Month: January 2016

Hitchhiking From Leh To Srinagar

Hitchhiking has always remained an intriguing travel option to me. This is because of two fair reasons: one, it makes your journeys cheaper; second, it opens the possibilities to meet all the interesting people out there whom you otherwise miss by travelling in a bus, or far worse, in a private car. I’ve hitchhiked almost everywhere I’ve traveled in the world –  from Indian Himalayan roads to Bangkok’s highways. And no, I don’t find it risky. In my belief, the fact that hitchhiking is dangerous has only been overplayed by the fear-mongering society. So let’s not even go there! The idea to hitchhike all the way from Leh to Srinagar – a 420 km long and isolated road with some of the most popular towns in between, including Kargil and Dras (second coldest inhabited place on earth) – initiated when I met David and Marion on a chilly evening in Leh. And we teamed up to see if that’s even possible. Our shabby and hopeless scheme – as it seemed at first – started in Leh, and …

Why Are We Always So Uninterested To See Our Own Country?

If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with” Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz Their names have escaped me now but I vividly remember that interesting, yet stupendous conversation I had with a young Indian couple from south of India. I was waiting for my appointment with an immigration officer in Thimpu – to extend my tourist permit in Bhutan. It started with one of those moments when you meet another traveller from your home country and you find yourself excited to exchange the usual banalities about how amazing this place is, followed by the ubiquitous gamut of ‘where are you from in India’ and ‘where you’re going next’. As we finished that, I asked them about their favorite places in south India. I had long desired to travel south of India. [Update Oct’16: But Now I’ve Been To South. Read About Why I Loved Kerala So Much Here] That was their home after all, I thought, no …

Majuli Island: In Photos

My first sight of Majuli island (as you can see in the photos below) was on a humid afternoon in June when I arrived on the morning ferry from the city of Johrat. For about ten minutes, the adjoining land was aswarm with activity as people poured forth from the ferry to find a place in the already waiting sharing jeeps and buses, and made their way into one of the many small towns of Majuli. Then abruptly all became silence and I found myself left behind, wandering through the empty shores – waiting for another ferry to arrive and share a jeep with its people. This is how my unforgettable journey to this surreal, almost magical place began.  Soon, its pristine beauty left me startled, craving to stay there for ever. Let’s walk on a photo tour to know more about this place. To reach Majuli Island you are required to cross the Brahmaputra River in a ferry (or in a comparatively small boat) full of people, cattle, cars and what not. No it’s not like travelling …

What The World’s Second Largest Monastery Taught Me

Tawang valley in the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh is wrapped with a hulking mountain range which always seems to cast a special magic on the mind of travelers. The entire valley is a patchwork of stunning mountain ridges and vast fields – so beautiful that every moment you find yourself awestruck. And when you are not being enthralled with its natural beauty, you are captivated with the Buddhist prayer wheels of Monpa pilgrims wearing a traditional black-yak-wool overcoat. Well there are many reasons to visit Tawang, but the prime reason why it stands above the crowd, is that it is home to the world’s second largest monastery – something that makes Tawang exclusive, and culturally rich. Located at 10,000 feet with a commanding view of Tawang River, Tawang monastery is one small city in itself. It is an ideal epitome to some 500 monks, many of whom are small children. Their sole place of refuge is the monastery premises where they learn and follow Buddhism. During my visit to this monastery and a small …

Nongriat: From Root Bridges To Its Natural & Cultural History

Nongriat is a combination of two words “Nong” meaning village and “Riat” meaning cliffs or ridges. So it literally means “A village surrounded by ridges” – and that’s exactly what you are going to find in Nongriat, in addition to its mesmerizing beauty, natural swimming pools and friendly people It is about 64 Kms from Shillong and to reach there, you’d have to take a shared Jeep or hire a cab from Shillong  to Cherapunji (otherwise known as Sohra) and then to Mawshmok. From Mawshmok you’d walk towards Tyrna which takes approximately 10 minutes. Alternatively, if you want to go a little wild, you can walk all the way from Shillong to Cherapunji which will take around 3 days walking through the plump and comely hills of Meghalaya. From Tyrna you walk on foot to Nongthymmai and then to Nongriat which is around 3500 stairways (and a hell lot of sweat) from Tyrna. Not to forget that they are not really proper stairs, at times they are mere boulders and rocks smeared with moss which makes …

