Jibhi: A Month in the Mountains

misty town Jibhi

This Himalayan trip was easily one of my best – a week in the astounding desert of Spiti and then over a month in Jibhi – a beautiful, lush green mountain town at 7,000 ft. The idea was simple, leave the metropolis madness called Mumbai behind and be closer to nature. And so it happened.

The Offbeat Shimla Manali Route via Seraj Valley and Jibhi

There are three Shimla to Manali routes – 1) the offbeat one via Seraj Valley, on which lies Jibhi, 2) the popular one via Mandi and 3) the longer one via Spiti valley.

There may also be a fourth route with a longer westwards circuit near Mandi.

Jibhi is off the usual Indian tourist route. But surprisingly it is very much on the Israeli tourist route. I found it surprising but probably the proximity to the popular Kasol valley is the reason. I chatted with three Israeli travellers in the Kshatra cafe of Jibhi and it was an eye opener. They told me that Israel has alway considered India a close ally and they love the culture not because it is cheap (inexpensive), but because it deeply resonates with them. Oh and two of them had come to spend their honeymoon in India – that shows how much they love this country! And both did Yoga. The third guy had done multiple vipassana programs. So… wow! Far cry from the stereotyped image of Israelis holed up in cheap room of an Indian town basically for the opium.

This trip to Jibhi was filled with interesting conversations and revelations. I made friendships that have lasted beyond the place and time. Still in touch with many of them, met a few later on elsewhere and looking forward to meeting them again!Continue reading

Wandering In The Himalayas : 50 Days In Spiti, Jibhi and Shimla

serolsar lake

What is it about ‘a month’ of time, that makes it really exciting to spend ‘a month’ in a place? Wandering in the Himalayas for a month had been on my mind since a long time. Now that it has happened, I am thinking of spending a few more months next time around. 😀 I think a year seems more of consequence as it allows us to see the place in all its seasons and festivals.

Lesser Known Places in the Himachal

This June – July 2017, I spent over a month and half in the Himalayas. I covered a lovely, fairly offbeat route in the mountains. And there are many of you out there who are looking to move outside of the tourist circuit. Well, kudos on looking around for different places to explore. It simply doesn’t make sense to keep to tourist hot spots, especially with the problems of high prices, ecological sustainability, crowds, noise and so on. But keeping these problems of the tourist hot spots in mind, it becomes our responsibility that when we move off the tourist track, we ensure that we don’t become a cause of these problems ourselves. We will definitely impact the places we land up in as travellers. But the question is how will we impact them?Continue reading

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

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

Cycling In Different Corners Of The World

Buy Or Rent A Cycle

I prefer slow, immersive travel experiences. In the Summer of 2015 I went on my first trip to Europe, and tried out solo cycle touring. It was amazing and I found it very well suited for my tastes. Since then I have been on more cycling adventures in other countries and within India too. Writing details about these trips is time consuming and it typically happens only after the trip is over. Sometimes I get caught up with other stuff then it doesn’t happen at all. So, I have created this post to quickly jot down notes. As and when I write detailed blog posts I will link back here, so this becomes one big repository of my cycling experiences.

Also added articles on cycling gear, other logistical stuff and interviews with cyclists, they have been listed right at the end. All trips are solo unless otherwise stated.Continue reading

Kalaghoda Arts Festival, Mumbai

A few pictures from the Kalaghoda Arts Festival 2017 & a quick note on how to best experience it. These are overall my thoughts about how this festival can be experienced. If you want to go there to take your photographs with the installations then I suggest you do that along with other more immersive ways of experiencing this.

How To Best Experience The Kalaghoda Arts Festival

Check the schedule online. There is a whole gamut of events from movies, plays, music programs, workshops, talks and so on. A lot of them are completely free. So look at which of these events interest you and go for them. When you visit to attend the event, at the same time you can keep some extra time and look at the art installations and visit the myriad stalls too.

Art Installations:

Try to immerse yourself in the art installations by reading what they depict. Participate in the interactive ones. They are not always great, but it is still interesting to see them. The groups behind some of those installations can be interesting too.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