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5 Reasons To Travel With Your Bestie

5 Reasons To Travel With Your Bestie5 Reasons To Travel With Your Bestie

 
This last week I’ve been doing a lot of crochet and that means lots of TV time. 😀 That also means, I’ve been on the look out for shows to watch and… long story short, it’s how I found out about ‘Yaaron Ki Baraat’ the new TV show about celebrity besties that starts tomorrow, Saturday 8th Oct at 8pm on Zee TV.

Now this post isn’t about ‘Yaaron Ki Baraat’ (though there is some info on it, scroll to bottom if that’s what you came for). This post is about me and my bestie and the one thing we love to do the most, together – travel. Here’s 5 moments from our travels too and reasons why I love travelling with my bestie. 😉
 

5 Reasons To Travel With Your Bestie

 

5 Reasons To Travel With Your Bestie

1. You can say anything, absolutely anything

 
Best friends don’t judge, that means you can say anything without having to worry about being embarrassed. And when you are travelling it’s wonderful to have someone along who you can say anything to.

5 Reasons To Travel With Your Bestie

2. You can say nothing, and that’s fine too

 
With best friends silences are always comfortable. Some silences are uncomfortable but with a bestie you don’t need words, silence is golden and can say so much.

5 Reasons To Travel With Your Bestie

3. Because they always get your jokes

 
Best friends always get your jokes, even if they don’t laugh at it sometimes. But isn’t it great to travel with someone who understands your mind and it’s workings.

5 Reasons To Travel With Your Bestie

4. Sometimes you just need a cuddle

 
It’s true, besties are the best huggers, ever! And, it’s also true that, when you look back at all those lovey-dovey poses, it’ll bring a 100 watt smile to your face.

5 Reasons To Travel With Your Bestie

5. You’ll have an adventure, guaranteed

 
I’ve done some of the craziest things ever with my bestie, some of them impromptu and oh the adventures we’ve had together! Best friends share a craziness and that makes for fun travel.

My bestie and I, boy! have we got stories to tell from our travels. The time we impulsively took an auto up a mist covered Talacavery and found not a soul on top. It was just us and the mountain. :) Another time we took a motorcycle trip to test my new bike, and enjoyed our time so much on the road, we had to race the sun to return before dark. 😀 And then there are all those times we’ve danced around a campfire with no care in the world. Journeys with best friends is the best kind of travel, ever!

What say you? :)

Now as promised, some info on the show because my bestie is a huge bollywood trivia queen and I know she’ll love this show.

Yaaron Ki Baarat (Read – Vivo Smartphone presents Yaaron Ki Baraat co-powered by Amazon.in and Brooke Bond Red Label) is a show that will put celebrity friendships to test through a series of fun challenges and tasks. The first one has Shatrughan Sinha and Amitabh Bachchan. And the hosts are Sajid Khan and Riteish Deshmukh. To me the combination sounds like entertainment. The first episode airs on Saturday, 8th October at 8 PM as Zee TV.

5 Reasons To Travel With Your Bestie

October 7, 2016   No Comments

Thursday Travel: Kaziranga National Park and The Rhino

I had been to Kaziranga National Park for the first time about 6 years ago but back then I just past through the park and except for rhino’s didn’t see much at all.

Then in March I landed up there again as a part of the Journeys with Meaning trip. This time though I wasn’t just passing through and I got to know the forest so much better.

There is so much I learned and experienced in a little over one day there. The night before the safari, Dr. Firoz Ahmed, a Wildlife Biologist at Aranyak made time to come and tell us about Kaziranga and answer our questions.

The Rhino

Dr. Firoz has spent many years in Kaziranga studying the Rhino and trying to save it. And they’ve achieved it! In spite of poaching, since the park was formed in 1904 rhino numbers have been steadily going up. There are over 2000 rhinos in Kaziranga today.

Kaziranga National Park is a combination of grassland, marshland, and dense tropical forests criss-crossed by 4 rivers. It supports not just the rhino but also a large number of other animal, bird and fish species that come together to form an excellent eco-system. Here an adult Rhino does not have any predators and lives 8-10 years. It’s horn and very sharp teeth keep it safe from most attacks. Even Tigers would think twice.