Nongriat, Meghalaya: In Photos

“This north-east Indian village with root bridges is by far the best place I’ve seen in your country.” I still remember how my friend expressed his excitement, as we clambered over the lofty and vainglorious mountains of Uttarakhand, last year. His voice – a perfect invitation for me to amble – kept reverberating in my head for a long time until when I finally set off to see this place with a few other north-east Indian places that turned out to be no less than a Shangri-la. From being a place where it (almost) rains the most in the world to being a home to one of the amazing tribal community in India – there are many reasons why you should visit Nongriat. But the undisputed highlights are its lush forest, magnificent valleys, countless natural pools, living root bridges and the Bananas with seeds. Here, some unforgettable moments I clicked in and around Nongriat (eastern Khasi Hills): The entire east Khasi Hills in Meghalaya is like a secluded oasis of silence in the vastness of nature. And Nongriat – …

Impermanence And Change Are A Part Of Life

It has been almost two years since I’ve been travelling (updated October 2016) after quitting my job and having decided to live like a nomad for as long as I wanted and my budget allowed. Great many things have happened to me all this time. From meeting unknown friends to spending nights on slatted benches to hitchhiking on world’s most dangerous roads – I went through it all. And in the process I’ve learned many great life lessons. “Travel imparts a new vigor to your mind,” said a great Roman pholosopher once, and I can’t agree more. It allows you to accept new cultures, new ideas, as you open yourself to world philosophies. Travel has probably been one of the greatest educator in my life. When you travel, you make your own decisions and throw yourself into situations that you otherwise try to avoid. It schools you in more ways you can ever find out, and my experience has been no different. Travelling has taught me much. But the biggest lesson it has taught me is to realize that impermanence …

Why I Want To Travel Bhutan Again

Of all the places I’ve been to, Bhutan remains one of my favourites. Not much is known of this country, and even less is heard about. No wonder, Bhutan is a place to be discovered. Many people find it hard to sample its charms due the country’s high daily tariff (about $250 per day per person) and complicated visa requirements – which, fortunately enough, don’t apply to Indian tourists. We can cross the border anytime we want and enjoy its warmth, humility, friendliness and spiritual peace, like a backpacker. But why do I care to visit it again? Well, of all the compelling reasons Bhutan’s ‘Restaurants Cum Bars’ – as they are often named – are something I find myself mostly yearning for. They are a basic Bar like facility where you can enjoy ‘Emma Dhatsi’ – an insanely hot delicacy of boiled chillies and local cheese – and all those local beers and whiskeys. For a start remember that they are in no shortage in any sense. If Bhutan has some 100,000 shops in total, …

In Search Of Happiness

I found Bhutan a rather charming and fascinating place. No matter how worldly and materialistic your approach towards life is, if you travel Bhutan with an open mind, their philosophical and idealistic culture would force you to think, and moreover deliberately contemplate, on some most confusing and absurd questions concerning human existence. During my visit to Bhutan, I happened to spend a chilly evening with a couple of friends I met in the capital city Thimpu. They shared with me some crazy ideas about their culture and a unique Bhutanese philosophy that left me spilling my guts out. These young men had no decent excuse to ponder or even believe in such crazy ideologies – and their firm belief left me startled. “There’s a very simple solution to be happy in your life,” said one of them “Just think about death few times every day.” The entire conversation around such a cheesy topic started when – during our philosophical conversation – they happened to ask me about that one thing I want from my life. “To be …

A Walk Into The Himalayan Woods

Travelling alone has its own benefits. It gives you that control where you can set an itinerary and then you can ditch it. Spending days in solitude also makes you more eager to chat with locals, absorb their culture and team up with them to make your journey more interesting. And that is exactly what happened to me when I was on my way to trek all the way to Deo Tibba. Deo Tiba is basically a 4 to 7 days trek depending upon how far you want to go. The base camp takes 7 days. The elegant Deo Tiba peak which is 6001 m high looks like half oval shaped egg. The journey starts from Jagatsukh village (about 20 kms from Manali), in a motorcar, followed by a great deal of walking through Himalaya’s pristine and untouched beauty, laced with the amazing forests and snow-clad peaks. But let’s not waste too much time speaking about its specifications, because we aren’t even going there. So as I said, travelling alone has its own benefits. And this journey just proved me …