Impact Of My First Solo Cycling & Camping Trip: Why Travel?

I had jotted down this post after my first solo cycling and camping trip from Berlin to Copenhagen. This was after many months of that trip – so I am not talking about the euphoria right after the trip. In fact right after the trip, I was heartbroken because I didn’t want to stop the cycle touring or camping at all. And I felt bleak because in India I don’t have adequate infrastructure or social situation to go on such trips.

I am publishing this post now, because I have a whole second level post that jumps a whole new level. But that post is still in making. I need to articulate first, then write and then publish. The changes that happened after my second cycling trip to Australia, Taiwan and Tamil Nadu were a whole different gear.

But for now….. this…. 🙂Continue reading

Taiwan: An Experience Of Zen

Green rolling hills, beautiful country views with a Buddhist temple perched austerely on a hilltop. Holistic accommodation, serene vibes, friendly people and easy vegetarian food. This is the image of Taiwan that a Canadian friend of mine had shared with me many years ago. It was the first time I ever really thought of exploring Taiwan! And when the plans to visit this island country happened a few months back, I was totally over excited.

😀 A whole month in Taiwan!

So following my cycling adventure in Australia and tryst with some very cold temperatures, I was really happy to jump fly off to Taiwan which was at pleasant 30C! 🙂

When I landed here however, I had a pretty crazy day, but I kept picking up these amazing small touches in this country that were so thoughtful. I had not seen such thoughtful user design anywhere else in Europe nor Australia. And over time I found myself telling people to visit Taiwan to experience some Zen. And it was completely unexpected.

Here is an attempt at capturing this feeling and sharing it with you,Continue reading

Traveling 2016: Year End Review

Year: 2016
On the road: Just about 4 months
Countries: Australia, India, Taiwan

It is hard to write this 2016 review post because I am in a bit of a daze. Since September to mid-December my life has been on one intensely awesome ride that I find hard to grasp. So much in life has changed in a great way and I feel that if I wrote it down I might lose it. Maybe things will ‘come back to normal’ which is not desired at all. But as with everything the moment even a thread of fear enters my heart, I must face it. So here goes,

Anyway in life I have no interest in wasting time on stuff that is transient. So let me try and articulate about the 3 and half months traveling.

Firstly this was my longest continuous trip so far. This was just my second solo international trip – the first being cycling in Europe. And I was carrying my bicycle from India to everywhere and back. There were two completely new countries – Australia and Taiwan.

Australia culture-wise was fairly normal – western. But the land, the flora & fauna were a new experience. The weather was also a new experience – I have never spent so much time in such cold and that too camping many days. After my trip to Europe it was awesome to find that there was hardly any language barrier. So long conversations with people started happening. Eventually I made some really good friends.Continue reading

TriMandir – Adalaj, Ahmedabad

Trimandir in Twilight
Trimandir backview from the ashram side

Trimandir on the outskirts of Ahmedabad has three major deities – Simandhar swami, Shiva and Vishnu. Yes, Simandhar swami is from the Jain religion. Along with him there are a number of other Jain idols too – Mahavira, Parshavanath, Rushabh, Ajitnath and Padmaprabhu. Not sure how these Jinas from the Jain 24 + 20 tirthankars have been chosen. Traditionally in Jain temples the idols are chosen on basis of some astrological calculations done by Pujaris, as far as I know. Not sure if same method has been used here. Continue reading

Kali Temple of Kolkata, Shakti Peeth

Spent a relaxed 5 days in Kolkata last month. I have been to this city earlier but always with family as my close relatives stay here including my grand mom 🙂 This time I planned to spend time with family AND explore the intriguing Kolkata!

One of the first places that I wanted to take a look at was the Kali temple, as Kolkata is a city that intrigues with all sorts of dark stuffs. No, if that caught your interest – I didn’t majorly explore any “dark stuff”. But I did dig into some of the oldest temples in Kolkata. My interest in temples fundamentally lies in really old temples where I can sit and meditate for a while. I also like to understand the older traditions, rituals, culture, architecture and so on.

Kali Temple, Kalighat

Kali – Calcuttawali, this a saying I have often heard but never thought much of it until I started researching what to explore in Kolkata and realized that the entire region predominantly worships the Devi and there are some fairly significant Kali temples. This one at Kalighat is within Kolkata while another popular one is the Kali Temple @ Dakshineshwar near the Belur Math.Continue reading

Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra – Behind The Scenes Story

It so happened that I planned my Jagannath Puri trip a week before the Rath Yatra which brings millions of devotees to this sleepy, coastal town in Orissa. If I had planned a week later, I would have really struggled with booking and high costs. To attend a festival like the Rath Yatra – which I would love to at some point – I would probably need to prepare earlier with regards accommodation.

I was able to see the preparations behind the Rath Yatra, and understand the Puri religious eco-system a bit better. It was exciting to visit the three Raths (chariots) being made on the wide public road outside the Jagannath Temple and note the daily progress in the work. Continue reading

Kumbh Mela: Ujjain Simhasth, May 2016, Photos

Quick trip to Ujjain for the Simhasth Kumbh Mela happened in early May. I had traveled to Nashik for my first Kumbh Mela experience in 2015 and I deliberately went on the non-Shahi snan days. I was concerned about the crowds and overall facilities.

This time for Ujjain I went impromptu on the 7-8th May weekend. I left on Friday 6th May by an overnight Volvo – a company called Ashok travels. Surprisingly it actually started on time and was quite decent. I reached Ujjain the next day, before noon. Continue reading

Social Implications of Solo Travel, India

When I started solo traveling in 2009, it all happened a bit impromptu. I had a basic plan in place, Mumbai – Goa – Bangalore (transit) – Mysore – Coimbatore (yoga ashram). I provided all accommodation details with contact numbers to my parents and that was pretty much it.

As I started doing this more often, the question arose about what to tell people – specifically relatives. Where do I keep disappearing sometimes for a whole month!? This was a time when solo traveling, especially women solo traveling hadn’t become the buzz word it is now. Many people close to me suggested that I tell people I am traveling with another girl friend, no one would really know the truth and it would look so much more normal.Continue reading