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Why I Quit My Job To Travel

Smiling faces

Last week, I took a wee trip to Rishikesh – the land of sadhus and of many people’s spiritual rebirth. I have a personal affection, some attachment to this place. This is where I once spent two months, practising meditation and taking spiritual lessons.

But this time, my arrival was accompanied by a sense of unexpected realization. I wondered, as I grabbed myself walking along its frenzied, confused walkways, that how lucky I am to experience places like Rishikesh again and again. And yet, it is never the climax of my journey. It is always the beginning.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls” Anais Nin

It has been a few years now since I have been travelling full time, or I should perhaps say a few years since I’ve made travelling my life, and my source of income, yet I never shared here why and how it all happened. It would be nice to say that I wanted to understand myself and find my inner consciousness, but frankly speaking, it’s not true.

The only part which is true is that was bored of the monotonous 9 to 5 corporate job and I didn’t want to keep continue doing it until I turn 60, ready to be retired. I wanted something more than that. I wanted to see the world. Meet new people. Learn better ideas. Find out what’s wrong with this system of corporate culture, that it never made anyone happy – no matter what they achieved in their life. Simply put, I wanted to educate myself in a way that no school, no job ever did before. And I wanted to do that by breaking free.

traveller

But one thing is saying that I want to do this and the other thing is realizing I am actually doing it.

Travelling is no less than a pursuit of happiness for me. Yet, throughout this time, I’ve often stumbled upon questions like “Why I quit my job to travel” or “How did I manage to make such a decision” or “What’s next”. And I think with all these questions, what people actually wanted to ask me was why did I not go for a two-week calculated holiday (or a couple of month’s sabbatical, if I am being pretentiously brazen about it) to quench my thirst of travel, as an averagely sane person would otherwise do.

The truth is, there is no fun in that. I have taken enough of those recreational holidays – as people often term them – in my life. When I was working I found myself escaping the boundaries of New Delhi almost every weekend, with a couple of friends, drinking a bunch of beers and returning with an unsatisfied soul. And I remember, the minute I entered the premises of my office, after completing that sweet, sally trip, it always felt as if it actually never happened.

So I realised that I wanted something more than that. Something bigger. Something permanent. I wanted a life of uninterrupted travelling, of permanent movement.

Further Reading: 6 Reasons To Start Travelling Today

Discontentment Is Good

Discontentment is the very first step to a new beginning. My discontentment towards my job forced me to quit my job and start travelling. I had always loved India, but I never loved my life in India. I always loved my profession (of writing), but I never loved my job. It seemed I was just accepting things as they came because everyone around me told me “this is life and you got to learn to deal with it.”

But I think I wasn’t good at it. Though I tried to suppress my unsatisfied soul the traditional way, by changing jobs and running after money, it was just not enough. My audacious, fertile mind – discontented and grumbling – kept pushing me until I shifted focus.

writing

The Journey That Changed It All

I took my first solo trip back in 2014 (you can read about it all here), while I was still working, and it was a life-changing experience. Though there was nothing extraordinarily great about the journey, the freedom in travelling solo was, in fact, most addictive. And that was it. I spent the next few months, saving as much money possible from the job I was doing, having a very clear focus in my mind – to leave this lifestyle behind and travel the world.

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world” Mary Anne Radmacher

Though it is true, when I quit my job in 2015, I had no idea that I will soon start blogging, but I had a belief that something good will follow. I remember during the initial few months of travelling and searching for a better life, I tried seeking a way to become a community journalist (I even wrote a few articles addressing social issues but couldn’t find the courage to get them published somewhere) and make it my permanent career, but I couldn’t. And I think it was because I tried and failed that in the end I decided to be a little easy on me, and chose a more freestyle kind of writing – travel blogging.

So the point here is, if you’re discontent, wanting a little shift in your life, there is no harm in quitting what you’re doing and trying to change the present. Because if nothing else, you can always return to the same present and say to yourself “I at least tried!”

Three Years Later Since I Became A Full-Time Blogger In 2016

Update: It has been nearly two years since I wrote this blog (and three years since I have been travel blogging) and I am fortunate to still be able to travel full-time and make money from it. Though my journey as a full-time traveller has had many highs and lows when I look back and think of what travelling has given me during all this time, there’s just one thing that comes to my mind, and it is – the satisfaction and the thrill in waking up every day!

And speaking of what’s next, I think now that I’ve got good riddance of my corporate career and have attained the financial stability, I’ll continue travelling for as long as my heart will desire, and if I ever wanted some stillness in life, I can always go back and resume what I was doing. But this time, I will only do it a little better!

Respect my decision? Like my lifestyle? Then why not follow me on social media? I can be found on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube with the username ‘Footloose Dev’

Leaving For An Epic Motorcycle Adventure TOMORROW: Sach Pass–Zanskar–Kargil–Leh

So tomorrow (on 15th September) I am leaving for one of the most epic and adventurous motorcycle rides of my life – covering nearly 4000km on some of the world’s deadliest, treacherous and highest motorable roads. I will be starting from New Delhi and covering Sach Pass, Zanskar, Kargil and Leh, with mountain passes as high as 5000m above sea level. With an aim to cover 4000 km in about two weeks (on roads that actually defy all definitions ‘a road’) this is going to be the most thrilling ride of my life!

Until now, motorcycling seemed like an utter waste of effort to me. I always thought, what thrill do these so-called bikers get in riding across a place for weeks. I mean think of it this way: when you travel from point A to point B in a bus or, say, in a train, you get to see and do so much than when you do the same journey riding a motorcycle. When you’re on a motorcycle, all you do is get a good hang of the road, ride, and ride more. But when you’re travelling in public transport, or even doing a road trip with your friends in a car, you look around, speak to the person sitting right next to you and even read a book, or perhaps, write one.

So yea, travelling by any means but on a motorcycle always felt more rewarding to me… but, only until now!

If you do not already know, about four months ago, on April 2019, I bought a motorcycle. And since then, I’ve planned two solo-motorcycle trips in the Himalayas. On the first journey, I covered about 3000km in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, over a period of 20 days, exploring offbeat villages, meeting tribal people, and even camping in the wilderness and experiencing solitude in a way that I didn’t do in ages.

