• Rush hour on Park Street at night
    Asia,  Blog,  India,  Travelogue

    Oh Calcutta

    It’s a city that elicits various responses. Some swear by it, while others swear at it. This is Kolkata. A smile can brighten up anyone’s day I had first visited Kolkata in October of 2011, having just finished a week’s stay in Shillong. The idea was to meet with a friend, have a few drinks, and try see a city I’d wanted to visit for many years. As luck would have it, it was pouring. There were parts of the city that were no-go zones, including where my friend lived. So my time was spent at another friend’s home, close to the airport, on Park Street, which is as close…

  • Passing through the tea estates on the way to Ella
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    In praise of train travel

    What’s it about long-distance train journeys that brings out the little child in me. A sense of happiness each time I take my seat, listening to the train as it whistles past towns and the countryside. Hurtling through tunnels or racing with the setting sun. There is something that is magical and wonderful about train travel, letting me be the little kid that I always will be. Whizzing through a tunnel between Mostar and Sarajevo Hours spent watching from a window or door of a moving train, as scene after scene unfold. Striking up conversations with complete strangers as they get in at different stations, heading to places near and…

  • The sand dunes of Hunder
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    The sand dunes of Hunder

    When you visualise deserts, chances are the first visuals that come to mind is the vast emptiness of the Sahara, with its extremely hot temperatures, or closer here in India, the famed Thar desert. Until I ended up in Hunder, in the Nubra valley. An oasis in the midst of the sand dunes I’ve seen plenty of photographs and friends recount their experiences travelling through an area marked by a stunning lake, beautiful monastaries and mountains that simply take your breath away. Sand dunes with the mountains as backdrop However, nothing prepared me for what I experienced in Hunder, about 150 odd kilometers from the capital Leh. Nestled within the…

  • Leh - Manali highway
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    A road trip unlike any other

    There are some drives you do. You know you can and look forward to that long road trip. And then there are some drives that you wouldn’t. Not for lack of wanting to, but because you know it requires certain skills, none of which I have. Ladakh is one of those places. Pit stop just after Khardung La rest area Making friends Thankfully, as part of the package, I had a driver through our five-day stay in Ladakh. From the moment he picked me up at the airport, right to the moment when, five days later, he dropped me right outside the airport, once again. Our driver through my stay…

  • Thiksey Monastery with the Indus Valley plains below
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    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
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    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…

  • Fishing on the Umngot River
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    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
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    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…

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    Bara Bazar

    Going to a market isn’t among my favourite things. However, at the insistence of a friend I was staying with, we headed to Iewduh, the local market in Shillong one early morning. We needed to buy grocery supplies to feed over 100 guests at his residence that evening. A crowded alley in the market Turns out Iewduh (pronounced yyoh-dohh), or Bara Bazar as it is popularly known as, is one of the oldest and biggest markets in the Northeast in India. It’s also one of the most cramped markets I’ve been too. Too bad if you’re claustrophobic. Even worse if you get lost. Finding your way to that exact same…

  • Sailing on the Ganges
    Asia,  Blog,  India,  Travelogue

    Sailing on the Ganges

    I last visited Varanasi in 1990, in my first year of college. It was the holidays, and I needed to get out of the city, and explore another place, another country. It was also the first time I was doing a solo trip. Close up of one the structures at Dashashwamedh Ghat While I am not a solo traveller, this was a journey I enjoyed from start to finish, if you will ignore the various mishaps that transpired along the way. Which is how I found myself in Varanasi. View of Ram Mahal Ghat The border guard at the Nepal-India border had taken some dollars that I was carrying, leaving…