Glimpses of sacred Pushkar!

My friend wanted to spend her new year outside Delhi and I wanted to spend it at some quaint place so that is how Pushkar happened. There wasn’t a much hassle in selecting a place to stay in Pushkar, as zostel is there in Pushkar. This was going to be my second stay in Pushkar Zostel. Staying at zostel or any such hostel can be learning in itself. It allows you to open up to strangers in a friendly way yet maintaining your own space. Sometimes, you get to meet interesting people and sometimes you’ll bump into really funny characters but you’ll surely enjoy if you have the guts to take in anything with not much tantrums.

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Sunrise at Anasagar Jheel, Ajmer

We started our journey on Friday night (best day to escape from the chaotic world of technological slaves: P). We were suppose to board bus from Bikaner House and upon reaching there I was excited to see famous Pandara road market just a few steps ahead to Bikaner House. Pandara road market is very famous among night riders in Delhi because some food joints (also the famous Gulati’s Restaurant) remain open late in night. The reason for my excitement was to hit the market unknowingly at night when lights were gleaming and people were in festive mood. We gulped in some hot badam milk to beat cold, located our bus and then finally boarded it. Journey from Delhi to Ajmer was a smooth ride in spite of the fact that there was dense fog on the way. We reached Ajmer with the break of dawn and waited for our friend who was supposed to pick us up from Ajmer and stay with us at Pushkar. On the way, he showed us various points which we would have missed otherwise like famous jogging point for Ajmeriites. There is nothing better than watching a rising sun and seeing the people breathing in fresh air and bucking up for their day. We too stopped for some time and soaked the freshness of it to revive our lost energy due to overnight journey.

 

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Books and Tau @ Zostel, Pushkar

Entering Zostel is entering into a fantasy world! The colorful common area assures a comfort stay; paintings on wall depict various stories related to Pushkar. I especially loved the one which says “something in Hebrew” because there are many places in Pushkar where it is written only in Hebrew and not in any other language. Room was to be allotted at 12:00 noon, so we got ready in the common bathroom (of course one at a time :P) and headed to calm our taste buds with scrumptious street food. With so many foreigners coming to this place, one can easily find cafes serving multi-cuisine food along with Rajasthani food. I was surprised to see roadside eating joints serving middle-eastern food like Falafel & Humus and even more astonished to see locals talk in Hebrew so fluently. I guess the settlement of lot of Israelis have made the influence on both tourism as well as locals here. Anyway, we were more interested in trying authentic Rajasthani food and since there are many things you can try road side, I’m listing it here for the convenience of writing as well as for reading: 🙂

  • Poha: We went to a famous cart in front of Varah ghat which serves Poha (a kind of flat rice). The man who serves Poha is Sonu and is very polite and sweet. He was happy to tell that some foreigner has already mentioned about his cart on google (internet). It was just for 10 bucks! We never had such tasty Poha at such a nominal price. The other food item that we tried at the same cart was Daal Pakwan. We named it as desi pizza! It was new and good in taste.
  • Jalebi: After having delicious breakfast one can have freshly prepared Jalebi with Rabri.
  • Lassi: It is prepared in a wooden whisk and served in earthen pots. Gulab lassi is also a hit among locals.
  • Malpua: This is strictly not-to-miss dish which unfortunately we missed and will have to go back to try it.
  • Mirchi Vada: Popular breakfast for Rajasthanis. Try it if you can handle the hotness of chilli that is filled with mashed potato, onion and spices.
  • Fresh Juices: Do not forget to quench your thirst with freshly prepared juices.
  • Falafel: Gorge on Falafel, Humus with Pita bread donned with garlic (to suit the Indian taste buds) at Ganga Restaurant. The owner here was fluent in Hebrew!
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Magnificient Sunset @ Pushkar

After having heavenly food and feeling content, one can take long stroll along 52 ghats around the holy lake. That is what we did to digest our food and take in the city vibes in the best possible way. In the daytime, ghats keep bustling with pilgrims taking a dip in holy water (which is unfit for health but religious fanatics don’t mind about dirty water). It is preferable to wear slipper/chappal that can be removed easily as while walking on the ghats you’ll have to remove footwear at certain places especially when walking near lake. We saw lots of foreigners performing pooja (prayers) near ghat. In the evening we went to the sunset point to immerse ourselves in the hues of sunset forming reflections on lake, musicians playing ektara and nagara, town reverberating with the chants of Aarti. For me it was a beautiful evening to end the year with and hope for a peaceful 2017. By the night, town was surrounded with loud music (please read it as bad speakers) playing various popular Hindi, English and Punjabi, Rajasthani songs. Songs like “tip tip barsa pani” which tickled our ribs; but it was quite safe to roam around. We then took time to call or message our loved ones and wish them ‘Happy New Year’s 🙂

First Sunrise of 2017!

First Sunrise of 2017!

Next day was planned to hike to Savitri Temple which is on a hill top and is a sunrise point. I couldn’t hike till the temple and we decided to rest somewhere in the middle from where we could get to see a perfect sunrise. The time just before sunrise is very sacred especially when it is going to be first sunrise of the year. We were drowning in the moment when sun was rising. It was beautiful!

In the afternoon, we took our seats in Laura’s café and lazed there till early evening. People there at Laura’s café are really nice and sweet. Don’t miss to go there if you are in Pushkar. My two close friends drove down to Pushkar from Udaipur to meet me. I was overwhelmed with their gesture. It is all together a different feeling of meeting friends at a place away from your home.

Pushkar is also a home for only Brahma Temple in the world and a historical Gurdwara which was visited by tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh Ji. It offers peaceful vibes to the otherwise wandering mind of city dwellers.

Time spent at Pushkar was enchanting with lots of shopping done in the colorful by lanes of the town with a good start to New Year. I wish that this year brings more peace in the world. Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! (a little late though).

Here goes the sneak peek of two days at Pushkar:

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Paragliding Paradise in India!

Winter has already knocked in! Bright sun is peeping through my window, spreading its warmth. Melodious Rabindra Sangeet by Shaan is playing, making everything in room to sway with it. And I’m earnestly eager to share my experience from my last trip. Though demonetization affected it a little but as they say “where there is a will, there is a way”, we managed it with all smiles. 🙂

Umm, the new adventure is about being a bird under the open sky. Yeah, you read it right, a bird. Befuddled? Well, let me clear myself. It’s about paragliding in mountains at the world’s popular paragliding site, Bir. And it makes one feel like a bird. 🙂 As usual, the journey started on Friday night. But before I start my blog I would like to mention about a

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With Dragan! 🙂

day prior to our departure. It is about meeting a Serbian cyclist, Dragan Sibalic, few months ago in Himalayas who was on his North India cycle tour and we made acquaintance with each other. He inspired me big time not only with his audacity of riding in dangerous Himalayas but also with his kind and humble nature. After few months, we again met in Delhi on one summer evening, promising to meet again when he will be in Delhi after his 8500 km of travel covering North India and Nepal. Keeping our promise, we met again. This time I was his host to show him my city – Delhi. The day was well spent in his company showing him few of the beautiful monuments of Delhi that stands testimony to imperial bygone era. And just before our departure for Bir, I bade him goodbye, with a promise of meeting him again but this time unsure of our meeting as he was leaving for his home next day. I will cherish all the moments spent with him throughout my life. 🙂

So, finally five girls all excited about their two days trip to Himalayas and being a bird, boarded bus from ISBT. To our astonishment, we had five last seats of Volvo. Thanks to the person who did this blunder while booking tickets. I was forgiven with their laughter :). Before even the bus started, two girls gulped in the Avomine tablet in order to not feel giddy of sitting on last seat. Keeping in mind all the adversities and awkwardness of the back seat, we adjusted to our best ability; singing, talking, and making fun to start our trip on a happy note. At around 2:00 am, after being scolded by a lady for singing loud, I managed to doze off only to wake up at a sudden jerk and seeing a friend of mine slipping from her seat, I held her though but imagining her lying on the bus floor made me laugh. And she is definitely going to beat me after reading this. Bus stopped twice, one for dinner break and second for a tea break. It was colder than Delhi and holding hot cup of tea in hand was more soothing than sipping it with a loud slurp. We reached Bir with the first light of the day. Morning and air in mountains make me high, makes me smile without any reason. I’m happiest under the mountain sun! Bir does not have a proper bus stop and in fact there are not many direct buses. Instead you need to take bus till Baijnath and take a taxi from there to reach Bir. We were lucky enough to get direct bus. Our hotel was in a small hamlet called Chougan which was a small trek down the road that hosted beautiful monasteries of Bir on one side and fluttering colorful prayer flags on the other side. The sight of it had a calming effect on mind and soul, and I knew that we are going to have a great time. After few calls and asking for directions from the locals, we finally reached hotel and got our keys. Infused with enthusiasm, we forgot the last night’s back seat journey, and planned to get ready and head for breakfast. I was told by a friend that one of her friend will be joining us for breakfast. He was really very handsome  and to my disappointment he was only 9 years younger to me so I stopped my mind from wandering in wrong direction and concentrated on food rather. At breakfast, Mr Chandan Bhatia Sir also joined us. Mr Chandan was an acquaintance to us through “Himalayan Club” on facebook. And he is absolutely one gem of a person who not only took care of us but also booked paragliding for us at a very nominal price. We can’t thank him enough for what he has done for us.

