Friday, August 04, 2017

5 Must Haves in Your Travel Gear

I have been asked a few times in the last many months about the backpack, camera and other things I carry during my travels. I thought I would put them all together in a post here with recommendations so you know what to look for while making a purchase for your travel gear.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

An Afternoon at the Kargil War Memorial, Drass

If there was one thing I knew I didn’t want to miss on the Srinagar-Leh highway, it was the Kargil War Memorial at Drass. Having seen it so many times on TV over the years, I just had to pay a visit to this place.

The Kargil War Memorial is located 5 kms from Drass town, the second coldest inhabited place in the world, towards Kargil. We had been enchanted with the changing scenery on the highway since the morning that day and when we entered the Memorial, suddenly it was taken over by an unexplained feeling of patriotism. Such is the vibe of the place that stands in the shadow of the mountains that saw the 1999 Kargil War.
The Flag that measures 37 ft x 25 ft is hoisted on a pole 100 ft tall, Kargil War Memorial, Drass

As we were crossing Drass earlier, we spotted a long and high stone wall along the road. “It was constructed overnight during the war, so as to safeguard the highway which was under attack from enemy fire,” our driver had told us. We observed that the wall was crumbling at several places, having taken all the firing in order to not cut off the Ladakh region from the rest of Kashmir and in extension, India. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

10 Awesome Reasons You Should Join This Trip to Ladakh

So much has been said about it, so much has been written about it, so many pictures have been shared on social media from the place, but roadtripping through Ladakh is an experience incomparable to any other. It’s an experience you have to live at least once in your lifetime.

As you see the landscape change from lush green to rustic brown, from green trees to barren icy mountains, the blueness of the lakes to monasteries perched on top of cliffs, none of the pictures you have seen will do justice to the beauty right in front of you.

Join us this August and let the colourful Gompas and Buddhist prayer flags enchant you as we, a group of young travelers, head on a 10 day road trip to explore Ladakh, the land of high mountain passes, and India’s only high altitude cold desert. 

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Stargazing at Pangong Lake on a Chilly Summer Night

They say Pangong Lake offers one of the most clear night skies for star gazing. The day we reached Pangong, it was superbly windy and even in mid-June, it was freezing to be out in the open during day time. But there was the prospect of innumerable shooting stars being visible; so that night after dinner at our homestay, I headed out into the courtyard and took a seat with my neck craned upwards.

It was a cloudy night but as a few minutes passed, the sky cleared. There were stars, and a lot of them. There was a lot of light coming from the campsites still. I wished the light pollution could be done away with. After about half an hour, the cold was getting unbearable. I won't be surprised if I am told the temperature was sub-zero that night. The wind was making matters worse. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mumbai Memoir: The City That Lives On

When I put up a fun ad on Facebook last month before my short visit to Mumbai, asking friends to host me in their city, I included a few conditions. A prominent one was ‘Go on a walk post-midnight and have idli-sambar’. The freedom of walking around the place at any time without feeling scared, the availability of food at all times, the ease of traveling from one corner of the city to the other in the local train- these defined the good part of life in the fast metropolis for me when I lived there.

Three years ago when I first visited Mumbai for a month long internship, the city had cast a spell on me. The Bollywood town was too fascinating for the filmy me and I wanted to explore every shoot location that I had seen in films shot in the city.

I remember walking around Juhu for several hours just to discover its nooks and crannies- the star houses, the beaches, and the eateries, Prithvi Café, the PVR and Chandan Cinema. Another time I walked around the Fort area, looking around for the rich history and gothic architecture of the buildings. I stood in front of CST for several long minutes marveling at its beauty. I always liked these solo long walks- not a big purpose in mind but discovering the city one step at a time- things tourists probably would never get time to explore.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

An Evening at the Market in Leh

‘They have board games,’ I exclaimed seeing the poster of a travel café as we finished our superbly heavy and filling breakfast platter. It was our last day in Leh. We would be leaving for Srinagar the next day.

