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 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 on The Hindu. You have revelled with the crowds on the beaches of Goa, learnt the Golden Triangle route like the back of your hand, photographed the terrain of Leh, experienced royalty in Rajasthan, sailed the backwaters of Kerala, and played with snow in Manali. In the coming year, get off the tourist trail and discover a different side of India.
In a country of 28 states, each with its signature culture, food, language, history & landscape, it’s not easy for a traveler to scratch the tourism surface of India beyond the golden triangle. The need of the hour, as recognized by Indian Tourism, UNDP and a string of social entrepreneurs, is to develop sustainable, responsible travel initiatives in high-potential regions of rural India.