Tag Archives: travel

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 4

A quick recap from the last blog posts (post 1post 2post 3) in this trek series. We kick-started our journey from Chennai and landed on Dehra Dun via a flight. From there, we hired a cab to reach Rishikesh, our base camp. Then, we traveled to Joshimath by bus and trekked to Ghangaria from Govindghat. From Ghangaria, we hiked the most beautiful Valley of Flowers and the divine Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib.

Day 5: 1st August 2019

As usual, we woke up early and was all set and packed by 7.30 am to commence our descent back to Govindghat. I decided no to repeat my mistake, so along with others, I dropped my backpack to the Mule Guy, hoping he would safely transport it to our bus stationed at Govindghat. I decided to trek down on foot, whereas Buddy, Nigi, Govi, and Thiyaga had another plan, to fly by Helicopter.

Luckily, I got the company of the super-fast Himakar and Kavya for this leg of the journey. We oddly stopped anywhere in between, except for some lemonade on the way. It was a fun and easy downhill trek. In fact, we even waved at the chopper that our guys flew, I wonder if they had noticed it. It was just around 10.30 when we reached Pulna. Again, I was determined not to repeat my mistakes. So, we took a shared cab back to Govindghat instead of trekking down the motorable road. We were a little tired and super hungry as we reached Govindghat around 11 am. Again it was a Gurudwara to the rescue. We had a heavenly Langar before returning back to our bus. It took around 3 pm for the rest of the folks to return to the bus and head to our next camp. In the meantime, we whiled away the time chitchatting and catching up with some sleep. After an hour and a half drive on the thrilling mountainous roads, we reached our next camp, YHAI Badrinath.

Hands down, it was possibly the poshest camp that we have stayed in all our 3 treks with YHAI. As usual, we were welcomed with some hot tea and Potato Fritters. Badrinath is also home to the most famous Badrinarayan Temple. It’s considered to be one of the Char Dham (“four abodes”), visiting which would help in reach salvation. To our advantage, the temple was just a km from our camp and is open only from April to October. So, after a quick fresh-up, we merrily walked to the temple. This one is definitely one of the unique temples I have ever visited. The front face of the temple looked more like a Buddhist monastery, rather than the typical towered structure. After the temple visit, we roamed around shopping souvenirs for our families. Then, after heading back to the camp, post our dinner, we had some fun time dancing and singing at the common hall. And, that’s how yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 6: 2nd August 2019

I woke up with all the excitement, cos we would be visiting a place of both geographical and religious importance. The camp had a long-standing tradition that every group visits the camp plants a sapling. So, we planted a couple of plants before starting for the day. A 20 mins drive and a couple of mins of walk bought us to our next destination, a significant one. Around 8 am, we reached Mana, the last village of India. Located 10,500 ft above the sea level and 26 km of the Indo-Tibetan border makes Mana the last inhabited village of India. Quite interestingly, while exiting on the other end of Mana, you would notice a few shops self proclaim themselves to be the last shop/tea shop in India.

From there, we had to trek another 6 km to reach our next spot. The first half of the trail was kind of flat, and the next half was quite steep and challenging. Nevertheless, it was the most scenic route of the whole trek and a bit adventurous too. As we approached, I was awestruck by the view of the magnificent Vasudhara Falls. The scene of the water cascading 145 mt tall mountain cliff and the sound of the water splashing down the rock bed was absolutely breathtaking. Views like these signify how minuscule and weak we humans in front of nature’s forces. We spent almost an hour at the falls enjoying its sheer beauty, before returning. It was already around 2 pm when we reach back to Mana, and we were super hungry. So, we went to “India’s Last Tea And Cofee Corner” and had some Potato Fritters and some Maggi. Then back at the camp, the rest of the day was spent relaxing and chitchatting. Just like the last night, we even had some fun sessions at the common hall. And, that’s how yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 7: 3rd August 2019

Life is uncertain as much as the mountain weather. We were supposed to start back to our base camp as early as 7 am. But, as it heavily rained the last night, our departure got delayed till 10.45 am due to landslides. The clogged roads and very slow-moving traffic further added to the delayed start, and it was already 1.30 pm when we crossed GovindChat. Again yet another massive landslide after VishnuPrayag caused a heavy traffic jam and delayed us further by an additional couple of hours.

It started getting dark by 7 pm as we crossed the Rudraprayag. And, our driver advised us that it’s not safe to drive on the mountain roads all night, That crashed our hope of reaching Rishikesh by the same day. As advised by YHAI, we reached the town of Srinagar Garhwal around 9.30, where we would be spending the night at a Gurudwara. Again, a Gurudwara to rescue. We were super tired traveling on the bus for a whole day. So, we went and hit our bed straight after having our dinner at a nearby cafe. And, that’s how yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 8: 4th August 2019

As per our initial itinerary, we should have already been in Mussoorie. But, due to the delays the last day, we haven’t even reached our base camp, Rishikesh yet. Now, expecting the unexpected on the mountain had become a new norm for us. As planned, we departed to Rishikesh as early as 5.30 am. After a quick stop for breakfast around 7, we finally reached our base camp by 9.40 am. Then, we got freshened up, collected our extra luggage, and completed the checkout formalities before finally bidding adieu to the base camp.

By noon we got a cab and headed to our next destination Mussoorie, a hill station located a couple of hours drive from Rishikesh. On arriving, we decided to chuck all our initial plans to visit the famous touristy places. And, unanimously chose to relax and unwind after one hell of an adventurous trek. As soon as we reached our homestay, it started to rain heavily. Damn, yet another curveball to our plans. In the meanwhile waiting for the rain to subside, I took a relaxing hot shower and ate my lunch. Luckily, the rain stopped around 4 pm, and our chances to roam around became as bright as the sun that began showing up. Our first stop was the Lovely Omelet Centre, one of the most famous eateries in Mussoorie. I was super impressed even with their plain omelet and was able to see my friends happy devouring their chili cheese and butter versions.

Next, we took a cab to Landour to taste the food at Char Dukan, one of the oldest eateries and well known to be frequently visited by celebrities. There, we had their famous Bun Omelet, Choco Banana Waffles, and soothing Ginger Lemon Tea.