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Friends!

After having breakfast, we left for Billing (launching site) which is 14 km from Bir, in Chandan sir’s car. Road to Billing is really steep and oxygen level is also low thus making one feel like nauseating but going up and watching parachutes against azure blue sky took us in its awe.  We were given time to acclimatize to the weather before we could take a flight. We utilized time in clicking pictures, soaking mountain sun and making memories. We cheered fellow people who were ready to take their flight, bucking up ourselves to take the flight. I’m scared of heights but my father has always taught me to face fears with all my strength; it is his belief and my faith that gives me courage to take anything that comes my way. Here is a small poem that I wrote while preparing myself for the trip, shooing away all the negative thoughts and imbibing all the positive energy inside me.

Sitting on edge, with eyes full of dreams,
All set to para-glide, shout and scream
To fly under the open sky,
Above the mountains so high.
Ticking one more from bucket list,
Taking with audacity the air twists.

Finally, it was our turn to fly. With tensed face I wished good luck to all my friends and started chanting God’s name to keep me safe. I was the last one to fly. I took a flight in second attempt. I fell on stones in my first attempt and this reason was enough to terrify me. After few seconds of running and taking a flight, I was in air under the blue sky. It was ecstatic! After few minutes in the sky I was comfortable and talking to my glider but as I looked down it scared me again so I decided not to look towards ground, closed my eyes and let cool breeze touch my face and I got drowned in its howling sound remembering my grandma, brother and his wife, missing them and praying for them. I also felt the presence of my faith, rising behind the mountains and telling me to calm and enjoy the moment. I was in the air for around 30 minutes and after landing on the ground, my friends came running to me, one of them saying – “Gur, we did it. We all are alive!” I was so much elated to hear this that gust of tears came rolling down like a ferocious waterfall. We then celebrated this little achievement by feeding our empty stomachs with some food and watched the sun that changed the hues of the horizon as an artist fills his empty canvas with strokes of beautiful colors, before setting behind the Dhauldhar range. After dropping us all near our hotel, we said goodbye to Chandan Sir who was heading home which was a 2 hours drive from Bir. Bir is a very small town that has very limited options of restaurants which closes maximum by 8:00 pm. Hence, we were left with the option of having food at our own hotel which was decent enough to satiate our hunger. We then took a stroll on the narrow hilly roads under the moon which was supposed to be the largest and closest to earth. At last we came back to our rooms and dozed off to get up early next day and watch the rising sun.

Next day started as early as 5:00 am, we got ready and strolled on the unknown streets in the wee hours when we were joined by four dogs wagging their tales whom we gave names as – Tiger, Snowy, Brownie, and Kallu (all according to their colors. I thought ourselves as being racist but could not think of better names than these 😛 🙂 ) Tiger being the most quiet and innocent, stroked a immediate connection with me. They joined as soon as we started our walk and remained with us till the end. In just two hours, we got attached to them. We got to see the sunrise from somebody else’s home which we first entered to click the picture of rising sun and eventually took permission to enter their courtyard and spend some time. We walked laughed, clicked pictures and experienced many wow moments together. While on our way back to hotel, I found a secluded place where colorful prayer flags were hung around trees, sun was coming up from east, and mountains were at the backdrop; I decided to stay back and meet friends after some time at hotel. I was accompanied by friend’s friend, the same hot guy who was nine years younger to me. We talked so much about ourselves that when we returned from that place, we were in a relationship. A relationship of being elder sister and younger brother! After having our breakfast, we hired a cab to visit the largest monastery – Sherabling , around Bir. The monastery is grand and beautiful. It stirred that corner in all of us which was holding some pain and it came out in form of tears. We were also lucky to visit a school there and meet little monks. Ohh! They were damn cute. I wish I could have adopted one. We also were lucky to see mask dance at another monastery near our hotel. We had a bus back to Delhi at 5:45 pm so we couldn’t see more around Bir. There are so many places – trekking points and monasteries that were left; and I will cover them in my next trip to Bir.

The trip ended witnessing a beautiful red sun setting behind Himalayas and lots of cherish able memories. Here goes the photo blog:

Moon Lake, Galaxy and Photography!

Before I embark my steps towards another journey to hills, here’s a very quick sneak peek to my memorable trip to the moon lake of India. Chandratal it is! Though it has been a month since I’ve come back and I believe it’s never the late to write (experiences). So here it goes –

Okay! So a trip to Chandratal was planned for few reasons, one that I was short on leaves, two it was first trip organized by my friend’s own venture, I was travelling after a major mishap that happened with my brother and his wife, it was an Astro photography tour, and finally I wanted to dedicate my first astro picture to my brother who was also an avid traveller and always inspired me to travel. After much doubt, ifs and buts, I finally said yes to join the trip.

I didn’t inquire much about the people I was travelling with as I believe that meeting people on start of the journey itself is a good start to the journey. So, I boarded bus to Manali from Delhi along with ten other enthusiastic photographers. One more was supposed to join the group in Manali. Even after much travelling, I’ve still not overcome to handle butterflies in stomach before the start of the trip. And I think this is what makes me a seeker for knowledge and experience. I was trying to find a seat for myself when I was asked by one of the fellow traveller, Arpita Bose, to sit by her side. Well! Thanks to her as I’m very bad at striking conversations and even bad at talking. Anyhow, so we started talking and I think I took a quick escape from all the conversations and soon dozed off. But when I woke up in the morning, we were no more strangers and were friends now.

On reaching Manali, the twelfth photographer, Prabhjit Veerji, joined us and after getting ready we went out for fun and food. Eleven of us were out whereas; Nimit (one of the organizers) was sleeping in hotel. I’ve met Nimit earlier on few photo walks and he is a good human being who is always ready to help people around him (as much as I’ve observed him). The rest of us strolled together on the streets of Manali, talked, laughed, ate, shopped, and most of all made friends with each other. In the evening when we came back to hotel, Nimit was still sleeping, and when we went out for dinner, he was still sleeping. He slept like a polar bear that sleeps in the day light and prepares himself for his prey seal that is most active at night. Well! Nimit prepares himself for astro photography. 😛

Next day our journey started to Losar. Losar is a small village in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. Losar is relatively remote and hence unexplored. There are very few houses and even lesser accommodation and food options. It is situated at an altitude of 13,400 feet above sea level and therefore the weather here is usually very windy and chilling. To reach Losar, we had to cross Kunzum pass which is considered to be one of the most treacherous passes in the world. I was more excited to cross Kunzum than reaching Losar because it has been one such place which I’ve wanted to visit since 2-3 years. Travellers crossing pass take a round around a small monastery built at pass and seek blessings.  We reached Kunzum on 4th July, on this day every year, prayers and rituals are conducted at the monastery here. We were really lucky to experience it. The aura of being at Kunzum is inexpressible in words. With every bell that rang there, I missed my brother and his wife and tears rolled down from my eyes. Anyways, we left Kunzum with good memories and proceeded towards Losar. The view leading to Losar is picturesque and breathtaking with mountains of different shades of brown and clouds and sun playing the game of light and shadow with them. If you are nature lover, sit by the window side and enjoy the view, else sleep and prepare yourself for low oxygen problems. 🙂

It was still afternoon when we reached Losar, with not many faces around, I was little disappointed but at the same time I was in awe of the serenity that Losar offered. After having a quick meal and deciding on the further plans, I took my tripod and camera and went deeper in the valley where there were few houses. Here, I was guided by an old shepherd when I couldn’t find the way to the village.  I love these small incidents that happen while travelling and make your belief firm in humanity. 🙂 As I went down, I saw a cute little girl wearing red sweater and was immediately driven to her innocence. I humbly requested her mother to take picture of her and to my surprise I was granted the permission with much excitement. I took little Tenzin (name of the little girl) in my arms and walked down towards a small field that was few meters away from the house. Four of her siblings followed me to that field. And I didn’t miss a chance to click a picture with them. I clicked a tripod selfie with them! It was great fun. 🙂 We all were smiling and smiling faces look gorgeous. At night we tried our hands at astro photography. We all were shivering with cold but determined to take our best shots. I couldn’t take a good shot that day but was in a hope to click a good galaxy shot next day at Chandratal.

The gang!

The gang!