My second journey took me across the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh. I started from the Shimla and travelled all the way to Chanshal Pass – the highest motorable pass in Shimla district. In just about a month, I visited places and stayed at towns that others around me had no idea existed.

The Upcoming Trip

Whilst I have had a pretty decent adventure during the previous rides (and a few more I’ve had in during the previous years) I feel I owe it to myself to do something big, an unrivalled trip that I can look back on and question the sanity of in more mature riding days to come.

Moreover, I am planning a 3-4 month ride across Nepal and Northeast India in winter, and what I’ve planned on this upcoming trip will only make my confidence as a motorbiker grow a little more. The itinerary I have planned this time will have my creative juices flowing, maybe enough to lead me down a path never before considered.

What’s So Extraordinary About This Ride

Those from the motorbiking community in India very well know that Killar to Sach Pass offer some of the most challenging motorable road in the Himalayas, something that’s next level to riding in Spiti Valley – forget riding to Ladakh (from Manali) or doing the highest motorable passes like Khardung La.

Sach Pass is one epic concoction of narrow gorges, deadly river crossing and isolated roads. If you will Google, it is not Ladakh or someplace in Spiti that win the title of ‘deadliest roads in the world’ but the route that take you from Killar to Sach Pass and further on. Pangi Valley, in Himachal Pradesh, is often referred to as the big daddy of mountain passes – a name just enough to give most riders shivers down their spine.

And then, my journey won’t stop after conquering Sach Pass and Pangi Valley, as after doing this, I will move further towards Ladakh while avoiding the most common itinerary of Keylong to Leh, but following a rather unusual route that takes you from Keylong to Zanskar (Keylong-Sinko La-Padum-Rangdum).

No, I am not saying that this is an unusual itinerary, or that, no one has done the two routes in one journey before. What I am saying is, such an adventurous ride is a new thing for me. Of course, I have had a fair share of adventure in life that included hitchhiking for days and camping in jungles, but riding 100-200km every day for about a fortnight on some of the world’s toughest roads will challenge me in ways that I cannot imagine right now.

It All Starts Tomorrow

So having prepared this unusual itinerary, I find myself deep in the mire of trip preparation – whose answer lies somewhere between carrying all things of necessity to travelling as light as possible. And it is these minute details that, currently, are the hinges on which my life hangs – at least, at this particular moment as I am writing down this article.

So come one, and come all, and enjoy my topsy-turvy question-filled existence as Footloose Dev and his cute little Jawa 42 goes on this epic battle with the world, and hopefully live to tell you all about it.

Follow me on Youtube For Daily Action-Packed Videos From The Ride!

Staying In A Tree House Near Shimla, Himachal Pradesh

Want to experience staying in a tree-house in Himachal Pradesh? Try this place near Shimla!

Out of all the experiences that I’ve had during my previous 4 years of nomadic life – from experiencing luxury train in India to volunteering in Germany – if there was one experience that was missing, it was, staying in a treehouse. A place tucked away in between branches, far away from the real world; a place for shelter or just to see the earth from another perspective.

And this time, as I planned a (nearly) one-month motorcycle ride across the Shimla district in Himachal Pradesh, I succeeded to tick off that wish from my bucket list.

But before I go ahead and tell you how and where it happened, I want to disclose that this isn’t a sponsored post. I know it’s rare for me to talk about a hotel, and so far I’ve written only one more article on my blog where I openly and dedicatedly promoted a place (this village homestay in Uttarakhand) sometimes, when I find a place that is rather worthy of appreciation, I boldly promote it, and this is one such example.

A Brief Introduction

Almost 4 hours drive from Shimla (and about one hour from Kotkhai) lies this unworldly and off-the-map place called Ojuven Resorts by LivingStoneStays.

Though officially located in Kotkhai (a big town situated on the Himachal State Highway 10) Ojuven Resorts was still about an hour away from the main town of Kotkhai, making it a perfect place, at least for me, to spend two nights. Its location was also pretty offbeat, but the fact that the road that connected Kotkhai to Ojuven offered some real off-roading patches, was nonetheless cheery on the cake.

I remember how I Google navigated for Ojuven and all it showed me was a place with no real road connection. For a solo rider, riding in the months of monsoon, that was a real deal and some uncalled-for adventure. And honestly speaking, I liked it, except for the part when my luggage went loose and ended up in a big pothole.

About The Place

To be honest, I found it as one of the most exotic resorts and the best place I stayed thought my Himachal Pradesh ride. Nestled right in the heart of a beautiful deodar forest, away from the bustling city lanes, Ojuven Resorts offered a quiet and a friendly escape.

Though I’ve ventured into, camped and stayed in the Himalayan forest more times than I can remember, this experience remained the highlight for the fact that it combined jungle stay with comfort and luxury (to whatever degree it was possible). The in-house restaurant served some of the most delicious dishes including Indian and continental dishes, and the famous local food. The tree-houses (or the tree huts) that truly felt like having a private cabin in the woods, opened to incredibly beautiful views of a freshly smelling deodar jungle.

But let’s not make any false fantasies. The treehouse was small and basic, about 8*8 in size (only big enough for two people to stay in, with almost no luggage) room that was about 10ft off the ground with a very steep ladder to get up to it. All the tree-huts had ground bedding. There was a little balcony area as well and shutters on all the windows to ‘keep the monkeys out’. On a good note, however, they all came with attached-bathroom that opened to the forest.

All in all, they offered a small cozy environment for nature lovers and the new-age romantics, but if you’re a honeymooner expecting a suite-like setting, their small cabin size may disappoint you. For honeymooners, however, the place had two big sized cabins too, that, throughout my 2-day stay, stayed highly in demand – offering no time for me to even have a peek inside.

What’s Special About Ojuven?

Just as much as I appreciate the idea of exploring new places and understanding new cultures, a part of me also appreciates staying close to nature – or better put, losing myself into nature. This is the reason why I often find myself camping in the wilderness.

Now, other than losing myself in nature, I enjoy giving the same experience to others – the reason why I started a camping business of my own in the mountains last year.