Then we roamed on the Mall road for a while, just for the food to get digested. Finally, we concluded the outing with a sumptuous dinner at Kal Sang, a Chinese & Tibetan restaurant.

Back at the homestay, we spent the night boozing and playing board games. And, that’s how yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 9: 5th August 2019

The day started well with a yummy Poha made by the homestay people. Being the last day of this trip, and I felt both homesickness and the anxiety of going back to the routine. It was a kind of hard to describe mixed feelings for me. Around 11.30 am, we took a cab to Dehradun Airport, from where we would be boarding our flights to Chennai via Mumbai.

On the way, we decided to try the Biriyani at the most famous Doon Darbar restaurant. Against my expectation, the not so spicy Biriyani failed to impress me but loved their Special Chicken Changezi.

After a splendid meal, we reached the airport around 2.30 pm and checked in on time for our flight scheduled at 4 pm. Our bad, the flight got delayed due to the bad weather and took off to Mumbai only by 4.55 pm. Again, the bad weather played the villain and made our flight circle the Mumbai skies for a while. Only after landing around 7.30, we realized that our 8 pm connecting flight to Chennai would depart from another terminal. Damn, we took an Auto and rushed to the Terminal 2 and literally ran in the airport to board our flight on time. For a while, it felt like “The Amazing Race” tv reality show. Finally, we landed around 10.30 pm and, there is nothing like the feel of homecoming. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t quite welcoming. It seems, unlike us, our baggage didn’t make it on time to the flight, and we had to wait for another hour to receive them. At that point, all I needed was to get done with this trip and the endless curveballs that it throws at me. Ultimately, we got back our languages just past midnight and headed back to each other’s house after bidding adieu. And, that’s how an awesome trip came to an end.

Right from the bus accident on day 2 to the baggage delay on the very last day, this trip was full of twists and turns, just like those mighty mountains. That’s definitely why this is a Trip To Remember.

The End.

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 3

A quick recap from the last blog posts  (post 1, post 2) in this trek series.
We kick-started our journey from Chennai and landed on Dehra Dun via a flight. From there, we hired a cab to reach Rishikesh, our base camp. Then, we traveled to Joshimath by bus and trekked to Ghangaria from Govindghat.

Day 4: 30th July 2019

It was around 7.30 am, we started our trek from camp Ghangaria. A few meters down, the route branched into two. One led to the most anticipated Valley of Flowers (VOF) and another to the Hemkund Sahib. As per the itinerary, we headed towards the former as the latter was scheduled for the next day. With a tiny waterfall, a rapidly flowing river, and flowers all along the way, the route was serene and scenic. Just like the icing on the cake, the misty climate added to the bliss. It was roughly 4km trek with an altitude gain of 1500 ft to the opening of the valley. The rest 3 km into the valley was kind of flat. As the mules aren’t allowed inside the valley, a few porters carried the elderly persons and the kids on their back. The route wasn’t as tough as the last one, which made the trek less demanding and enjoyable.

Once we entered the valley, it felt like heaven. Especially if you are someone who enjoys the tiny wonders of nature. The place felt mesmerizing with thousand of flowers around me. After having my packed lunch around 11 am, I tagged along with the YHAI guide who patiently pointed me to many unique species of flowers around. One of the best experience was running behind the colorful buzzing honey bees and try clicking it while drinking the nectar from the flowers. Must say I got lucky and managed to capture one awesome pic. Undoubtedly, this natural botanical garden was one big feast to my eyes. Below is the little I managed to capture through my mobile camera. Brace for some pic spamming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After clicking a ton of pictures, we reached the second waterfall by 12 pm and started returning back from there. On the way back to the camp, I felt much delighted. Literally, the person inside me was jumping out of joy. Roughly around 3 pm, we arrived back at the camp. We relaxed a bit after having our usual hot soup and snacks. Then, around 7.30 pm, we had our dinner and played UNO after that. That’s how yet awesome day came to an end.

Day 4: 31st July 2019

The day started with a cup of hot tea early in the morning, followed by some hearty breakfast. Initially, we planned to begin our trek by 7 am. But, rain doesn’t seem to agree with our plans. So, we started our ascent around 7.45 am as soon as the downpour subsided. It was almost the same route as yesterday for the first 1 km. Then, at an intersection, we switched to the one that led us to Gurudwara Shri Hemkund Sahib, the summit of this trekking expedition. Situated roughly 15,000 ft above sea level, Hemkund Sahib is a sacred place visited by thousands of Sikhs every year. This leg of the trek was quite challenging as we had to trek 6 km one way with an altitude gain of ~5000 ft. Buddy, Nigilan, and Govi accompanied me for this whole stretch. Considering the altitude sickness factors, we decided to go slow and steady. After a couple of km, we stumbled upon a small tea shop and decided to take a short tea break. To our surprise, we noticed some soaked rice being laid out on a wooden plank for the birds to feed and a few Himalayan Sparrows feasting over them. Such a cute scene it was. With melting glaciers and ice-cold waterfalls, the route was a breathtaking one. Literally breathtaking, as you would feel your lungs screaming for more oxygen as you climb. Again, I got lucky. I somehow managed to click a beautiful pic of a Honeybee sucking nectar from a Himalayan Blue Poppy flower, the state flower of Uttarakhand. The last 1.5 km was strenuous and steep, but with great company, nothing is unconquerable. Finally, after 5 hours of excruciating trek, we reached the summit around 12.30 pm.

The Summit Pic - A mix of physical pain and mental joy

The Summit Pic – A mix of physical pain and mental joy

Finally, we were at the world’s highest Gurudwara, and this place had amazing positive vibes. What made me wonder was, how on this world did they build this Gurudwara, high over the mountains. After depositing our footwears to the kind volunteer there, we all entered the star-shaped Gurudwara and spent some time in their prayer session. In spite of not understanding even a single word, we sat throughout the sermon. To my surprise, they even provided us with some woolen blankets to keep us warm and comfortable. While exiting the prayer hall, we were served Kara Prasad, a sweet devotional offering. Just adjacent to the Gurudwara, located a beautiful lake filled with icy cold water straight from the glaciers. We even noticed a few devotees taking a dip into it, how strong!!. Just next to the lake, there exists a small temple that’s dedicated to Lakshmana, the brother of Rama. What astonished me was their Langar service, in spite of being located in such a high altitude. The hot tea and Kichadi served for the Langar was undoubtedly some of the soul touching food that I ever had.