Poaching

However in spite of the skin of a rhino looking tough and like armour, it is delicate and very sensitive. One well placed shot from poachers can bring this beautiful beast to its knees and after that it’s just one or two hacks of an axe to get the horn. The entire operation is so quick that it’s almost impossible to catch the poachers.

Most poachers work hand in hand with locals. A local guide is needed for a successful slaughter. Aranyak works in this space, trying to educate the locals and protect the rhino.

The Horn

It is a myth that the rhino horn is used in Chinese medicine as a aphrodisiac. The truth is it is used in fever medicine. The horn can be harvested with out killing the rhino if it is not dug out but the rates for the horn (80 lakhs or so for 250gms) makes poachers want to take all of it, every single bit.

Rhino horns are used not just for medicine, but also as ornaments and status symbols. The extremists use them as a way to fund their activities, buying guns, ammunition and such.

Kaziranga has more rhino poaching than tiger poaching and tiger numbers here are high (over a 100). The tigers are pretty safe here as there is very little human-tiger conflict due to the large supply of water and prey in this extremely fertile land.

Continued Next week…

 
P.S. – Day Seventeen of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge.

May 21, 2015   1 Comment

Thursday Travel: Top 3 Travel Companies that Make a Difference

Nothing really beats travelling on your own or travelling on a shoe-string budget but sometimes some tours and packages come a close second.

Some trips, even though organised, can change your world, yep they are that good. These packages tend to be the hatke, they do things differently. An whether they intend to or not, they make a difference.

Disclaimer – the following travel companies / organisations are run by friends but that isn’t why I’m recommending them. Well, partly. 😀 Mostly though it’s because I’ve travelled with them, experienced what they do and just can’t stop talking about them. 😛

Without further ado, here’s my top 3 travel companies in no particular order except that I’m start with wheels and end with stationary. 😀

 

IndiMotard Adventures

Traveling by motorcycle is a thing to do at least once in your life. It’s a different experience, the way you see the world and feel it changes. The sun in your face, the wind in your hair are cliches until you actually experience it. And if you haven’t experienced this yet, IndiMotard Adventures is a good place to begin.

They have three main trips as of now Cambodia, Himalayas and Sri Lanka. But they also do customs tours so you could plan with them to go just about any where you want. I recommend their Cambodia trip. I haven’t done this myself but many friends have, and my do they have stories to tell.

Contact:
Website – http://indimotard.com/
Email – info@indimotard.com
Phone – +91 94484 94080

 

Journeys with Meaning

My most recent journey to Meghalaya was with JwM and I’m glad for it. There were experiences I’d not have had otherwise. JwM opens new doors in your mind as you travel, you start to see things you never saw before and by the time you return the world isn’t the same anymore.

The guys over at JwM aim for an all round experience so you will not only see the sights, but also meet the people and understand their life, culture, challenges and more. It’s a great way to travel for you’ll really know the places you’ve been to. Like their ad copy says, theirs is ‘Travel that Transforms.’ :)

Contact:
Website – http://www.signposts.co.in/
Email – journeyswithmeaning@gmail.com
Phone – +91 98191 54365

 

Spiti Ecosphere

Local and Sustainable are the words that come to mind when I think of Spiti Ecosphere. This organisation aims to create sustainable livelihoods and in the process save history and culture. If you like to experience what it’s like to live in a mud house in the Himalayas, use a dry toilet, ride a yak, trek, mountain bikes, and such, this is the right place for you.

Spiti Ecosphere makes history and culture lucrative in such a way that locals want to hold on to their old ways and people want to experience those ways. It’s an excellent ecosystem that I hope more places and people will implement. This does not mean the arrest of modernisation or amenities but rather a balance and well informed choice of change.

Contact:
Website – http://www.spitiecosphere.com/
Email – info@spitiecosphere.com
Phone – +919418860099, +919418439294

 
These are my picks but there must be more out there. Have you experienced travel with a difference? Are there other travel companies you’ve journeyed with? What did you think of them?

 
P.S. – Day Ten of the 30 Day Blogging Challenge.