Next day we headed to our main destination, Chandratal. As we started in the wee hours of the day, most of us were in slumber. On the way, one of the tyres got punctured and busted. We were saved because of the slow speed on the rocky road of mountains. We didn’t miss the opportunity to click pictures here while driver, Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (named by Sabby), fixed Tyre. We reached Chandratal at around 8:00 am in the morning. Immediately on reaching, we unloaded our stuff from the vehicle and went to the last motor able point before the lake. There’s a small 15-20 (timing depends upon your speed and stamina) min trek to the lake. Many of us were exhausted till we reached the lake because of less oxygen at higher altitude. Chandratal is the beauty! The view left me totally flabbergasted. The sky, the water, the clouds, the mountains, the flags, the flowers, the green hilltop and the calmness of the moment filled me with rapture. We all took out our guns (cameras), pointed at the lake and shot beautiful reflections of sky and clouds on the lake. Apart from offering mesmerizing view, Chandratal also offers peace and serenity. We then went back to our tents and rested for some time to rejuvenate ourselves for the night’s activity. The wind here was so fast that I couldn’t stop myself from saying – “Fuck! The wind is so fast yaar. :P”. In the evening we had a little music and chatting session with Old monk (savior on hills and in winters). At night, we took our positions to shoot and Voila! I was able to get a descent astro shot if not good. Thanks to Sabby from bottom of my heart. I hope he reads it. He helped me so much that day. Without him I would not have been able to take a good shot. And of course how can I forget little Subro (boy from Assam) who was with us all the time while we were shooting. He too got some good shots. Hardik, Arpita, and Aditi laughed so much while clicking, unaware that they were making memories for the rest of the group too. 🙂 I never wanted that night to pass, I wanted to seize the time and stay there under the stars forever. It was yet another beautiful night under stars in mountains.

Next day, with heavy heart we bade goodbye to the place to return back to our daily chores of life, get frustrated and run for another escape to mountains. Everybody in the trip was hash tagged with a name given on the trip. The names that remind us of the awesome time spent together. I got to learn so many things in this trip and most of all made friends with awesome people.

Ohh! I forgot to mention about the famous chacha chachi shop at Batal on the way to Losar. A husband and wife run this small eatery and they are known for their kindness among travellers. Also, we met a Serbian cyclist who was riding from past 23 days and had plans to cover most part of India on cycle by November. This is why we need to get out, meet people, be inspired, and stay inspired.

Thanks to all the fellow travellers and wishing them good luck in their lives. Thank you all the readers for reading till here. Love for all!

I’ve managed to collect pictures of few fellow travelers along with my pictures and here it goes. Enjoy!

Family at Vacation!

I have been reluctant in writing this blog due to some personal problem. But here I am writing this blog because travelling is oxygen for me and writing is weaving my feelings together in words. I was on a 10 days trip to South India. This trip is the most special one as it was planned for my Dad’s birthday and reaching the southern end of India had been his dream. So it was more like #dadysdreamtrip. 🙂

Taking advantage of super long weekend, I planned this trip intelligently taking only 3 leaves. So the trip started with spicejet’s flight to Chennai. And like always, it disappointed me for not flying on time. Anyways, we had Kiran (elder brother) and his family waiting for us at Chennai airport. We met Kiran and his wife Pavitra at our last family trip 5 years ago at Andamans. Since then, we have been like family friends. Ohh!  And did I mention about their two sweet little kids, Sai and Sri. It was fun listening to them in their native language which we didn’t understand at all :). We then directly headed to our first destination, Kanchipuram.

#Day1 – Kanchipuram

20160319_153221The drive from Chennai to Kanchipuram is a descent one of around 2 hours. Kanchipuram is a city of thousand temples and is also famous for hand woven silk sarees which are also known by the same name, Kanchipuram Sarees. There are plethoras of Saree shops in this area where one can buy Kanchipuram Sarees at lesser price. I almost mistook a shop as a temple after sighting a pool of chappals (shoes) outside that shop. Gosh! I had never sighted such a scene in Delhi ever. And absolutely didn’t mind buying a saree for myself too. 🙂

After shopping spree and satiating our hungry stomachs at Sangeetha restaurant (Sangeetha restaurants have a chain and for a healthy food as well as for a safe drive, you can always rely on their restaurants on highway in Tamilnadu), we visited three main temples there (it’s quite impossible to see 1000 temples in a day 😛 ):

20160319_173042Sri Varadharaja Temple: This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There are two lizards installed on the roof of internal sanctum and belief is that one will be relieved of all diseases if one prays to Lord Varadarajan and touches the Lizard on the way out.

Being a Sikh disciple, I’ve different beliefs. But I never miss a chance to pay my respect towards other faiths. Therefore, I touched both the lizards on my way out. 🙂

Ekambareshwara Temple: This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiv. It is one of the five major Shiva Temples that represents five different elements. This one represents element – earth. This temple opened my eyes to the beauty of Dravidian Architecture.

Ulagalan Perumal Temple: This is again dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Six daily rituals and a dozen yearly festivals are held at the temple, of which the chariot festival, celebrated during the Tamil month of Chittirai (March–April), is the most prominent.

20160319_172848By the time we came out, the sun was already down, and we headed back to Chennai.

 

#Day2 – Pondicherry

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ECR – East Coast Road

The day started early for us and we were served scrumptious homemade Puliyodharai (tamarind rice). Rice was really tasty with proper blend of South Indian spices. We then started for Pondicherry. Kiran’s neice Avinash was suppose to drive for today and he drives very well. As soon as the engine of car ignited, I slumbered to complete my sleep. And when I opened my eyes, I was greeted with blue sky and deep blue beach water on both the sides of road. We were on ECR (East-Coast Road)! What a beautiful long drive it was. For a moment, I never wanted it to end. It slowly drifts you away from the hustle bustle of city and connects you with the French Town of India. If ever you want to visit Pondicherry, do not take direct flight to Pondicherry instead take flight to Chennai and drive from Chennai to Pondicherry. It is totally amazing experience. Anyways, after visiting the famous “Matri Mandir” in Auroville and eating finger-licking Italian food at Tanto’s (these guys are amazing), we headed to Paradise Beach. You need to take a small steamer to reach Paradise Beach. It’s clean blue water and vastness takes you to some other world. Enjoying for sometime in water, we then headed for town.  The sun was already down so couldn’t see sunset at yet another beautiful beach (Promenade Beach) of Puducherry. We then went to an old temple Manakala Vinayagara Temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Ganesha and its existence is marked way before when French came and settle in Pondi. I was amaze to see a huge elephant outside the temple, and blessing the visitors. We then took a stroll near the beach. The cool breeze, the stars, moonlight, sound of waves relieved me from day’s fatigue. We had South Indian food at Surguru, the food was just fine. I regret to spend only a day at Pondi and I’m definitely going back there at least for a week.

 

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Paradise Beach – Pondi!

#Day3 – Mahaballipuram and Vellore

20160321_115616.jpgThe third day again started early. Today we were heading to an ancient town which use to have bustling seaport and traders from India use to travel to South East Asia from here. Mahabalipuram, situated around 60km to the south of Chennai, located at the Coramandel Coast of Bay of Bengal.

With approximately 40 sanctuaries, including the largest open-air rock relief in the world, Mahabalipuram gained UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2004 the Indian Ocean Tsunami washed away tons of coastal sand exposing structures including a granite lion and an elephant relief. The monuments are mostly rock-cut and monolithic, and constitute the early stages of Dravidian architecture.

Of all the monuments, I personally loved the Shore Temple; it is built on the shore of the coast of Bay of Bengal and it looks spectacular.

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Arjuna’s Penance

We then headed to Vellore to see Golden Temple of South. I was first astonished to hear about Golden Temple of South. Photography is not allowed here. This temple dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, dazzles at night and is WOW! We would have missed this temple if Kiran Bhaiya had not driven us to this place.

#Day4 – Ranganathaswamy Temple and Tanjore Temple

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The Tanjore Temple

Ranganathaswamy Temple is dedicated to Reclining form of Lore Vishnu and is a marvellous piece of art of Dravidian Culture. Its main entrance –  Gopuram stands tall around 237ft high. The colourful architecture, colourful paintings on the walls of the temple look beautiful.

We then headed to Tanjore’s Brihadeeswarar Temple. It is another very beautifully designed temple. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Though, it was closed by the time we reached and scorching sun was on my head, still I managed to click few pictures.

 

#Day5 – Meenakshi Temple, Madurai

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Sunrise and Meenakshi Temple

This is another beautiful temple which I have always wanted to see. And the aura over here was very calm and serene as compared to the all temples we visited till now. It has a very huge complex and beautifully painted wall look perfect in natural light inside the temple. Again, photography wasn’t allowed here inside the temple but you can buy a ticket to click around the temple from your mobile for Rs30. We spent some peaceful time here and then headed towards our next destination.

 

 

#Day6 & Day7 – Kovalam, Kerela

We reached Kovalam on the evening of 5th day and witnessed orange lit sky with sun slowly drifting away into the vast of beach to rise again tomorrow. Our hotel was just on the shore of beach and the view of the beach from the room’s balcony was perfect to laze around and listen to the wildness of the crashing waves.

