Posts tagged happy life

Finding Stories and Street Art in Penang

Penang is a spicy potpourri of Chinese, Malay, and Indian ethnicities. But I didn’t realize how thick this gravy of cultural mix is until I went to Penang.

On my first day in Penang, I stayed in a Chinese guesthouse, ate rice and fish curry at a Muslim Malay restaurant, and my evening stroll took me to Indian food stalls proudly flaunting crispy samosas.

Wait. What was happening?

Indian Malaysians, who were mostly from South India, told me that many Indians were taken to Penang to work as laborers during the 130-years rule of British over Malaysia. Penang port was the main trade route for traders from China, Spain, Arabia, and India, and the British wanted their chunk of the trade.

A Malay Chinese whom I met while hiking the Penang hill cleared my doubts about the origins of Chinese Malays. He said that the Chinese sailed to Malaysia in the 18th century to trade and work as laborers.

Over time, all three ethnicities blended to form the current Penang.

While the Chinese relished the Malaysian coconut flavors, Indians used sweet-chili sauces in their curries, and Malaysians ate biryanis and noodle soups with the same fervor.

While admiring the street art in Penang, I felt that the cultural evolution of Penang had been pasted onto Penang streets in a raw and hilarious manner.

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Dharamshala Travel Guide – To a Meaningful Trip to Dharamshala

What does this travel guide to Dharamshala contain?

  1. My Dharamshala trip at a glance
  2. About Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh.
  3. My best things to do in Dharamshala.
  4. What is the best time to visit Dharamshala?
  5. How to reach Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh?
  6. How to reach Dharamshala from Delhi?
  7. Where to stay in Dharamshala?
  8. How much would a trip to Dharamshala cost?
  9. What to bring to Dharamshala?
  10. Is Dharamshala safe for solo travelers?
  11. How to avoid the smoking culture of Dharamshala if you don’t want to be a part of it?
  12. How to go on a long trip to Dharamshala?
  13. Around Dharamshala and further reading.

My Dharamshala trip at a glance. 

This is not your typical Dharamshala travel guide.

During my six weeks in Dharamshala, I hardly ever searched for “things to do in Dharamshala” or “best places to visit in Dharamshala.”

What was I doing? I was busy taking my Dharamshala trip slow.

I might sound clichéd, but I was learning the art of doing nothing.

Having said that, let me tell you that I started my journey in Dharamshala by attending a Vipassana course in Dharamkot, one of the many green villages of Dharamshala district. After a much-needed 10-day silence of body and mind, I packed my bags and headed out of the deodar forests of the Dharamkot Vipassana center. My plan was to stay for a week in upper Dharamkot. 

But something made me leave Dharamkot in just two days. Was it the smoky air of my Dharamkot hostel or the hippies lining the cafes in Dharamkot market, I am not sure. I surrendered to my discomfort and shifted to Upper Bhagsu, another lush village in Dharamshala that lies on the other side of Dharamkot.

I had gone to Upper Bhagsu for a week, and I didn’t know that I would end up spending more than a month there. 

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Hiking in Dharamshala – Under the Rhododendrons and Into the Icy Summits

During the six weeks that I lived in the Bhagsu village of Dharamshala, hiking in Dharamshala was one of my favorite activities. 

On a sunny day when I was walking from Bhagsu village towards Mcleodganj, the idea of going to Mcleodganj seemed mundane, and I took a detour. Instead of continuing going straight to Mcleodganj, I took the road on my left that went downhill.

I had seen the road many times before and had wondered about its destination. But that day the road seemed to promise the solitude I was looking for. Hell, we all know I wasn’t going to get much peace in Mcleodganj unless I strayed away in its back lanes.

When I had walked downhill for a while, the road disappeared after leading me to a cluster of few tiny houses. Where was I to go then?

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Kasol – The Unappetizing Smoker’s Hub of Parvati Valley

Kasol: An overhyped, but a connected town of Parvati Valley

I found many Kasol travel blogs that describe Kasol as a heaven or a tiny hamlet in the middle of Parvati Valley, Himachal Pradesh. Until I traveled to Kasol, I also fantasized Kasol as a misty village where you start your day with mushroom thukpas and end it with an apple tea.

While you can still have your thukpas and tea, let me tell you that Kasol is not a dreamy hamlet, at least not anymore.

One thing you should know while planning a Kasol trip is that you would be in a commercialized small town that has over-utilized its presence in the mountains, therefore, taking out the essence of the hills altogether.