May 14, 2015   No Comments

Hamida of Yadgir

***Note: When I wrote this story all those years back in 2000 I promised myself I would visit Yadgir one day. Well the day is yet to come but often I am reminded of Hamida who told me an enchanting story of a quaint little town I glimpsed from the train. Yadgir has stayed with me over the years, silently calling and reminding, like it’s name suggests.***

Out of the mist suddenly emerges a fort atop a hill. The morning sunlight hits the hill and scatters around it an orange aura. The whole setting is so romantic and scenic, like just out of a storybook. This is the first sight I got of a town called Yadgir.

I had to leave for Pune suddenly due to unforeseen circumstances and so for the first time in my life traveled in the unreserved compartment. It was an experience of a lifetime, its so different here, the people are ready to share even the little place they have to sit, and in doing this there is no hesitation. As it is friendship happens so easily on a train but in here it is even more easier. Here I met a girl or should I say lady whose name was simply Hamida, she is a lecturer of philosophy in Bangalore. She was very sweet in talking (literally), and extremely helpful. She went calling after another lady who got down on the wrong station and had realized coz she had overheard her telling someone her destination. All this I had watched but I still had not actually spoken to her.

It was an hour and a half before she had to get down that we got talking when she offered me her window seat. Out of politeness I asked her where she was gonna get down and she replied ‘Yadgir’. Yadgir, what kind of name is that?, now that was my first thought, so I asked her how her town got its name. The history is really interesting.

About 300 years ago the king Adil Shah conquered Yadgir, which was then part of Gulbarga and was called Hassanabad. He built a fort on the hill, which dominates the city and a palace Firdaus Mahal for his queen Firdaus Jahan. One day Adil Shah’s teenage son fell of the hill while flying a kite and in those last moments as he clung on for his life he called out to his friends ‘Yesbir’ (which means hold my hand in urdu), but he could not be saved and his father named the place after his son’s dying words. Years later the Yadavas of Bijapur took over and as the hill looked like the hump of a bull and also that couldn’t pronounce the present name, they named it ‘Yetugiri’, these names later changed to Yadgir.

From the train the sight of the fort on the hill in the early morning mist reminds u of the place u dreamt your prince charming would come from. Through the town runs the Bhima River. In the fort is found the palace, a dome can be seen from far called the ‘Tope ghar’ which houses the canon. There are rooms where the artillery was stored and u can still find the smell of gunpowder there. There is also the ‘Ghadial khana’ (or clock house) which had a bell which would be rung at each hour to tell the time. There are 3 ponds, which are special. The ‘Baheno ka talab’ (or pond of 2 sisters) has a partition wall in the middle and it is said that how much ever water u take out there is always water over the partition wall, joining the 2 parts. The ‘Souten ka talab’s'(pond of 2 wives) specialty is that how much ever water u add the water never flows over the partition wall, the pond is forever divided and the ‘Peta nagri talab’s’ depth has never been measured, it has no bottom.

At about a 30 min. drive from here is the town Naikal. Here the fort’s walls look like stacked upside down pots. Folklore has it that a potter turned down his sister’s request for a pot and she cursed him that his pots would not sell, and so his stacked pots turned to stone and became the walls of the fort.

The scenic beauty and tranquility of this place is something to be absorbed. ‘Yadgir’ sounds like the word ‘Yadgiri’ which in Urdu means ‘something to remember with’ and this town has given me something to remember. As the train pull out of the station I bade Hamida goodbye with a promise to her and myself to come back someday.

March 25, 2015   No Comments

Website Review: CarConnect.in

I’ve received so many email reminders from IndiBlogger about the CarConnect.in contest that I finally decided to check it out. Well, the content would do my blog some good and if I won one of those vouchers they keep shouting about I’d be happy. Who wouldn’t when the first prize is a Rs.50,000 voucher, second is 2 Rs.25,000 vouchers and then there also are 80 Rs.1,000 vouchers; I’d have preferred cash though 😀

Disclaimer: This is a long post. If you want the quick and dirty, scroll right to the end now. 😛

Ok, onto checking out the site… Here’s what the home page looks like…

Positives:
The layout looks clean and fairly simple with enough social proof on the right to get me interested.

