Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Memories from trips- Part 2

Kulu Manali — Have blogged about this earlier here. I loved this camping holiday for the spectacular views of the Himalayas but I'm not sure I'd enjoy the freezing-to-death experience again. After all, I am one of those thermally-challenged people who need something warm even during the non-existent Bombay winters. Given a choice, I’d go for a Himalayan holiday which involves a cozy bed, heaters, and a bathroom please. I guess nobody will call me for a trek now.

Nawalgarh, Rajasthan- Roughly 140 kms from Jaipur, we visited Nawalgarh and enjoyed the unique experience of staying at a friend's Shekhawati haveli, feasting on the best food ever and waking up to the aroma of saffron-flavoured tea. There was even a secret door behind the cupboard in my room, which opened into a passage, leading to where I know not. (It might sound like an adventurous idea to explore but trust me, you don’t want to have visions of a Rajasthani ghost, sword in hand, haunting you at night.) The itinerary included the mandatory camel ride, a visit to other havelis to see the lovely fresco paintings that the region is famous for, the palace at Mandawa, and addictive sessions of 'Teen Patti'. We stopped by at Jaipur for a couple of hours, scouting for handicrafts and yummy onion pakodas at a place that I now forget.

Gangtok/Darjeeling/Shillong- My first ever trip to the North East of India and definitely not the last, because I fell in love with everything there. The train journey was a personal travel record- 48 hrs from Bombay to Siliguri, and a mind and body-numbing 60 hrs on the return from Guwahati (this is one record I have no interest in beating). Everything about this trip was crazy. To begin with, we ventured on that long train ride with no confirmed tickets in hand. That’s right. When you’re a bunch of friends, fresh out of college, these things don’t unnerve you as much. We stayed throughout at Army quarters and bunkers, and heard stories from soldiers about life in the army. The sight of the beautiful river Teesta winding through the mountains, the stunning tea gardens in Darjeeling, and best of all the drive to Nathula pass—the Indo-China border blew us away. When I got back, I told everybody I’d been to China. After all, I’d stretched my leg across the barbed wire and shook hands with the Chinese soldier (half hoping he wouldn’t shoot my toe for trespassing). The most amusing experience was watching the movie “Main hoon na” at a run-down theatre in Gangtok. Any attempt at humour on screen was immediately met with an uproar of giggles and laughter. Bollywood was definitely big there, especially Himesh Reshmiya it seemed, and that got us a lot of brownie points because we came from Bombay —the land of Bollywood, ta da.

Nashik- One of the four sites for the Kumbh mela, I visited Nashik in 2003 to witness the religious frenzy and the millions who throng there for its holy air. While we weren’t on any spiritual quest, our interest lay largely in experiencing this mass event and see what it was all about. And I certainly got a taste of the place elbowing past ash-smothered sadhus and surviving the ritual dip in the river without getting run over by zealous devotees. Not meant for the faint hearted but worth the experience.

On my wish list:
The backwaters of Kerala
The jungles of North India and the thrills of encountering a tiger
The sand dunes of Jaisalmer and Jodhpur
The pristine, wild beauty of Arunachal Pradesh (hopefully without Maoist/Chinese interference)
….and lots more.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Memories from travels over the years

I came across a nice idea on a blog to write a few lines about all the places you have travelled to. While it's not possible to list every trip, coz some are big, some are small and some aren't memorable at all (ah, that rhymed, I've listed some of the places I've visited, in no particular order or chronology. Will try and add pictures later.

Amsterdam- This is my most recent trip and honestly deserves an entire post(which may or may not materialize, so better a line than nothing). Absolutely fell in love with the place! Boats on the canals; the trams winding through the heart of the city; the lovely August weather; warm people- friendly and full of humour; beautiful countryside (struggled through did a 33 km cycling km tour through villages and a beautiful route bordering the sea); stroopwaffles (!)- super yum local biscuit, two layers of waffles with syrup in between (not sticky or too sweet, just right); and the very organized traffic (if you're from India, any place with even a moderate sense of discipline on the roads will amaze you, but I found it particularly fascinating that cyclists are given an entire path of their own to pedal along. Neat!) Besides there's the plethora of museums of which I visited a few- Anne Frank's house, Van Gough, Rembrandt, Rijksmuseum, and a cute little Windmill museum. There's enough to keep a tourist occupied for a couple of days even if you don't venture near the places that Amsterdam is otherwise (in)famous for. :) But I suppose if you go all the way there, you might want to check out everything, including the hash brownies. Afraid I didn't try those.

Coorg- Here's where you wake up and smell the coffee. Especially since we stayed at a coffee estate surrounded by shrubs of arabica (if my memory serves me right). I didn't enjoy the place as much as the company- a boisterous bunch of family members including cousins, aunts/uncles and assorted grandparents.

Yercaud- More coffee, more fun. I remember the picturesque views, drives through the plantations, jackfruit growing all over the place, and the first time I saw pepper on trees (like lovely green pearls). The highlight was a trek (in our pyjamas) to some supposed famous falls (Kiliyur) which ultimately turned out to be only a trickle of water dripping down the rocks. Also remember an incident when we were all admiring some caterpillar in the grass. My cousin brother, who noticed us bunched up, came running to inspect and in his misplaced enthusiasm crushed it right under his shoe, before asking innocently, "What are you guys looking at"?

Thailand- The first time I ventured out of the country, so this trip is extra special. The deep blue seas of Phuket, the stunning view from our hotel room (Cape Panwa); the surreal (and initially frightening) experience of scuba diving, with fish swimming past you; the vibrant nightlife of Patong; and the crazy shopping haven that is Bangkok -funn(although hubs and I both thought we didn't do justice to all the goodies on offer and need to revisit the place to fill our wardrobes and empty our wallets).

Goa- I must be one of the few people who haven't visited this place in their partying days, by which I mean a college trip or a New year's bash or just a trip with friends. The only time I've been here was when I was 10 (not amusing to most I suppose) but so many events from the trip are etched in my mind because it was one of the first proper holiday with my family, with the added jazz of a 5 star hotel. I was thrilled by the starfish on the beach, the joys of building sand castles, the sumptious buffet at the hotel. I think I really need to update this list with a visit to the flea markets, laze on the beach, and just have a hippy holiday. :)

To be continued...