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Melting sun at Light House Beach, Kovalam

All day long one can see surfers surfing in the beach (mostly foreigners). We didn’t want to leave this place, so we decided to spend whole day at this place. Also, we wanted to relax after a kind of pilgrimage tour: P.

Next day, we went to visit famous Padmanabhan Temple of Kerala. It is the richest temple in the world. Sadly, my parents couldn’t visit this place as my father was asked to remove his turban. He as a Sikh isn’t allowed to remove his turban. Being a true Indian wife, my mom denied going inside without her husband. And I went alone! The beautiful part of this temple is the huge reclining form of Vishnu made up of pure gold.

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Ma Baba at Light House Beach, Kovalam

We then headed to Poovar Island. It is a remote getaway situated on the shore of Arabian Sea. The sand here is golden in colour and hence the name Golden Sand Beach. A steamer took us to this island and it only stays from 15min to half an hour because waves of Arabian Sea are really wild and huge and there’s a fence. No one is allowed to go inside. The waves are really high that the water covers entire beach and connects with the Poovar River on the other side of the beach. The steamer crosses the lush green alleys of Mangroves. It was a great experience and most of all mom & dad enjoyed it a lotJ.

 

#Day8 – Kanyakumari

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Sunset at Kovalam Beach – Kanyakumari

We headed to Kanyakumari around 11am and reached there in the afternoon at around 2:30pm. After checking in the hotel, we directly went out for sightseeing as we had time crunch. We first went to see the rock temple and the famous statue of Kanyakumari which until now I thought to be of Vivekanada 😛 Well! It is the statue of great Tamil poet Thiruvalluar. There are only two ferries to and fro for Rock Temple and thus a very huge line of tourists is formed outside Vivekananda Jetty.  Finally, after 2 hours of standing in line, we got a ferry. The ride is very small. Though, it feels patriotic to touch the southern end of India.

Kanyakumari is the point where you can see the rising sun as well as setting sun. After watching the spectacular scene of sun setting inside the water, we headed back to hotel. To my surprise, I met an old friend, Shahi, who now lives in Chennai and was travelling with her colleagues. She is as shahi (royal) as her name. It feels good to meet old friends that too when you are far away from your home. And we later realized we didn’t click a picture together. We had food at Ocean Restaurant inside sea shore hotel, which is at 7th floor of the hotel. The view was awesome with sea on the three sides of it. Don’t miss food here when in kanyakumari. After arranging cake for next day for my dad’s birthday, I retired into my deep slumber.

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Sunrise series at Kanyakumari

Next day started as early as 3am to watch the rising sun. It was a cloudy day! And all the time I prayed to see the rising sun as I had planned baba’s birthday with the rising sun. Well! We did get to see sun after some time. But that was okay! Baba cut his cake with the sun as candle’s flame. He was happy! I was happy. We all were happy :).

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Baba’s Birthday with Sunrise

We then headed to our last destination, Rameswaram. It is one of the holiest places of India and also the part of the Char Dham pilgrimage. It is located on the Pamban Island and is Sri Lanka is just 50km away from here. We were very tired when we reached Rameswaram. Hence, we just dozed off.

 

#Day9 – Rameswaram

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Beautiful Pamban Bridge

Rameswaram greeted us with blue water on both sides and beautiful sight of Pamban rail bridge. I had never seen anything like that in my life. On reaching Rameswara, we were very tired and so decided to rest for some time thus cancelling our trip to Dhanuskodi which is considered to be ghost town and was destroyed in 1964 in a cyclone.

Along with a famous temple of Lord Shiva, Rameswaram also houses a historical Gurdwara (Sikh temple) related to first Guru – Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It is said that while coming back from his pilgrimage from Sri Lanka, Guru Nanak Dev Ji rested here.

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Gurdwara Sahib, Rameswaram

The government have also started a ferry ride of half an hour at a nominal price which takes one around the sea.  Srilanka is nearest from Rameswaram being just 31km away.

 

#Day10 – Back to Delhi

Last day we started our journey from Rameswaram to Chennai to board flight for Delhi.

It was a good journey which ended with news that shattered our lives. We lost two beautiful people of our family in a car accident. They both had been my source of support in my travels and have always patiently lent their ears to my stories. My brother Raman always guided me for my trips and his wife Manveen always asked me about my whereabouts on my trips. It is an irreplaceable loss to parents and family but I hope wherever they are, they are good.

And here goes the photo blog:

 

 

 

 

On Portraiture

What a beautiful journey through portrait and quotes! Every portraits speaks thousand words. I couldn’t resist myself from re-blogging this post by one of my favorite photographers. 🙂

An adventurous trail to world’s highest Shiva Temple!

Long weekends without traveling plans seem to be wasted! :p Taking advantage of the last long weekend of the year, I along with four girl friends

Us!

Us!

made a plan to trek to the world’s highest Shiva Temple. There are lots of tales associated with it and it is one of the “Panch Kedar”. The journey kick started at 10:30pm from ISBT Kashmere Gate in UPSRTC’s Volvo. The bus dropped us next day at Rishikesh at around 6:ooam. From here, we were to either hire a cab or take a bus for Chopta. Since we were five and collectively could afford a cab, we hired a cab (Bolero) to Chopta on mere 7500 bucks for next three days. With no kilometers to be noted, we could take or stop the cab where ever we wanted. With every travel I’ve realized that we (girls) fear to move out of our places and explore the outside world. On the contrary, people are more concerned about safety when, a girl or only girls are traveling. Where ever you go, whether you are known or unknown to people, they will wish you luck for a safe journey. Our driver, Akhil Bhaiya was sweet enough to listen to our chatter and stop where ever we wanted. The travel time from Rishikesh to Chopta or rather to Duggalbitta (7km before Chopta), which could have taken 6-7 hours, actually took us around 11 hours. Now you can imagine how patient our driver was and why I said he was sweet enough. 🙂

Confluence of river Alaknanda and river Bhagirathi

Confluence of river Alaknanda and river Bhagirathi

On the way to Chopta, we were in awe of the changing terrain. My mind drifts in its own world when I see mountains. We stopped at Devprayag to see the confluence of river Alaknanada and river Bhagirathi. I was amazed to see the different colors of two rivers, finally amalgamating, melting into one color and forming river Ganga. Sun shining amidst the mountains kept us in its warmth throughout the journey. With a breakfast stoppage at Teen Dhara and a stoppage for Lunch at Sirsoli, we managed to reach Duggalbitta at around 5:oopm. Food at both the places was not that great but we were overwhelmed with their service and the hot food they served us in that cold weather. Food was rather simple!

 

 

Duggalbitta welcomed us with our cab skidding on ice. And as and when we got down from the cab to ask for help, one of my friends slipped badly on ice. Anyways, sun was retiring for the day when we reached our camp and moved to our tents. By the time we had our evening tea, it was just 6:30pm but it was dark already. Discussing about pros and cons of “big data” with another group at camp over bonfire and then having our dinner, we dozed off for the day.

Duggalibitta!

Duggalibitta!

Start of trek!

Start of trek!

Next day was the main day of our trip. We were suppose to trek and start as early as possible, but we got little late because of extreme cold. One of the girls wasn’t feeling well so the rest four of us got ready for the trek. We started our trek at around 10:ooam from Duggalbitta (the camping site), which is 7km from Chopta.  The actual trek starts from Chopta. But because of ice, we had to trek till Chopta. Taking a shortcut, we reached Chopta at around 12:30pm by trekking around 4 km. We took a tea break here and basked in sun. We then started our trek towards Tungnath, the highest Shiva Temple in the world. Well! The name itself looks so tempting that I was eager to reach the point. Nishtha, the youngest among us, was quite fast. So we decided to send her with our guide, Harish to Chandrashila. Chandrashila is summit of Tungnath. It is 1km ahead of Tungnath and is quite steep and strenuous. At this time there was 2 feet of snow.

Taking our leisure time, enjoying the view and basking in sun we reached Tungnath at around 4:50pm (which is quite late in mountains). The sun was going down very fast when we started our trek downhill. We were just three girls and one girl from another group. Having no one around us, helping each other, some time walking in the moon light, some time walking in the torch light, we started descending. First time in my life I realized that why everyone says to get down before sun down on mountains. Damn, it was too difficult. We fell down so many times, got bruised, still we were walking. We wanted to be alive! I was pretty confident that we might take some time to reach downhill but we would reach when suddenly we saw a DEAD END. I didn’t tell anyone but I was scared out of my wits. We started shouting and crying for help. There was a point when I thought we’ll have to look out for a shelter to spend a night and a search operation would be sent for us tomorrow morning. That was too filmy! Everest movie was in my mind all the time. I remember mentioning it to my friends as well. 🙂 Anyways, we decided to make a final cry together. And we shouted – “Nishthaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa”, name of the fourth girl with us as she was somewhere behind us with our guide. And to our relief, we heard someone saying “sun liya!” (We heard you). Gosh! I never felt such happiness in life. Now, together we trekked downhill with Harish Bhaiya. He was our savior! It was him who saved us from that scary night and helped us to reach safely to our camps. No, reaching our camps wasn’t that easy. It was already 9:00pm when we reached Chopta and to reach our camps we had to trek 7km more. We were dog tired when we heard SEVEN KILOMETERS. There was no other option! So now we started the final stretch of 7km for our lives. To be alive! Two of my friends gave up but kept walking. We were motivating each other. Now I very well understand what does – “run for your life” means. At this point I missed my friend Joy with whom I have traveled so much. I think if he would have been with us we would not have seen this difficult situation. But I also believe that we were to experience this situation therefore, he wasn’t with us. 🙂 At last we reached our camps at 11:oopm. We were fully exhausted to share anything with anyone. I just remember hitting our bed after having dinner.

