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.