A week in Udaipur

Udaipur, a love affair.53142804_2567201970008662_3174858787483811840_n
Udaipur is one of my favourite cities of India. I have gone there over five-six times in the past decade.It has something for everything.For me it had the most gorgeous scenic sunsets, sunrises and my goodness the street food. I came back 5 kgs heavier and with my heart doubled having sipped delicious coffee at Jheel cafe all mornings i was there.

This city makes you feel safe, it is still old, the roads too wide but hearts are bigger and smiles, larger.

While i was there, the annual world music festival was going on(happens in FebruaryContinue reading “A week in Udaipur”

Hornbill Festival,Nagaland

Our country is a diverse land of culture and festivities.Each state of this beautiful big country has one of its most important and glorious festivals each year and this year i decided to take my parents to the gorgeous land of Nagaland.Hornbill festival is a world renewed festival held in Kohima.

Organized by the State Tourism and Art & Culture Departments, Hornbill Festival showcases a mélange of cultural displays under one roof. This festival usually takes place between the 1st and the 7th of December every year in Kohima.

Hornbill Festival is held at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama which is about 12 km from Kohima. All the tribes of Nagaland take part in this festival. The aim of the festival is to revive and protect the rich culture of Nagaland and display its extravaganza and traditions.

For visitors it means a closer understanding of the people and culture of Nagaland, and an opportunity to experience the food, songs, dances and customs of Nagaland.

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The week-long festival unites one and all in Nagaland and people enjoy the colourful performances, crafts, sports, food fairs, games and ceremonies. Traditional arts which include paintings, wood carvings, and sculptures are also on display.

Festival highlights include the Traditional Naga Exhibition and sale of Arts and Crafts, Food Stalls, Herbal Medicine Stalls, Flower shows and sales, Cultural Medley – songs and dances, Fashion shows, Beauty Contest, Traditional Archery, Naga wrestling, Indigenous Games, and Musical concert.

 

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There are several tribes and one can make out by at times minute differences in their clothing,headgear,jewellery as to who belongs to which tribe.Week long event of festivities,dance performances,local plays depicting the life of tribals is a delight to watch.Women look exceptionally gorgeous in their local traditional dresses.

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I couldn’t resist photographing her beautiful hair accessory! DSC_3882 DSC_3885 DSC_3886

Seen here are mum & dad enjoying the local beer called Zu(a rice beer).

North east had a lot of delicacies to offer ranging from pork meat in all varieties to bamboo shoot curries for the vegetarians.The local red rice was my favourite of the lot and i carried back home some kilos of it.It goes well with making kheer(rice pudding) as it gives a natural gorgeous pinkish colour.

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The Naga tribes are expert craftsmen. Their dwellings are made of wood and straw and these are ornately carved and arranged. Each tribe has a unique way of constructing their huts. A common practice among all the tribes is decorating the entrances of their dwellings with the heads of buffaloes.

The Naga people love colour as is evident in the shawls designed and woven by women, and in the headgear that both sexes design. Clothing patterns are traditional to each tribe, and the cloth is woven by the women. They use beads with variety, profusion and complexity in their jewelry, along with a wide range of materials, including glass, shell, stone, teeth or tusk, claws, horns, metal, bone, wood, seeds, hair, and fibre.

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Morung:A gathering place.

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Two young girls pose pretty for a picture.

Women are so beautiful in this country.Men of this country are super lucky!

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Seen here is my father with a long drum used to play music as part of the processions.

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The men’s clothing is distinctive: conical red headgear is decorated with wild-boar canine teeth and white-black hornbill feathers. Their weapons are primarily a spear, with the shaft decorated with red-black hairs, and the dao, with broad blade and long handle.

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A play being enacted.

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My cute mother poses with the two nagas 🙂 DSC_4159 DSC_4297

The ‘Konyak’are recognised among other Naga by their tattoos, which they have all over their face and hands; facial tattoos were earned for taking an enemy’s head. They are called the land of Angh’s. They have the largest population among the Nagas.