When I stayed at Ojuven, it reminded me of my place FootlooseCamps – a place located right in the middle of nowhere. A place that allows you to stay in the jungle, take its good tidings, while still feeling very safe and surrounded. It offered a kind of setting that was exclusive, natural and was just as much a habit of a leopard or a bear as it was of a human.

Places like these, in my experience, define a true adventure holiday, and this is Ojuven or FootlooseCamps matter. This why this blog matters!

Do you know any other such places that offer a tree-house experience in Himachal Pradesh? Let me know in comments below!

Here’s a vlog I made at Ojuven Resorts. Sadly, I lost my drone here:

Looking For Village Experience Near Shimla? Visit Cheog

Want to spend a holiday in a village in Himachal Pradesh and get real local experience? Try village Cheog in Shimla district!

For a traveler like me, understanding local culture and getting a feel of the local way of life is just as much a part of the travel experience as visiting new places or meeting new people is. If I didn’t have any local interaction in a journey, the journey feels incomplete. This is perhaps the reason why I prefer homestays over hotels, and that I, every now and then, try volunteering while travelling.

If I talk about my previous motorcycle trip, for example, that took me around places in the Kumaon region in Uttarakhand for about 20 days, the most memorable experiences I had was eating in someone’s house in a small village called Naikana, and not when I camped in the wilderness one of the nights, or when I first saw the Panchachuli peaks in Munisyari.

Similarly, this time as well, as I motorcycled across the Shimla district in Himachal Pradesh, for almost a month, the most amazing two days of my trip reminded when I stayed in a small village called Cheog.

Cheog: An Offbeat Destination In Shimla District

From its appearance, and the kind of placement it offers (tucked away from the real world kind of setting) Cheog was certainly a place where tourists would want to spend a few relaxing nights, unwinding and just being close to nature. For tourists visiting Shimla and Kufri, but wanting to stay away from the crowd, Cheog offers a great escape.

I remember while exploring the village (that comprised of no shops but only about a dozen houses) it felt like I have transported myself at least a few decades back in time where people still shared more green spaces with them than concrete; where the birds could be heard all day long; where people seemed busy growing crops, only to later consume them. Everything and everyone appeared so self-sufficient and harmonious to nature.

Cheog appeared as one of those hidden gems meant for tourists who want to relax, forget their busy life behind, and spend a few nights unwinding and just being in the moment.

What To See And Do In Cheog

To be honest, there’s isn’t much for a regular tourist to see and do in Cheog, except for trekking in mountains (and you will have to find your own trails) exploring the village, and enjoying fresh oxygen and organic food. If, however, you ended up in the months of August, as I happened to be when I visited Cheog, you will find apples everywhere – apples that are free to pluck from anyone’s orchard and eat.

In short, Cheog, for an intrepid, and for those who appreciate the idea of slow travel, is a perfect place for relaxing and soaking in the laidback local Himachali life.

Here one can spend their holidays blissfully, under their own solitude or while interacting with a few happy locals.

There are literally no eating joints and only one homestay ‘Anirudh Homestay’ (that you can also Google map search for) with three rooms in total.

Cheog: From Where To Stay To How To Get There

Located at only 25 km from Kufri, the road to Cheog basically bifurcates from Fagu (you can Google for Fagu). From Fagu, if you’re coming from Kufri (and going towards Narkanda) you will see a small signboard on the right-hand side of the road saying Cheog. Now, you can even Google map search for Cheog, which will take you to the main town but to get to Anirudh homestay, you will have to bifurcate again.

As soon as you take the Cheog road (from Fagu) you drive about 3km before you see another road-sign directing you to ‘Gadharav’ (written in hindi). Take that road all the way to the dead-end (2km only) and that’s it. The first establishment of the village on your left is where you will have to go and stay – Anirudh Homestay, the only homestay in the entire town.

The homestay is run by a local family. You can Google search for LivingStoneStays to find more about the homestay and to book it online.

Travelling To Cheog

Until Fagu, you can also come on a bus. The road until Fagu is National Highway 5 – the one that connects Chandigarh to Shimla, before further leading to other places in Shimla District, so transportation until Fagu is no problem. From Fagu, however, which in reality is about 5 or 6 km all the way to Anirudh Homestay, there is no public transportation.

If you’re driving a car, be assured that you can take it all the way to the destination (though the road is pretty narrow with a few hairpin bends) but remains pretty decent in condition throughout the year. It is also possible to take a taxi from Fagu.

Here’s a Youtube video of my visit to Cheog:

Why Monsoon Is The Best Time To Visit Shimla

What’s the best time to visit Shimla? I say “Monsoon!”

For a long time, I kept myself away from traveling to Shimla, and this was for one reason – Shimla is a popular tourist destination and remains crowded for most of the time of the year. Hill-stations and mountains, for me, are a synonym to peaceful, and if I know that I am going to find a big crowd to wherever I am going, I stay away from it.

But then, a part of me also always want to visit the crowded places and see what actually made them so popular in tourist charts in the first place.

So this time, as monsoon hit Himachal Pradesh hard, and the news made people stay away from it, I found myself the perfect time to go and explore some of these top tourist destinations in Himachal Pradesh. And Shimla was one of them.

Shimla In Peak Season

Despite being born in Shimla (and not staying there for long before my family moved out) I never felt an urge to revisit and explore it. And this was for one simple reason: Shimla is an overrated and terribly crowded destination.

In peak tourist season Shimla loses its old-world charm under overwhelming crowd, new-age ice-cream vans and constant patrolling. At that time, Shimla feels less like a mountain town and more like a capital metropolis (with the Himalayas in its background) that jostles for space and suffocates in heavy traffic, even at midday.

If you will visit Shimla in summer you will find people struggling to walk on the mall road with newly married couples pumped with amorous mischief. There will be enough to shop and drink, but the quintessential hill station charm will be missing.

I remember when I visited Shimla a few years ago on a solo weekend trip, in the month of April, all I wanted was a symphony from the crickets and some clear night sky to go with the chilly evening, but what I rather found was more crowd than I find in Delhi on a weekend, with younger people going haywire after a few drinks and older ones wincing about it. The Shimla I was hoping for was somewhere missing.