Negatives:
The only way to login is Facebook. Personally I don’t like that, I prefer to keep facebook out of other sites I use. Logging in with facebook requires me to be very careful about permissions, one mistake and the site will be plastering their info all over my facebook stream. There is also the fact that Facebook is not forever, so what happens to my CarConnect login if facebook disappears tomorrow? I would have liked to see another login option apart from Facebook.

Apart from the forced Facebook login, without giving CarConnect.in access to my Facebook details by logging in, I cannot see or do anything on the site. Every click only brings up one prompt.

“Please Login with Facebook to proceed…”

Oops, Wait a moment… All links at the bottom of the site work without login. 😀 So, you can check out the site’s About Us (which has some errors in language), How to Earn Badges, etc. without a Facebook login. But the one that caught my eye was the Contact Us.

The page is just like any other contact us page except for the 200 character limitation. Hey CarConnect.in, this isn’t a twitter status message. If you expect a more than 200 word review of your site, wouldn’t I be entitled to more than 200 characters in a complaint?

Positives:
This pops up when you hit the ‘Login with Facebook’ button, which isn’t so bad since the fine print at the bottom says, CarConnect.in cannot post on my behalf.

Positives:
After login completes the Profile page loads with all *fields populated from Facebook (these are editable though). There is not much information being asked for and I like the fact that I didn’t have to fill a lengthy form about myself.

My profile created and saved, I clicked on view profile to see what it looked like. The my profile page is simple and short with a note in bold asking you to share your experiences. So that’s where I headed next.

The Share Experience page gives you two options at the start. Car Experience and Long Drive Experience. This choice doesn’t change much on the page except for giving you car selection options or destination options.
Once past this selection I filled in the other details – caption, description, keywords/tags. I didn’t have any images or video so I skipped those fields.

Positives:
Simple and user friendly to fill up with the right fields and choices being given.
Options for Photos and Videos make for a nice touch.

Negatives:
The start point and destination drop-downs have very few options. I’d have liked to see more here. As of now there are just the metros, major cities and common holiday destinations.

Clicking the submit option brings up the above message. Moderation of posts isn’t bad and will help make sure random nonsense does not get added to the site, but I would have liked to know what parameters would be used for moderation, ‘appropriate’ isn’t enough to describe it.

Now that all login essentials are done, here’s what the Home Page looks like –

The home page now shows Top Car and Long Drive Experiences and all tags in the clouds lead to pages with more entries from users.

That concluded the login process I guess but before I wind up lets look at the various options in the main menu of CarConnect.in.

‘Home’ is as above, ‘My Profile’ we talked about earlier, ‘My Friends’ as expected is blank right now for me, and ‘Share Experience’ takes me back to the form for travel details.

Then, there is a ‘Leaderboard’ which gives badges and ratings of users. ‘Car News’ which gives news from the automobile industry and ‘New Launches’ which I assume gives info on new car launches.

Aside from all these, there is a ‘Long Drive’ option. The page asks you to select start point to see all route options. At first glance I thought this was a cool system for mapping. What it actually is, is a another tag cloud. A click on the city will take you to entries made by users starting from that city, not a map or route options.

Lastly there is the ‘Compare Cars’ option. This also sounds cool but when you get to the page you realise it isn’t real-time. Results will be emailed, now that just makes for more waiting and processing. There are other sites that do this real-time and would be so much better to use for this feature than what CarConnect.in has to offer.

Overall Thoughts –

Positives:
Most of the site is user friendly and straight forward.

Negatives:
My over all experience was marred by a few things like the Facebook login being the only option, the site layout being too rudimentary (more bells and whistles would have been nice), the reading experience of write-ups and news being more easy on the eye (at the moment it reminds me of Orkut), and other things where they have said one thing and delivered another like in the Long Drive section.

CarConnect.in as a concept is pretty cool since India is right now bursting at the seams with cars. (No point in arguing about there being no road space for these cars in this post) With the right incentives and a lot of clean up, the site would definitely gather more users.