The Konyak’s festival “Aoleang” falls in the month of April from 1 to 6. Aoleang is the biggest festival for the konyak. They wear their traditional attire and sing folk song to celebrate the Aoleang festival.

Known as head hunters of North East India. In the recent past, they were known as war loving and often attacked nearby villages of other tribes taking the heads of opposing warriors as trophies to hang in the Morong (a communal house). The number of heads indicated the power of a warrior and the tribe and becomes a collective totem. With the exception of these behaviors, the tribal members maintain a very disciplined community life with strict duties and responsibilities for every individual.(source:wikipedia)

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Traditional dancers.

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The traveller who loves being in traditional attires!

Thank you Nagaland for your vibrancy,great delectable food,lovely weather,the lovely kids i took home memories of and i promise i shall return soon!

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Until then. 🙂

Love always

A

Chakrata(Uttrakhand)

Few trips are those trips that you reminisce a lot.You think of those moments,those memories a lot because for various different reasons.I was going through a not so happy phase when i packed my bags and left for Chakrata,a small hill station, a little away from Dehradun.Hills makes one feel at peace.They give you a sense of belonging,they make you feel home,nestled in their lap.Stolen for two days,Chakrata shall always remain close to my heart.

I took a night Volvo from Delhi and saw this where the bus had stopped for dinner.

Seeing this lady,i thought how everyone,each one of us is always waiting.Waiting for a train,bus or a plane,waiting for love,waiting to reach somewhere,waiting for a dessert,waiting to travel,waiting to be held in warm arms on a cold night and many more waitings that i feel all humans go through.

I thought her waiting looks so eternal,so long,so pious.

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Breaking of a dawn.The first thing i saw in the morning was her,when i reached.She was coiled up in her shop sleeping in a thin sheet.She runs a chai shop at the bus stand,made me some hot chai and i kept wondering,the one who keeps others warm,stay cold herself.But generally thats what happens in life,mostly.Isnt it?

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A friend was driving us from dehradun to chakrata and the wind gushed as i saw these majestic mountains saying hello,saying welcome back,saying it’ll all be fine! I have always talked to nature,it has always talked to me,replied to all my questions,kept me engaged in great conversations as to why humans treat the beautiful nature with the least respect ever?

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Chai stops are my most favourite times of a car drive.Still thinking about what was bothering me from the city life,i saw this gorgeous place and smiled.How it looks so amazingly painted with hues of calmness,with colours of simplicity,with the basics of life.Basics.Isnt that all we ever need? Food,water,some shade,some love to give and some to receive.

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Chakrata is an access-restricted military cantonment, and foreigners face severe restrictions in visiting.But we the lucky indians can go there anytime! Wuhu!! 😀

We reached Chakrata around 5 pm and it was a beautiful small place with not a lot of places to stay at we found.This one place we went to see had these old objects arranged in a certain way in that reception room.Anything non linear,non fitting finds my fancy.

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Finally found a place that we liked and after eating some noodles and momos(no lunch is served afar 3 pm here),we put our bags there and took a window each to look outside the window.I thinking looking outside the window should be named a full time hobby!Ah! how beautiful is to see the sun set in a new place with a chill in weather and drinking some heat tea,with sugar mixed.These are pleasures of life that can only be felt,experienced.

Named the picture:The caged beauty.

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A day of being whisked away where mountains looked like oceans.Silent conversations of strength,forgiveness & pulling up the socks yet again.Snow clad mountains make me write.They make me want to pen down yearnings,thoughts and feelings.

Sharing a poem i wrote the following evening:

She hadn’t know how she was meant to be held,

until he lifted her up to hold her close.

She hadn’t known how she was meant to be woken up,

until he mixed sugar in her tea as he awoke her.

She hadn’t known how she was meant to be cherished

until he kissed the hidden nape of her neck.

She hadn’t known how she was meant to be loved

until she saw him seeing her as she slept.

