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Cultural Differences, a Friend For Life, and Diwali in Chile

in chile in cauquenes with friends teaching english in chile

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to Chile visa would be helpful for Indian citizens.

 

It is Diwali and I’m reminded of a Diwali I spent with three crazy Chilean sisters in a country home of Chile five years ago. Damn! It has been five years. The narrative tells just how different two cultures can be.

 

In 2016, I had been volunteering as an English teacher with the English Open Doors program in Chile. I was in the south of Chile on the Chiloé island in its capital city Castro. Like other volunteers I stayed in a Chilean home. The house had my bubbly host mother, other Chilean borders, and two more volunteers from England and the US.

It was Diwali and also an extended weekend in Chile. My host mother was visiting her relatives. Other housemates were traveling.

I had made many friends by then but Gabriela, another English teacher on the island, had become a special one. She invited me to a countryside family get-together with her two elder sisters. They were going to their parental home in Cauquenes, a small town in Southern Chile, to celebrate Gabby’s daughter Javiera’s eighteenth birthday.

Either I could’ve gone with Gabriela or traveled with an English volunteer best friend and housemate (and his other friends) to another cool place. (This things to do in Chile travel blog from my experiences will help you plan your trip.)

But spending Diwali with three crazy Chilean sisters sounded much more fun than talking about foreign things with other foreign travelers. So I packed my bags, took a bus to Gabby’s house, and together we took another bus to Cauquenes.

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We Dared to Hike to Shikari Devi Temple (Mandi Himachal) On Our Own

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Hiking to Shikari Devi Temple Mandi Without a Guide At the Onset of Monsoons   Deciding To Do The Shikari Devi Trek Since we arrived in Mandi (our trip began at Pangna going through Chindi) we kept hearing about the Shikari Devi temple. Locals religiously believe in Shikari Devi and used to walk to her …

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A Stunning Sunset at Mandalay’s Irrawaddy River

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A Myanmar Sunset on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, Mandalay

I saw one of the most ethereal sunsets of my life on the banks of the Irrawaddy River in Mandalay. That Myanmar sunset was enough to convince me to wake up before 5 every morning for my twenty day trip in Burma.

It was the last day of 2019. My friend and I had just spent the day roaming around Mandalay ruins, discovering pagodas and ancient temples in the historic town of Innwa, and strolling around Innwa villages. There was a hot pot lunch in between at a place called the Little Panda Hotpot and BBQ Buffet. It wasn’t one of my brightest ideas to stop for a hot pot when we had hired an auto-rickshaw to show us around Mandalay. But the kind driver waited patiently for an hour. Also, I could not be blamed for the do-it-yourself hotpot for I didn’t know the restaurant would ask us to grill and cook everything ourselves without even helping us light the fire under our wok. Let us blame everything on the language barrier.

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Your Guide to Finding Isolated Hotels in Madikeri, Coorg

hotels in madikeri coorg

We all have been stuck inside homes for about six months now. Though usually, I am planning a birthday trip around this time of the year, as September approached I got anxious that I might want to go somewhere. But would I be able to step out of Bengaluru or even my house?

Then I remembered the article I had written on traveling in the Pandemic. For those who have read the guide know that I only suggested traveling by car to an isolated homestay or a guesthouse near the woods. Thus you can change your view, hike around, be in nature, and even work with the lush forest swaying in front of you. 

Remembering my idea, I decided to travel in Karnataka and started searching for isolated hotels in the state. But as I pored over hundreds of hotels and guesthouses over various websites, I decided to dedicate an entire guide to isolated hotels in Madikeri, Coorg as most of the properties I liked were from this area. 

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Chile Visa Fiasco – When I Was Stranded at the Bolivia-Chile Border

flags-in-the-salar-de-uyuni-tour-of-bolivias-salar-de-uyuni image used as feature image for bolivia and chile visa controversy for indians

Covid-Related Travel Update, July 2022: Chile is open to international tourists. Visit the Chilean government’s official website for travel-related information and regulations. Don’t forget to read the government’s rules to be followed in public spaces here. My guide to Chile visa would be helpful for Indian citizens.

 

When I Couldn’t Get a Chilean Visa at the Border and Bolivia Wouldn’t Take me Back.

My cheeky Canadian friend Alison walked towards me from the immigration counter at the Bolivia-Chile border in San Pedro de Atacama. Fanning herself with the green Chile tourist card that boasted her free entry into Chile for ninety-days, she smiled.

Now it was my turn. The young immigration officer looked at me and gestured me to come closer. I walked to his desk. He asked for my passport. I slid my blue passport through the gap under the glass that stood erect between us. 

Instead of handing me a green card as he issued to other tourists, the officer turned the pages of my passport and squinted to read the various visas and immigration stamps I had collected over the years. When he found my Chile temporary resident visa stamped on one of the passport pages, he asked for my RUT. 

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11 Top Things To Do in Peru in 2022 [And My Bonus Secret List]

peruvian ladies observing local life top things to do in peru

Covid Update July 2022 – Peru is now open to international travelers. Travelers must show proof of vaccination. Those who are unvaccinated have to show a negative covid-19 test issued up to 48 hours before boarding. Find the complete information on the official website of Peru government. My guide to Peru Travel Visa would be helpful. Top Things to …

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Backpacking in South America [2022] – A Beginner’s Guide

collage of backpacking in south america images

Covid-Related Travel Update 2022: Though every country would have its own requirements and rules, most South-American countries are now open to travel. Please check the individual country’s official government or tourism website to know the specific rules.

