It’s the winter of 2010, and I’m embarking on my most adventurous journey to date, in Northwest Vietnam. Only I don’t know it yet. After failing to beat the crowds in the Mekong Delta, we have pledged not to take the ‘touristy’ circuit again. Instead of taking the train from Hanoi to Sapa (a popular hill station), we’ve set out along the Northwestern hinterlands of Vietnam, and our conviction to make it to Sapa on land via this route rests on the blog of one guy who said the journey is possible. There is no more information to be found online; no bus timings, no trains, no places to stay, not even the names of the smaller towns & villages we may pass by. This is the story of one such village.
If you’ve ever fantasized about living in a remote village in the high Himalayas, experiencing the colonial charm of a hill station minus the tourists, savoring the country hospitality of India’s most hospitable culture, waking up to birds chirping on a farm, or finding the beauty of Europe’s alpine countryside in India, this post is for you.
As much as I’m repelled by the Hallmark holiday that is Valentine’s Day, it seems like an opportune time to collect a list of romantic weekend getaways near Delhi. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill getaways with a million and one other couples, nor do they offer a luxurious stay in a fancy hotel that’ll burn a deep hole in your pocket. These trip ideas are romantic in the artistic sense of the word, ones that make you realize how beautiful life is, and often transport you back in time.
As the bus jerks to a stop on the Kullu-Manali highway and the driver yells Raison, I pick up my sleepy self and alight. On my left, a pebbly path winds uphill, away from the paved highway; the absence of a road is a sign that there won’t be many visitors here.
This article was originally published in The Hindu. As a kid, I’ve often heard my grandmother talk about growing up in our native Punjab. I pictured little boys and girls running across big fields, plucking sour fruits and wild flowers, returning home at noon to the aroma of curries made with veggies fresh off the farm and paranthas laden with home-made white butter. I never imagined waking up to these images someday, given how they seemed only to be romanticized in the memories of people I knew.
Flipping through my travel archives of 2011, I am overcome with a strange sense of nostalgia. The world suddenly feels as small as that plastic globe you can buy off a children’s store. I’m strolling on the beaches of Southeast Asia one day, and hiking on the countryside of Europe the next. One minute, I’m warming myself with a gelato in Italy, the next I’m sampling momos in the Himalayan desert of India. I’m going solo, over land and on water, unearthing travel secrets that conceal themselves from a large part of the world.
This article was originally published on Offbeat Travel. I’m fascinated as Tenzing describes a mystery mountain close to his hometown in Spiti. He’s my first local friend, and the expert driver who we’ve entrusted with our lives, up the precarious mountain roads from Shimla to Spiti.
Through the thin white barks of Eucalyptus trees, the first rays of sunrise promise to brighten a chilly morning. I walk through a small clearing in the field, amid dark green shrubs dotted with white, and extend my hand towards what look like snow-flakes, only they don’t melt at my touch. If you haven’t yet guessed, I’m strolling amid cotton fields. The seeds have burst, and the cotton is blooming.
If someone tried to make folk music out of wooden sounds, it would probably sound like the soft clickety-clack that resonates through the village of Pranpur. Men and women are bent over their looms, squinting their eyes on their intricate sari designs, their hands automatically trailing a motion they learnt decades ago.
The year is 2010. It is a pleasant morning in the big town of Manado in Indonesia. The traffic is moving at a steady pace, men & women are crowding the Microlet (local transport van) interchange, and we are trying to haggle a ride to the ferry terminal in the four words of Bahasa we’ve learnt in the one day we’ve been here. We must be on our way to the little known island of Bunaken today.