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The glorious sun playing hide n seek with the trees.

Peek-a-boo!

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The area has an abundance of conifers, rhododendrons and oaks. The red rhododendrons are the most abundantly found in this region.When you don’t expect such glorious beauty awaiting for you,then it makes you so much more happier,like this valley.Instead of going to tourist spots of deoban and tiger hill we instead drove around roads leading to such amazing bounty of nature.

Mother Nature’s blessings.

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Her.
Eyes.
Dreams.
A story withheld.
Only if a picture could tell.

Innocence personified.

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For two full days i breathed deep,i breathed full,i breathed to breathe,to feel alive,to feel myself again.To be happy again,to be same person that i am again,these two days got me back my me to me.I felt real again.I felt tough again to take on adversities.Two days of letting the wind ruffle my hair,laughing,lots of laughing,slipping on snow,warming our hands on burning wood and eating simple food.

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Dream kitchen.

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Every blooming flower,wilts one day.
Every moment captured,fades one day.

These lines i wrote much later after a few months of the trip.

Flower blooms nevertheless,spreads its incense nevertheless and wilts to only make perfume,nevertheless 🙂

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A happy girl.

I only wish there was a recording to the chuckle when we found snow.It was like children got an extra chocolate.No it was like they got ten extra chocolate.How beautiful are these moments of plain sheer joy where in one’s face only reeks of glee and then some more glee.

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Very seldom do two people meet in life who have exact same taste of food.

We digged curd everywhere we went.It was a meal in itself at a lot of places.

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A day of pahadi simple breakfast of eggs and paranthas.

The extraordinary stolen read.

Books i feel come to you,like people,like travel places.You only read them when they come to you,you can’t get them until they want to be read by you,until you are ready for them.This was one excellent of a read of this year.Had amazing fun exercises to do.

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Stop over for some dhaba food on the way back.In hills they make the best rajma know? 🙂

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The Sunsetty drive back home.

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Its the small moments,smallest of memories that make life so beautiful.Each one of us is an artist and work with paints that we like to colour our lives with.Some stay silent and bottle up all their thoughts,desires,expressions in fear of sounding or looking weak and some are just the opposite who express each emotion,each feeling because thats how the one who made us,made us.To celebrate life in its full glory,to be chirpy about having felt loved for brief seconds and to be ecstatic about travelling to a far off land i wish each one of us always has the power of expressing and not be afraid to voice a feeling,to say a wish or to express love.Dont be afraid know,don’t feel scared to take a bus,to take the first foot forward or to take chance.Dont.

Don’t miss out on this beautiful sunshine gift of live.Embrace it and let it embrace you.Tightly.

Keep reading and most importantly keep travelling!

Lets go to the north east in next blog 🙂

Much love

A

 

Banaras(Kashi)

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Banaras.

I was getting a call to come here from many years.But it doesn’t happen,until it has to happen.There’s a time for everything.Somethings our elders say,are true.But its ironical they mostly don’t believe in their own words.Banaras,Kashi,Varanasi.

For me its Banaras.Ah!you banaras.

A place that is beyond any words,far from expressing my feelings for it & the yearning it gives you after being in its arms.
It gave me back me,revisiting myself,that’s what banaras did to me as I saw a sun rising each day & waiting with bated breath for it to set.

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You know i think life is very simple,each one of us tries to complicate it unnecessarily. Investing time in buying things,more things,more things,more things.How about spending time with self?This self that you’ll stay forever with.Human’s first nature is to love,to give love,to be loved.Why do we keep ourselves devoid of it?To not have conversations or to have to curb our feelings or never expressing as to one will get hurt?Hurt i feel is a big part of evolving.Evolving into a real you.The inner you.Until hurt,you wouldn’t want to find self,you would be highly content living with others,living for others.