Shimla In Monsoon

And then I visited Shimla earlier this month in August 2019 when a monsoon hit Himachal Pradesh (almost) all-time high. With news warning people to avoid Himachal for the next few weeks, I found a perfect time to explore Shimla.

Shimla in monsoon is a different story. It is during monsoon (between July and August) when it is greenest, quietest and cheapest (to stay). Popular tourist hotels are either shut down or impatiently waiting to welcome any tourist that come knocking their door. Traffic isn’t too bad and walking on the Mall Road is not overwhelmingly exhausting. Everything in the town moreover looked orderly and neat.

During the month of August when I visited Shimla, I hardly saw any tourists around. The place where I was staying, despite having a capacity of 20-25 tourists had only one guest to look after.

Why Monsoon Is The Best Time To Visit Shimla

Shimla isn’t hopelessly tucked away from real-world that getting to Shimla (or escaping it if the weather turned worse) will be a challenging task. Chandigarh-Shimla highways – that is now getting two more lanes – is, almost always, in good shape. Unlike Chandigarh-Manali, Chandigarh-Shimla highways get comparatively no landslides and the distance is less than half, making it a fairly safer deal to visit Shimla pretty much in any season.

What To See And Do In Shimla

Mall Road: The Mall Road is the main street and the center of activity in Shimla. This is where you can shop, eat and even spot some of the colonial buildings Shimla is known for. A visit to Shimla, no matter for what purpose, is incomplete without a walk along its Mall Road.

Viceregal Lodge: Designed by British architect Henry Irwin, the Viceregal Lodge dates back its foundation to 1888. It has served as the residence of the British Viceroy of India and is one of the most impressive colonial buildings in Shimla (or perhaps in entire India). Get a guided tour of Viceregal Lodge when you are in Shimla and explore rooms with a collection of photographs, books, rare artifacts all combined at one place.

Christ Church:  Dating back to 1857, Christ Church in Shimla is the second oldest church in India. If you will Google for Shimla Street Photos, you will see Christ Church in most of them. Situated on the Ridge, it’s a fine display of neo-Gothic architecture – a spectacular sight to behold and take back with you as a memory.

The Concrete Jungle of Sanjoli: Though it’s a different thing that all the construction that has happened in Shimla has taken its natural beauty away, what it has rather given is a sight that no other Indian Himalayan town offers: yes, I am talking about the concrete jungle of Shimla we keep hearing about. When in Shimla, it’s worth visiting the neighborhood of Sanjoli where you get to see the maximum number of buildings at one place.

Stroll on the Ridge: The heart of soul of Shimla town, the Ridge is the hub of activity with tourists coming to see several colonial-style buildings including a church and library and statues of Mahatma Gandhi.

Ride the Kalka-Shimla Mountain Railway: Just like a stroll on the Mall Road, your visit to Shimla is incomplete if you didn’t take a ride in Kalka-Shimla toy train. The 96-kilometer route provides scenic vistas while taking you through 864 bridges and 102 tunnels, including the longest one at Barog.

Also Read: Weekend Getaway From Delhi: Barog

Where To Stay In Shimla

When it comes to staying in Shimla, be rest assured that you can choose from pretty much everything – from budget backpacker hostels to new age five-star hotels. The only problem is, Shimla is a busy and crowded place, and if you want to spend a quiet evening, you will have to find a hotel that is a little tucked away from the main town.

During my visit to Shimla, I stayed at Hackrett Stayz by LivingStoneStays that was run by a local family (hence giving a true homestay experience) and was located almost 8km outside of the main town, giving sweeping views of the valley and a peaceful neighborhood.

Also see, my Shimla Travel Vlog:

Chail Or Shimla: Which Is Better?

Struggling with the idea of whether you should visit Chail or Shimla on your next holiday? Wondering which one is better among the two? Well, this blog is for you!

During my recent 1-month monsoon ride across Himachal Pradesh, I happened to visit both Chail and Shimla. And it was my second visit to both the places. Where I loved Shimla for it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded (for a change) as I never hit anyone’s shoulder despite wandering around on its mall road for about an hour, I adored Chail for an even more peaceful experience.

During the months of monsoon, Shimla and Chail felt (almost) equally enjoyable. But, for a different reason!

The First Visit

The first time I visited Shimla, it was during the peak tourist months of May and June. I had just returned from the UK (after living there for 3 years) and wanted to see what Britishers have left behind in India. It was a solo backpacking trip – the kind that starts with exploring a place in the morning and ends with listening to the symphony from the crickets in the night. But my experience was unlike any of it. Shimla was chocker with tourists. It was loud, confusing and overpriced. I found more people in Shimla than I find in New Delhi on a weekend, with younger people going haywire after a few drinks and older ones wincing about it.

The Shimla I was hoping for was somewhere missing.

Frustrated, I left Shimla in just a few days and escaped to Chail (despite Chail not being on my travel list). Though in the months of May and June, Chail was pretty crowded too, it didn’t feel as maddening as Shimla did. There were still possibilities of finding a peaceful corner and having some ‘me time’. The only problem was, Chail didn’t have much to offer.

From Chail Palace to Mall Road, everything was so tiny and small – especially now that I was comparing them with similar places in Shimla.

Shimla Is For Bucket Listers

From architecture to walking trails to shopping, Shimla has something for everyone. In fact, there is so much to see and do in Shimla that you need at least a week to explore it all. Shimla is the state capital of Himachal Pradesh and was the summer capital of British Raj in India – naturally, there can’t be a better place, at least in Himachal Pradesh, when it comes to the number of tourist highlight.

Having said that, if you are a kind of person who wants to see and do too much on your holiday, Shimla is the better choice. The only problem is the waves upon waves of tourists that make it too hard to enjoy Shimla without a little struggle.

Your holiday experience in Shimla will come along with dealing with a massive crowd, that, in every sense and measure, affect your overall experience. When in Shimla, forget the idea of peacefulness. And that’s where Chail comes in picture.