After done with Hemkund Sahib, we began our descent around 1.45 pm. With continuous drizzling and mist causing low visibility, the downhill was as painful as the uphill trek. We took it slow with a couple of stops on the way for some hot tea and Maggi. Finally, we returned to the camp around 6 pm, totally exhausted.

To our relief, there was a shop nearby with electric massage chairs that eased out our pain a bit. Nothing like a hot water bath after a tiring day, followed by a good sleep. And, that’s how yet awesome day came to an end.

To Be Continued…

Trip To Remember – The Valley Of Flowers Trek – Part 2

Surprised?

Pertaining to a hypercritical life event, I am quite unsure about the availability of my time by the end of this month to write this blog post. So, trying to churn out something before I get super busy. Isn’t something better than nothing?

A quick recap from the last blog post in this trek series.
We kick-started our journey from Chennai and landed on Dehra Dun via a flight. From there, we hired a cab to reach Rishikesh, our base camp.

Day 2: 28th July 2019

We woke up around 4 am as instructed. Being a habitual early riser, it wasn’t hard at all for me. In no time, we quickly packed our bags and lunch for the day. Then we had a quick huddle for instructions followed by flagging off the bus by 5 am. The route was quite scenic with the clouds passing over the mountains, the valleys and the rivers flowing through them. Believe me, there is nothing like the view of breaking of dawn over the mountains. And, that’s the kind of scene I adore a lot.

It was all fine until our driver stopped the bus out of nowhere. Initially, we thought he stopped for nature’s call. But was super shocked at what we saw a few feet away. It was a bus simar to ours met with an accident and about to plunge down the valley. The only thing that was holding the bus from falling down was a thick fiber optic cable and a stone beneath it. Luckily it was just the driver riding the bus empty who somehow managed to escape safely. Then I realized it’s not just the climate on the mountains that’s unpredictable, the roads too. It took almost an hour for the local authorities and workers to slightly widen the road allowing passage of vehicle in a direction at a time. In the meanwhile, we had bread-jam, biscuits, and juice that we packed in bulk from the base camp.

That one bus crash

After a couple of hours on the road, the driver stopped by a Dhaba. Damn, I wouldn’t have stuffed myself with bread-jam and biscuits if I would have been aware of such hot and yummy Parathas that I could get on the way. Again around 11 am, we took a brief stop for some tea. It was such a bliss to drink tea by the riverbank covered by mountains. OMG, the view was breathtaking and even made not so good tea feel worthwhile. Later we crossed the town of Karnaprayag and stopped for lunch around 1.30 pm. We munched on stale Chapathi and Bhindi (Ladies finger/Okra) that we packed from our base camp. Luckily, the nearby shop served some Maggi for rescue.

A yet another 4 hours of tiring continuous bus journey took us to our next camp Joshimath aka Jyotirmath by 6.30 pm. Luckily they served some hot Tea and Pakodas for relief as soon as we checked in. As we freshened up, around 8 pm, some hot Rotis and Potato Curry were served for dinner. After some 12 hours of continuous and tiring bus journey, all I needed was some good rest. I dozed off with a little excitement of trekking after a long gap the next day. That’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

Day 3: 29th July 2019

Being an early riser, I woke up around 5 am as usual. As the dawn broke, I stood in a corner and rejoiced the view of clouds slowly moving over the mountains far away. Though it was a bit cold outside, the serenity of the environment brought peace and warmth to my soul. Narcissistically, I thanked my self for giving me such a blissful experience. Then came the hot Tea to add some warmth to the body too. While I was busy clicking some pics, our camp leader pointed to a nearby mountain and asked what do I see. After taking a closer look, I replied, it looks like a face. Then he corrected me saying, they call it the sleeping lady. Damn, how did I fail to notice, it did look like one.

Waking up to the views like these

Least I knew, Joshimath is famous for its temples. It’s also home to one of the four Maths established by the Indian saint Adi Shankaracharya. As most of us were interested, we decided to visit a few temples before heading towards our next camp. As planned, we started at 7 am after breakfast. First, we visited the most famous Adi Shankaracharya’s Math (monastery) and the nearby Kalpavriksha (divine tree) where he worshiped. Then we visited the marvelous Narsingh temple.

It was around 10 am when we got dropped at Govindghat, from where our trek would commence. For the ease of trek, we were given a couple of options. First, our bags could be ported directly to Ghangaria camp by Mules. Second, the initial 4 km of the route is motorable and could be covered by Jeep. Only after trekking the 1st 4 km, I realized that I failed to factor in an important aspect while considering the options, and that’s my fitness. By the time we reached the Pulna village (end of the motorable road), I was tired and dehydrated. While everyone else in our gang went ahead on their own phase, it was Nigilan who stuck with me accompanied me the whole route. After having our packed lunch at Pulna, to reach the camp alive, we decided to put our bags on the Mule and continue the trek. The next 6km wasn’t that difficult with moderate ups and downs. At the end of 10 km, we had Maggi and Tea in a shop along the fierce stream of water running down the mountains.

I must say, we literally crawled the final 4km. Blame the super steep stretch and exhausted us. It was the mutual pep talks and serenity of the mountains that motivated us all along the way. The sky was almost dark when we reached our camp at Ghangaria (10,000 ft) around 7 pm. Though our friends were worried about us being late, that didn’t stop them from playing a big prank on us. They almost made us believe that our bags were lost as the Mule fell on the way. After freshening up, we had our dinner and played some UNO. I dozed as my body screamed for some rest. That’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

To be continued …

How To Convince Your Parents To Let You Travel With Your Friends Or Solo

Now don’t get surprised for publishing the blog post a bit earlier than usual. Actually, I am traveling to someplace with less or no internet connectivity by the end of this month. So, I better write one before I get myself lost amidst nature without any intrusion of the internet. Doesn’t the duty come first?

post request

One of my foodie Instagrammer friend Vaishnavi posted a yummy pic of fried Momos from Kailash Kitchen, my most favorite Tibetian place in the town. With sheer temptation for some lip-smacking Momos, I commented “Yummy, stop tempting me” on her post. Replying to the same, she asked me to write a blog post on how to convince one’s parents to let them travel with friends or solo. Think the topic “how to convince your wife to let you travel with your friends or solo” would be much more apt to write given my current situation. Anyhow, here is my 2 paise.

