Posts tagged traveler

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. Given the rich mix of the three cuisines that the island is blessed with, the question of what to eat 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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Timeless Places to See in Hampi, Karnataka – India’s Unforgettable Ruins

Lost in the lost kingdom of Hampi. 

Everyone travels to Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage site, to see the ruins of the ancient Vijayanagar empire that was once the richest, they say. But I didn’t visit Hampi just to see the ruins. My favorite part about Hampi was the nature that cradles Hampi in her lap as if sympathizing with her for the tragedies the empire suffered.

Also, this was not my first time in Hampi, and I was better informed about the place.

My first trip to Hampi from Bangalore was about a few years ago. Back then I had made a list of places to see in Hampi that included the main Hampi attractions such as the Virupaksha temple, the Vitthala temple, and the other ruins that form the groups of monuments at Hampi. That was a three-day Hampi trip from Bangalore that only left me wanting to see more of this archaeological wonder of the South.

When I traveled to Hampi the second time recently, I didn’t make a Hampi itinerary. Why?

When you Google search about Hampi, you are bound to get overwhelmed by the number of things to do in Hampi. Hampi images filled with historical buildings and unbelievable boulder arrangements amidst a lush spread of fat palm and tall coconuts would not only leave you amazed but bewildered.

I feel you.

Read More

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.

Read More

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. 

Read More

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. 

Read More

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?

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Kalga to Kheerganga via Bunbuni Pass– Offbeat in Parvati Valley

When I was in Kalga in Parvati valley, I had almost decided to not go for the famous Kheerganga trek because almost every local and traveler I met talked about Kheerganga. As you might already know I don’t like going to the most visited places. This arrogance to avoid the touristy destinations further deepens when it comes to trekking.

The idea of hiking for me translates to strapping a small backpack on my back and then setting off into the forest and figuring out my way on the go. Sometimes I don’t even care if the trail takes me anywhere significant or if I am on a must-do hike as long as I am in nature.

The boisterous young boys trekking in Parvati Valley who told each other that they completed trekking Kheerganga in a couple of hours and they couldn’t have done the same if there was a girl with them further pushed me away from the mainstream hikes towards offbeat paths.

Suggested Read: My experience of hiking an active Chilean volcano – Climbing Volcano Villarrica

When a friendly guy at a supermarket in Kalga, also known as Kalgha, asked me if I wanted to join him and his friends for Bunbuni trek, I agreed. Of course not without first asking him if they carried loudspeakers and rushed towards their destination.

I already knew that Bunbuni — also known as Bhunbhuni or Bun Buni or Boon Booni — is vast open green meadows high up in the Parvati Valley.

Read More