Whether you are on a solo trip to Kasol or you are with a group, your experience will depend on what you plan to do in Kasol and how many days you spent there.

In this Kasol travel article, we will talk about how Kasol is and the logistics that you need to plan a solo or group trip to Kasol. Knowing how to move around Kasol is important as Kasol is the entrance to the gorgeous Parvati valley, and to experience Parvati you have to head to Kasol first.

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Why I Ran Away From the Gorgeous Shila Village in Parvati Valley

Shila – A Timeless Village Ruined by Smokers

It was nothing less than perfect. A velvety green path going up to a small hut. A river flowed below while lush fields swayed with the wind. A deep blue sky watched from above. Snow-capped mountains peaked from a distance.

But even a storm of beauty couldn’t keep me hooked to Shila, one of the most beautiful villages I have ever seen. Do you want to know why?

Here goes my story of running away from Shilha village.

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Kalga Village – You Won’t Believe Until You See

From the Sun-Kissed Balcony of Kalga Village, Himachal Pradesh.

Almost deaf with the loud music that blasted out of the speakers of Indian travelers who visit Kasol to escape the Delhi heat, I ran out of Kasol after staying there for a night. A steep uphill walk took me to the village of Shilha, a tiny apple village that seems to be pasted to the slopes of a beautiful green hill. Only I didn’t know that the speaker lovers from Delhi had discovered Shilha and were smoking away in the few guesthouses of Shilha village.

I gave up and joined the groups of Indian boys around a bonfire under a starry night. But rigid about running away from people who couldn’t appreciate the silence of Parvati valley, I strapped my bag and walked towards Kalga the next morning.

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Yoga in Dharamshala – With an Introduction to Yoga

When I went to Chile in 2016, many Chileans asked me if I knew how to do yoga. While traveling around South America for nine months, I realized the popularity of yoga in the world.

Apprehending the vast influences of yoga and seeing the craze of the westerners towards India and yoga, I became a wanna be yoga learner.

In those immature years of my life, I wanted to be a solo female traveler who also did yoga. I wished to bend myself one-eighty-degrees on the sultry Goa beaches and the summits of the mighty Himalayas alike.

After all, the social media pictures of yoga teachers and practitioners over the internet kindle enough narcissism that you forget the real purpose of yoga (if you ever knew) and only admire the overwhelming curves on the trending photos.

Yoginis look like the epitomes of Urvashi from the Indra palace. Maybe we can compare the Yogi to Shiva who is said to be the first-yogi or the Adiyogi?

Those yoga pictures look as perfect as the postures held in the frame, but remember that pictures don’t tell the entire story.

Yoga is not about a few jazzy posts on Instagram or Facebook. And I kept this in mind when I traveled to Dharamshala and practiced yoga there.

Yoga, a word derived from the Sanskrit word Yuj meaning join, means union — of the mind, body, and soul.

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Hold on Even After Your Hands Bleed – For That Is The Only Way to Succeed

You would encounter sharp rocks jutting out of every mountain you wish to climb. Let me show you through my perseverant journey as a budding writer, that why do you have to keep going on even if your hands bleed. Never give up. Fight for your dreams. That is the only way to succeed. 

You start. You are exhilarated. You shriek at the top of your voice from the roof of your confidence. You laugh from your stomach. You give long motivational speeches to your friend about how they need to start living. You wake up singing a tune about the morning sunshine. You look forward to Mondays because life has taken a route that you could only dream about.

People say you are inspiring. They applaud you. Your friends like and share everything you post. They read everything you write. Some of them even help you correct the grammar. You are glad as being corrected by friends is better than being ridiculed by your other readers.

You don’t worry about the money, yet, as the savings save you. Your family is appalled by your decision. But they don’t say anything this time. The last time they did, their words dug a deep valley between you two.

Your Mac is your new Nietzsche. All your philosophy seems to pour out of it.

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Hike Colca Canyon – My Honest Guide to an Excruciating Trek

I did not know that there is a Colca Canyon in Peru until I reached the Arica Chile border to cross over into Peru. When everyone in Arequipa asked me if I was going to hike Colca Canyon, I nodded. As a lazy travel researcher, I believe in improvised navigation.