July 4, 2014   No Comments

Back to My Bed and The Masters of the House

Photo Credit: Chenthil

I’ve been away from the blog for over a month now. Sorry for disappearing without notice. If you missed me, big hugs to you :) If you didn’t miss me, then I guess a hug won’t matter either 😛

Over the last couple of years it’s become a ritual that I take a holiday of my own every year. I take time off from the house, dogs and husband. This is my time and my space, completely; I love it and look forward to it.

This year things just fell in and out of place and a plan to see Historic Delhi emerged. Making a plan to travel to Mumbai to meet up with my travel partner and then head out to Delhi I booked tickets and that was that. I then got busy wrapping up everything here before I left. I almost managed all to-do’s before I left but missed the blog 😛

Cutting it, I made it to the train and was in Mumbai before I knew it. Mumbai is a city close to my heart. It’s the city that has most of my family and over the years a lot of friends too. I love the pace, the people, the life, colours and smell of the city. It sets my pulse racing. A week in Mumbai and plans changed. Ms. Partner couldn’t join me due to medical crazyness and I headed out alone to Delhi.

I had a blast in Delhi, but that doesn’t even start to describe it. I immersed and soaked myself in history and architecture. Spent hours gazing at tomb roofs and running my hands on walls as I imagined the Mughals and Sultans walking these corridors and touching those same walls a couple of hundred years ago. The things the Syaid’s, Lodi’s and Mughal’s built with just mud and stone, blew my mind. The symmetry in their architecture just left me in awe with my jaw dropping. More on it in the travelogues I’m going to write about my Delhi trip. It’s been ages since I wrote a travelogue. Kick me if I don’t get it done, please. :)

On returning hubby gave me four (yeah 4) hours to unpack and repack before we headed out on a week long road-trip with friends. After rock, mud and white plaster, I now soaked up the green as we wound our way to Chennai via Kovalam, Thenmalai, Kuttralam, Kovilpatti, Dhanushkodi and Pondichery. Oh boy was this trip fun, from F1 driving to beaches galore, it had it all.

Photo Credit: Chenthil

Truthfully I didn’t feel like returning, but I think it’s the dogs that brought me back to reality. I missed the brats through my trip and couldn’t wait to get smothered by them. Back from the trip I promptly fell sick, I guess I should be greatful it didn’t happen on holiday. But it did make the settling back in with the dogs also returning a bit difficult.

Present: I’m doing much better now, though got a few more days to go to full power, the dogs are back to being masters of the house and it feels great to sleep in my bed again after all this while.

Photo Credit: Chenthil

So much catching up to do, I don’t know where to start. Got a lot of books lined-up to read too while I’ve been gone. Authors: If I have one of your books on my TBR and I haven’t reviewed it yet. Please be patient I’ll get to it soon. I promise before the New Year 😀

This time off helped me a lot with clearing my mind and giving direction to my thoughts. I now plan to shift this blog of mine to a new domain [expect to get a reminder soon 😀 ], it’s going to get re-done with a better layout, pages, etc. There’s also a new series I’m planning. Got a lot planned and fingers crossed 😀

If you have any suggestions for my blog, can help me with the gyan on moving my blog, working with wordpress and bloggy stuff please leave me a note in comments. I’d appreciate all the help I can get. These are uncharted waters for me :)

Ok, enough about me and my mysterious disappearance :P, it’s going to take me a while to read all your missed blog posts. So, what have you been upto?

November 11, 2013   No Comments

Review: My Gola – A Custom Trip Planning Site

Photo Credit: Tamas on Flickr

Planning for a trip is the most difficult part of a trip for me. There is just so much research and planning to be done to make sure I don’t miss out on something on the trip. Anything that would make this easier would be a god-send.

There are a lot of tools to help with this online today and I have used some of them. But, I’m always on the lookout for new ones. Here’s where MyGola comes in. MyGola claims to help you create a custom trip in 15 minutes. So, I figured I’d give it a spin.

The site offers three types of sign-in – facebook, twitter and id & pw. The twitter login didn’t work for me though and I had to refresh the page to get the twitter login to register.

Straight up you are asked to plan a trip in 15 minutes. I decided to go with Thailand. Che and I had travelled there last year and so I know a little bit about the country.