Chail Is For Nature Lovers

Though don’t get into fantasies, and be known that Chail also gets pretty crowded for most of the time of the year. But if you’re comparing the two (Chail and Shimla) it won’t be wrong to say that Chail is for nature lovers.

Beyond an unexciting mall road and the boring King’s Palace (save your 100 Rupees and don’t go inside the Chail Palace), Chail has quite a few nature trails to enjoy. If nothing, there is no dearth of finding a peaceful corner in Chail (even in season time) and enjoy the serenity of mountains.

So, when we compare the two places, Chail and Shimla, Chail offers much better chances of finding peace and tranquility than Shimla. It is moreover surrounded by a dense deodar forest, that, in fact, completes your Himachal Pradesh’s wilderness experience (of losing yourself in tall deodar forest).

Both Can Be Enjoyed Best In Monsoon

This time, as I visited Chail and Shimla, one after the other, I found that Chail and Shimla can be best explored in the months of the monsoon – when the crowd is the least.

Unlike my last visit, this time, as I ended up in Shimla in monsoon, I didn’t find myself too lost. Its mall road was breathable and highlights state library and Christ church were not crammed with people. Most of the crowd, as I roamed and explored the mall road was of local families.

Similarly, Chail looked even more breathable. During my 2 days stay in Chail, I hardly found any tourists around. The entire vibrancy of the wilderness, with an added green and fresh smell of the jungle, was just a plus.

So What Am I Suggesting: Chail or Shimla?

Because for most of us, the idea of visiting mountains is finding peace and tranquility (while ticking off some popular highlights at the same time) I will suggest staying in Chail and doing a day trip to Shimla.

From prices to the exclusivity of the place, Chail offers a much better experience when it comes to staying. What’s better is, parking and getting to Chail is not a daunting experience as dealing with Shimla’s traffic and later finding parking there, actually is.

Additionally, if you follow the main highway that connects Chandigarh to Shimla and goes straight to Shimla, the drive isn’t very picturesque, but Chail to Shimla drive is meant for a memorable drive.

So yea, both Chail and Shimla offer a different experience. Stay in Chail and save some money. Do a day trip to Shimla, explore its highlights and enjoy a beautiful drive that is Chail-Shimla Road.

Here’s the video of my Chail to Shimla ride where, after staying in Chail for 2 nights (whose video you can watch here) I stayed for 2 nights, 3 days, before continuing my journey towards Chanshal…

What do you think of Chail and Shimla? Which one did you find better?

Barog: A Weekend Getaway Destination From Delhi

Off late, I’ve seen myself covering weekend getaways on my blog quite a lot, places that can be reached in or around 6 hours from New Delhi. And this is happening because I’ve recently bought a new motorbike, and with that, started planning more and more road-trips.

The only problem is, however, every time I leave home for the next big adventure, I end up staying at a place not too far from New Delhi, on Day 1. My inexperienced rider ‘self’ doesn’t allow me to ride for more than 6 hours, or, say, 300 km in a day.

Where this is certainly annoying, for it takes me twice the time to travel (for example it takes me two days to travel from Delhi to Manali on my motorbike, that, otherwise, is a convenient overnight journey) it allows me to explore a place that can otherwise be an ideal short-weekend-drive-away-destination from Delhi. For example, during my previous 20-day road trip across Uttarakhand, I spent my first night at Kalagarh – which, I later realized, can be an ideal weekend destination from New Delhi, given its offbeat and rural charm on top of a scenic short drive.

This time as well, as I left home for a one-month monsoon road-trip across Himachal Pradesh (which later forced me to return home in about 20 days because of some foreseen events) I ended up at a place that can rather be another great weekend destination.

Barog: An Ideal Weekend Getaway

Less than 6 hours drive, or a precise 290km away, from New Delhi, lies the foothills of the Himalayas and the unspoken and vaguely overlooked tourist destination of Barog.

Precisely, Barog is located on the Kalka Shimla Highway, around 60kms from Chandigarh. The drive to Barog is a pleasant one (including most of the hours driving the Delhi-Chandigarh highway) before you start climbing on Chandigarh-Shimla highway.

Barog is located almost halfway from Chandigarh to Shimla.

Speaking of its geographic location, Barog has nearly 2000m above sea level elevation, with the temperature ranging between 4 to 14-degree Celsius in winters and around 20-27 degrees in summers.

What To See And Do In Barog

To be honest, Barog isn’t a place for exploring tourist highlights or ticking some highpoints off a list. In fact, there isn’t much to do in town. But if you still want to do something when you’re there you can explore the Barog’s Graveyard, Choor Chandni Peak and Dolanji Bon Monastery.

You cannot compare Barog with its neighbors like Chail and Shimla and Kufri, but given Barog’s easy location (that guarantees no traffic) it is a great place to spend a quiet and relaxing day and go back to Delhi.

During my one day stay in Barog, I just explored a few local villages and rode my motorcycle around. And since Barog and surrounding isn’t a popular tourist destination I got to see a strong village culture, with unspoiled nature. I would find a cozy corner and just enjoy the freshness of the place.

Where To Stay In Barog

As always, I didn’t stay in the main town in Barog but around 4km away from it at a place called LivinsStoneStayz Barog.

The place was more or less offered an apartment-like setting with a fully-functioning kitchen that can be used for self-cooking or to order some food cooked in-house by a helper. The place moreover had a living room, making it an ideal place to stay for groups who want to hire an entire property and enjoy. The only problem was, there were only 3 rooms in the property, keeping the total occupancy to a max of 6 (or 9 people with an extra bed).

Is It Worth Visiting Barog?

As I said earlier, if you’re comparing Barog with the likes of Shimla or Manali or Mcleod Gunj – a town with a big market and enough tourist highlights to explore locally, you will be disappointed. Barog offers nothing beyond a simple hill-station, and its advantage lies only in its location. Where Shimla still takes around 9 hours (often much more because of traffic) and Manali takes 14 hours to reach, Barog is only 6 hours away from Delhi (or 1.5 hours from Chandigarh).