What does this guide to traveling in South America contain?

  1. Is South America Latin America?
  2. What are the countries in South America?
  3. Is it safe to travel in South America?
  4. What about the natural calamities and political situations of South America?
  5. What is the best time to visit South America?
  6. What is the cost of backpacking South America? How can you do South America on a budget?
  7. Do you need a visa to travel South America?
  8. Do we need travel insurance for backpacking in South America?
  9. What are the best South American countries to visit?
  10. What are the best things to do in South America?
  11. What are the possible South American itineraries?
  12. What are the best places to travel in South America as per each country?
  13. Do we visit the Amazon rainforest in South America?
  14. Which are the best cities in South America for digital nomads?
  15. Do we need to know Spanish for traveling in South America?
  16. What are the best places to learn Spanish in South America?
  17. What should be an ideal backpacking South America packing list?
  18. What is the currency of South America? How do we carry money to South America?
  19. Can we get vegetarian food in South America?
  20. Do we need any vaccinations for backpacking South America?
  21. Can we work in South America?
  22. Can we volunteer in South America?
  23. Can we teach English in South America?
  24. Are the people of South America friendly?
  25. What is the drinking culture in South America?
  26. What are the kinds of hotels in South America?
  27. Does Airbnb work in South America?
  28. Can we couch surf in South America?
  29. Can we cross land borders in South America?
  30. Is it safe to hitchhike in South America?
  31. Do we need to pre-book everything in South America?
  32. How do we plan a trip to South America?
  33. What are some of the best South America travel books?
  34. Are there any South American traveler forums we can join?
  35. All articles on traveling to South America

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Manu National Park, Peru [2022] – Daring the Amazon Rainforest

parrots as life partners

Covid-Related Travel Update July 2022 – Peru is now open to international travelers. Travelers must show proof of vaccination. Those who are unvaccinated have to show a negative covid-19 test issued up to 48 hours before boarding. Find the complete information on the official website of the Peru government. My guide to tourist visa for Peru for Indians would be helpful.

An Adventure to the Manu National Park, also known as Parque Nacional Manu, in the Amazon Rainforest Peru

Table of Content (TOC)

My Fascination with the Amazon Rainforest and Deciding to go the National Park Manu, Peru

Amazon, the world’s most biodiverse tropical rainforest, covers nine South American countries — Brazil (60% of the Amazon), Peru (13%), Colombia (10%), and the rest lies within Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana.

As a little girl, I used to see the Amazon forest on television. My parents and I watched the National Geographic and Discovery channel every evening for hours. During dinner we switched channels because my mother couldn’t eat while the lions and jackals devoured their dead deers. But as she took her last bite, papa would put the Discovery channel back on. And the dense jungles of Karnataka, ochre shrub lands of Rajasthan, and the most mysterious of them all — the Amazon — would spellbind us.

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What to Eat in Penang – The Seafood Lover’s Guide

eating prawns in penang

Update 2022: Malaysia has reopened its international borders from 1 April 2022. Get Malaysian government’s complete rules for travelers planning to visit Malaysia on the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tourism website. I’ve also listed down the guidelines and compliances in this article on Kinabatangan river sanctuary. My guide to Malaysia e-visa for Indian citizens is recommended, too.

 

What does this “What to eat in Penang” Guide Contain?

  1. My crazy journey with food and how I can’t stop eating fish but now I eat more responsibly. (Though this is a good story along with some dependable resources to eating fish sustainably, if you are short on time, you can click on the below sections directly to jump to the food in Penang.)
  2. Why food hunting in Penang can be overwhelming for first-time travelers to Penang?
  3. Brief introduction to the Penang food culture.
  4. Best street food in Penang for seafood lovers.
  5. A note to the vegetarians and pescetarians reading this Penang food guide
  6. Translations of some important food items from English to Malay to help you navigate Penang food
  7. Best food courts in Penang.
  8. Where can you find the best hawker food in Penang?
  9. Where should you go if you want to eat the best Indian food in Penang?
  10. Which one is the best restaurant for Nyonya or Peranakan Cuisine?
  11. Best restaurants in Penang/Best restaurant in Georgetown Penang.
  12. Where should you go if you want to eat the best seafood in Penang?
  13. Which one is the best seafood restaurant in Penang?
  14. How to travel in Penang to eat the best food in Penang?
  15. Where to stay in Penang for food?
  16. Great Instagram accounts for finding best food and restaurants in Penang.

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Finding Stories and Street Art in Penang

boy+and+girl+reaching+up+cat+looking+street+art+penang+malaysia

Update 2022: Malaysia has reopened its international borders from 1 April 2022. Get Malaysian government’s complete rules for travelers planning to visit Malaysia on the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs Tourism website. I’ve also listed down the guidelines and compliances in this article on Kinabatangan river wildlife. My guide to Malaysia visa for Indians is recommended, too.

 

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. Given the rich mix of the three cuisines that the island is blessed with, the question of what to eat in Penang and what to do in Penang can be more complicated than you think.

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

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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

beas+river+manali+himachal+pradesh+india

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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