Posts tagged travel inspiration

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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Manali to Naggar – Time Traveling in Himachal

Manali to Naggar Village, Himachal Pradesh.

Who would think that just 20 km away from Manali, India’s top tourist destination, lies the Naggar village, a town that refuses to think beyond stone temples, apple orchards, and wooden huts accommodating both cows and their humans equitably.

Manali to Naggar bus ride took about an hour. After roaring along with the Beas river for a while, the bus passed through tiny countryside settlements halting at them shakily. Call those clusters of country houses a hamlet or a village, but more often then not the bus had to stop for cows unabashedly crossing the roads or villagers dashing to the opposite side with baskets of farm-fresh apples on their heads.

Once you get down at the main road at which Naggar village peeks from the high Himalayan hills that rise above the Beas valley, one has to trudge up a steep uphill road to get close to any of the Naggar’s many historical attractions some of whose origins are still unknown.

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7 Quirky Ways to Experience India’s Most-Wanted Hill Station Manali

My Manali travel blog to offbeat Manali and the best places to visit in Manali.

I would take an unknown trail leading to a strange place over a popular trek any day. I leave a city from its bus stand if I see it is crowded. Staying alone in one tent amongst the hundred empty ones makes me feel like a ninja. Ditching the most popular restaurants in a city I get lost in the back lanes to find local treats.

The road less traveled is my home.

Otherwise, why would I wander alone in South America for nine months while Europe waited or stalk wild orangutan around the Kinabatangan river in Borneo when a national bird park in Kuala Lumpur was a fifteen minutes walk or become a blogger while I still get software engineering job offers from TimesJobs or hitchhike in the deserted Spiti alone when I could have just stayed on under the blossoming apple trees of Parvati Valley.

My unexpected love affair with Manali, India’s summer queen, started when I arrived there for a day to travel to Spiti the next morning. Though the counter at the HRTC bus stands and the many travel agents in Manali told me that the road to Spiti wasn’t open yet, I shuttled between the tour agencies that fringed the rickety lanes of Old Manali until I found one who understood that I wouldn’t take no for an answer. 

But on that one day that I spent in old Manali, I walked in the colorful old market of Manali that is catered to please the ones on the Hummus trail, got enticed by small coffee and confectionary shops right in the middle of a tiny street lined with guesthouses, the green hills around Manali called me to walk along them, the various local dishes sizzling out of Manali restaurants’ kitchens made me hungry, while the Manaslu and the Beas river flowed in all glory. 

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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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Not Your Typical Travel Guide to Parvati Valley

The Ravishing Parvati Valley.

Originating from the popular Mantalai Glacier below the Pin Parvati pass in Himachal Pradesh, Parvati river flows unrestricted towards the West to merge with her sister Beas at Bhuntar. On her way Parvati curls through the Himalayas to form a gorgeous valley which is known as Parvati Valley.

Villages of Kasol, Manikaran, Shilha, Barshaini, Gargi, Kalga village, Pulga are dotted around the rich banks of the curvy Parvati. Apart from the Pin Parvati, many high treks also rise up from the Parvati basin to meet the higher Himalayan peaks and snowy villages at their summits.

But from where does the Parvati river gets her name? Legends say that long time ago Lord Shiva meditated in the mountains for about 3,000 years. Oblivious of his landscape, he continued to meditate, only to open his eyes one day to realize that he was in a gorgeous valley. He called the valley Parvati, after his wife.

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Natural Hot Springs, Chai, and the Timeless Manikaran Sahib

A timeless journey through Manikaran.

While sauntering around in Manikaran’s narrow lanes on my recent trip to Parvati Valley, I reminisced about my childhood journeys to Shukkartal and Haridwar with my family.

Like in those religious towns, time didn’t seem to have passed in Manikaran Sahib either.

Young girls dressed up in traditional bright Kullu dresses and Himachali topis waited to be clicked. Streets were lined with kitschy souvenir shops that flaunted neon plastic toys, rudraksha malas, and brass bracelets.

Devoted Sikhs with their Kirpans hanging around their waist walked swiftly towards the Manikaran Sahib Gurudwara. Hindu families strode to the Shiva and Ram temple to bathe their young ones who trailed behind eyeing the hot jalebis and crispy samosas that were on display at the local sweet’s shop.