If you’re one of those people for whom the idea of holidaying is driving not too far and finding a peaceful corner in the foothills of the Himalayas, where you can spend a day or two with your friends/family, Barog can be a great destination. But you’re looking for a big happening place, with things to see locally, you may want to drive a little further (perhaps in the same direction) deal with overwhelming traffic, and explore Chail or Kufri or Shimla!

And here’s the video of my Delhi to Barog ride…

Have you been to Barog or heard of it before?

Jewel Changi Airport: A Fine Example Of Singapore’s Creative Indoors

And here’s an astonishing truth: In March 2019 Singapore’s Changi airport won the best airport in the world title (as per WorldAirportAwards) for the seventh year in a row. That was before Changi had its architectural marvel ‘The Jewel’. Now, after its opening, I wonder how any other airport in the world is going to get that title, at least, in the foreseeable future.

Every country is good with something, they all have their unique strong point. Some are good in arts, some with technology, while others, in preserving a rich cultural or traditional heritage. For example, when I think of Japan, the first thing that comes to my mind is how they have maintained a perfect harmony between the old and the new-age culture. When I think of Germany, I think of fast cars and perfection. Similarly, Paris is fashion. Switzerland is nature and luxury-living. Peru is beautiful landscapes. India is an amalgamation of cultures and traditions. And Singapore, yes… the country of the topic is creating ‘inspiring indoors’.

Every time I visit Singapore – or well, you actually don’t need to step out of its Changi airport to figure that – I wonder how Singapore has created an entire world inside its state of art buildings. From gaming arenas to walking with penguins in an aquarium – you can find it all in Singapore.

And I think it happened because of Singapore’s tiny geographic area. When Singaporeans realised they do not have many different landscapes as some of the other big countries in the world do, they said: “no problem, we have the technology, and just enough space to build a few 70-floor building”. Want to see ice and falling snow? Let’s create it indoors. Want a waterfall? Here’s another one!

The 40 Metres High Rain Vortex At Changi Airport Is The World’s Highest Indoor Waterfall

Changi Airport is a tourist destination in itself. Featuring a host of ultimate things-to-do, this airport promises endless fun for visitors. But earlier in 2019, Singapore Changi Airport opened its most recent attractions: The Jewel – a massive display of awe-inspiring architecture and design (in the form of a circular dome) that has its own amusement park and a drool-worthy waterfall as the centrepiece.

The waterfall centrepiece that falls from the dome is officially known as the HSBC Rain Vortex. At 40 metres high it’s the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.

I spent a day wandering around and looking for the best viewing point of the vortex in the Changi Jewel. At first, I thought it will only be turned on intermittently but it was on for 24 hours a day. I was shocked when in the night, rather than looking like a little more lifeless, it became more colourful and magical. Starting 7 in the evening, there is a light show at the vortex almost every half an hour which is certainly a thing to not miss.

The Vortex is surrounded by many trails that moreover offer travellers a great way to stretch legs.

And then, the waterfall isn’t what the Jewel is only popular for. There are other things to see and do there, including a canopy park, canopy bridge, nets, maze and slides.

Getting To The Jewel At Changi Airport

Though located inside the Changi Airport, Jewel Changi is technically outside out it. Meaning, if you are just transiting through Changi airport you will have to clear the immigration to be actually able to access the Jewel. While that would normally be a hassle at most airports, at Changi, crossing the immigration is a swift process that takes no more than a few minutes. This means that those who are already in Singapore can also visit the Jewel without having to actually go into the airport. Just catch an MRT and get off at Changi MRT station.

The main entrance to Changi is from Terminal, with special bridges from Terminal 2 and 3. One can also take the sky train between Terminal 2 and 3 for quick access to the Jewel.

Looking For A Place To Stay At Changi Airport?

During my recent trip to Laos, I had a one-night layover in Changi where I was booked a room in the Jewel at YotelAir. So, if you’re having a long layover and don’t want to spend it at the airport (though one can easily spend a day at Changi and not get bored) I recommend you stay at YotelAir. They also rent short term rooms, so you could have a wander around and rest between long connections.

Have you been to the Jewel Changi? How did you like it?

Why I Loved Luang Prabang

The French colonial buildings, ancient wats, and the fishing boats in the Mekong make Luang Prabang an unforgettably beautiful and a seemingly offbeat destination in Southeast Asia.

Beyond the frequented, my 2019 has taken me to two offbeat Southeast Asian destinations (speaking as per Indian standards!) so far: one, the island of Borneo that I happened to visit during a media-trip to Sabah, in Malaysia last month; and second, the landlocked, the unfrequented, the unheard-of (again, by most Indians!) country of Laos.

To be honest, I had never considered visiting Laos myself and I think the biggest reason for it was the lack of information available online about where and how to go to Laos. I mean before my visit to Luang Prabang, I had no idea that Laos, in fact, has four international airports across the country. Though it is true that those airports still have no direct flights from most of the countries in the world, the fact that you can actually fly to pretty much any corner in Laos is quite a thing to know.

Is It Worth Visiting Laos?

It is easy to overlook Laos when planning a trip to Southeast Asia. I mean when it comes to southeast Asia, the biggest fascination for most travellers remain beaches, and what good can a country be that is landlocked and has no sea at all. And then, when you have countries like Thailand and Vietnam surrounding it, that is popular for so many things and have easy direct flights (from India and other countries) why even bother visiting Laos, right?… Well, not really!

It may sound funny but Laos can actually complete your trip to Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia – all at one place. Of course, geographically you will miss those beautiful Thai and Cambodian beaches, when it will come to culture and experiencing the local way of life, you will, in fact, find many similarities. From language (that resembles Thai) to the cultural and historical past (that resembles Cambodia and Vietnam) to amazing food (that, in fact, can be a better mix of all) Laos resembles its neighbours and has a lot more to offer than you can imagine.

Laos shares much of its history with its neighbours, but also has its own culture that seems more intense and less lost. Its relatively low-key nature makes it a much offbeat destination than any of its neighbour in southeast Asia. So, if you’re one of those people who like visiting places that are not aswarm with other tourists, Laos may just be your place to go to!

