Looking back at my travels in 2013 has left me filled with nostalgia. One minute, I’m hitchhiking in Bahrain, the next, walking on a glacier in Canada. I’m going down memory lane in Singapore, and joining the Fallas street parade in Spain. I’m indulging in the most delicious Thai food in Chiang Rai, overdosing on hoppers in Sri Lanka, and sipping gluhwein in Germany. What a year it’s been!
It’s hard to believe that 2013 is coming to an end. This is the year I truly, madly fell in love with the sheer beauty of India, despite the challenges that travelling here is laced with (Read: 120 Days on The Road). I experienced the “other” side of the Himalayas and the Thar Desert, ventured deep in the interiors of Assam and Rajasthan, and developed an unexpected fascination for life in the wild. In search of an India Untravelled, I met incredible people dedicated to preserving the country’s beauty, ecology, heritage and traditions. These are 13 moments from 2013 that make me all mushy about how much I love this crazy country.
This is officially the longest I’ve been on the road. I’ve lived out of my backpack for four months. And while I don’t long to have a home to go back to, the romance of being location independent is slowly wearing away.
Between my recent trips to sunny Seychelles and festive Germany, I was drawn by the call of the wild to Svasara Jungle Lodge at the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra. My jungle adventures in Madhya Pradesh earlier this year made me a wildlife tourism enthusiast (Read: Wildlife Tourism: Are We Saving The Tiger?), but Tadoba left me intoxicated. I can’t stop dreaming of forests brimming with unravelled mysteries. Or the sheer beauty and intricacy of their ecosystems. This is a glimpse of that world beyond ours.
I first caught the travel bug as a college student in Singapore. I had very little money, lots of spare time, and all of Southeast Asia to explore. I would pool in my savings with friends and try to find cheap ways to travel far and long. The tables turned when I landed a job with the Singapore Tourism Board, one that left me rich (relatively speaking) but at the mercy of weekends, public holidays, and a kind boss who understood my need to head out every chance I got.
I’ve forever romanticized about a white winter in Europe. The kind where I would watch snowflakes gently descend upon cobbled streets, and look poetically at the gloomy skies for a ray of sunshine. On this whirlwind trip across Germany with Lufthansa and German Tourism, I did just that. I sipped my first of many cups of gluhwein in Frankfurt, found myself in a time warp with Rothenburg’s medieval era festivities, fell in love with the colorful celebrations in Cologne and Berlin in the backdrop of quaint old churches, and revisited Dresden with much nostalgia. It was festive and charming, but just so cold, reminding me of What I’ve Learnt From Winter in Europe. By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be on my way back to sunshine! *** 1. AERIAL VIEW OF DRESDEN’S CHRISTMAS MARKETS from a Ferris Wheel! Glittery festivities lie in contrast against gloomy midday skies, symbolic of winter in Europe. *** 2. A LOCAL ARTIST’S WOOD-CARVING COLLECTION at Cologne’s Christmas Market aka Weihnachtsmärkte on the Alter Markt; wood-carvers, crystal painters, glass glazers, all showcased their …
Guten tag from a cold and festive Germany! I’m on a train from Frankfurt to the quaint Bavarian village of Rothenburg as I pen this. Outside, the landscape is a stark contrast between bare brown forests and colorful countryside homes. It’s symbolic of winter in Europe; introspective and festive at the same time.
I decide to call it a night after an indulgent Creole dinner. Why didn’t you dance? a distant voice calls out to me. I turn to face the night’s live musician. I don’t know then that I’m confessing I have two left feet to one of Seychelles’ most famous artists! I hear him say, sometimes you should just close your eyes and let the music take you, and I know I shouldn’t call it a night just yet.
Dear Turkey, I left you with a heavy heart, etched with the magnanimity of your people. A kind lady in the small town of Safranbolu opened her doors to me on a late rainy afternoon, to feed my vegetarian self a special meal of Peruhi (Turkish pasta) and Pasta (cake in Turkish) prepared for a family gathering. An old man from a bakery in Ordu gave me a ride in his truck to the town’s chocolate factory, after I walked five kilometers and stumbled into his shop for directions for the remaining three. A family living in an isolated hut on Boztepe Hill invited me in for a meal of home grown aubergine. A blacksmith who found me admiring his creations invited me in for çay and proclaimed his eternal love for Hindistan even though he had never been there. A young otel (hotel) owner in Cide went out of her way to ensure that I boarded the right connecting buses to my next destination without losing money or time. A cafe owner in the small town of Ordu, where I impulsively got …
My first memory in the Seychelles is standing on the deck of a ferry, with the wind caressing my hair and the seagulls whispering my name, as I counted the shades of blue in the vast ocean before me. I slowly realized it was a pointless task. Over the last three days, I’ve rekindled my love affair with the Indian Ocean, spent lazy afternoons on a hammock, snorkeled into the underwater world, rediscovered the goodness of Creole curries, and settled into the susagade island life. These are my first impressions of the Seychelles: 1. The ocean is as blue as it’s been in my dreams! On a clear day, you can see at least four shades of blue in the water, and when you walk closer on the soft white sand, you can see the base of the sea; I snorkeled into the water right from the beach at Kempinski, and found myself amid schools of tiny fish, black sea urchins, and big colorful fish. The blues of the Indian Ocean can cure any other kind of …