Another birthday trip! Dalhousie first impressions…

Turning 25 was no joke. We all have a plan that we try to follow through but life doesn’t wait. I was not excited about another birthday. Especially one that was supposed to be a landmark! Last year I traveled for the first time on my birthday to a place as wonderful as Bali and it was an incredible experience. An experience, that got me to make a vow to myself; to travel somewhere for all the other birthdays I have left.

I badly wanted to go somewhere this year with my best friend. She and I had never really gone beyond our little neighborhood in our hometown and this I wanted for us. Both of us have changed so much in the whole ‘growing up’ process that this was almost like a ‘Fre-naissance’ like Phoebe Buffay called it.

After a lot of back and forth on which place to visit, we finally settled on Himachal Pradesh. A cooler climate in the peak of Indian summer was indeed tempting. Dalhousie was a hill station I had heard a lot about and had always wanted to visit. So we booked those tickets. I’ll be honest, after booking those tickets and the hostel I started having doubts about the hill station. No pictures that I saw on Instagram from what others were posting looked appealing enough. But you know what’s good when you visit a place without having too many expectations? You are pleasantly surprised and taken aback by the beauty it has to offer.

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When we reached our hostel in Dalhousie it was like we were surrounded by a Microsoft wallpaper – as my friend called it. Deodar trees all around and snow capped mountains in the distant view. The weather was perfect, with a little chill to it and sunny enough for us to get some nice photos out.

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That day all we did was walk from our hostel to the city centre, Gandhi Chowk, which was about 4km away. The Chowk itself took us not more than 20 minutes to explore. It’s a tiny circle. That’s when we decided to walk another 5km to a waterfall called ‘Panchpula’.

The road and the walk was pleasant and didn’t feel tiring at that point. Once we reached ‘Panchpula’ and climbed the stairs the fatigue (at least for me) started to set in. After that little hike I did hope to see some gushing water. Now, I wasn’t expecting Niagara falls but what we saw was like someone forgot to turn off the knob of a tap in a washroom.

Of course since we did take effort to reach here we decided to sit there with a cup of coffee and a plate or two of Maggi. (Maggi is an instant noodle brand that is synonymous with every hill station in India. It’s there to rescue you even when there is nothing else around.)

It was a good start.

As I snuck into my bed that night I was finally feeling the excited about the trip. About the next few days, the trek we were going on the next day and even that 25th birthday.

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Finding something within a crowd

This is going to be a few random paragraphs. I want to be a real writer but right now all I do is jot down what I feel. Travel blog or not. Today I feel an urge of emotions. So I choose to jot them down here.

Have i changed or just the way I look at people and relationships? Something I ask myself every other minute of the day. I don’t know whether it’s that phase in life where you start to feel lonely and unsure or just PMS.

I think it’s the earlier one.

 

Lonely despite having people in your life, yes. Cause the way relationships alter and change; nothing else does. A friend who you have always turned to for support may not actually care as much as you thin they do. A parent who you keep going back to despite multiple fights may love you more than anything else in the world, but will still not understand what you are trying to tell them.

People either surprise you or move on with their lives. In this scenario you are just stuck in the big crowd trying to find something that will make you feel better and reassure you.

The truth is, you will share a friendship and a relationship with those who are in the same boat as you, who understand what you are feeling cause they feel it too. It’s empathy that bonds. But when the tide of life takes them forward and you stay in the same place anchored, it almost feels like you have ended back on the shore again. Right where you started. Not knowing where you belong. It lasts for a while till you manage to move forward yourself.

What I mean is maybe people only really empathize with similar situations and never with the person. Maybe that’s why you feel everything and everyone around you change.

Sometimes when you find yourself on the shore, feeling like you’re the only one who isn’t moving, it fills you with different types of emotions. The hopeless romantic turns into a cynic. And sometimes struggles with themselves cause they feel like they are a bit of both.

Whether it’s a perception, a belief, an opinion, people will not understand you. Not even those who are supposed to know you the best. Because the tide has taken them elsewhere.

So I guess all we need to do to survive is find people who can empathize with you in the moment – who can be in the same boat as you at least for a while till you find the person you can actually build a house on the shore with.

Until then day dream.

 

23 Things I Learnt About Myself – Part 2/5

2 years down the line and still feel like things haven’t changed much

My Travels : Memories and Moments

I know this blog is a year old now technically, but I still think of myself as a writer who mainly writes for herself. I don’t yet have the time and investments to make this blog commercial and join the bigger ‘ blogger universe’, but still when I see someone liking the post, I know there are at least a handful of people somewhere out there who read what I write.

The last post on this ’23’ series I have decided to do had a comment saying that I wrote was relatable. And that’s just it. These are 23 things I know about myself and my life, but there are so many out there who probably feel the same way about their lives and personalities. It’s a very connecting to people experience too, when you read and write something like this.