Though in no way I am claiming that Laos is better than its neighbors, the fact that it has almost everything that other countries around it has to offer, all while keeping the experience less touristic, cannot be disregarded. I mean at the end of the day who would not prefer strolling a quiet night market in Luan Prabang that has no mentions on the internet, over the Bangkok’s Chatuchak, that feels more multicultural than local.

Why Luang Prabang In Laos

Laos is still in its early stages of developing infrastructure for tourism. Land transport in Laos is slow and hard to find (just like in Cambodia, there are still no trains in Laos) leaving flying the only convenient and quicker option. Since Luang Prabang has an international airport, with regular flights from Bangkok and Changi Airport in Singapore, visiting Luang Prabang is hassle-free.

Other than easy transportation to Luang Prabang, the fact that the old town of Luang Prabang is a designated UNESCO World Heritage city it is very much looked after, offering clean and safe public spaces and hundreds of places to stay and dine at. A UNESCO World Heritage title moreover means quiet neighborhoods and stern laws to keep things in order, unlike the capital town of Vientiane.

Luang Prabang was moreover the former capital of Lao Kingdom before Vientiane took the title, giving Luang Prabang enough tourist attractions and a rich history to explore. The town is pretty walkable, with romantic boat rides in Mekong river adding to its charm.

From hostels to high-end resorts, street food to some fine dining, walking tours to cruising along the Mekong, temples to night clubs, Luang Prabang moreover has something for everyone. In short, if you are short on time, and you have to choose only one place to quickly explore and exit Laos, Luang Prabang may just be the ideal destination. And hey, have I told you that Luang Prabang remains the most travelled and preferred destination for tourists? And if so, there must be a reason for it! I mean just Google about Luang Prabang and you will find enough travel blogs recommending Luang Prabang as your next travel destination.

Luang Prabang, Laos: Offbeat Southeast Asia

Though Luang Prabang is getting into tourist radar pretty quickly it still doesn’t feel very touristic. During my one-week trip to Luang Prabang, it is true that I found a European face pretty much everywhere I ate or strolled, but there was still enough local vibe around the place.

The building still looked as they emerged from yesteryears, the early morning alms collection walk of the monks still had the same freshness it must have had back in the days.

It may just be because of the fact that Luang Prabang is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, which doesn’t allow the town to tear down any of the old buildings  and rebuild them with a modern flair, or open a chain of McDonalds or KFC around, but I saw enough intimate new hotels that creatively got past the strict rules, while keeping the traditional feel of the town fairly intact.

All in all, there is something about the town that will take you back in time and bring you across that southeast Asia that you otherwise miss when you’re in Bangkok or someplace in the frequented Peninsular Malaysia!

Getting To Luang Prabang

Though Luang Prabang has an international airport, not many flight carriers operate there. The two most popular destinations connecting Luang Prabang are Bangkok and Singapore.

I flew from Singapore’s Changi Airport with Scoot Airlines that has taken over the Singapore-Laos route from Silkair since 1 April 2019.

Scoot has 3 flights to Laos at the moment operating on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and it flies the loop Singapore – Luang Prabang – Vientiane – Singapore. So you can fly directly (from Singapore) to Luang Prabang, and fly back direct from Vientiane, which is great if you plan to visit both cities.

Lao Airlines also operate from Changi Airport, but given that their prices are almost double than that of Scoot Airlines, my preferred choice recommendation goes for Scoot. Moreover, I have travelled with Scoot a few times before and have always had a good experience.

Further Reading: My India To Australia Flight Experience With Scoot Airlines

My First Impression of Luang Prabang

Before I visited Luang Prabang, and from what little I had heard about Laos, I had no idea about what to expect of it, and for some reason, I expected it as one of thosetrraw and rustic places that offer almost no infrastructure to cater to tourists. I didn’t even know if there were going to be roads in Luang Prabang made of gravel or just a few connecting muddy paths.

But as I landed there, I was left shell-shocked. Of course, the place looked quiet and struggling to devel but not in a bad way. The roads looked clean, people seemed affable, and the cars… well, they were quite a few in number, but just enough to not honk at each other. Everything was quiet and pleasant.

The outline of the distant mountains, the soothing flow of the Mekong, the fresh smell of the surrounding jungle, the perfectly lit nights of paper lanterns, the red brick sidewalks, and the smiling locals repeating ‘Khop Chai’ – that’s what Luang Prabang was in nutshell.

A romantic traveller’s paradise – that’s what Luang Prabang was in a nutshell!

Recommended Read: Luang Prabang Travel Guide

Disclaimer: I travelled to Luang Prabang on a blog trip with Singapore Air and Fly Scoot. While my trip to Luang Prabang was sponsored, all recommendations and observations about the place are solely personal. I only recommend what I like and find worth appreciating.

Luang Prabang’s Morning Alms Giving Ceremony: Tak Bat, In Pictures

A group of nearly 2 dozen monks hurried towards me as I caught hold of this unfamiliar religious act in Luang Prabang called Tak Bat for the first time. They were all barefoot, looking and walking straight in one line. The first few in the queue, as I guessed, were in their late teens, followed by some as young as 7 or 8 years old. This is how every morning in Luang Prabang is rewarded – with the colorful sight of hundreds of saffron-robed Buddhist monks and novices walking in a peaceful procession through the sleepy streets of the city, accepting alms from locals.

This daily ritual of Tak Bat in which kneeling locals give rice and fruits and snacks (or what can otherwise be offered and called as alms) to the monks, is a timeless tradition that dates back its existence to the 14th century. Every day, hundreds of monks (from 30+ monasteries across the town) would walk barefoot, and in meditative silence, through the streets of Luang Prabang to collect food offerings from local people.

This handful of rice and other things that local people happily donate is the monks’ only food for the rest of the day before they return to the streets tomorrow morning and the morning after!

It was great to see how despite in the age of iPhones, fast cars, and buffet lunches, monks in this part of the world were still relying on whatever little they managed to get from others.

This daily ritual of Tak Bat, also called Sai Bat, is a living Buddhist tradition. It is by only accepting what others voluntarily give, monks maintain their vows to practice redundancy and gain merit for the afterlife.