“Once a year go someplace you’ve never been before”
– Dalai Lama

Before the convincing point, let me touch upon my views on why one must travel.

First of all, the experience and exposure that traveling gives are unparallel to none. It helps to come out of one’s comfort zone, explore & experience something new. Trying out new cuisines and meeting absolute strangers and befriending them is the most exciting part of any trip for me. That’s not all, it also helps one to understand the harsh reality that surrounds us. So, it doesn’t matter if you are hitchhiking or taking a charter flight, but keep traveling.

Below are the few tips that would help convince your parents.

Experience At Your Own Expense

Yes, you are right. Travell on your own hard-earned money rather than pestering your parents. It’s fine to depend on them for school and college excursions. But beyond that point, it’s better to take care of your trips by yourselves. The main reason for their disapproval of your trip expenses is to do with their perspective on spending money. By inlarge, the older generations preferred investing in assets rather than investing in experiences. So, better ask them only for permission and not for money along with it. Better the chances that they would say YES.

Being Self-sufficient

Being an independent and responsible person would give natural confidence to your parents. It gives them the faith that you are capable of handling hardships on your own on the course of your trip. If you are someone who would rely on your parents even for the tiniest of things, then it is going to be practically hard for them to let you on your own.

Company Of Familiar Face

To start with, travel with friends that your parents are familiar with. Someone like your long-time school friends or college besties whom your parents can easily associate as your friends. It’s even best if your parents have met them multiple times in the past. The best strategy would be adding some like aged cousins to the mix if possible.

Safety First

One thing that concerns the parents the most during travel is safety. To ensure the same, try starting with nearby safe and popular touristy places where the connectivity wouldn’t be an issue. Then you can gradually extend your travel to exotic places like forests and mountains that are close to nature with sparse connectivity.

Be A Rebel

Given the mentality of a typical Indian parent, in spite of you doing all the above, most probably they would still disapprove for your trip. In that case, better stand up for yourself and be a rebel. If you are so interested in moving out of your comfort zone and explore the world outside, then you must stop expecting the approval of your parents to travel. They would still blame you for wasting money and being irresponsible. But believe me, the pleasure of traveling is worth all of it.

To conclude, as I always say,

It’s about the journey not the destination – Happy Travelling.

Trip To Remember – Amritsar, Delhi & Agra – Part 4

A quick recap from the blog post in this series. Taking off from Chennai, we landed in Delhi. From there, we embarked upon a journey to one of my dream destination, Amristar via train. Visiting the golden temple was definitely one of the blissful experiences in my life. Then, a long day well spent roaming around Delhi visiting the Lotus Temple and the Akshardham Temple. The last thing I could remember was sleeping on the couch in the hostel’s common area exhausted.

Day 4 – 31st March 2018

We woke up around 3 am and departed to Agra by cab around 4 am. Both Alex & Ali got other plans, but Daniele & Justin paired with us for this trip. Sincere thanks to countless movies and songs references as the symbol of eternal love. Not to mention, the numerous portraits and souvenirs I see in the houses I visit. All these got me curious about this place and always wanted to visit there since my childhood. No introductions needed and yes, you guessed it right. It’s none other than one of the seven wonders of the world, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal, meaning “Crown of the Palaces” is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the Indian city of Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan, the builder. The tomb is the centerpiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall. – Wikipedia

We started quite early with an intention to catch the sheer beauty sun raise over the dome of Taj Mahal. But, unfortunately, we marginally missed it as we reached Agrad only by 7 am. The 230 km long drive along the Yamuna Highway was bit consoling as I got to catch up with some sleep.

Silhouette of the beauty as seen from the Yamuna Highway

No wonder it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. In spite of being there quite early in the morning, we had to wait in a long queue for tickets and security check before entering the premise. It felt overwhelming to see tourists around the globe traveling all the way to catch a glimpse of this beauty. In the meanwhile waiting in the queue something interesting happened. One of the CISF officers managing the security check casually enquired about our whereabouts. After a few mins of conversation, it turned out that his in-laws were the neighbors of Remya and they started discussing the common people they know. Such a small world, isn’t it?

Ticket to the paradise. With QR code.

A few steps ahead welcomed us the gigantic and tall Grand Gate, made of red stones with beautiful marble works. My excitement skyrocketed as we passed the main gateway.

In no time, I got lost in quite a familiar view composed of gardens, fountains and pathway leading to a giant white mausoleum. The same view that got featured in millions of photos, postcards and wallpapers. That’s the mighty Taj Mahal, I told myself for a reality check.

The most familiar view – The Poem Of Eternal Love On White Marble

Here comes the best part. When you go near and realize that it was nothing like what you have imagined all your life. Actually, it was much more huge and majestic than what I have imagined. OMG, the large main dome and the tall minarets, I stood there awestruck by its splendor. My thoughts weren’t around either Shahjahan, not Mumtaz or their eternal love. Rather on the hard work of those awesome artisans, craftsmen and builders who worked relentlessly to create this marvel.

Up close the beast with the beauty

White marbles and intricate inlay works made it look like a poem. As they say, the poem of eternal love on white marble. Our curiosity made us stand in the long queue that leads to the inner chambers of the mausoleum where Shahjahan and Mumtaz rest forever.

The Gang – Smiles on, in spite of a tiring day

By noon we were out of the super crowded Taj Mahal campus tired and hungry as always. After done with our lunch at a nearby restaurant, we headed straight back to Delhi. Wait, there is no way I am leaving Agra without getting some mouthwatering Agra ka Petha.

Back to Delhi, my self and Kavin took a short trip to Connaught Place (CP) to meet her friends in a resto-bar. Back at the hostel, we had a relaxing evening at the rooftop garden with fellow hostelers. Finally, a well-rested night in the last 5 days and that’s how an awesome day came to an end.