The last week had seen us arriving in this quaint little hill town in the middle of the night. At first glance it looked like a rustic old city with yellow-brown buildings, archaic windows and colourful prayer flags in every direction with a monastery or stupa set on the edge of a cliff in the middle of a valley with snow covered peaks all around it. As we would discover over the coming days, this halt on the ancient Silk Route is full of historic stories and cultural ties.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Back at the White House (House of Cards Season 5) #HOConZCafe

After a 3 month delay from the usual release date, thanks to the recent much-talked-about political setup in the United States, the fifth season of Netflix’s House of Cards is now out. I have just been able to see the first episode due to all the work that is on at home right now, and let’s just say Frank Underwood’s ruthless pragmatism continues right from where the last season left us.

I have been a fan of the show ever since I saw the first season 4 years ago. I wasn’t sure a political drama will be able to hold my attention for long enough, but Frank and Claire sure have cast a spell on my innocent mind. I think apart from Game of Thrones, House of Cards is the only show which can boast of such a long and effortful opening credits sequence and one which I do not skip in any episode. My love for timelapses began right there. (And to think that they removed all humans frame by frame from that 90 second sequence. Wow)

Minor spoilers ahead.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Touch of Kashmiri Hospitality

‘Just wait until we reach his place and you will see the hospitality,’ my friend told me. We were on our way to Anantnag from the Srinagar airport one mid-April evening.  For the next hour I could only wonder what she meant.

Just as the sky grew dark, we reached our host’s place. It’s a custom to hug when you meet someone in Kashmiri households. Usually the elders would kiss your forehead while welcoming you and bidding farewell. And that is exactly how every member of the host family greeted us, as if they had known us forever- we were immediately made to feel at home.

As we entered the Drawing Room, a striking thing came to my notice- there was not a single piece of furniture. From end to end beautifully woven Kashmiri carpets were laid and cushions dotted the wall. ‘Everyone sits on the same level. There is no distinction between rich or poor, higher or lower class. Everyone is equal and everyone is equally served,’ my friend and host told us later. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Social Media while Travelling: Yes or No

In some of the most beautiful places that I have been to in the last many months, I didn't have an internet connection or any connectivity with the world. Be it Lakshadweep, Bhutan or Kashmir, even when I could have got a local SIM or used the hotel wifi, I chose not to.

I usually click loads of photos, make videos, timelapses and notes on my phone, but I prefer cutting off from the internet, social media and to most extent even phone calls completely during the travel duration (apart from the one short call to mom every night because she insists), be it a short 3 day trip or a 7-10 day trip. Somehow not being on the world wide web or not being available to attend calls or reply to whatsapp messages is something I always look forward to. It is kind of liberating (apart from creating the mystery of my whereabouts in the minds of a few people who I think care).

Professionally as a travel blogger, this perhaps isn't good. To increase the social media reach and influence, live updates are the best. I just wonder how people can have LIVE Instagram Stories all through their travel time; I completely fail to find a balance. (Of course on sponsored trips I do the updates, usually way more than what I promise and I don't hate them as long as I am having fun and getting paid to do that)

Monday, May 15, 2017

Vietnam travel tips for Indians

When it comes to budget travel or the first international holiday, we Indians tend to flock to South-East Asia and specifically Thailand. Just next to it is another beautiful and less explored country- Vietnam. Vietnam doesn’t only hold immense natural beauty, it has a rich history and is highly diverse. Best of all, it doesn’t come heavy on the pocket.

There is a lot to see and do in Vietnam- a cruise from Hanoi to Ha Long Bay, walking in the Cu Chi Tunnels outside Ho Chi Minh City, visiting the War Remnants Museum, sailing through the Mekong Delta, experimenting street food on the Hanoi streets, partying with backpackers in Ho Chi Minh City, visiting the many historical sites and taking a peaceful walk through the countryside. Here is a list of 10 top travel tips that you would usually be doubtful of if you are planning to visit the country. 
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