This gentleman you see here,sells the most stellar chai on the Assi ghat of banaras.His shop is Sixty years old and is legacy that’s been passed on from generations to the next.Everything about banaras is “meetha”(sweet),beginning from the chai.Banaras is a feeling,its a very pristine feeling.I felt i came back home after many years.My train reached banaras station at four in the morning and i straight headed to the ghats to watch the sunrise.

In its full glory dear sun came out warming my heart,my soul,my presence,my absence.Closing my eyes i felt a presence.I saw my grandfather sitting on my right.I was very close to him,his eldest grandchild.we used to discuss matters,politics(home) and ate street food.I saw him smiling & looking in front at the sunrise and i closed my eyes thanking the ultimate one,for bringing me here.For making me be with him after fifteen years.

Life is beautiful.Give time.Give time to self.That’s all you’ll ever have,forever.

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Little princess at a by lane shop.

Kids,i feel are the incarnations of god on earth.

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Banaras has the old warm charm to it.You feel belonged.You feel home and as i walked on all the gullies for hours seeing the daily life unravel and no craziness like cities.Everyone has time to talk to each other,say hi,wish well for each other and no tension for extra money,hoarding of money,wealth,no,nothing,zilch.They sit peacefully,run their shops with a smile and eat what they have.

“Saada jeevan,ucch vichaar” resonates in this city like nowhere else.

(Simple life,high thinking)

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Beautiful small temples in the gullies.

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The city has many interesting doors like these.Doors are beautiful,i find them highly metaphorical.Theirs an outside world to them and an inside world to them.Like each one of us.We all have this door that we open and let in few people,closed for some and always open for some.

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Cute aunty watching the shop for his son who had gone for a quick lunch break.

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The Itr(perfume) shop.India is so amazing i can’t stop saying it ever.Ah!

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Serious artistic inspiration from such scenes!

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The mithai shops are in abundance here.They sell overtly sweet,very sweet,yumm yummbengali mithais to balushahis,jalebis & pedas.They are tasty,but don’t eat too many!

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Chilling in Banaras.

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Most of the home entrances were beautifully painted like seen here and made me want to call one of them my own home.I am not very fond of big cities where opulence or big homes are termed as beautiful homes.Sorry,no.A house made with love,with own art,or own thought is allowed to be called home.

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Surprisngly,Banaras had a lot of street south indian to offer!

I was ecstatic and how :).South indian being my most favourite cuisine and the chutney, uff na!

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A moment of love captured.

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Hello franch!

I love such anecdotes you find while strolling in gullies of banaras.

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Expressions

Innocence.

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Is she expected to keep quiet also?

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Banaras has many temples.Many means many.The most known one being the Vishwanath mandir.Oh! that reminds me the vishwanath gali(opposite the mandir) has the most decadent chaat,puri sabji and jalebi 😀

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A day at the ghat.

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Hello! Chiller uncle!

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Being a hunter of food everywhere i go and being a vegetarian city,banaras had a great deal of varieties to offer.The vatika cafe at assi ghat has the most amazing wood oven fire pizza and ah! their homemade apple pie.

Please.

Go to banaras for just this apple pie(get 2 packed for me)!Its stellar beyond limits.They finish up real soon.Grab one with a dollop of ice-cream,sit by the ghat and enjoy it.There’s no other joyous moment that i have had that comes even close to this one.

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Whatever you are doing,at 5 pm,head to Dashvamedha ghat to catch the spectacular aarti.The sight is gorgeous,its magnanimous.Its so beautiful that you want to see it every single day that you are in banaras(i did).The enigma of it ah!.There’s one that happens at six in morning too.The evening one has a special place in my heart.Its heartfull to even think about it.Please don’t waste too much time taking pictures,just be there,watch it,let yourself be there,be in it,let it be you,in you.

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I visited sarnath and ramgarh fort for a day and fed pigeons there.I refrain from touristy spots but sarnath called me and later my grand mum told me how grandpa used to love going there.

Sarnath is a city located 13 kilometres north-east of Banaras near the confluence of the Ganga and the Gomati rivers. The deer park in Sarnath is where Buddha first taught the dharma, and where the Buddhist sangha came into existence through the enlightenment  of Kondanna.