Fun time – Clicked using Danielle’s Polaroid

Day 5 – 1st March 2018

Woke up, packed our bags and checked out of the hostel. Then straightaway rushed to the airport to catch our morning flight en route to Chennai. It was one hell of a trip and was quite sad that it came to an end. Back at the Chennai airport, I decided to end my trip with a Biriyani as a tradition. While Remya, Shashi and Shalini decided to head back home, Kavin joined me for some yummy Biriyani. With multiple choices, we narrowed upon Sukkubhai Biryani that’s known for its Beef Biriyani and it’s proximity to the airport added to our advantage. On our way to the restaurant, Kavin surprised me with an awesome northern light painting and a hand-painted bookmark. Thanks a ton, Kavin, means a lot.

Oil painting and Bookmark

 

After munching on the succulent Beef Biriyani I headed back home and that’s how yet another awesome trip came to an end. Definitely, it’s a trip to remember.

The End.

Trip To Remember – Amritsar, Delhi & Agra – Part 3

A quick recap from the blog post in this series. Taking off from Chennai, we landed in Delhi. From there, we embarked upon a journey to one of my dream destination, Amristar via train. Visiting golden temple was definitely one of the blissful experiences in my life. Then, departed to our next destination, Agra via Delhi.

Day 3 – 30th March 2018
It must be around 12 am the information board just outside Hazrat Nizamuddin station notified that our train to Agra was delayed by more than an hour. In the meanwhile, we decided to relax with some tea in a nearby shop. The main reason behind our visit to Agra was none other than the most famous Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. Our train was scheduled to arrive at Agra quite early in the morning, we checked for the opening visiting hours on the official site. I noticed something that momentarily broke my heart, highlighted in red, it read, Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays for general viewing. It’s a moment of realization and how true when they say The devil is in the detail. Just missing a tiny detail has put the whole pan jeopardy. As a result, we were cluelessly stuck at a railway station in the outskirts of Delhi, that too in the midnight.

So, we decided to shuffle our plans to roam around the Delhi that day and catch up with the Agra plan the next day. As Shashi suggested, we called the hostel that we booked for the next day to check if they could be of any help. How lucky, in spite of being a popular and a busy one, to our surprise, they had a few empty beds to spare to squeeze us in. It was around 2 am when we reached the most awesome Madpackers Hostel, New Delhi. If you are traveling to Delhi and keen to meet interesting travelers plus a great place to stay without burning much cash, this is the one to go for. After a long and tiring day, you would have expected us to knock ourselves off on the bed. But to the contrary, we went up to their relaxing rooftop garden and chilled out with some drinks that we got at the Delhi airport. Close to the dawn, Remya and Shalini decided to catch up with some sleep. On the other hand, Shashi, Kavin & I woke up all night chit chatting and even took a morning walk in search for some hot tea.

Back to the hostel, post munching our complimentary breakfast we sat down at the common area to plan for the rest of the day. That’s where we met Danniele & Justin, 2 friends from the USA and Alex & Ali a couple from Germany all planning for the same. So, we teamed up on the common cause to explore Delhi. To our comfort, the Hauz Khas Delhi Metro Station was just a walk away from our hostel. To cut down on the cost, we bought the One Day Card at a Rs 150/- (Rs 100 + Rs 50 refundable security) which gives us unlimited metro rides for the day.

Delhi Metro Day Card

About an hour of traveling in the crowded Delhi Metro and a short walk from the Kalkaji Mandir Metro Station, we arrived at our 1st destination for the day, one of the prominent landmarks in Delhi, The Lotus Temple. It’s a Bahá’í House of Worship, primarily the place of worship of the Bahá’í faith, a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people. So, this temple is open to all humans irrespective of their religion, caste, color or qualification. Surrounded by the garden, stood a beautiful Lotus shaped structure. No wonder this temple has won numerous architectural awards for its unique Lotus shape with 27 pure white marble-clad petals. Inside the temple is a large auditorium with tall ceilings where no one is not allowed to talk. I totally got immersed in my own silence and the peace that surrounded that place. Though no photographs were allowed, I did manage to click a few. For me, this place conveys a strong message of peace in unity. It was already around 3 pm when we came out of the temple.

After munching on some snacks and tender coconut, we resumed our journey to the next and the last destination of the day. Yet another hour of a ride in the metro, we reached the Akshardham station. By then we all were a bit tired and super hungry as we were yet to have our lunch. We just managed with some short bites that we could source from the station kiosk as we had to rush to our next destination that was due closing in a few mins. A few mins of walk from the station took us to the famous Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple.

One of the huge drawbacks of that place is that they don’t allow you to carry mobile phones, camera or any gadgets inside the temple. So, we had to stand for more than an hour in a long queue to deposit our mobiles and bags in their cloakroom. It’s quite safe as the mobile phones and valuables are photographed prior depositing. Finally, we entered the temple complex after passing a security check that involved frisking. There stood a marvelous marble structure that felt worthy of going through all the trouble. This magnificent temple made of pink stone and white marble is a result of more than 300 million man-hours of hard work by 11,000 artisans and volunteers. I was totally awestruck by its sheer beauty. The intricate patterns and sculptures are definitely a treat to our eyes. Though not a big fan of temples, I must really thank Shashi for recommending this place. The below pics are from the official temple site. I don’t own them.

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Then came the best part of the day, the water fountain show, AKA The Sahaj Anand Water Show. It was such an immersive experience mixing multi-color lasers, video projections, underwater flames, water jets and surround sound. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. After the show, we had our dinner at the temple food court. To my surprise, our foreign friends loved the masala dosa.

I was totally exhausted when we reached back to our hostel after riding the last metro of the day. I even dozed off on the common area couch as Remya gave me a nice massage and that’s how a yet another awesome day came to an end.

To Be Continued …

Thank You 2018 Welcome 2019

I wished to continue the trip to remember series but in my case wishes seldom realize. Time constraint usually sounds like a good problem to have (KP hope you read this :D) and it’s easy to shift the blame on it. Behind the scenes stands new responsibilities and complete mismanagement of time.

It’s been a while since I wrote a year-end note, the last one was way back in Dec 2013. This 2018 being quite a pivotal year in my life, I indeed feel indebted to write about it.