The ‘Thailand’ place-search results in a lot of package options. I can either select a listed package or filter the travel packages based on themes, dates and places. Filter it is – so I choose History and Outdoor as themes, days as 10-20 and places as N/A (my choices didn’t make any difference). Here’s the short list of 10 that I got –

One of the things Che and I didn’t get to do in Thailand was visit the hill tribes, so that’s the package I choose to explore. A 12 day Trek to hill tribe villages of Northern Thailand.

My first view of this section of the trip plan leaves me wowed. I like the idea of seeing a day map for each day, it gives me a immediate realistic understanding of distances to be travelled through the day.

Each day of the itinerary has a drop down of places to be seen. Each place when selected shows you a photo of the place and gives you details about it along with more photos and videos. All the places can be marked as either definitely or maybe going.

I quickly went through all the places and selected the ones I wanted. Some I definitely wanted to see and a couple were maybe’s. I ended up with 19 places before I clicked on the ‘See Your Plan’ option.

Here’s what the plan looks like –

The planner is quite neat. It shows the day in timeslots and I could add, move and remove places from it. I could also extend and reduce my time spent at each place.
When I tried to add a place, I got options of places near-by to choose from with details. I could also had an option to add a place that was not listed.
Clicking on each place on the planner to took me to more details about it, there was even a description right here in the block.
Like I said before the planner is neat, it gives you control over your entire trip.

Once you’ve saved the basic plan, you can invite people to edit and refine the plan. If you have questions, you can ask the experts at MyGola. And you can also download the current plan as a pdf, that looks quite handy for travel with maps and other details.

Another way to plan a trip is by using the ‘Start Planning’ option in the left column. This method works a bit differently. You enter the countries or places you want to visit, the number of days you have and the site gives you a recommendations of cities and locations to visit. Mark the ones that interest you with definitely or maybe and you’re back to the planner we saw earlier. This option is great if you don’t want to start with a package and want to plan your trip from scratch.
You can also mark places as favourites and save your plans for future use on MyGola.

My Thoughts –

‘ + + + ‘

The planner from MyGola impressed me. It’s the first planner I’ve seen that gives me so much flexibility, info and help, all in one place. I didn’t finish planning my trip in 15 minutes as promised but I did enjoy spending one hour planning it. 😀
MyGola has a good coverage of the world through tour operators. I found packages for most countries and cities I tried searching for, even those in India.
If you’re looking to plan a trip abroad or to one of the tourist destinations of India, this planner will work well for you.

‘ – – – ‘

There are some things though that were missing. I noticed that not all places had enough relevant photo and video content.
Though you can plan what you will do in each day, there are no details for in-between the days. E.g. I could plan what to do in Bangkok on day one and activities for Chiang Mai on day two but I couldn’t find a way to plan how to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. I wasn’t looking for tickets, but I would have liked to know the distance between places. I also would have appreciated space to add my travel details in the planner, so it would show on the pdf.
Like I said above, MyGola currently works well only for countries and touristy cities. A search for locations or lesser known places will not help much.

I’m looking forward to using MyGola to plan my next international trip. Have you used MyGola before? What do you use to help plan your holiday? Do you have any favourite websites or apps?

July 10, 2013   No Comments

Isolated and faraway Ladakh is no longer a final frontier

This week has been a bit crazy. There’s been a product launch in the BookBuzzr family. (Check out fReado to win books or even a Kindle while playing games) And we travelled Monday night to Kovilpatti. I’m skipping nostalgia this week for fresh experiences but I do have a guest – meet Santosh, an old friend and traveller who loves to explore the unknown and unseen.

The isolated and faraway Ladakh is no longer a final frontier for adventure travellers.

I remember when biker buddies Satya and Omi set out on a 45 day expedition from Bangalore to Leh in 1996(their second or third) – I went to the railway station to see them off. The sense of an adventure like that those days gave me goose bumps. It remained a dream in me until I set out to do the same in 2002. By then itself things had changed. Satya and Omi’s stories of riding out into the vast mountains, high roads and passes made no sense at all. There was black tarmac roads built, new passes were opened, signboards, guesthouses; home stays along the road, made this a very doable ride. One, no longer needed big bikes to conquer the road that was counted among the ‘Top 10 in the world’. Life had changed – there were more people riding/driving/flying into once forbidden land of Ladakh. But the sense of an adventure to Ladakh was still exotic when I made my first trip.