Tungnath Temple!

Tungnath Temple!

Next day, we left our camps happily. But again were stuck by ice on roads. This time, God actually saved us from a steep fall. Somehow, we reached Rishikesh safely and boarded bus for Delhi.

I really want to thank Mr. Manoj Negi of Alpine Camps for his warm hospitality in that chilly weather. If anyone of you reading this blog want to go for the Tungnath trek can look at this as a staying option. We had a great time here!

Mr Negi with his squad!

Mr Negi with his squad!

This trek gave me lots and lots of learning. And those learning probably need another post.

The trek is rather very easy for anyone who have done trekking before. But snow and of course our bad timings made it little difficult. Surviving from 0 to -10 degrees, it was a great ending with the ending year. With this another magical place added to the list. We had so much fun together. The best part of traveling is making new friends and growing as a family with the friends/people with whom you are traveling. 🙂

And here goes the picture blog –

 

Sun Burst!

Sun Burst!

 

Tungnath Temple!

Tungnath Temple!

 

Valley covered with snow!

Valley covered with snow!

 

A Trekker en-route Tungnath!

A Trekker en-route Tungnath!

 

Negi and his squad at Alpine Camps!

Negi and his squad at Alpine Camps!

 

Sun Setting behind Ravan Shila! Ravan meditated here to please Lord Shiva.

Sun Setting behind Ravan Shila! Ravan meditated here to please Lord Shiva.

 

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Trekkers and their shoe marks!

 

Devi Temple @ Chandrashila!

Devi Temple @ Chandrashila! Courtesy – Nishtha

 

The Rays! Courtesy - Nishtha

The Rays! Courtesy – Nishtha

 

Misra Ji :)

Misra Ji 🙂

 

GD!

The Arabian – GD! 🙂

 

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Cheetah – Nishtha!

 

Bubbly Minakshi!

Bubbly Minakshi!

 

The more I travel, the less I speak. That's me! Happy in the lap of Himalayas.

The more I travel, the less I speak. That’s me! Happy in the lap of Himalayas.

 

There are hell lots of pictures which again needs another blog. Keeping it short and simple, I am ending blog here, hoping that you would have enjoyed it. 🙂

Notes from a solo trip!

I’m very excited while writing this blog as I’m going to write about my first full fledged “solo trip”. Yes! I was lucky enough to have been supported by my parents to travel solo. It wasn’t easy, neither for my parents, nor for me. I was nervous and experienced all sorts of butterflies in stomach till the end of my journey. Parents were of course worried for my safety. They always come to drop me; no matter whether I’m traveling in a group or I’m traveling solo. I saw fear in their eyes. Mom was perspiring in normal conditions where as dad was quiet. I remember my dad saying – “jab tak tu vapis nahi ati, hume dar rahega. Par dar se ghabrake ghar nahi baithna (We will be worried until you are home but the fear cannot make us sit at home)”. Tears came rolling down my cheeks on hearing this. Grasping all my courage, I picked my bags and boarded the bus to McLeodganj.

View of Himalayas from Green Hotel!

View of Himalayas from Green Hotel!

The next morning I was in McLeodganj at 5:45AM. McLeod bus stand is not far from Main Square. My hotel was near Main Square on Bhagsu Road. I decided to walk towards my Hotel and waited for the lady who is the owner of the hotel to open it and allot me the keys of the booked room. The chosen hotel for stay was “Green Hotel”. The lady is really nice and helping. I was given a room with the view of Himalayas. I took a quick cat nap to fend off the last night’s fatigue of travel. McLeod has plethora of eating options with some very good cafes and restaurants. So there is no need to worry about food when in McLeod. I got ready and had breakfast in Green’s restaurant. I spent whole day in leisure, just visiting two or three places. I was actually saving my energy for the trek for next day which was my main purpose of traveling solo.

 

Starting point to trek!

Starting point to trek!

Before I started the journey from Delhi till starting the trek to Triund, I was having different kind of thoughts in my mind. Sometimes it was looking for omen of good and sometimes for omen of bad. Like when I left the hotel in the morning for the trek, I had to take a cab till the starting point of trek, i.e., Galu temple. I asked the cab driver to wait for any other passenger or trekker to come so that I can share the fare with that person. 400 bucks seemed too heavy for pockets. Not finding anyone after 20 minutes of wait, it came to my mind that may be God is giving me hints for not going alone for the trek. Superstitious I was being. I then decided to pay 400 bucks and take the cab to the starting point. There’s a small shop at the starting point which can serve you with all sorts of chocolates, biscuits, chips and drinks along with butter toast, Indian masala chai, coffee and omelette. I had my cup of “pahadon vali cha (the mountain tea)” and started the trek thereafter. Before starting the trek, I requested a group of Tibetan students at the shop to let me have a tent nearby their tents at night on the mountain top. They were really sweet to agree to it. This was my first stance of talking to strangers and was now little confident about staying there at night. Since it was a backpacker trip, I had a rucksack on my back which weighed around 15kg and a small bag on my front. I started walking very slowly. I didn’t care about the time I would take to reach Triund but to reach there. The trek is considered one of the easiest treks in Himalayas. To be very frank it is not that easy for city dwellers like me who are more habitual of walking on plains. There are lots of pebbles on the way that will make you stumble and large stones that will make you take longer steps and thus will make the climbing cumbersome for you. Everybody coming downhill was motivating the people trekking uphill. I trekked well till the mid way where there is “Magic View Cafe”. It was only after here that I started to perspire and felt very tired. I had exhausted all my stamina and was only left with my will. There was a point when I felt like going back because I couldn’t take a single step ahead with my bag on my back. To my rescue came a porter with his three mules. I request him to carry my rucksack on his mule so that I can

Rucksack and I!

Rucksack and I!

climb to the top. He agreed to carry it with him for 100 bucks. I was now worried for getting my bag back. Everything was in that bag and what I would do if I didn’t get it back was a thought that came to my mind when I saw the porter going away from my eyes. I took good one hour of time to cross just a few metres of stretch which should not have taken more than 15 minutes. I very well remember at one point over here, an old man saying me – “It’s not that far. You can do it. God be with you”. It really motivated me to keep going. Anyways, after crossing all the hurdles, I reached the Triund top in 4 hours and 17 minutes. I took one hour lesser than the last time when I climbed Triund. The first thing I did on reaching the top was searching my bag. I got it with much ease than expected. Mountain people are descent and trustworthy! I then searched for the group of Tibetan students and got a tent booked near their tents. Ohh! I forgot to mention that I was going to be without network here for next whole day till I go downhill. The food is available here but little costly. That’s ok because getting a food at such height is a great deal in itself. I then relaxed for an hour and soaked the mountain sun. I have always felt the healing effect of soaking my body in the mountain sun. The mind comes to peace! And I get time to contemplate! This is the advantage of travelling solo.

The retiring sun!

The retiring sun!

After some rest, I strolled around the valley and clicked some pictures. Here I met two strangers – Jas and Sourav. Our language connected us well and we became friends. They clicked really good pictures of meJ. Who doesn’t like to get clicked? These are the memories that will always remain with me forever and I could go back to them whenever I will see the pictures. We then, strolled together and clicked some pictures till the sun was set to retire for the day. The sky turned into hues of orange and blue with the crescent moon, stars and lit up towns of Dharamshala and McLeodganj down the hill. It was gorgeous! It was a magical moment. We tried capturing the moment which came out quite well but it cannot be better than what the naked eyes saw. The shopkeeper who provided us the tents build up a bonfire and we sat with other trekkers to have dinner around that bonfire. We talked about photographs, places to which we belong, travel stories and trekking of course. Soon we were under the galaxy of stars with Milky Way visible to our eyes. It was both stunning and soothing to eyes. I felt cosmic energy in my body! It is hard to explain in words! As the bonfire was losing its fire and heat, we all joined the group of Tibetan students who were really high, fun and frolic. We then played antakshri (a game where teams are divided and one has to sing a song from the last word of the song that the other team has sung), sang random songs, talked on various topics from politics to religious to spiritual to being vegans. I remember Champa,

Gorgeous night view from Triund!