My top 9 Instagram pics

 

Dear 2018,
I got to thank you for a lot of things. At the top of the list is my marriage with Banupriya. Our first meeting was in February, since then it was one hell of an exciting journey together. Eventually, we got engaged in March and got married in August.

Professionally, it has been one hell of a ride. My 8-year long stint at INXS/Market Simplified came to an end in November. Following the same, I joined a multinational bank. Moving from a fintech startup to a financial conglomerate, Isn’t it quite contrasting?. Currently, I feel like a pond fish that’s learning to swim in an ocean. Eventually, will learn to survive, sustain and hope to excel.

Though I missed my annual trek trip this year, I more or less compensated it with a dream trip to Amritsar, Agra, and Delhi. Visiting the Golden Tempe at Amritsar was one of the most memorable and blissful experiences of the trip. The list doesn’t end there, a few brief trips to Pondicherry, Banglore, and Hyderabad kept my traveler’s spirit moving. To conclude, the jewel in the crown was our trip to the most mesmerizing Meghalaya for our honeymoon. Undoubtedly the best trip of the year.

Once started as a hobby to fill the void and get connected to people, collecting and writing postcards have become almost an addiction. Later this year, my collection crossed 100 countries mark. With a long way to go, I thank everyone who helped me in this so far.

Last but not least. Thanks, for all the fun and great moments with my friends. I do cherish each one of them. I don’t mind getting greedy and wish for more.

On the downside, my fitness went into the drain. I didn’t run or cycle much in this whole year, almost negligible. But, I did learn a bit of swimming early in the year. Wish I continued the same.

Dear 2019,
I welcome you with open arms. As usual, I don’t want to tax you with resolutions and unrealistic expectations. All I can ask is, kindly be fair and square to me. Give me all motivation to restart my running and cycling. Give me all the strengths to face my challenges. Keep everyone happy and smiling. May the force be with you.

The Golden Temple Saga – Trip To Remember – Amritsar, Delhi & Agra – Part 2

Don’t be surprised for publishing the post a little earlier than usual. Also, this post is predominantly just about one place and it’s totally worth it.

A short recap from the last blog post to bring you up to the speed. Inspired by the below song, I convinced 4 of my friends to travel along with me all the way to Amritsar. On our 2nd day of the journey, we visited the most famous Attari – Wagha Border between India and Pakistan. And, it was one remarkable experience.

By now, you all might have guessed the place. It’s none other than the Sri Harmandir Sahib, famously known as the Amritsar Golden Temple. From the local sources, we got to know that the Gurdwara is less crowded during the early hours of the dawn. Kavinnila  (a.k.a Kavin) and I were super excited and planned to start as early as 4 am. On the other hand, Shashi, Remya and Shalini was super tired after a crazy day, so they decided to opt out for some more rest and join us later.

As planned, we started a little later than 4 am. As our hostel was just in walking distance from the Gurdwara, we didn’t have any trouble reaching there. It’s a hard rule that men and women who enter the temple must cover their head by wearing a scarf or a turban. On our way to the temple, there was a respectable old man who offered me a headscarf and even tied it on my head. Later, he DEMANDED DONATION for the same. It’s quite unfortunate that there are people capitalizing situation like these. If you are visiting the temple, kindly don’t entertain such people. There are tons of head scarfs placed in bins just outside the Gurudwara for free.

One could get easily awestruck by the glittering structure against the background of the dark sky. And, I am no exception. Just before the main entrance, there is a place where you can safely deposit your footwear for free. A continuous stream of water flowing through the entrance cleanses your foot before entering the temple premise. OMG, I have never been to such a peaceful and calm religious place. I felt the tranquility of the place subdue my usual excitement. And, quite short of words in precisely expressing that feeling. The main temple sits in the middle of Amrit Sarowar (Pool of Nectar), a holy tank where devotees take bathe. We went around the Parikrama (Pathway surrounding the tank) clicking some pictures before joining the queue leading to the sanctum. I am not even exaggerating, the devotees here are the most self-disciplined ones I have ever seen. Firstly, there are no separate queues except the one dedicated for elderly and physically challenged people. Irrespective of their caste, creed, gender, social and economic status, the rest of the folks share the same queue. In spite of thousands of devotees waiting in the line for hours, we didn’t find even a single person trying to push others or trying to get ahead or even speak loudly. Probably, we are the only uncouth ones in the crowd who are incapable of zipping their mouth. You would be amazed to see that there isn’t anyone except just an elderly guard near the entrance of the sanctum to control the crowd. All the time spent in the queue I enjoyed the devotional songs with marvelous deep voices played there. To my surprise, while entering the sanctum, I spotted a group of musicians performing live. That’s some incredible stamina and serious devotion performing continuously without any drop in their energies. A few moments passed entirely lost in the charm and resonating music of the place. Again, the blissful experience is hard to explain with words. It’s two storied structure with its walls & ceiling filled with pleasing decorative artworks. The devotees quietly find a spot for themselves to sit, read their holy text and meditate. Again, there is no one to control or manage them. Further, we reached the terrace just to get lost in the breathtaking view from there. We were offered Karah Prasad, a sweet made of whole wheat flour, Ghee (clarified butter) and sugar on our way out of the sanctum.

The following are a few awesome pics clicked by Kavin.

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Sri Harmandir Sahib, Golden Temple – This Beauty

The Karah Prasad didn’t completely solve our hunger problems, so we headed straight searching for the Langar Hall.

Langar is the term used in Sikhism for the community kitchen in a Gurdwara where a free meal is served to all the visitors, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity. – Wikipedia

So, no one returns from a Gurdwara hungry. Might be the effect watching umpteen number of documentaries on the Golden Temple Langar, it became a dream to have a meal there, cos it’s no ordinary Langar. Following are the amazing facts that make it more special[Source].

  • It’s the world’s largest community kitchen.
  • On an average, 1,00,000 meals are served every day, absolutely free of cost.
  • More than 90% of the workforce involved in preparing and serving the Langar are volunteers.
  • On an average, The kitchen consumes around 1800 kgs of pulses, 5000 kgs of wheat flour, 1400 kgs of rice and 700 liters of milk daily.