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When there’s no light,the city seems even more glorious.

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An afternoon siesta at ashish cafe(assi ghat).

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When you travel,more than you doing things,things happen to you.Someone wants to learn hindi,someone wants to sing together on ghats,learn a string or two of guitar from this person who’s crazily amazed by your country.Pen them down.Write them,however you like.When you travel alone, you afford to spend time with self which you don’t get in cities because there are so many fillers in name of Facebook,watsapp,weekends etc.

The glorious Kedar ghat on an evening in banaras.

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How can one escape the many naga babas there?Some are real,some not.same like humans i think.Some are real,some not.Nobody can decide that.Its all a matter of perspective.Right?

Naga babas are fascinating,they have the most amazing stories to tell and also a live an unconventional life(now thats always got my ear,anything unconventional i mean 🙂 ).

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Don’t goto banaras in a hurry.Go there to eat meet hi dahi in kulhad,many of them,to drink the lassi at pahlwan’s to drink endless chai at the ghats,to watch it,to be one with it.No other place has given me,my me back than Kashi.

Stay there.Live for once.

Keep reading,but most importantly keep travelling!

More of travels in next blog.

Love

(I wish to go there very soon,again)

A

Ladakh(Part one)

LADAKH!

Yes,i paid my pilgrimage to this beautiful land of desert,land of dust,land of mountains,land of a clear sky,land of villages and the land of love.This time was a little different as i was travelling with a fellow traveller Sakshi who’s from Bombay and is the most amazing photographer ever.The fun was double,the experience was double and the memories were more than double for sure!

This scene of blasphemy is the lunch of the  day we had landed in Leh and were to rest that day(as instructed).I have travelled to Ladakh before too way back in 2008.That was a family trip with covering all touristy stops and the checklist!So this one was more a backpacker’s trip and no we weren’t keen on touristy stop but we had a rough itenary of the villages we had wanted to cover.

We have finally reached leh 🙂
I am ecstatic like a child who wants to walk up to each of the gorgeous mountains here and say a hello.
I want to hold them and hug them tight to tell them that I love them.
I last came to this land of mountains a decade back as a young teenager who was astounded by its snow clad mountains and the gorgeousness of the pangong lake.
My heart lies in travel and past few weeks has made me realise that being on the road gives me happiness unprecedented.My feet are itching to tread paths unknown,my skin reeks to be a darker shade of brown in coming days as i travel to the unknown lands,to fill my heart with experiences & to satiate a part of my travel cravings.

Some grilled haloumi salad anyone? 😀

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Oh! Hello!

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Having rested for full twenty four hours to acclimatize ourselves to the lands of Ladakh.We woke up afresh all hungry and excited to start our expeditions into the unknown lands.Guzzling down on fresh pineapple juice and biting hungrily into a mushroom cheese pizza we discuss our plan to leave for lamayuru. So 30th July was a full moon night and we knew that moon looks blue in Lamayuru.In order to reach Lamayuru, one has to travel 107 kilometers west from Leh.June to September is the best time to visit Lamayuru as the roads are clear and bereft of snow.

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Sangam.(Confluence)

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Lamayuru.

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Paintings on the walls of the monastery.

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Each painting has its own tale.

The protector.

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Monks relax on a windy cloudy day.