Gorgeous night view from Triund!

a Tibetan guy from Ladakh singing a Ladakhi folk song for us. Ishi, the guy from Bhutan sang a Bhutanese folk song. Varun, a Himachali guy from Kangra sang Himachali folk songs. And Sourav, the Punjabi guy from Jalandhar sang Bollywood and Punjabi songs for us. I too sang few songs and thanks to them for bearing my singing (it is actually very bad). Then Champa, Ishi and there one more friend made tea for everybody. I liked the way they served tea to everybody. Few hours ago I was nervous of travelling alone and now I was sitting among a group of strangers, chatting, singing songs and having tea. “A simple hello can lead to million thanks”. We then bade goodbye and dozed off in our Nomadic abode (tent). I couldn’t sleep at night because of freezing temp. I had an additional dread: I feared that my bladder might not hold out. And it was “freezing your ass” task to release the bladder in that freezing temp under the open sky. Sadly, I had no other choice. After this, I wasn’t comfortable for around next 20 minutes.

I got up little early to see the spectacular sunrise amidst hills. The locals said that it will not happen before 7:00am. Not taking a chance to miss it, I was up before 6:00am. The sun rose behind the hills giving the hope of warmth. I remembered this poem by Miachel Watts:

The sun is rising over the hills
Lighting the dark fields and rivers.

The red burning fire in the sky
Brings the shepherds warnings for the morning.

The fire is spreading, further and further,
Shining in the eyes of those that are stirring.

The passion of red overpowering the
Darkness, greyness and coldness of the night.

The redness spreads the heat of the fire –
Others cannot fail to be touched by its power.

The morning grows stronger and stronger –
Just like our love it is infectious and spreads.

The redness of the fire in the sky
Burns forever in our heart.

The fire in the sky!

The fire in the sky!

New day began with watching the sunrise and then brushing my teeth under the open sky. I was shy doing that as I had never brushed outside the bathroom in front of everyone. After having the last food at Triund, I hugged the strangers of previous night (now friends) and said good bye with a promise of seeing them again. I then started my journey downhill. On the way, I wished everyone good luck who was going uphill. My heart smiled every time I did that. It took me around 4 hours to reach back to McLeod. First thing on reaching downhill I did was to call home. I felt the pride in Dad’s voice. I then boarded the evening bus for Delhi.

At the end I want to thank Jas Kaur (a traveller friend), Raman (my brother), Manveen (Raman’s wife), Raj  and Sumit  for their endless support throughout my travel. This solo trek has not only left me enriched but also strengthened me to take up life’s challenge dauntlessly.

Here goes the picture blog!

Friends made at Triund! From left to right - Jaspreet, Amrita, Varun d Vegan, Sourav and I.

Friends made at Triund! From left to right – Jaspreet, Amrita, Varun d Vegan, Sourav and I.

Group of Tibetan students!

Group of Tibetan students!

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Down the valley from McLeod!

Series of Rising Sun - 1

Series of Rising Sun – 1

Series of Rising Sun - 2

Series of Rising Sun – 2

Series of Rising Sun - 3

Series of Rising Sun – 3

Melting with the sun!

Melting with the sun!

Triund Top!

Triund Top!

I belong to this mountain top!

I belong to this mountain top!

 

 

 

My Himalayan Odyssey!

Clouds are rumbling; teeming rain, as I sit to pen down my experience of a weeklong stay in Himalayas. My Himalayan Odyssey! It’s been more than 4 weeks that I’m back from yet another unforgettable road trip. Trips that are adding up to my life! It was surely a wonderful journey and I’m equally excited to write about it along with the sound of rain drops falling on the window.

As usual, journey started on Friday night. Friday – happiest day of the week for all Grey-collar workers! 😛 There is no need to worry about food when on National Highway -1. There are lot of “Dhabas (small kitchen)” on the way. The famous place for Dhabas and food is, Murthal. We stopped here, at Gulshan for dinner. The first destination was Manali! We were four friends, connected to a string of same passion. Harpal, an expert in driving and well versed about the places to which we were travelling. Joy, “Google Maps” as I call him and a dexterous photographer! And the two girls who were filled with  enthusiasm of exploring the new places. Taking advantage of Harpal’s travelling experiences; we stopped at every beautiful spot on the way to Manali. Slowly, we were absorbing the beauty of hills. There was a place en route Manali, where on our right were the hills, and on left was the Beas River. Sky was gheraoed by smoky clouds and we were chasing it in our little car. It was fun looking at the roads.

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On the way to Manali!

Finally! Happily tired, we reached our destination on Saturday evening. Manali is approximately 16 hours drive from Delhi. We chose to stay in a budget hotel with only basic amenities. We were satisfied with whatever there was in that hotel as we were too tired to go in search for another hotel. Sometimes it’s better to be content with what you have got! 🙂 We then met two friends – Nimit and Sabby, who are from Delhi, and had arrived Manali from Leh. Nimit is an awesome photographer and a humble soul. Whereas Sabby is a cheerful photographer who is fond of selfies. It is always good to meet someone you know at a far off place.Though, they confused us a lot about our next destination. We finally had dinner at Johnson’s Cafe (one of Manali’s best restaurants) along with some live music that was playing there. We then retired to deep slumber.

 

Apple Orchards, Manali!

Apple Orchards, Manali!

Day 2:

Being a morning person, I woke up before dawn, went out of the room and let the cool breeze of mountains rejuvenate me with its touch. I witnessed the rise of sun, slowly fading away the night’s darkness, and moving clouds making the snow clad mountains visible to the eyes. We then went deep into the apple orchards that was just opposite to our hotel and enjoyed clicking apples and posing with them. Till the time we got ready for our next place, the daylight was bright and  sun was over our head with deep blue sky and white cotton like clouds. There are very few times when sky is that blue in Delhi!

Manali Morning!

Manali Morning!

We then headed towards Rohtang – Pass. A beautiful pass from Manali! One has to cross this pass for going further to Leh. A permit is required to go there. Since we had not got the permit before hand, we could only go till the barricades or check post where the permits were checked. We had breakfast at river side and soaked up the sunshine of mountain sun. I love to sit with my face towards sun. I abhor any use of sunscreen lotion as “I love tans”. And I 20150726_174118believe – “Any makeup cannot be better than a tan“. Yes!  I got tanned :). En route we enjoyed watching huge mountains, driving on steep hilly roads, water falls and everything from a simple rock to its people. I was in a world of my own. Listening and humming to the tunes of Kishore Kumar (my favourite singer). By the evening we were back to the city and decided to take a stroll in the market. As a travelling ritual, I found out about a Gurdwara (a Sikh Temple) in the locality and went to pay my homage there. I am a strong believer of Guru Granth Sahib Ji (Holy book of Sikhs), and travelling is making my belief more firm. We munched on evening snacks at Saba Restaurant. I then came back to the hotel. The night was longer than usual as we were confused about our further travelling plan. Actually we had to go to Leh, but due to bad weather, we had to cancel it. So finally, Kinnaur in Himachal was decided.

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Day 3:

With deep heart of not going to Leh, we started our journey to Kalpa, a small town in Kinnaur district of Himachal. There are two ways of reaching Kalpa from Manali. One is via Jeori Pass and other is via Shimla. We chose the former one! We stopped at a very small restaurant on the way, run by a simple husband and wife. The food was tasty! More than taste it was their humbleness and simplicity that added to the taste. Though estimated time to reach Kalpa was 10 hours, but it actually took more than a day to reach there. One, because we were stopping at every beautiful spot and trust me whole route was beautiful 😛 🙂 And secondly, because of the rains and cloud bursts, we got landslides and rocky roads.

Clicked near Shoja

Clicked near Shoja!

There was not even a single time when we had to buy a water bottle. Every time the water was finished, we stopped at a waterfall on the way to fill the bottles and I didn’t miss a single chance of washing my face with the fresh water of hills :). Every time my hands got freeze! The most difficult drive was to Jeori Pass. It took around 4 hours to cover a stretch of just 5 kilometres. Kudos to the experience of Joy and Harpal! We safely passed the deadly hilly road. I exaggerated it a little 😛 But yes I was scared out of my wits! There was rain on the way and we crossed amidst clouds. Though I was afraid but I enjoyed it. The best part was, stopping at a village called Shoja for a tea break and having tea amidst mountains. We also happened to see a foreigner who was cycling on the hilly road. I somehow envied him of riding a cycle on such a beautiful road of my country. I wish to do it someday! Taking 2 – 3 tea breaks on the way, we halted at Rampur for the night.

