snarls) of city life, well- the good news is, you do not have to get stuck with staring out and watching the rain fall to its boring beat every single day this season. We list some of the more offbeat and interesting trips you can make to liven up your monsoon.

North & West

The Himalayas are a bit of a no-no, given the rather common seasonal hazard of landslides and bad weather holding up travel plans. But that also means getting more adventurous and creative with the travel-planning, beyond the staple Nainitals and Dharamshalas.

Srinagar and Gulmarg are beautiful as always in August-September, and whatever rains they do get (which is not much) only adds to their natural appeal. The grassy meadows of Gulmarg dotted with tall conifers are lovely for short walks. Apart from some amazing hotel-bargains, you also get great deals on outdoor sports and golfing (at the highest golf greens in the world!). If the lack of snow bothers you, head to Sonmarg close by, with its pristine peaks and a young Indus ? the cradle of our civilization so as to speak. Trout-fishing in the gurgling Indus amidst high and silent mountains, under overcast skies and in the slightest of drizzles can be the perfect remedy for city-frayed nerves!

For a truly royal and rich experience, plan a trip to Jaisalmer or Udaipur in the land of the Rajas. Jaisalmer can be pretty dramatic with the cloud-play, sans rain, over its ochre deserts, and the monsoon-cover makes the weather more pleasant for fort-exploration. Udaipur's lake Pichola is at its romantic best during the monsoons, best enjoyed with a stay on the legendary and super-luxurious Taj Lake Palace floating right in the middle of the lake - if you have also won a Euromillions lottery jackpot for real that is.

Hop on the Deccan Odyssey this monsoon for a truly scenic 7-day, 5-star luxury ride through the rain-washed Konkan coast. The train has several other tour- itineraries, from 3 to 10 days, through Rajasthan, Gujarat and the Deccan as well. If you are on a tighter budget though, you can simply go backpacking to good ol' Goa or Gokarna for a laid-back break.

If you truly love the rain, there's no better way to enjoy the season than to fearlessly enter the land of the most - Mawsynram. The wettest place on earth, this quaint sleepy little village in Meghalaya ('abode of the clouds')offers a glimpse of nature at its lushest. Base yourself at capital city Shillong on the Eastern Himalayas, where the rain-fed waterfalls are truly magnificent, and stay for a couple of days in Mawsynram or Cherrapunji. However, do watch out for leeches and snakes amidst all the beautiful rainforest greenery!

Monsoon cruises on the Sunderbans delta around September might be another wonderful off-the-beaten track option for the more adventurous. Looming grey skies perfectly complement the dense (and biggest) mangrove forests at the muddy confluence of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, creating the perfect photo-setting for jungle snaps. The silence and lack of crowds greatly increase the probability of animal-sightings during the monsoons, though you may have to be as lucky as a lottery winner to catch the famed and elusive Royal Bengal tiger in its natural habitat. The luxury cruises are recommended for the rainy season for their safety features and facilities, given that the National Forest region often gets heavy spells of rain from the Bay of Bengal. Sunsets on the Sunderbans are simply spectacular and not-to-be-missed, if you get a sunny day in between.

South

One word, one destination ? Kerala! Monsoon is perhaps the best season to enjoy God's own country, chilling out in a coconut-tree sheltered houseboat on the backwaters of the Indian Ocean. The food is great, the people are friendly and intelligent and the Ayurvedic-spa experience is world-class! The rain adds to the atmosphere and the wild seas are glorious to watch from a safe distance. There are quite a few options to choose from for the backwater experience ?Kumarakom, Cherai, Ashtamudi to name a few? and quite a few coffee-n-spices plantation holiday alternatives as well on the Nilgiri Hills like Thekkady and Wayanad.

Monsoons can be wonderful for travelling, if you mostly wish to relax and get away from ugly home-truths. Plan intelligently for a relatively rain-proof and cheaper holiday, and you will probably enjoy it enough to start travelling regularly (even only!) during the rains.

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