Throughout Luang Prabang, hundreds of monks come out of the monasteries to perform this daily ritual. It is possible to see alms giving in parts of Thailand, India and in many other places in Asia, but the kind of sight that Luang Prabang offers is a little intense. It kind of takes you back in time.

One can experience Tak Bat in Luang Prabang every morning at dawn, and not just at one place but across the old town!

What You Need to Know Before You Attend Tak Bat As A Tourist

Off-late there has been a lot of debate on what a tourist should or shouldn’t do while attending Tak Bat. Since Tak Bat is a religious practice being continued since the 14th century, it is nothing less than a cultural heritage that, with wrong behavior by tourists, can be endangered.

During my nearly one-week stay in Luang Prabang, I happened to attend Tak Bat thrice, and every morning, there was at least once instance where I found tourists acting a little absurdly, making monks feel uncomfortable just a little more.

Attending Tak Bat is not prohibited, and neither is clicking pictures of monks or of people giving alms, if only you do it the right way while keeping respect in your eyes for whatever’s happening and whomever you’re clicking out there.

And if you’re not sure ‘how’ just think of how you will behave if you’re asked to attend the Sunday prayers in your local church or temple, or better put, needed to cover the event as a photographer. What will you do? You will keep distance, not come in front of the priest when he is moving forward, not speak loudly, or laugh or pose and click selfies, right? That’s all that’s needed here too. No bikini tops, no loud talking, no touching the monks, no taking photographs of with a distracting flash, and certainly, no jostling other worshippers — that’s all that’s needed!

Also Read: What To See And Do In Luang Prabang: A Travel Itinerary

Disclaimer: I visited Laos on a blog-trip with Singapore Airlines, Fly Scoot, and Changi Airport. Where my trip was sponsored by them, all recommendations are solely personal. I only recommend what I personally try, and find worth appreciating!

My First Real Experience Flying Business Class

I won’t describe myself as a budget or a luxury traveler. I think, at this moment, I am somewhere in the middle – focusing more on the value of experiences than their price tag. So, when folks at Singapore Airlines offered me an upgrade to business class, I was like “umm… okay!”

I mean I don’t really care if I am flying in a business class or economy. As long as the person sitting next to me doesn’t literally possess the sharing arm-rest and burp right on my face because they think it’s okay to do so, I am good with the economy class too. Air travel, in fact, is the least of the things I look forward to enjoying. It is nothing but a mere mode of transportation for me.

So yea, when folks at Singapore Airlines offered me an upgrade to business class, I didn’t really care. But as I grabbed my boarding pass and moved towards immigration, I realized that we’re talking about Singapore Airline here, that is, in fact, one of the most acclaimed airlines in the world. With that thought, I got a little excited, but only to see if flying in business class with them can actually change my animosity towards air-travel.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. Though my flight from India-Singapore was sponsored by Singapore Air, they never asked me to do a blogpost for them. I was, in fact, actually given only an economy class ticket, which was later upgraded to business class (at the airport) because of the availability.

From The Beginning

My journey started with the usual practice of getting to the airport 3 hours before the flight departure time and standing in a long queue of economy check-in counter only to later find out (at the check-in desk) that I was upgraded to the business class. Had I known it earlier, I would have arrived at the airport 2 hours before the flight departure, used the express business-class check-in counter and spent whatever little time was left in between for a quick beer and some free munchies at Singapore Airline’s business class lounge KrisFlyer (which I anyway did for a much longer time, so no complaints!).

Singapore Airlines Business Class Lounge

Anywhere that serves me free beer is going to be a winner, so I was immediately impressed by Singapore Airline’s lounge. There was also loads of food to order, free wifi to ostentatiously brag about my location on Facebook and read a whole selection of magazines.

To be honest, I didn’t quite like Singapore Airlines Business Class Lounge at New Delhi Airport for the simple fact that every time I wanted something, I had to call someone to bring it for me (kind of makes it uncomfortable after two beers). At Changi Airport, it was a self-service and better selection of food.

But in any case, time passed too quickly at the airport lounge in New Delhi, and before I knew it my flight was called… just like at the check-in counter, business class boarding was swift and easy. I was initially a little sad about leaving the business class lounge, but as soon as I boarded the flight and was asked if I want to eat or drink something (before even the flight took off) things became normal again!

The Inflight Experience

My Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER had a 1-2-1 layout providing direct aisle access. The food was tasty and plentiful, the drinks flowed freely and the entertainment was so good I almost forgot to test my lie-flat bed.

There was a whole lot selection of movies and TV programs that my 18-inch entertainment screen proudly telecasted with a pair of noise-cancellation headphones.

About the seat, the Boeing 777-300 ER had the older-style manually flip the seat forward kind, to fully reveal the bed. But given the kind of in-flight assistance and customer service that never felt like an inconvenience. The seat was big enough and comfortable to snooze on.

Overall, the 5-hour flight from Delhi to Singapore felt nothing different than spending 5 hours in a premium lounge, except for the fact that here the walking area was one straight line, unlike in the premium lounge that felt like one big playground.

Also Read: My Cathay Pacific Economy Class Experience

Singapore Airlines Business Class – Is It Worth It?

Since business class travel can cost up to three times the cost of the economy class travel, the question of whether or not it’s worth it depends on your circumstances. I won’t fly business if, let’s say, it’s only a three hours flight. But for flights that last over five hours or so, and especially if it’s an overnight flight, then yes, I would definitely opt for business whenever my budget allows me to.

There isn’t a better way to get to your destination fully rested than by opting for a flat-bed – and that’s what you get in business class, at least in Singapore Airlines business class.

So yea, if you will ask me if it was worth flying business class with Singapore Airlines and if the experience made me stop loathing air-travel anymore the answer to both the questions will be AN UNBOUBTUFUL YES! (to be honest, they won my heart when I was asked for a drink before even the flight took off. Well, I have my weak points!).

And if it’s the cost that’s putting you off from flying business class, you can always subscribe to the airline’s newsletter and follow them on social media to keep an eye on temporary sales!

Happy Flying!

Photo Credits: Some of the pictures are taken from Singapore Airline’s Multimedia Library!