Just at the entrance of the hall, the volunteers handed us a plate, a spoon, and a bowl. After waiting amongst 1000s of devotees, we were allowed into a large dining hall with carpets laid in parallel rows to sit down and eat. With not much difficulty, we found ourselves a spot amidst a large crowd. Then, they served us, Roti (flat bread), Daal (lentils), Sabzi (vegetables) and Kheer (dessert). OMG, the food was not only yummy but felt soulful and wholesome. Once done eating, we handed our plates and cutleries to another set of volunteers stationed at the exit of the hall. It’s quite amazing that the Langar is run entirely out of donation from the Sikh community across the globe. Their philanthropical mindset and natural willingness to serve people is highly commendable. I came out of the Gurudwara with both my soul and stomach filled. I am never a religious person, but the vibes this place gave me is beyond any typical place of devotion. It was a long dream come true for me and definitely, a moment to remember for the rest of the lifetime. Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh.

A few meters walk from the Golden Temple took us to yet another significant landmark, not only in Amritsar but also in India’s struggle for independence. It’s Jallianwala Bagh where the sorrowful Amritsar massacre took place. On 13th April 1919, Reginald Dyer a British army Colonel ordered open fire at unarmed innocent civilians who gathered to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi which resulted in the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre. Around 1000 died and 1500 injured in this Mishap. One could still see the bullet marks on the wall and the Martyrs’ Well where many jumped to save themselves from the shooting. The place also houses a small museum to provide more detailed info on the incident. This place reminded me of the sacrifice made by many that lead us to the path of freedom that we enjoy today.

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The Memorial

It was already past 1 pm when we got united with the rest of the gang after visiting the Jallianwala Bagh. We all were hungry by that time and unanimously decided to have lunch at a nearby Dhaba. There is no way we would miss the famous Amritsari Kulcha while being in Amritsar. The Dhaba served a yummy Kulcha with some Chickpea Curry and a sour chutney which I loved. From there we reached our hostel, freshened up, packed our bags and headed straight to the railway station to catch Amritsar – New Delhi Shatabdi Express that’s destined for Delhi.

Wait, the day didn’t end here. A couple of interesting things did happen. The first one was a sheer coincidence. We again shared the compartment with the same family that traveled with us from Delhi to Amritsar. The next one was a pleasant surprise. A Postcrossing friend Mr.Piyush came all the way to Ludhiana railway station to handover me some awesome postcards when our train halted there. The best part was, my phone was in silent mode and didn’t hear the ring when he called. The train just started moving when I returned his call. As the train was already in motion, he came running and handed me the envelope. That’s an extraordinary gesture to show towards a person whom he oddly knows. Thanks, Piyush. It means a lot to me.

Phew, That’s how yet another incredible day came to an end.

The next day had some serious twist and turns for us. But you got to wait until the next blog post in the series.

To Be Continued …

Trip To Remember – Amritsar, Delhi & Agra – Part 1

If you are curious about the reason, me penning down this post about a trip that I took nearly 6 months ago? No worries, I can completely answer it all in a couple of points.

  1. I am a master procrastinator.
  2. I love to get nostalgic.

There had been several inspirations behind my trips such as Friends, Food, Nature and Adventure. But, what if the main inspiration for this trip is a song from a movie that got released way back in 2006.

Yes, ever since I saw the movie Rang De Basanti, visiting Amritsar has become a dream. Unfortunately, my multiple plans to visit Amritsar never realized until this trip. Initially, I intended to travel solo. But, later chose to go with a bunch of friends. Isn’t more the merrier Firstly, let me introduce you the gang. Shashi, Remya, Kavinnila, Shalini and yours truly.

Day 1: 27th Mar 2018

As planned, all of us assembled in Chennai Airport to board our flight. As we were all a bit early, it was perfect to catch up over some food and coffee. Around 8 pm, we boarded the Indigo destined for Delhi. The flight wasn’t a long one, so we reached our destination Delhi by 12 am. We had to spend our night at the airport as our train to the next stop was scheduled to depart the next day morning. We killed most of the time conversing diverse topics over Momos, Tea and some occasional walk around the Airport. Finally, I felt a lot of excitement burst into me when the dawn broke.

 

Day 2: 28th Mar 2018

Early in the morning, we took a metro to the New Delhi Railway Station. From there, we boarded SWARNA SHATABDI around 7.30 am, our train to Amritsar. To my relief, they served us Tea and Breakfast on the train. We were expected to reach Amritsar by 1.40 pm, but the train got delayed and arrived around 3 pm only. That almost put us on the verge of spoiling the entire plan for the rest of our day.

You can call it all luck, and there is always someone for the rescue when in trouble. This time it’s an auto driver whom we hired to drop us at the hostel from the railway station. My bad, I even forgot his name. After hearing me stressed up and discussing options to reach our next destination on time, he came forward and offered to take us to Attari – Wagah Border and back at quite a nominal price. That’s so kind of him.

Yeah, you read it right. How come I come all the way to Amritsar and miss the beating retreat ceremony at Wagah border. Even watching it on TV or YouTube would give me goosebumps. Our initial plan was to go to the hostel, drop our bags and immediately start to Wagah. But, few of us prioritized taking a shower and getting freshened up. That pissed me off as we had a short window of time. Considering the usual crowd there, we had a high probability of denying entry.

Our Auto Anna drove awesome that day. He was swift on the road overtaking other vehicles. It was such a nail-biting moment. Finally, we reached the border entry almost on time. Shashi chose to stay back as he had a business call to take care. We ran to the security check area so that we could secure a spot. As the ques are different for men and the woman, I lost track of my friends. All my efforts to search and reach them went in vain. Even the calls didn’t connect due to no cellular network. Just hoping that they were safe, I continued to the stands to witness the ceremony. The following is the excerpt from Wikipedia about the ceremony.

The ceremony starts with a blustering parade by the soldiers from both sides and ends up in the perfectly coordinated lowering of the two nations’ flags. As the sun sets, the iron gates at the border are opened and the two flags are lowered simultaneously. The flags are folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again.

