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Posts from the ‘India’ Category

Travel Contest: Win an Epic Trip Through Kashmir and Ladakh!

I tearfully parted ways with Ladakh over a month ago, but I feel like I’ve never really left. A part of me still wanders around the cold mountain desert, gazing at the stark scenery and merrily greeting jullay to the village folk. I might not be going back anytime soon, but I hope TWO of you, my readers, win this once-in-a-lifetime expedition by Ceat Tyres and Mahindra Adventure, and get to experience the immense beauty of the snow-capped Himalayas of Kashmir and Ladakh!

Thiksey monastery Ladakh, Thiksey, Ladakh photos

Thiksey monastery, Ladakh.


A 10-day, all expenses paid road trip adventure worth INR 1,50,000! The expedition starts in Srinagar, takes you via Kargil to Ladakh, and further through Sarchu and Jispa to Manali, ending off in Delhi. You drive through some of the highest motorable roads in the world, above 10,000 feet, and get a chance to explore the valley of Kashmir and the cold mountain desert of Ladakh.

Leh to Kargil, Leh road trip

The road from Leh to Kargil. Photo by Wolfgang Maehr.


1)   Log on to and begin the contest entry with your personal details. 2)   Describe in 100 words or less what you would do if you were chosen to be part of this expedition, titled Monastery Leg Part II. (Read more about the expedition here) 3)   Add a photo or video from your past travels. 4)   Like Ceat Tyres on Facebook and Twitter. All contest entries will be open to voting when the contest ends. Ceat Tyres and Mahindra Adventure will pick the winner based on creativity, from among the top 10 most voted entries.

Kargil, Kargil photos

Life in Kargil. Photo by Sajith T S.


As someone who relentlessly takes part in travel contests (and occasionally wins), I’ll let you in on some of my secrets: 1) Creativity matters most. Instead of entering multiple times or begging people to vote for me, my primary strategy is to make my contest entry as creative as possible – so creative that people WANT to vote for me! Think out of the box, think rhymes, think lyrics to a popular song creatively edited, think a photo that easily stands out from every other photo, think a story that leaves people with a curious question whose answer lies in the photo you share… you get the drift. 2) Social media influence counts. In a contest where the brand specifically states that the winner can share the winning trip’s experiences on his/her social media channels, it will certainly help to demonstrate the reach and engagement of your networks. If you have a strong following on your blog, Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, show it, and show it creatively.

Dal lake, Srinagar photos

Dal Lake on a misty morning. Photo by Soumyadeep Paul.


  • The last date to enter the contest is July 31st.
  • Voting starts soon after the contest ends.
  • The expedition begins on August 9th in Srinagar and ends on August 18th in Delhi.
Ladakh landscape, Ladakh mountain desert, Ladakh pictures

Open meadows in Shakti village, Ladakh.

 ALL THE BEST. If you win, don’t forget to send me a postcard!

What are you most looking forward to if you win this trip?


Note: This post was written as part of the #CeatAdventure campaign.


Join The Shooting Star on Facebook and Twitter  for more travel stories.

Follow my Travel Contests Board on Pinterest to keep track of upcoming contests!

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Heartwarming & Heartbreaking: Living With The Nuns of Ladakh.

On a sunny afternoon, I sit on the steps outside my room, gazing at the bare, brown mountains and their snow-clad peaks. I’m lost in thought when four kids, wearing maroon sweaters and warm stockings, their heads shaved off, come and sit next to me. Word has gotten around that I speak Hindi, and the curious ones have come to check for themselves. On first glance they look like young boys from the village, so I ask Aap sab bhai hain? (Are you brothers?). They solemnly nod no, point towards the nunnery, and tell me they are nuns. Read more

The Joy of Slow Travel.