I decided that I would do the Colca Canyon hike, but I didn’t realize that this Peruvian canyon was twice as deep as Arizona’s Grand Canyon. When the travel company with whom I booked a two day Colca Canyon tour asked if I had any trekking experience, I thought about my recent Villarrica volcano endeavor. I nodded while dreading the Colca trek for though hiking the volcano had improved my confidence, the 3,300 meters deep canyon hike sounded ambitious.

But without a trip to Colca Canyon, my Arequipa visit would have been incomplete. So I paid 120 soles for the 2 days hike, ate a heavy dinner, and hit the bed early.

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My Chilean Host Mother Took Her Broken Heart and Said to Life Vamos (Let’s Go).

We were in September, and the sun had been hiding away for many days from Chiloé, a southern island of petite Chile. Rain thudded the brick-tiled roof unabashedly. I shivered after a shower on a cold evening in Castro. To avoid getting scolded by my host mother for not drying my hair well, I walked down to warm my head near the kitchen fire.

My host mother, who was already sitting at the round, wooden dining and sipping mate from her cup, called me to join her while patting the thick sofa cushion on her left. Perched on her right, the British volunteer, who was also teaching English to Chilean students with English Open Doors, rolled his eyes as he saw me accepting her invitation and approaching them. Respecting our usual friendly banter and rekindling the Indo-British feud, I threw some bad words in his direction. 

Then as the three of us huddled at the dining and sipped tea in the cozy kitchen of our uninsulated home, my host mother told us that her brother had just come home to request some wine, and then she warned us not to trust him as he was an alcoholic. 

Though I had seen her brother visit us every day, eat bread and cheese at the dining, drink wine, of which she kept a big bottle in her kitchen especially for him, I never realized that he was an alcoholic. Maybe I was focusing on cracking the heavy Spanish that darted to and fro between the siblings.

But his alcoholism was not the devastating part of the story. 

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100 Days of My Nomadic Life – Highs and Lows of Living While Traveling

I haven’t gone out of my partner’s home, where I sit and write here in Bangalore, for three days, apart from a small walk that I did to the grocery store because I wanted to eat something better than lifeless noodles with invisible vegetables. Ironically, today I am writing about my 100 days of nomadic life.

I thought that being nomadic means staying on the road 24×7, and maybe, you feel that way, too. I will get to that, but first, let us go back in time a little bit to understand how my digital nomad journey started.

I chose this life for I wanted to be location independent. I wanted to be able to travel whenever I yearned to see a new place or live in a jungle where I could only hear the crickets whistle and the leaves rustle instead of the incessant blasting traffic of Bangalore or any other metropolitan. But having a rented apartment was sort of becoming a hindrance to free movement and adding up costs without adding any value, apart from providing me with a quiet writing space with a balcony.

I thought that I better spend the money which I paid for the apartment where people shut doors on each other as if they were enemies on gorgeous Airbnb’s or friendly homestays or rustic hotels in the hidden corners of the world. At least I would explore, meet interesting people and have some meaningful conversations, and live life at my own pace.

So I gave up my room in the Bangalore flat and packed my bags to wander freely while working online. The whole idea was to move slowly; I have never found any joy in visiting a place for a weekend or two days and then leaving it, while I didn’t even know what lay in my backyard though I saw all the famous attractions of that destination. And while exploring the world one place at a time, I could afford the lifestyle of a digital nomad because of my writing portfolio.

But I have come to realize that not having a permanent location is not about traveling all the time. It is about moving with a choice.

This nomadic life has put up all sorts of choices in front of me and let me be honest with how I feel about them.

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When Spanish Hit Me – My Heartfelt Tale of Learning Spanish in South America

I went to Chile in July 2016 to teach English in a state school. All my friends, family, relatives, acquaintances, and social connections asked what made me go to Chile; I said I didn’t think much. They asked me if I could speak Spanish; I replied that I would learn Spanish in South America.

My family concluded that going to Chile was an immature escape as at the end I would be alone and financially unstable. I was sucked down into the whirlpool of emotional hurdles that my family stirred in my career and personal life while being assertive that they cared.

I was fired. I had just ended a two-year live-in relationship which I believed would turn into the long-lasting love of my life. The Titanic sank. I was going to be twenty-nine soon. Friends were getting married. Babies were being born. I did not know anyone in Chile. I did not speak Spanish.

Before I left, an uneasy feeling of forgetting something lingered. Like the one that makes you shuffle through your pockets every time you walk out of your home. I understood later that I was scared: of being alone, of unknowns, and of not knowing Spanish.

I did not know then that in a couple of months I would be able to speak the language fluently.

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