2010 – Today, I am sitting in Leh. I am annoyed at the way things have developed here. Facebook, Orkut, Mr. Aamir Khan and the various commercials, which includes a Maggi noodle ad in Ladakh, has changed the character of this faraway land. Four lane highways, a tunnel to tame the Rohtang pass, a proposed rail connection from Manali, road connections into Zanskar from all sides, will continue to make Leh, the Manali/Shimla of Ladakh. Hotels and guesthouses are built by the dozens every season, new restos crop up every season and newer businesses find their way into Leh – massage parlors, tattoo artists and many more.

Frooti tetrapacks are found in some of the remotest villages.

What remained a destination for the adventurous of travellers has been decimated to a destination for the package tourist – the kind who wants to carry their kitchen with them. Thanx to corporatized tour companies like Makemytrip. As I walked into my favorite guesthouse Oriental – I was surprised to see the change in genre of travellers. As I sat at the open area by the kitchen, I hear a tourist who yells out from the window of his room “areh there is no hot water in the room”. Staff replies “ it takes a while for the solar heater to warm up the water”. Our man says “then get me a bucket of hot water”. No thank you’s, no please’s in the whole conversation. Then another white shirt, Bermuda shorts clad tourist walks into the kitchen. Same question “hot water”. Followed by another who complains of not having EPABX (intercom) or he would have yelled from the intercom itself. What hell, I thought.

As I walk into the town – I was shocked to see the change in landscape of the town. New buildings, new shops, new restos, and many more new’s – I have not dared to walk back to town again. Leh has lost its charm.

There are other stories to be heard. Oriental owner rattles – it is difficult with all the high impact tourists coming this way. Leh runs on diesel generator power, the whole town I mean – all the geysers, lights, TV’s, water heaters, water pumps all of it. Some of them like Oriental have solar powered water heating systems and basic lighting running alternatively. The makemytrip types don’t see the point or value the scarcity of resources. They stand below hot showers emptying the overhead tanks, insist on keeping the generator ON all night, and turn a blind eye on conserving. I guess the problem is awareness.

Now there is a problem in a larger scale. So far Ladakh has been seeing independent travellers. These independent travellers have been scattering their monies into the many restos, guesthouses, taxis, and other local setups. There was a split and all involved locally were happy and earned their share. Then comes the corporate tour operators; charter flights arrive, hotels are mass booked with obscene discounts bringing in the ‘every minute packaged’ tourists. This ‘every minute packaged’ starts at the hotel and ends at the hotel. Every meal every snack is planned at the hotel. On local tours – packed food from the hotel is carried along. Instead of smaller vehicles big buses are used to ferry the packaged.

Now this is what might happen, serious travellers avoid the touristy places. We have seen what has become of the Ooty’s and the Manali’s of the world. So the smaller businesses who depend on tourism suffer cos the ‘every minute packaged’ cant afford to explore the offerings of the town. They are tied into their packages. The serious travellers who scattered their monies are no longer there. The taxis don’t have much business cos the ‘every minute packaged’ are ferried in big buses. Guesthouses, hotels, have to scale up to have TV, intercom, geysers, and god knows what to satisfy the high impact tourists, thereby they getting into a debt game. I have not even spoken about the trash and solid waste management.

Where does it stop or where does it begin?

When Ladakh opened to tourism – year 1974 – 500 travellers braved the journey to visit Ladakh. This season when the corporate tour operators floated their Ladakh packages – one single company got in 10000 tourists, they want to bring 50000 tourists next year. Where is it headed – no answer to the question, but we have seen what has happened to the popular hill stations of the India. Aren’t they in a mess?

