Reflections: The People Of The Himachal Villages

Small friendly gestures, quick laughs, a fleeting romance in the heart or a simple, resonating conversation on the road. Cherished by travellers, these interactions are unexpected and what makes them more special is that they are between complete strangers. You may not know the person’s name, background or any details at all. And yet those moments of camaraderie, love, respect are usually a part and parcel of our travel life. Something we look forward to, expect and love. They often get us through doubts. Re-instill our faith in the world. And sometimes even help us out in sticky situations.

But how little we know about these people. Being on the road we keep moving on, lots of questions but only the moving terrain around us answers them.

Being here in the Himachali mountain town for a month, I had time to find some answers about the people, the culture, economic situation and other random bits like making tea with jaggery (yumm!). And yet, a month is hardly a long time especially for an introvert like me. So I find myself only more curious with more questions. But also some insight about village life and these people.Continue reading

Solo Travel Question: What Happens If Something Goes Wrong?

Solo Travel: Solo Trekking in Himalayas

The above image is during my solo trek to Serolsar Lake, Himachal.

Conversations about the pros and cons of solo travel keeps happening around me. Naturally because I travel solo. And all sorts of random places I land up solo – religious events, cycling in the countryside and recently trekking the himalayas. A lot of people look at me curiously and some of them make some comments (some surprised exclamation) and even fewer start a conversation.

It usually starts with ‘Why are you solo?’ or ‘You are solo :O?’ and then moves to other aspects.

Especially in India, it almost always touches upon the safety aspect.

Note that I don’t mean safety from sexual violence perspective. Because I have spent a lot of time in parts of India which are safe in that regards. I mean as safe as it gets (it’s never totally safe anywhere IMHO). I don’t have to worry about my fundamental safety here. In fact I have even been in places (for example Himalayas and Coorg) where people have told, “arey, yahaan aisa sab nahin hota. Jahaan jaana hain jaao” (here such stuff doesn’t happen, go where ever you want).

So, one of the recurrent themes in this conversation,

“While travelling solo, anything might happen – like you may fall sick or slip or get stranded, wouldn’t it be better to have someone with you?”Continue reading

Spiti Valley: Meeting High Himalayas, Travel Guide

Spiti Valley High Mountains

योगीश्वराय महादेवाय त्रयंबकाय त्रिपुरान्तकाय
त्रिकाग्नि कालाय कालाग्नि रुद्राय नीलकण्ठाय मृत्युञ्जयाय सर्वेश्वराय सदाशिवाय
महादेवाय नमः महादेवाय नमः महादेवाय नमः

I have explored various parts of the Himalayas in India. The chardham in Uttarakhand, gardens and lakes of Kashmir, Buddhist ambience of Sikkim, amazing hospitality of Himachalis – the diversity and mountain environment make a rich experience. I have also been to high altitude places a few times but it was only in Spiti that I truly got acquainted with the ‘high’ Himalayas.

This was a trip where I spent 4 days completely in over 10000 ft. Snow clad peaks became common sight. To the extent that after 3 days, we even stopped clicking pics all the time, because every where we looked was a picture worthy, totally fantastic view.Continue reading

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