So continuing –

6.A people person?

I am talkative…

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Glimpses of India’s Blue City – Jodhpur

Jodhpur.

It’s been ‘THE’ city on my bucket list when it comes to places I want to visit in India, and by chance, thanks to my parents planning a Christmas getaway I ended up spending a weekend in this city.

What do I feel about it?

Honestly, I am not sure.

The Mehrangargh fort is one of the best in the state of Rajasthan, which is saying a lot considering it’s one of India’s most ‘royal states’. The palaces and the tombs and the many havelis have their charms and will make you fall in love with the culture and vibe. But the city itself needs work. Jaipur for example is a city that is maintained and is live able. Jodhpur on the other hand I felt had parts like the bazaar which were last built by the kings that lived here 400 years ago. It’s easy to escape these things while sitting in a luxury villa or hotel but when you really step out in the city, the dust and traffic gets to you.

But having said that, I want to share the things I loved about Jodhpur.

Like the blue walls in the ‘purani sheher’ which is the most iconic bits of the city. Whether romanticized in cinema (both Indian and International) or just the flood on Instagram by travel bloggers who seem to know how to capture the most tempting travel photos.

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I loved how photogenic every detail of the fort was. Not kidding. Every detail. From the jharokas to the birds nesting in every corner, to the ‘balconies’ to even the famous opium man. It’s the like Mehrangargh was born to tell stories for an eternity. I like to think of myself to be an imaginative person. And boy did I imagine. I imagined how the palaces inside would look in its prime. I imagined the costumes and the people inside the halls 500 years back. It’s charming, vintage, royal and very elite.

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I loved how the city looked from the fortress walls…

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I loved how beautiful I felt while in such a beautiful place…

(might just be that imagination again)

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I loved that I walked through the bazaar and the old market just to find the ‘Toorji Ka Jhalara’ a popular step well in the city that once upon a time must have been a beautiful sight and loved that now even in it’s ‘not so great’ days it stood out.

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I loved visiting Raas Haveli at night for dinner with my family just because it was one of the most beautiful places to be. Foothills of a lit up Mehrangargh, small fires glowing in the candles all around. It was stunning.

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I loved that it was a weekend where I got to know a bit about a city I really wanted to get to know for a long time. I loved that it was another place that I got to visit. I loved that I got to spend some time with my family. Most of all I loved Jodhpur showed me more than the ‘blue’ to it… It showed me a bit of reality as well.

How I Spent ‘Solo Time’ While Traveling

I am not close to being the wanderer or the expert backpacker or the solo traveler that every other person including me stalks on social media and feels like their lives suck. When I see pictures of travelers jumping into a waterfall or writing about how they traveled for months alone – I feel like an under achiever, but it also makes me want to strive towards something…

I have traveled alone before. But never for a long time enough time that can make it commendable. But sometimes I do get asked ‘Don’t you get bored?’ – well I have come to realise there is a huge difference in being ‘solo’ and ‘lonely’.

I can be lonely in a crowd and at the same time can also enjoy some ‘me time’

Get what I mean?

Well here is how I spent some ‘me time’ during my last solo trip (which lasted only 3 days)  – feat Siem Reap

Start with finding yourself a good property to be comfortable – travel hostels are great fun but every once in a while a big room in a nice resort is even nicer. I was lucky enough to find a good affordable property this time and I tried to make the most of it –  Tanei Resort and Spa 

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Spa time always helps ❤

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Immerse yourself in local culture – I for example love local theater! This time I checked out the ‘Bambu Stage’ in Siem Reap – it was something quite unique. Sipped a glass of wine before the performance started – the local artists explained how they make the leather puppets and the shadow puppetry narrated some local folk stories that sounded all too familiar to me. It was a very nice way to chill.

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Find the perfect souvenirs! I love collecting food and art related ones and the Sombai liqueur shop provided the perfect opportunity for me. They make local rice wines and put it in hand painted bottles. Give you a free tasting of 8 different flavours and also let you sample their jams! I loved this place and spent more than what I intended there!

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Eat some delicious local food!

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Or even better take a cooking class! I enrolled myself into the Countryside cooking classes and had a great time. I was the only one that day for the morning tour so got a personalized experience! The local markets were thriving and the market place is so much more than the produce, its about looking at the true local life, meeting people, learning about their livelihood and culture and the whole time my host telling me stories. He told me how he was funded by an American who not only taught him English but literally helped him get his life on track. I think I will write a full story just on this! I learnt how to make 3 dishes and I had a great time cooking and eating and then eating some more. The best thing for any traveler who loves food.

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Discover the city the way you want to. No peer pressure. Of course I checked out the famous Pub Street of Siem Reap – I took my photos, I wandered around but I decided to stop at the fish pedicure place and spend my evening there playing with puppies!

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Not kidding. Puppies.