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Our lovely home stay owners preparing some supper.
The land of the moon as it is called,this night being the full moon night we decided to head there to capture it,to let our heart be captured by this gorgeous village.
With our backpacks on shoulders we leave for the journey of five hours gushing over the  colourful mountains,the streams flowing,the kids waving byes and the pit stops for fun pictures(isn’t it that gorgeous feeling to jump!).
Lamayuru is quaint,not many people come here and we nestled ourselves in a home stay which had two babies,perfect!
The lady of the house made us home styled thukpa which I carefully observed and sharing the recipe with you all of the same 🙂
Ingredients:
A bunch of palak(spinach) thinly chopped
Ten Ladakhi turnips(chunky cut)
Onion-2 (thinly chopped)
Tomato-2(thinly chopped)
Carrots-5(chunky cut)
Heat some oil in the pan and fry the onion and then add the tomatoes.
Fry a little until soft to add the rest of the vegetables. Add half a teaspoon of dhania powder,haldi(turmeric),whole grounded black pepper and salt to taste.
Add a mug full (200ml) of water and stir the soupy mixture.
Knead the flour and make a chapati out of it to thinly slice the leaflet and add to the soup mixture on low flame.
Stir for few minutes and taste to adjust the seasoning accordingly.

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The luxury of solitude.

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Woke up to sunshine falling on my face.Few feelings like this can never be described,can be never be expressed.I feel good,I feel alive,I feel kicked to tread paths I haven’t walked on.
Today was about going to the village settlements of lamayuru and delving into their lifestyles.Simple living fascinates me like nothing else.It fascinates me how they want to always share whatever they don’t feel the need to goto malls on weekends or aspire to buy big cars to show off to their friends.
I also love how they grow their own vegetables,use renewable sources of energy and walk to get from one place to another. I had wanted to live this life,I am living this life,simple life,my life,no pretension,no nothing.
We came down to this small cafe that was still being built for some refreshments as the sun was shining with too much love on us.
Sipping our drinks he asked us if we would like something to eat.I itched to cook,I asked him if I could cook in his kitchen.Lo & behold he let me!
I love cooking.Its my first love,cooking 🙂

A local bread maker.

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Gorgeousness.

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Besides the monastery itself, Lamayuru is quite well-known for Yuru Kabgyat. It is a two-day festival and one of the biggest in Ladakh’s cultural calendar. During the festival, masked dancers perform the essential teachings of Tibetan Buddhism through traditional dance performances. The prime attraction of these dance dramas includes the demolition of a statue suggesting the enemy inside every individual. The natives of the village turn  up in ethnic garments and make the festival more and more colorful.

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Chiller in ladakh 🙂

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Lamayuru,the moon land has given us love and the monastery here had some of the best wall paintings I have ever seen.They constituted of he mandalas that I find very very interesting and drew a bit too while there.
Our destination was themisgang today and to reach there is a story! We came down from our guest house to the main road where we were to find the local bus that would take us to the main road of themisgang.
After waiting for an hour the overcrowded bus arrived and within a matter of minutes I knew we were sitting on top of the bus with our two big backpacks.
I have never done this.I mean who in their right mind does this? Rickety bus,dust everywhere but all I did was smile,smile so wide that I saw the mountains smiling with me, the Indus singing with me.
Some journeys change you,some journeys become you & some journeys never leave you.
This bus journey was that journey.

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The joy of travelling is unprecedented.It can’t be told enough,can’t be written enough.

Coming back with more stories of Ladakh(lots of them!)

Till then keep travelling and read if you get time apart from exploring.

Love

A

Kih monastery & Kibber(Spiti continued)

Moving on from Kaza,my next stop was to visit Kih monastery.I had always wanted to go there since i had first heard of spiti valley.

This picture is from Kaza.

A happy happy traveller.

Traveller we all call know ourselves nowadays.For me travel is life,it’s that school that i can’t stop going to,can’t stop attending different lectures,can’t stop going on and on and on.It gives me the insights into lives,culture,thoughts,people,food.FOOD.Core existence of my life revolves a lot around food.Its the purest form of emotion i think,being a cook i know one puts in all the love while making that food.

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Handmade momos.

Sorry.

Love made momos.

They don’t keep them made.They knead the flour and take thirty minutes to give them shape,steam them and serve.(No reheating like the cities)

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Fun graffiti in a small cute place.

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Thing for old utensils?Thing for kettles streaming out hot chai in the so cold spiti.Ah!The glorious chai.The ever gorgeous liquid happiness.

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On the road to Kih monastery.

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Kih monastery.