If only their mother could buy them a hundred grams of jalebis the children might walk faster. But the mothers were already thinking about quickly getting their little ones undressed and bathing them in the Manikaran hot water springs.

They also had to pay their respects to Guru Nanak Ji or the Ram and Sita adorned in the Sikh and Hindu temples.

After all, the history of Manikaran dictates that the town was touched by both the Hindu gods and Guru Nanak Sahib though at different times.

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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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A Road Trip From Bangalore to Coorg – The Quintessential Karnataka

I won’t tell you that Coorg is the Scotland of India, as every other Bangalore to Coorg travel guide must have already told you this. I don’t know anything about Scotland’s landscape for I have not been there. But I can say that Coorg, also known as Kodagu, is straight out of that movie where you see fat cows grazing on a soft grassy carpet while spinach-green hills pose in the background.

I am not sure if I can call Coorg a quaint town for everybody traveling to Bangalore or the South, in general, go on a road trip from Bangalore to Coorg, at least one-time. But what brings these travelers to Coorg, a district nestled in the western ghats of South Karnataka?

Rolling emerald hills, an opportunity to see elephants, leopards, gaurs, giant Malabar squirrels, and other wildlife, the peppy birds of Karnataka, aromatic coffee and tea estates, huge avocados, rich Kodava cuisine, silky waterfalls melting into the revered Kaveri, old temples, and ancient monasteries could be some of the reasons.

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Spiti in Photos – The Pictures that Instagram Won’t Let You See

Snow-capped peaks, inky sky, copper mountains, creamy cubicle homes, lean Spitians jostling around, and a few sheep and cow — this is Spiti Valley, one of the remotest valley of the Indian Himalaya.

Spiti is indeed a bucket list destination for many millennials and older travelers alike. Some say their dream came true when they visited Lahaul and Spiti.

Spiti valley photography isn’t a new trend. People have been clicking pictures of Spiti for decades. Occasionally you would see Indians and foreigners posting gorgeous Spiti images on their Instagram account.

Young maroon-clothed monks jumping on the road. Himalayan peaks standing tall and a river swiftly shifting in front of them. Icy summits with a white Spitian village in front. A selfie with a Spitian woman on the road. Key Monastery standing tall. Pictures of self in front of dominant mountains. A few close-ups of flat-roofed homes of Spiti.

We have seen this all. But most of the Spiti valley photos don’t even make it to Instagram.

The nothingness that envelops the stunning Spiti and the isolated Spitian life is too much to handle sometimes. Even in pictures.

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Malaysia Wasn’t The Country I Imagined – Your Reasons to Visit Malaysia

When I was thinking about visiting Malaysia after my Bali trip, everyone told me to not go to the country that only has Penang and Kuala Lumpur. They said maybe you can see a few orangutangs while traveling in Malaysia, but what else?

In the one-month that I stayed in Malaysia, I not only visited Penang and Kuala Lumpur but I fell in love with the country.

I wanted to write these reasons to visit Malaysia since the day I came back to tell those friends that they were wrong and to urge the rest to explore Malaysia. Of course, I did have wild encounters with orangutans in Sabah, but there are many more riskfree things to do and interesting places to visit in Malaysia.

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Things to Do Around Cusco, Peru – Your Reasons to Never Leave

Located high in the Andes, Cusco is one of the most culturally significant cities in Peru. Once the capital of the Inca empire, Cusco is surrounded by the Inca ruins (including Machu Picchu) which are scattered in the Andes circumscribing the city.

Cusco is a city that can be what you want it to be. Any traveler can find a myriad of things to do around Cusco Peru as per her or his own taste.

During the 20 days I was exploring Cusco, I was never bored. Sometimes I was hiking in the uninhabited mountain valleys near Cusco, at other days I was in the plaza drinking chicha morada and soaking in the sun, while some evenings I was admiring the rainbows behind the baroque cathedrals only to end up drinking at a fun bar, some mornings you could find me elbowing the locals in collectivos on the way to the sacred ruins, once I was chatting up with fun Dutch and Argentinians in a minibus that drove us to a town near Machu Picchu, and the rest of the times I was packing my bag to visit the Amazon or some hike that I fancied.

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