I’m sitting on a window sill as I write this, feeling the cool breeze on my face and watching the incessant rains spring new life into the wilderness that surrounds my (temporary) home in Goa. The joy of driving, walking and just being in the monsoons is not mine alone. The village folk are out in their carpet-like rice paddies, tilling the land in their colorful ponchos, humming along cheerful tunes at the late monsoon arrival. It took me a few days of being here to slip into the susagade mode of Goa, feeling content with life, appreciating the little things like hot tea and freshly-baked Goan poi on rainy evenings, happy to gaze out at the wild beauty that surrounds me. Read more

The World From the Lens of Ladakhi Nuns.

When I went to live at a nunnery in the high Himalayas of Ladakh, I didn’t imagine that I would be interacting with nuns as young as six years! Living with these Ladakhi nuns for a fortnight was beautiful, insightful, heartbreaking and introspective, in that order. But that’s a story for another post. Today, I want to show you the world from their lens, in photos taken by them with my Sony Cybershot camera. Read more

Jullay from Leh!

I groggily board the flight to Leh at an unearthly hour. Waking up irritably to the flight attendant’s announcement, the view outside my window quickly changes my mood. We are flying precariously close to the snow-covered Himalayas, and would soon land in the cold mountain desert of Ladakh. Three years after my first solo trip to Spiti, I am back in the trans-Himalayas, still dreamy and wide-eyed, a little nervous, and hoping to find solitude in the mountains. It feels like life has come a full circle. Read more

Kinnaur: Of Mountain Legends, Unknown Trails and Wild Beauty.

For centuries, the valley remained cut off from the rest of India. Legend has it that when a road was finally built and the first car drove up, the locals weren’t sure what to feed it. The driver playfully declared that the car likes chicken and whisky. The locals innocently obliged, and the driver had a feast. They also say that when an elderly woman boarded a bus for the first time, she left her shoes on the road as a sign of respect to the bus. Getting off at her destination, she was shocked that her shoes were gone, no longer outside the bus where she had taken them off. Read more

6 Offbeat Experiences Near Hampi.

After my soulful sojourns in the North-eastern and Garhwal Himalayas, I descended to Mumbai for some personal work. Three weeks of sweltering heat has left me craving the rains, and made me nostalgic of my monsoon adventures last year, when I chased the rains from Rajasthan to Hampi.

Over two trips to Hampi, I’ve discovered experiences that go beyond the majestic ruins of the ancient Vijaynagara kingdom. Take my list, stay with the locals, meet the dwindling gypsy community, cycle amid dramatic landscapes, and indulge a little: Read more

Sikkim: The Lost Kingdom.

On a late evening, we sat on a steep cliff, drinking the local Sikkimese Beer. Sparse villages and farms lay scattered in the valley below. The River Teesta roared along intensely. The mountains echoed with hypnotic chants from a nearby monastery. We were lost in our thoughts, when the mist slowly rose, and revealed to us in all its snow-capped glory, the mighty Mount Kanchendzonga. Read more

In Photos: The Garhwal Himalayas a Year After The Uttarakhand Floods.

I’ve never travelled in my own backyard. Born and brought up in the valley of Dehradun, I’ve always wondered what lay beyond the mountains I could see from my terrace. And last month, I finally decided to find out. I made my way up to the villages beyond Uttarkashi, and down via Mussoorie, transfixed by the majesty of the Garhwal Himalayas, as much as by the conviction of the locals to move on after the devastating Uttarakhand floods of 2013. I’ll let these pictures tell you their stories. Read more

Eat, Pray, Love in Gangtok.

Some connections are just meant to be. Like Gangtok and me. At first glance, the city feels like any other hill station. But delve deeper and you get a wistful peek into an India that could have been. Flanked by the majestic Himalayas, the first thing that strikes you is the city’s cleanliness –  no litter, no noise and no pollution, rules that the locals strictly abide by. Traditional monasteries stand in perfect harmony with the city’s evolving cafe culture. And the laid-back vibe of the locals slowly rubs off on you. Read more


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