Few tips to make ur trip in Ladakh low impact –

1. Pick a local Ladakhi operator or a conscious travel company
2. Make an effort to share ur money into local hands
3. Avoid an ‘every minute packaged’ tour. They are cheap but they don’t give a local experience, they just make the bigger hotels, operators and themselves richer and fleece the smaller fellows
4. Value and conserve the local resources – use buckets instead of showers – simple things like that
5. People in Ladakh are a wonderful lot – they are peaceful and welcoming – pls treat them well or we will loose the innocence of a breed of happy simple people
6. Pls don’t trash the place – avoid things like mineral water bottles. Carry ur own bottles which can be refilled at local places. There are spots in town where one can fill in filtered water. This is an effort to cut down trash by locals
7. Pls be more aware – I am sure u don’t want to be counted among the ‘every minute packaged’ tourists.


One doesn’t have to have a reason to travel – it’s as simple as getting out there to take it within! Propagating the same message for over a decade, Santosh has traversed turbulent rivers, worked with an NGO, built solar fences & initiated an outdoor gear store and meandered through most of India. For those who know him better, he’s just stirred something within them…
After leading inspiring ventures like
Getoffurass, Photographyonthemove & Getofftraveler, there’s only one nonchalant reaction from him- “It’s been an interesting journey so far”!

Photo Credit: Anukaran Singh

August 5, 2010   2 Comments

Leh Jayenge – The way it all started…

A few years ago I got a chance to experience India; I quit my job and travelled for 8 months. When I finally did get home-sick and came back I had so much to say that I didn’t know where to start so, I never did get down to writing about it. But then recently at the GetOff Traveller Meet one of the speakers – Charu, a traveller writer – got me thinking about my journey as stories. That helped get over the overwhelm I was feeling; it seemed a lot easier to write stories.

It’s also been a while since I travelled for a stretch of time and these cloudy monsoon days in Bangalore tempt you into reminiscing. So here are stories from my travels and experiences across India as I relive my journey. :)

Disclaimer – This might seem very detailed and boring 😀 You’ve been warned…

The way it all started…

The itch to take-off and travel started years ago when I went on my first solo ride and got a first-hand taste of India. I was hooked; I started looking for ways to travel without having to take leave from work, which of course meant that I would have no job and money became the big question.

In the course of time circumstances and situations changed and I realized that maybe seeing all of India would be asking for too much, however the drive to see the country of my birth was still strong. Some friends and I started to plan to do the biker pilgrimage – Ladakh in 2006, slowly the route formed and lists followed. But this was not to be that easy, slowly but steadily friends started dropping out until soon there was just Ajay, who was a close friend and me left. About the same time I started to feel very unsatisfied with my work and my life that revolved round my work; I wanted a break. I decided to go on a saving spree for 5-6 months then quit work and travel as much as I would in the money saved, the day I ran out I would return home.

So then Ajay and I started planning for that, as after Ladakh he would return home and I would move on. But this was not to be either and Ajay had to drop out too. By now I had done quite a bit of planning and more importantly dreaming, and this wasn’t a dream I was ready to let go. I decided to go for it anyway, even if alone. Friends were appalled and advised against going solo, swayed by the persistent attempts I started to look for others going to Ladakh too, some seemed to fit my timelines and dates but maybe I was destined to this myself and all just fell through. When the last friend dropped out three weeks before we were scheduled to leave I had had enough. I was going and going alone.

It was when I was on my way to book tickets that I dropped in to Sam’s store ‘Get Off UR Ass’ and he told me of some friends going to Lahaul and Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh. Sam suggested starting off with them and then just heading on to Ladakh, he pushed me into at least calling up and checking. So, that was what I did, I called up Prashanth and soon found myself booking my ticket for Delhi on the 14th, a week earlier than planned. I would now be doing Lahaul and Spiti valley with friends from RTMC (Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club) the Bangalore Bullet club I was a part of.

Now I just had two weeks to go before I left, loads to do, lots to buy and sort out and I was also scheduled to travel to Hyderabad for a week to spend time with Pallavi who was friend and travel partner from work before she left for U.S. I just about managed it all I guess, though I did leave a long list of to-do’s with Mom and friends and before I knew it, it was the 14th.

The 14th saw me running pillar to post getting the bike packed and loaded on the train, some legal matters sorted, packing all I thought I needed, getting briefed on bike and picking spares from mech, shopping for last minute stuff…

With all this happening I couldn’t believe I made it to the station in time for the train…

July 26, 2010   2 Comments