• Thiksey Monastery with the Indus Valley plains below
    Asia,  Blog,  India,  Travelogue

    Thiksey Monastery – Kingdom in the sky

    Perched on an outcrop, at an altitude of 3,600m and approximately 18km from Leh, on the highway to Manali, is a place so unique, it is like a kingdom onto itself. This is Thiksey Monastery or Thikse Gomba. The mountains of Leh A bit of history In the early part of the 15th century, Je Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug School or Yellow Hats, sent six of his disciples to remote regions of Tibet to spread the teachings of the new school. Tsongkhapa gave one of his disciples, Jangsem Sherab Zangpo, a small statue of Amitayus and directed him to meet the King of Ladakh seeking his help. The King…

  • A boatman gets his boat ready for the day
    Asia,  Blog,  India,  Travelogue

    Break of dawn at Manmandir Ghat

    There’s something magical about rivers. Silent and serene most of the times, and yet devastatingly powerful when they choose. The Ganges, especially when you are in Varanasi, is one of them. The best time to gaze at its beauty is early in the morning, just before the sun rises, from any of the 85 ghats that dot the bank. Steps leading to a small temple The highlights of a visit to Kashinath temple is to make it for the first aarti, or prayer offering. It’s offered before the sun rises, between 3 and 4 am every day. However, you need to be there much before that, as there normally is…

  • Views of the Indian Ocean from the ramparts at Galle Fort
    Asia,  Blog,  Sri Lanka,  Travelogue

    Postcards from Galle Fort

    If there is one place where you can see the rise and fall of western empires, it must be Galle in Sri Lanka. And nothing encapsulates that better than Galle Fort. View of the Galle Clock Tower from the Moon Bastion It was originally built by the Portuguese in 1588. Then along came the Dutch who fortified it further from 1649. The British, not wishing to be left behind, went about with their own modification from 1796. It was finally the Sri Lankans who, immediately after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, went about restoring it to its present glory. Views of the town within the walls of Galle Fort Today,…

  • Fishing on the Umngot River
    Asia,  Blog,  India,  Travelogue

    Discover a gem in Meghalaya

    Hidden away in the southern tip of Meghalaya, around 100 km from the Shillong and barely 2 km from the international border with Bangladesh, is a picturesque town with lush greenery, crystal clear waters and clean air that you would be hard-pressed to find anywhere. That town is Dawki. View of Umngot River Dawki (Duki or Dauki) has the only direct road route that connects it with Bangladesh, and initially served as a trading town between the two countries. In fact, Dawki is well known for its coal mines and limestone exports. An elderly local woman Crystal-clear waters of the Umngot River However, of late, several visitors have discovered its…

  • Pangong Tso in all its glory
    Asia,  Blog,  India,  Travelogue

    Shadow under the clouds

    How often do you see a photograph of a place and think you’re looking at a painting so life-like, it just doesn’t feel real. That’s the effect that Pangong Tso had on me when I would see photographs in magazines. Pangong Tso with the strip of land where the movie ‘3 Idiots’ was shot And then, years later, as I laughed through a Hindi movie set in this stunning locale, with a landscape that is so rich and still so different, I was still trying to convince myself that is isn’t real, but just an elaborate film set. Idiot that I was, I should have known better. The road to…

  • Nighttime at Muttrah Souq
    Asia,  Blog,  Oman,  Travelogue

    Arabian fantasies

    Whether you like it or not, in a mood to bargain over a souvenir or just do a bit of window shopping, claustrophobic or comfortable in a crowd, a visit to a souq is an absolute must. Especially when you travel to some of the Middle East and Levant countries. Traditional lanterns hang on the ceiling It’s the same when it comes to Muscat, Oman. And one of the best places to experience it is in Muttrah Souq. It’s also called Al Dhalam by the locals, which translates to Market of Darkness. That’s because there’s no natural light that comes through. Frankincense burning in a shop For a first-time visitor,…

  • Centimetre VII
    Austria,  Blog,  Europe,  Resources,  Reviews,  Travelogue

    Vienna’s friendliest bartender is at Centimetre VII

    The next time you are in Vienna Austria, why not take time off your sightseeing and make a trip to Centimetre VII. Once there, find yourself a comfortable table with a view, or sit at the bar, order your favourite pint and get down to feeling right at home. A customer sits by himself enjoying his lunch at Centimetre VII Vienna That’s what we did when we were in Vienna. On our first full day in the city, we found ourselves outside Alser Strasse Station. As we tried to figure out how to reach our first destination for the day, figuring whether we go north, south, east or west, something…

  • The historic Tram # 7N
    Blog,  Europe,  Sweden,  Travelogue

    The historic Tram # 7N

    While I am sure there are lots of cities around the world where you can see vintage trams, and perhaps travel in them, Stockholm offered me the opportunity to experience it firsthand. Grand Hôtel Stockholm The Djurgårdslinjen Line service between Norrmalmstorg and Waldemarsudde, also called Tram # 7N, is a well-maintained piece of history that plies this historic route. Some of these trams go back as far as the 1910s, right up to the 1960s, with most of them from Stockholm. However, a few of them are also from Gothenburg and even as far as Oslo. The Djurgården Line service Like the rest of the tram routes in Stockholm and…

  • Blog,  Europe,  Finland,  Resources,  Reviews,  Travelogue

    Sivukirjasto in Kallio is cool

    A good indication of how expensive a city Helsinki can be on your wallet is to order a pint of beer, for starters. Helsinki Central Station Having just crossed the Baltic sea, from, well, the Baltic States, I noticed a gradual rise in the price of beer – from Vilnius (cheapest), through Riga (cheaper) and into Tallinn (cheap). However, once we were across the sea and had finally set foot in Helsinki, I thought 7-8 euros was daylight robbery.  A tram line in Helsinki While the first few days went discovering all that the city had to offer, and spending those hard-earned euros, it was only a few days later…

  • St Peter's Church Spire
    Blog,  Europe,  Latvia,  Travelogue

    Bremen Town Musicians

    What do perestroika, the Brothers Grimm and this statue in Riga, Latvia have in common? Depends on your understanding of history, especially during the early 1990s, when Europe was going through winds of change. View of St Peter’s Church in Riga On one of those wet afternoons while in Riga, my travel buddy and I managed to find ourselves in front of St Peter’s Church. Originally built more than 800 years ago, turns out it is one of the city’s most important monuments. And while only a few walls and pillars are what remain of the original construction, it still has some of the most amazing Gothic architecture. The highlight,…