All posts tagged: Stories from the road

A Scenic Bus Ride In Switzerland

It was undoubtedly clear that as soon as the bus escaped Italy and entered into the Swiss territory the journey became far more surreal. The majestic Swiss Alps, perfectly beautified with an unbroken chain of white glaciers, crystal blue lakes and the many quaint villages – as I happened to explore during a cheap 25 Euro Flixbus journey – offered no less than many million dollar views. I was travelling from Milan to Basel to spend my last weekend in Europe, before flying back to Delhi, and it couldn’t start any better. I mean there is no denying the fact that Switzerland offers the beauty unparalleled, on any road trip, taken in any direction, but this 300-km long stretch, even though I had nothing more than a window seat on a public bus, felt no less spellbinding. (PS: Milan to Basel route was even better than Zurich-Lucern-Engelberg, as I explored during a day trip to Mount Titlis from Zurich) A Scenic Bus Ride In Switzerland: What To Expect The first two hours, as we escaped Italy were perhaps the most …

From Getting Robbed In Bratislava, Slovakia, To Saying No To Making Generalizations: My Experience, As It Continues…

Before you read the story, I request you to please read it till the end. Please do not leave it in between finding a negative tone against Slovaks, or the Eastern Europe at large… because that was never the intention, and just cannot be!  While planning my 2-month backpacking trip across 8 countries in Europe, and before I arrived in Bratislava, the capital town of the east-European country of Slovakia, a few people warned me about having my wits about the place. “You be careful walking along those streets; eastern Europe can be surprising,” they claimed. But I never cared much for their unsolicited advice. I mean for a person who had spent most of his life learning the art of self-defense, inside the crazy boundaries of a city like New Delhi, eastern Europe should be no problem, right? “I’ve seen worse,” I would carefully assure myself. To sometimes even brag about it a little, and sound more experienced, I would utter an experience or two from my solo backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, and Cambodia …

Travel Confession: I Hate Flying

Before you make generalizations let me get this straight, I am not scared of flying.  I am not afraid that the aeroplane I’m flying with will fly into a mountain because of pilot error. Or that a Korean Navy ship decided that the Boeing flying above their head is an enemy aircraft and knocked it off by mistake. No, I don’t find flying a scary thing, and I feel perfectly normal even during the worst of all turbulence in the history of aircrafts. Moreover, I know flying is, by far, the safest mode of transportation available today. Yet every time I have to fly it scares the living shit out of me! Flying Only Seems More Dangerous Until I Actually Board The Flight The idea of missing a flight, arriving at the wrong airport, or worse, forgetting the passport, scares me to death. Because missing a flight, for no matter what reason, means losing a big chunk of your travel budget. During one of my recent trips to Southeast Asia, something similar happened, and the …

A Wonderful Way To Navigate Through Places

The sun was scattering diamonds as we left our campsite – home to our few temporary nights – and started heading back to Bangalore. Driving through the wilderness and the many sleepy settlements around Coorg, we slowly turned onto the snarl of bigger roads that clog and clutter the modern city life. The final drive, back to where it all started, was rather strange. Everyone kept silent, despite much going in their head. I think it was the melancholy, kicking in hard, as no one, it seemed, had a perfect set of words to start a conversation. The silence felt awkward, creating a sense of discomfort, almost the way you feel the moment you first meet a group of unknown people. But this silence had some meaning to it, some memories, which kept reverberating in our head, with every passing minute. As I personally drew it out, everyone was, at least, quite satisfied with how this three-day trip went by. We were quite thrilled, in fact, with the experiences and the memories the journey had …

Varkala: The Dying ‘Benares’ Of South

Despite being an avid traveler myself, I often find myself discouraging the idea of frenzied and mass tourism. I’ve seen local cultures turning into commodities when religious rituals and traditional ethnic tires reduce and sanitize, to conform to tourist expectations – as so was the case with Varkala, a coastal town in India’s southernmost state of Kerala. Once a destination is sold as a tourism product, it starts losing its originality, which, with time, brings about nothing but yet another modern tourist destination, providing us with perfectly staged, not so authentic, experiences. Varkala is a calm and quiet hamlet, having its presence on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram district. It is one of those places, which has a perfect beach and a great crowd. The only thing, however, that differs Varkala among its other tropical Indian counterparts is its rich cultural and religious history, which, unfortunately, is slowly dying today. It was less than 20 years ago when Varkala, which today, has become an ideal spot to amble, for tanned westerners, was always found swarm with …

