Posts tagged Travel Lists

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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Finding Sloth Bears in Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Hampi

Daroji Bear Sanctuary, Hampi, Karnataka – Home of Indian Sloth Bear.

I have grown up in a small town in North India where pet cows and chirpy parrots in the balcony are still a thing. 

My mother has grown such a lush garden that while growing up I always spent my evenings looking at the garden activity when bulbuls flew home or the tailor birds settled in their chosen tiny branches. A Sunday was less about Popeye or Duck Tales and more about protecting ripe guavas from monkeys who were attracted to our garden from miles. And when we got relief from the monkeys we were chasing away squirrels who were adamant to build their nests out of our school socks. 

My affinity for animals often sends me to national parks around the world. No prizes on guessing that you can also find me strolling in Indian jungles just to get a glimpse of the local animals. 

When I traveled to Hampi this September, I hadn’t even heard of the Daroji Sloth bear sanctuary. But when I got to know that Daroji is just an hour away from Sanapur, my stay in Hampi, I postponed the ruins and other things to see in Hampi to another day and instead we jumped in our car to drive straight away to the Daroji sanctuary.

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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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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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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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Kinabatangan River Tour – It Is Not Just About Wild Orangutans

Once upon a time, there was a long river muddy. Along the bank of the river lived the mama elephant Lily. On the top of a Jamun tree lived a monkey very funky with a very long nosey. A shrewd crocodile waited beneath the tree to see the monkey fall loosey.

A talkative hornbill nested in the tree. While her friend the orange orangutang visited her often for tea. The village children played on the riverbank every day, while their mothers shouted to call them home, come, come, otherwise the monkey will take you away.

If you hadn’t guessed, this is a story inspired by real characters. I wrote it when I went on the Kinabatangan river tour in Sabah, Borneo.

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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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Copacabana, Bolivia– The Town on the Shores of Lake Titicaca

I traveled from Cusco to Bolivia in an overnight bus, and Copacabana was, first, just a rest stop before La Paz. While I slept in the bus on an almost full bed, I kept an eye open as travelers had told me that the buses in Bolivia are theft-prone. The bus didn’t stop anywhere, and nothing unpleasant happened. Our minivan crossed into Bolivia, and though the bus driver was reluctant to bring us to Copacabana, he left us in the town( thanks to some Chilean travelers who almost made the fraud driver cry.)

After getting down at Plaza Sucre, I strode straight towards the Casa del Sol homestay that my travel friend Alison had finalized for our Copacabana stay. Things to do in Copacabana Bolivia were many, and she wanted to stay rooted at one place in this lakeside village of Bolivia. That was my first time in Bolivia, and I didn’t know that the country would later surprise me with its indigenous culture, delicious salteñas, historical sites and relics, imposing mountains that never leave you alone, high cities, and the consumption of an insane amount of coca leaves to keep it all going.

Recommended Read: My Comprehensive Bolivia Travel Guide

I trudged up the cobbled lanes with my rucksack, passed by the main market, crossed the Basilica of the Virgin of Copacabana, turned to the left, and descended a very steep lane to find the homestay nestled in sunshine for the weather was pleasant at that time of the year(March). I had been used to the high altitude (almost 3900 meters above sea level) for I was coming from Cusco and also had been to the many islands on Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side.

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Samaipata – A Bolivian Village You Must Experience

Samaipata is easily one of my favorite places in Bolivia. Why? Maybe this quaint village in east Bolivia showed me how to slow down. Or perhaps the Bohemian attitude of Samaipata made me think about life differently. Or maybe the German and the Dutch and the Arabs who have settled down in Samaipata taught me that home is where the heart is.

I cannot pinpoint on any one reason, but Samaipata, a lush town in the foothills of Andes, calmed me down. It is after all the resting place in the mountains (the meaning of Samaipata in Quechua).

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Most Common Spanish Phrases For Travelers – Survive South America

Unlike the US schools, we do not have a Spanish course or learn any foreign language at schools in India, especially in the small town where I studied. I grew up studying Hindi, English, and Sanskrit. I took a French language course during college, but a few classes and a French certificate was the farthest my foreign language aptitude took me to. 

 When I landed in Chile to teach English, I couldn’t even speak a few simple Spanish words coherently. I started living with a Chilean host mother who took upon herself to teach me the common Spanish phrases and words so that we could communicate. Thus began my struggle of learning Spanish in Chile.

I didn’t know then that the Spanish language would become one of my favorites, and also my third language.

Without trying to be melodramatic, I promise that if you start speaking even the most basic Spanish travel phrases when you are in South America, you would fall in love with this language; for Spanish is a passionate dialect. Spanish words and phrases cover almost every emotion; some of the feelings that can be described eloquently in Spanish are strangled by the lack of words in other languages that I speak.

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My Essential Travel Guide to Chile – The World’s Most Gorgeous Country

What does this travel guide to Chile contain?

  1.  Where is Chile?
  2. How did I decide to travel to Chile?
  3. what is English Open Doors program?
  4. But why should you travel to Chile or South America? What is so special about the place?
  5. How is the landscape of Chile?
  6. What are the natural disasters of Chile?
  7. The Geography of Chile (Along with the things to do in Chile).
    1. The North.
    2. The Central Valley.
    3.  The Lake region of Chile.
    4.  The South
  8. The Logistics.
    1. Chile is far. What about the long flights and the insane timezone shifts?
    2. How to stay connected with family?
    3. Didn’t I feel homesick or lonely that far away from my home country and friends?
    4. Why do I say that Chile people are the nicest?
    5. Is Chile expensive on a traveler’s budget?
    6. What about the rough Latin American Spanish?
    7. What about the tourist visa for Chile?
    8. How much did the tickets cost for the flight to Chile?
    9. What is the best time to travel to Chile?
    10. What to pack for Chile?
    11. How to move around in Chile?
    12. How should you carry money when you travel to Chile?
    13. Is Chile Safe?
    14. How is Chilean food?
    15. Now let’s get real – the drinking scene of Chile.
    16. Some closing FAQs and tips.

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My Bali Travel Guide – Best Things To Do in Bali and Beyond.

Bali has been a relief from the chaos of the overcrowded and the ever-rushing world. Though I had heard really touristy things about Bali, I love the place.

I have spent most of my twenty days in Ubud, old Bali with a modern twist, a village called Laplapan, which is close to Ubud, and also biking my way to far away floating temples, hidden beaches, and rice fields whose pictures were able to enchant me enough.


best things to do in bali

 

Before I came here, I thought Bali would be a tourist jungle packed with hotels, restaurants, tour shops, yoga centers, and bike rental shops, along with some greenery. But Ubud and Bali are places that have all these things and also have artistic temples that the Balinese people visit every day, lush paddy fields in the heart of the city, cute ducks wobbling around in open pastures, deserted turquoise beaches, hidden jungles, a cool river cutting through the middle of Ubud, splashing waterfalls, a colorful underwater world, and all with the backdrop of a gaping volcano.

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