Day 4:

Rainbow, Kalpa

Rainbow, Kalpa

We again started our journey to Kalpa (with a hope of reaching in 5 hours). Yes we reached Kalpa, only in the evening though :D. Ohh! I forgot to mention about the people that we met on our way. I remember names of some; I spoke to some, played with some and clicked some. The pictures with their names (if I remember) will be shared at the end of this post. There’s a memory of this day; we happened to stop at a place called Urni for a tea. Tea is a saviour in hills! While the tea was getting ready, we were sitting and chatting, and suddenly there was a sound of “boom!” friend’s iphone had fallen down and the screen got broke. All our life, we will never forget this place and this incident :P. I’m sure my friend is going to laugh when he reads this :).  Kalpa welcomed us with a full rainbow in hills. Due to incapability of my camera, I was not able to click a picture of it but it is captured in my heart forever. Till the time we found a hotel, moon was rising from behind the famous “Mount Kailash” (one of the peak in Kailash range). I just couched in a plastic chair and watched the moon filling up the darkness of night with its bright shine. Kalpa being a small town retires early in a day as compared to cities. So after a difficult search operation, we got food to satiate our day long hunger. We then tried some night photography and retired for a sleep sound after a long drive in hills.

Tea is a savior in Hills!

Tea is a savior in Hills!

Day 5:

_DSC0072 (2)Kalpa is located close to the foot of high Kinner Kailash. Kinner Kailash is the legendary winter home of Shiva. There is a spectacular sight early in the morning when the rising sun touches the snowy peaks with crimson and gold light. As suggested by locals, we woke up early to have a sight of “Golden Peak”. Though we didn’t really experience anything like that, but the simple sight of Kinner Kailash in itself was spectacular. I went up to a little height and remember being guided by a deaf-mute man. His smile has put a deep impression on my heart! After sometime, we could hear chanting from a temple and whole town was immersed deep in those chanting. Mind was at peace! Every living being from a single leaf to a beautiful flower to its people, was diffusing positive vibes. We visited a very old monastery in Kalpa and missed going to a famous suicide point there. With this positive vibes, we left Kalpa for Chitkul.

Inside Monastery, Kalpa

Inside Monastery, Kalpa

 

En-route Kalpa

En-route Kalpa

Terrain from Kalpa to Chitkul changes drastically! From high, dangerous hilly roads, we were welcomed to a beautiful valley of Sangla – Chitkul. Green mountains, flowing river and plethora of flowers, looked like a fairy tale. Chitkul is still an unexplored place, so there are not much hotels. But there are not much tourists either. So you can easily get a room there. After having some rest and food at hotel, we went to the river side to spend a peaceful evening. It was relaxing! I had a thought of being a ferociously flowing river and making my own way just like River Satluj. The setting sun in west and moon rising from east – north (I guess so), was mesmerizing. It was a full moon night! By the time we were back to our hotel, we were hungry. We tried food at Samaa Resorts. It’s a resort maintained by a very humble couple; Manmeet and Manali (we are now friends on facebook too). This is one more thing about travelling that I like – “making friends”. The food was good. We actually didn’t expect food of that level of taste. I wish the couple good luck for their future endeavours. Whole night, there was a sound of flowing river and rumbling of trees. I slept in ease with those sounds.

Spectacular Chitkul!

Spectacular Chitkul!

Day 6:

We again lazed around river and embraced its beauty. It was and extraordinary spectacle! I’m speechless to describe its beauty! It’s far away from my words. And I have incapability of describing His beautiful world. All my life I have believed in “magic”. It happened here at Chitkul. It was magical! I’m a kind of person who would like to sit and watch the beauty of the place rather than capturing it. It is because of the enthusiasm of my friend who goes beyond limits to click pictures. I owe one of my best pictures of the trip to him!

Chitkul Morning!

Chitkul Morning!

 

Day 7:

We started our “Nonstop” journey back to Delhi. Thanks to Harpal! I was almost in half slumber while coming back. There’s a lot that is left unsaid. Many memorable moments those are in my mind. Not making it too long to read, I decided to end it here. The post is only about my experiences and I’ve not shared much about the route. Get in touch with me if you want any information about reaching the place.

Little girl, Manali

Little girl, Manali

Old man at a restaurant, Manali!

Old man at a restaurant, Manali!

Cute Kid, Manali

Cute Kid, Manali

Little boy - Kaku!

Little boy – Kaku!

The highway girl - Aarushi!

The highway girl – Aarushi!

Mountain girl - Ananya!

Mountain girl – Ananya!

Mom and daughter duo, Manali

Mom and daughter duo, Manali

Hats off to truck drivers for driving on narrow roads of hills!

Hats off to truck drivers for driving on narrow roads of hills!

Kinnaur Kid - Riya!

Kinnaur Kid – Riya!

Kinnaur Lady 1!

Kinnaur Lady 1!

Kinnaur Lady -2!

Kinnaur Lady -2!

Storage house in Chitkul! Every family have their own storage house.

Storage house in Chitkul! Every family have their own storage house.

Houses in Chitkul be like!

Houses in Chitkul be like!

I envy those who studied here. A school building at Kalpa!

I envy those who studied here. A school building at Kalpa!

A Temple, Kalpa

A Temple, Kalpa

Samaa Resorts, Chitkul!

Samaa Resorts, Chitkul!

Full Moon, Chitkul!

Full Moon, Chitkul!

 

A day of Spiritual Rejuvenation!

There are times when all of a sudden you start feeling low. And there is no reason for this low ebb of your emotions. I was going through the same wave. I think it’s the traveler’s soul in me that gets edgy after a period of time. Nine hours of sitting keeps me in a cage where I’m always dreaming of opening my wings and breathing in an unknown destination. Well! This ‘feeling low’ was the result of the everyday dreams that wants me to move out of the daily regime and explore the unknown, make friends, write stories and gorge on delicious food.

The place decided for weekend’s getaway this time, was Amritsar. The spiritual center for Sikh religion. It is home to the Harmandir Sahib (an important Sikh shrine). And also houses the Sikh temporal and Political authority, Akal Takhat. Apart from that it is also known for Indo – Pak Border, Jallianwallah Bagh, and of course it’s food :). Since childhood I have been visiting this place, that now it is like a second home to me. My parents have always encouraged me for traveling but the idea of solo trip in India is a NO-NO for them. Still I managed to convince them for Amritsar.

Blue Hour at Golden Temple, Amritsar

Blue Hour at Golden Temple, Amritsar

There are many trains from Delhi to Amritsar. My journey started on Friday from Delhi on Amritsar Shatabdi. This train departs at 16:30 from Delhi and reaches Amritsar at 22:55. I always make a point to book window seat. So I was in my coach on confirmed window seat with only a book as my companion for the journey. As train started moving at speed, I started turning pages of my book, and also the day was slowly coming to retire. The feel of watching setting sun from the moving train with a book in your hand is amazing. The feeling of watching the retiring sun took over the feeling of clicking a picture of it. So I didn’t click any. I had a family sitting next to me who were on vacation. They were really nice and three kids in that family were very cute. But towards the end of the journey their jabbering was intolerable. Phewww! Anyways still they were not that annoying. There were two middle aged men in the train who did not miss a single chance of stare at me. At one point, I got little scared, as they were aware of the fact that I was traveling solo. The best way of ignoring their stare was to avoid eye contact with them. And I did exactly the same! In spite of the fact of men ogling at fellow female travelers (solo or with company), I support the idea of traveling because I feel traveling has made me learn the art of alertness, sensing the people with negative vibes and avoiding them. Anyways, train was little late and I breathed in ‘City of Gurus‘ at around 23:45. Quite an odd timing for a female! Parents and friends who knew about this trip were worried back at home. I too, was worried! Traveling has also made me learn the art of hiding my worries from my loved ones and taking it all alone with strength. I hired a rickshaw which charged 40 bucks. The distance from railway station to Gurdwara is approximately 2.5 km and it took around 10 minutes to reach the place. The area around Gurdwara is always bustling with crowd. So, food retail outlets like Subway, CCD, McDonald’s, Giani’s Ice cream and few other restaurants were opened till late at night.

Since it was not a planned trip, I had not booked a hotel and I had to spent a night in Gurdwara’s premises. It is very safe! There are hundreds of pilgrims sleeping on the Sarovar side and many more doing sewa (Service) like cleaning the floor, and reciting Gurbani (Holy Hymns). I decided to take a short nap before taking a dip in Holy water. I woke up at around 2:00 in the morning (you don’t feel that it’s 2:00 in the morning until you see the time in your watch as it is always full of people).  I got ready and headed to bow my head in front of Guru.  The aura of being inside the shrine (Gurdwara) with hundreds of other people who are dipped in faith is unexplainable. You need to be there to experience it! Tears automatically rolled down from my eyes. I experience it on every visit. After listening to Gurbani for some time, I came out to click photographs in blue hour and rising sun. It was only 6:00 in the morning and I was already so hungry. So before stepping out to search out a hotel, I decided to hop on some food. Punjab and Punjabi’s are known for their rich food. Food is not a problem in Punjab. Especially if you are in Amritsar. At any hour of time, you can get food, both inside or outside Gurdwara premises. I had heard about Giani’s Tea Stall on Queen’s road but never got a chance to pay a visit. So I hired a rickshaw to the place. It’s not very far from the shrine. This stall is years old and is famous for its masala cha(tea). Do not miss it if you are a tea addict! The creamy masala cha was sufficient to release the journey’s stress. I then  moved on to a hotel named Sita Niwas. It is a budget hotel. The room was very small and was not clean and I was too tired to search for another hotel. I slept for 2-3 hours before I started my food trail at Amritsar.