Amidst a large crowd, I somehow secured a spot at the bottom-most level of the stand. Continuous slogans such as “Jai Hind” & “Vande Mataram” and playing of patriotic songs made my blood rise and beam with patriotism and pride. One must be there to experience the intense energy around. Then started the actual ceremony and our Border Security Force put out a spectacular show. They marched with Pride, Patriotism, and Aggression. India would easily outrun Pakistan when it comes to cheering for their soldiers at the ceremony. While trying to click some pics, I got stamped in the crowd. Luckily a woman BFS officer came to my rescue and lifted me up. My sincere thanks to her. It was such an electrifying atmosphere. I am currently in the deficit of words in expressing the same. Finally, the ceremony got over with the flags lowered on both the sides and it’s unquestionably one of the experiences of the lifetime.

Then again I resumed my search for my friends. I had to move away from the border gates to gain some signal and contact my friends. Finally, after a few calls and text messages, we got united. Phew, what a relief to know that they were all safe. We were all super hungry as we skipped our lunch in a rush to get here on time. So we temporarily filled our stomach with some Aalo Tikki and Pani Poories.

Our Auto Anna was awesome. He stopped by a lush wheat field to click some pics. He even took us to a nice Dhaba that served yummy Rottis, Naans and Butter Chicken for dinner.

Post dinner, we were finally back to our hostel. All we wanted was to rest after quite a long day. As always life had a twist for us, but there was both good and bad in it. The bad part is, the dorms got double booked due to some software glitch and got allocated to the other foreign guests. Now the good part, We were provided dorms at a hostel quite near to the Golden Temple and got transported there free of cost too.

That’s how an awesome day came to an end.

I am concluding here, as our next place deserves a dedicated blog post.

To Be Continued …

Trip To Remember – Trekking Sar Pass – Part 6

Finally, will get myself done with this blog post series. Here goes the final one.

Day 11 – 28th May 2017

I woke up with a mixed feeling, on one hand, I was happy about completing the trek successfully, on the other, I was sad that it came to an end. Once done with our morning routines, breakfast, group pic and one final batch roll call, we left the most beautiful camp of the whole trek around 8 AM. The route was a bit steep and felt like never-ending. We had to lose an altitude of 1400 ft in less than 5 km. I stuck with Lavanya for the whole route. Once we even lost our way in the middle ignoring the route markers and was screaming for help. Luckily, one of the fellow trekkers responded and that helped us be back on the route.

A couple of hours later, we reached a small eatery down the Barshani Village (6600 ft), finally some place to rest. In the meantime awaiting Nigilan and Buddy to return, I indulged myself in hot Maggi and refreshing lemon tea served there. It was already 12 PM when they both joined us. Then, we took a short walk to catch the bus that would get us back to Kasol. In the bus, we noticed a couple of guys smiling and laughing at the silly things that we spoke in Tamil. Then came that magical words, “Neenga Thamizha?” (Are you Tamil). That’s how we meet Anirudh and Mukund, 2 civil engineering guys from Bangalore working on a construction project in the valley. It was awesome conversing with them.

Around 4 PM, we reached Kasol, should blame the terrific traffic at Manikaran for the delay. We were too hungry by then and the Tibetan Eatery nearby the Kasol Market came to the rescue. We had amazing Thukpa and Momos there. It was already around 8 days since we took a bath. So, we found a natural hot spring bath area and took a relaxing bath. OMG, the hot water in the cold weather felt like being in heaven. All the others in the group decided to reach Kullu the same eve, but for various reasons, yours truly decided to stay back for a night at the base camp and start the next morning. It was a great experience at the base camp, was awarded the trek completing certificate and was asked to share my experience to the upcoming batches. Everyone at the campfire gathering laughed when I ended my note with, “These mountains got some serious ALTITUDE problems”. As usual, I had my dinner and dozed off early, that’s how an yet another awesome day came to an end.

One heavenly Thukpa

 Day 12 – 29th May 2017

I was informed that the 1st bus of the day to Kullu will be by 6.45 AM, So was all set by then to leave the camp. The bus came spot on time and I boarded it just opposite to the base camp. The bus was mostly filled with students and locals. The best part all along the ride was the songs played in its music system, just loved it.

Around 9 AM, I reached Kullu and rejoined with my friends at the famous Sapna Bakery for the breakfast. There we ordered SIddu, one of the most famous and typical dishes of that region. It kinda looks like an enlarged MoMo but tastes entirely different. The one which we had was awesome and I loved it. Then we headed to the hotel when my friends were staying so that I could keep my hefty backpack and continue roaming for the rest of the day. There I met the retired defense personnel, whose son owns that place.  He was too courteous and patiently gave us the direction to reach the Naggar Castle, our next destination.

From Kullu, we reached Naggar by bus and from there we reached The Castle by taking an Auto Rickshaw. Naggar used to be the ex-capital of the Kullu region and the King ruled from the castle.The view from the castle was spectacular and it exhibited some of the old artifacts and objects used during the King’s period. We had our lunch at the in-house restaurant itself. The food was pricey but the taste wasn’t that great as it looks.

What came to rescue is the Home Made Bakery, just outside the castle. They served yummy Apple Pie, Brownies and Tarts along with refreshing homemade fruit juices.

In the meanwhile, this awesome Lost & Found incident happened and have already written a separate blog post on it. Then we returned back to Kullu in a crowded local bus, got freshened up at the hotel and left to the bus terminus to catch our bus to Chandigarh. I immediately dozed off as we boarded our bus around 9 PM, that’s how an yet another awesome day came to an end.

 Day 13 – 30th May 2017

It was quite early in the morning when our bus reached the Chandigarh bus terminus. We spotted a Maggiwala (the one who sells Maggi) a few meters outside the terminus and decided to get done with our breakfast there. He sold sandwiches and tea along with Maggi and I ordered an egg Maggi for my breakfast.

As our flight is around afternoon, we had a lot of time to spare. With not much energy to explore the city, So, we went to the Rose Garden, took some rest, listening music and again went to the famous Pal Dhaba for lunch. OMG, the food was awesome there. Their Butter Chicken is definitely something to die for.

Later, we took a cab to the airport and boarded the flight back to Chennai. Outside the Chennai airport, the harsh Sun kissed my skin to remind me that I am back home. Just as a kinda ritual, I brought home some Biriyani concluding the trip. That’s how an awesome trip came to an end.

 

With a lot of fun, food and awesome experiences, this is indeed a trip to remember.

The End.