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Solo traveling means a lot of things and this time it was just me taking a break. Doing things I want to do, when I want to do. Not having to worry about anything else. Sure everyone likes company but knowing that I can be okay on my own means so much more.

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A Moment in Angkor Wat

Starting the new year and looking back at a couple of things. Not in any specific order I remembered some of my happy moments this year. Two of them really stood out and surprisingly both moments came from places that are meant to be spiritual. The soul after all takes what it needs from wherever it can. My first moment was my birthday when I was at the Pura Tirta Empul in Bali…and the second one came from my water blessing ceremony at Angkor Wat.

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I was extremely surprised that I found my moment of peace on a day I was quite pissed with God. I waited for Angkor Wat, Thom and the other temples for a while, took the trip only to see the infamous sunrise. Yet what greeted me was heavy rain and grey clouds.

I was upset, I was carrying an umbrella and my brand new DSLR and trying to balance. I did miss the sunrise, but the minute I entered Angkor Wat temple I decided not to care about it anymore. And then suddenly the old monuments in front of me had a different charm in that wet and gloomy weather.

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As I was saying, once I got passed the rain I walked through the temple trying to discover a history similar to ours. The guide I wasted money on was trying to narrate stories to me and it became a situation where I ended up correcting Hindu facts and history. So I basically ended up giving him money to help me with my camera bag and umbrella.

But I was positive. Which is very difficult for a cynical person like me. This day in 2017 stood out for me cause it was one of those rare days that things were against me and yet I was trying to see the silver lining.

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So while I strolled around the area and was about to leave to visit the other two temples, Angkor Thom and Praer Khan. I came across this small stupa where the monk was doing water blessings. I’m not a religious person. Yet at that moment I realized I needed that.

I needed to sit there for those few seconds and let the monk sprinkle that holy water on me. I felt like I needed it at that moment. I felt like it would help me heal. It might just be in my head. While travelling alone, living alone, and just being alone in general we tend to lost. As the monk tied the thread on my wrist I wondered if it would bring me good luck.

Honestly I don’t know if it did. All I know is that in that moment a little bit of faith helped me.

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So as I get myself ready for 2018 and all the things its supposed to bring me, the hope and the prayers I take along with me. The same prayers I have been carrying along for years. The same hope that makes me believe that life might just turn out good.

2018, I don’t know what to expect from you. I don’t know what I am meant to do or be. I don’t know who I am meant to be. But I just hope that its good. Good, is all I can ask.

Cat Ba island- Emerald Waters, my first time Kayaking and more!

Why Cat Ba?

When you hear about Vietnam tourism most people talk about Halong Bay and the limestone. What they don’t understand is that most of Northern Vietnam has these structures, including the Cao Bang area where my mother and I saw some impressive limestone structures. The iconic limestone in the sea is spread across the region and multiple islands and forms many different bays – much prettier and less crowded than Halong – like La Han Bay

From Halong City, we took a speed boat to Cat Ba simply because we were too early for the ferry. And while the speed boat took us to the island in 10 minutes the first real glimpse of the bay was something that jaw dropping.

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My mother and i explored the little town, souvenir shops, cafes and the beaches on our first day and fell in love. Food was clearly not a problem here with so many European options and lots of seafood!

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The next day we booked a day tour with Cat Ba ventures – a tour group whose reputation I had read about from various blogs and sources. It was epic. We were a group with a boat on whose roof we chilled the entire day. They served us an impressive never ending lunch, took us to some of the best spots of La Han bay, took the swimmers to the coolest parts of the Emerland waters and more than anything gave me a chance to be cool. I went kayaking. I cannot explain how epic it was for a non swimmer and an average girl like me who in the traditional sense isn’t up for ‘ thrilling adventures’

I went kayaking with the group and thanks to a good partner I even felt safe. It realised that it took a lot of upper body strength. Though the waters looked calm there was current in the sea. It was amazing. To paddle through this water to hidden grottoes and luminescent caves and finding secluded lagoons.

I did not carry a camera on account of my clumsiness, but I wish I was a good enough writer to describe how beautiful this place was. I could have cried.

Try closing your eyes and thinking about it. Take a minute. Imagine you are regular girl who loves to travel and knows she can’t swim and her mother is waiting for in tension at the dock. Imagine that you open your eyes and you are surrounded by beautiful green water and a small cave is ahead of you and you can see the water reflect in an almost sparkling like its a magical potion.

Imagine you are in the ‘hidden’ lagoon and are waiting for the endangered monkeys to show themselves to you but all you can hear is the chirping.

Imagine.

After kayaking the boat took us to some iconic limestone structures that were either seen in popular films (hint James Bond rock) or  structures that remind you of a sleeping lion.

Suddenly you will find local villagers on their boats.

Suddenly you will find nothing around you.

This was one of the best days of my life. And certainly the best day from this trip!

Check out the pictures below!

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