Immersed in yellow lights!

Immersed in yellow lights!

Breakfast @ Kanha Sweets

Breakfast @ Kanha Sweets

The first destination for breakfast was Kanha Sweets. It is in Lawrence road. Auto wallah charged 100 bucks for it. You can bargain till 80 bucks. If you are good at bargaining! Reaching there I got to know that this place is always crowded and one has to wait for sometime before getting a table. I got a table to share with two school girls, Manvi and Swati. Both of them were sweet enough to share their piece of information about the place. And I promised them to write about them in my blog. I hope that they read about it :). The poori chole at Kanha were tasty! After having breakfast I headed back to the shrine and devoured a much needed cup of coffee at CCD.

Mashaal @ Jallianwallah Bagh

Mashaal @ Jallianwallah Bagh

It was already noon and scorching sun was over my head. I went back to room to spend peaceful summer afternoon and cool myself. By the evening, I was ready to visit Jallianwallah bagh. This is a park which was built in the memory of people that were massacred on the occasion of Baisakhi by British Raj on orders of Gen. O’Dwyer. He was later assassinated by Sardar Udham Singh as the revenge of Jallianwallah bagh massacre. Late evening was spent inside the shrine again. The day had already retired. By now, Crescent moon had replaced scorching sun. I headed towards Langar Hall’ (kitchen) for food. The food served in Langar is simple. The best thing about Langar is that there is no discrimination. Everybody sits together in a row and waits for the food to be served.

It was 23:30, I then headed to my room. I had train in morning at 4:20. I left hotel at 3:30 and started my journey back to home.

It was a quick one day of ‘Spiritual Rejuvenation‘ at Amritsar. It filled me with positivity and I’m again back to my daily routine. Already feeling an urge to explore unknown.

The food joints that I missed out in this trip (but I have already visited in earlier trips) are:

1) Kesar Da Dhaba – for finger licking paranthas and lassi
2) Ahuja Di Lassi – for delightful lassi
3) Gurdas Ram Jalebi Wala – for mouthwatering Jalebis
4) Beere Da Chicken – for tempting non veg delicacies dipped in lots of butter

 

The place I missed is ‘Indo – Pak Border’ or ‘Wagah Border’. It is particularly known for the elaborate Wagah Border Ceremony that happens at the border gate, two hours before sunset each day. The flag ceremony is conducted by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers.

People preparing food for Langar

People preparing food for Langar

 

Happy Clicking!

Happy Clicking!

People at Wagah (from previous visits)

People at Wagah (from previous visits)

 

Sunrise @ Golden Temple

Sunrise @ Golden Temple

Food Trail in Queen of Hills!

Finally! I was able to hit road in 2015. Well! Never the late, it was a short weekend trip to erstwhile ‘Queen of Hills – Shimla’. It was more of a leisure trip. I remember an Italian phrase from the movie ‘Eat, Pray and Love’ which says – ‘Dolce Far Niente’. It means ‘sweetness of doing nothing’. And Shimla is exactly the same!

Shimla!

Shimla!

 

If you are not pleased with the first sight of Shimla, you are not the only one. It is over built and overcrowded, forming layer on layer on mountain. Its first look is little tacky. But once you begin to unmask its layers, you start feeling its rich history. You will start enjoying it. Its grandeur buildings will make you fall in love with every layer of it. Its amazing past lives on in the cobbled lanes and celebrate it. No matter how the time has changed!

 

During British rule in India, Shimla was marked summer capital of India. It is one of the densely populated hill stations of India. The first thing to do upon reaching Shimla is to hit ‘The Mall’, the happening street of Shimla. As the title says, this blog will only be about food and restaurants in Shimla which we were able to cover in 2 days of our stay.

 

View from Hotel Flora, Shimla

View from Hotel Flora, Shimla

There are many budget hotels in Shimla. So, a backpacker like me need not worry much about staying options. You can get quite a comfortable room from Rs800 – Rs1500. It is around 6-7 hours drive from Delhi to Shimla. But since we had chosen to drive at night, it took 7-8 hours. Highway NH-1 from Delhi to Chandigarh as well as highway NH-22 from Kalka to Shimla, both are amazing. There are lots of dhabas (roadside small kitchen) on the way. Even at the odd hours of the day. On reaching the hilly area from plains, you can also stop on the way, move out of your car, feel the cool breeze and watch sky full of stars. A rare sight in cities!

 

 

The Mall

The Mall

Shimla has its own charm! Its people walk with pride of its past. The buildings tell a story of its great history. After getting fresh, we were ready to hit heart of Shimla, the mall. But before that, we stopped at the end of Lakkar Bazar at Sita Ram’s shop to devour Shimla style Chole Bathure which had a tinge of sweetness in it. Quite a unique taste! Then we headed to Honey Hut for a perfect cup of coffee and lip smacking finger linking walnut pie. It was divine! I mean it will leave you satiated with no more desire. Well! At least I felt that. Taking a stroll on mall will leave you amazed. It has very old book shops, eateries, bakeries and coffee shops. I always wonder why hill stations have great bakeries and that too those which are years old. Anyways, walking on mall made us thirsty and we headed to HTDC’s shop under a huge tree to quench our thirst with fresh apple juice. It’s on the upper mall. And you can watch people riding horse, clicking selfies, taking family pictures. One can also wear Himachali dress and get clicked. After a long stroll, we went to Indian Coffee House, one of the oldest coffee houses in India.

Strawberry Jelly Cream at Indian Coffee House

Strawberry Jelly Cream at Indian Coffee House

It is famous for Indian style filter coffee and Strawberry Jelly Cream. The taste of strawberry jelly along with cream and little crystals of ice melted in mouth and tasted very good. The day was retiring and we too were tired after a long stroll. There are benches on mall where one can take rest. There’s a little area at the middle, we chose that place to sit and sooth our eyes with changing colors of sunset. We then headed to Goofa and Ashiana for dinner. The amazing thing about this place is that if you decide to sit in the outer area of the restaurant, you will get to see amazing view of lit up houses on the hills. The food, the cool breeze and the view are enough to fulfill your visit to Shimla.

 

Gurdwara at Shimla!

Gurdwara at Shimla!

I woke up little late next day as I was enjoying being in bed more. I got ready till early afternoon and along with my friend, went out to try out a new restaurant for breakfast. So the restaurant to hit for breakfast was Wake $ Bake. It is a very small restaurant on the mall. The yellow window panes let you see the outside building and the people on the mall. It is best in all ways. Be the ambiance or the service or the food. I loved being there. You just can’t miss it if you are in Shimla. I then wanted to visit Gurdwara in Shimla. This is ritual that has been inculcated in to me by my parents. Where ever we go, we make it a point to pay our homage to a Gurdwara at that place. One need to cross many stairs downwards from mall to reach Gurdwara, we actually got worried to climb all those stairs back to mall. But we were determined to pay our homage at Gurdwara. Thank god! My friend found out about lift which goes up till mall. There’s a nominal charge of Rs10 per person for the lift. We took a breath of sigh on reaching mall 😛 :).

 

We then headed to ‘Thakur Brata’, a famous shop for pickles and murabba’s (traditionally sweet). It seemed to be a very old shop. You can also get pure honey of hills and ayurvedic medicines. As I mentioned hill stations have very good bakeries and Shimla is no different. It has three famous bakeries, Krishna Bakers (being the oldest), Trishool and Baljee’s. You can try different breads and pastries at these bakeries. Baljee’s have Indian sweets too. I bought some freshly baked biscuits for my parents back at home. We then spent some time on the mall. We watched people talking and walking, mothers waiting outside school for their kids, lovers walking hand in hand, oldies enjoying post retirement with their friends. Everybody was happy being there! God damn! There’s so much to observe and write.

 

View from Dining Table at Goofa

View from Dining Table at Goofa

 

I am very fond of watching plays. The lighting, the stage, the actors and the perfectly written stories can sometimes give you goose bumps. And we got a chance to watch a play ‘Chanakya’ by a renowned TV actor Manoj Joshi. We were lucky enough! After having dinner at Goofa, we headed back to take a sound sleep for few hours and start our journey back home.

 

While writing this blog, I am back to my daily routine. And I’m missing being in Shimla. I think that’s the best thing about travelling. After coming back, you have stories to tell; you have things to write about, you have pictures to share.

 

I’m about to end this blog but there’s a feeling that a lot more has left unwritten. The feeling of being there has not been expressed well in words. Anyways, there has to be end to a vacation and this blog too. But now you know your next destination for leisure trip and to enjoy the sweetness of doing nothing:). It will rejuvenate your soul!

Sunset from Mall Road

Sunset from Mall Road

 

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