Life In The Backwaters Of Alleppey, Kerala

Tourists in their fancy houseboats seemed high in spirit, with their impressive camera doing most of the work. But in the local ferry, the atmosphere was rather regular. Here, no one appeared to be in hurry or amazed by the arresting beauty of the backwaters in Alleppey – one of the prime highlights of tourism in Kerala. I heard a lot about the backwaters of Kerala. I heard that tourists here hire a floating houseboat and wander through its maze of interconnected lagoons, canals, lakes and inlets – home to a dazzling assortment of flora and fauna, and local villages. I heard that they spend days sitting on the deck, experiencing the tranquillity of the backwaters in Kerala, with a book in their hand, while swiftly sailing through one village to the other. I wanted to explore this place too but in my own way. And there I was, in a government ferry, surrounded by a bunch of locals who were heading back from the mainland Alleppey, with all the ration they needed, and a newspaper …

Indian Railways: Always Having The Best Stories To Tell

Train journeys in India have always fascinated me. A 24-hour drive on any route, in any direction, and you feel entire India. From bucolic country-sides to sedative garbage dumps – you get to see it all. Not to mention, a variety of interesting people, you meet on the way who challenge the ambiguity of the Indian mind, and its awkwardness, or better put, its ludicrously confusing state! I’m writing this as I struggle to grab myself from an arresting view of open farmlands, perfectly beautified by a group of silent, comely hills in the backdrop (near Mumbai) – something far more magical than the open skies of an aeroplane’s window. And only a few seconds later the landscape changes into an almost dried, soundless river, with a couple of fishermen in their boats – battling to acquire their routine dinner. I was almost spellbound, when I realised that I’ve still got a lot more to see and a plenty more to experience, as in the next few hours I will enter into the redoubtable railway tracks …

Rishikesh – From Being A Land Of Yogis To A Hub Of Tourism

If you turn from the main road that leads to Shivpuri – the starting point of River Rafting into the holy Ganges – and walk about the small alleys of Rishikesh, you’d find that the place is swirling with all kind of adventure sport and tour companies, alluring tourists to partake into its cultural destruction, by making Rishikesh nothing but just another weekend getaway around us. For those who can see its invisible forces and sense the unseen currents in its air, Rishikesh is a magical world. It is one of those places where you wohld want to come to regain your inner consciousness and learn about maintaining harmony with the world – by staying close to the Ganges and under the undiluted purity of the Himalayas. Yet for many, the town has become a place for enchantment, for having a few pints of beer, and enjoying the aggression of Ganges, rafting and kayaking. But that’s not what Rishikesh’s real charm is, at least not in its real sense. I’ve some personal attachment to this place, some …

Srinagar, Kashmir: A Gathering Around The Perplexity

The many houseboats around Dal Lake seemed to be blissfully relaxing, allowing tourists to amicably enjoy the utopian state of Sriangar – a place which once stood with dignity and pride, and was only known for its beauty, or for being a ‘paradise on earth’, as locals still call it. But today, Srinagar can hardly breathe on its own. It seems – as you walk around its confusing and mystifying streets – that its very sustenance, now depends upon those wearing Green Camouflage Jackets and Army Track Pants. After more than two decades of cold war and raw politics, and with Indian army taking affairs in its hands, does the future of tourism in Kashmir and its capital Srinagar look bright? To me, at least, it doesn’t! In the summer of 2015, this ill-famous tourist hotspot of India – appeared to me as a biblical wasteland, where army check-posts and AK47s still rule the day. Even if the town, at large, is declared safe, there’s always this fear and trepidation in your heart that suppresses …

McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala: A Land That Speaks The Language Of Friendliness And Peace

I feel that a trip has been successful when I come back sounding strange, even to myself. When I know that in some sense I’ve lost a part of me and I remain unsettled, upon my return, with what I’ve seen or experienced. We travel the most when we learn something new. And we learn when we come to a place full of stories and inspiration. What we find in such places is that it is the sadness that makes the sun-shine brighter, and it is the spirit of people that makes this world more beautiful. This applies to McLeod Ganj – a nondescript sleepy hamlet in the foothills of the Himalayas – in an absolute and unconditional sense. The smell of butter tea in the peewee lanes of McLeod Ganj in the chilly mornings, the sound of Buddhist prayers in Namgyal Monastery and the many friendly faces that I frequently stumbled upon, often filled me with a sudden unanswerable sense – that I’ve been to this place before. I decided to visit McLeod Ganj to experience …