Kih Gompa is said to have been founded by Drompton (Brom-ston, 1008-1064 CE), a pupil of the famous teacher, Atisha, in the 11th century. This may however, refer to a now destroyed Kadampa monastery at the nearby village of Rangrik, which was probably destroyed in the 14th century when the Sakya sect rose to power with Mongol assistance.

Kih was attacked again by the Mongols during the 17th century, during the reign of the fifth Dalai Lama, and became a Gelupa establishment.The walls of the monastery are covered with paintings and murals, an example of the 14th century monastic architecture, which developed as the result of Chinese influence.

It is the biggest monastery of Spiti Valley and a religious training centre for Lamas.

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The monk at the kitchen of kin,preparing some chai.

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The very gorgeous Kayanat told me the way and later invited me to her home for tea.Ah these homes.The village has around 80 houses, unique, given that they are made of stone instead of mud or adobe brick used extensively elsewhere in the Spiti valley.

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It contains a monastery and the Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary. Kibber lies in a narrow valley on the summit of a limestone rock. It is located 16 kilometres from Kaza and a bus service connects them in the milder summer months

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Ladies going to pick matar(pea) from the farm.

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A moment with Sonam,the daughter of the home stay owner here.The home stays are so beautiful,they make you so home.They make you sit near a hot bukhari(coal lit fire in a pillar kind) and make piping hot home made food.Always sending hot cups of tea to your room.Love is beautiful.Unattached,no name of a relation love.

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Parantha making joy.

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Taken at the kin monastery kitchen.

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Sending lot of travel love.

Hoping you having fun reading these experiences.

Till the next blog where we tread our path to the land of Ladakh!

Wishes

A

Kinnaur & Spiti Valley

IMG_4906_2 Mountains.

They have a special place in our hearts know.They make you feel alive,they make you feel big and small all at the same time.Makes one want to become humble like them being so large and yet so humble,so humble.Each time you go to them they take you in their lap,caressing your hair as though welcoming back.My last trip to mountains took me to the beautiful lands of Kinnaur and Spiti valley.The non touristy villages of Kapla,Nako,Tabo,Kaza were to become my home for a few days.

Being a big mountain lover, I had been wanting to the picturesque spiti valley from a very long time. I had wanted to explore this alone and hence needed  deep study (the lonely planet guide is my bible) and some research before i could head on with my expedition to this not widely traveled destination.
The journey began from taking a relaxed overnight volvo bus from Delhi to shimla.After reaching shimla i took a khatara(non fancy) bus to reukong peo from where kalpa-my first stop is an hour’s journey.The twenty hour rickety bus journey broke me physically but the joy of a traveller is far more than such arduous travels.These experiences make me feel raw,they make me part of the dust,the air that i wanted to be a part of.

Entertaining self on the bus with these crax.

We all ate them like this when we were little right?

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Sukhi uncle at kalpa village where i stayed for two days.

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All my tiredness went away with waking up to this!

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Life.

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Found a home i would like to have.Am not a believer in having a permanent home but this gorgeous hut as though seemed for me,built for me,locked so i could one day come and stay.A baby i asked to take my picture with this,dream home.

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Trekking to a nearby village with some locals who had promised to show me apple orchards and also were insistent on how good the apple alcohol is.Kalpa is a small beautiful village in the kinnaur valley where i stayed for two days. I walked to the “roghi” village(4kms from kalpa) to enjoy the flower laden apple trees and natural beauty on both sides.

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Humour?

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No scarf covered face doesn’t prevent any dust on these raw dusty road of spiti but i loved this scarf a lot and wrapped it around me everywhere i went.

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From the village of Kalpa my next stop was the village of Nako.So to go from one village to another you got to take the local bus from the bus stand down at reukong peo.The bus schedule isn’t very fixed as the case of landslides in this region is quite a lot.Be prepared to stay back a night if your bus doesn’t come!

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The local artistic jewellery spread out for the tourists at one of the shops.

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Oh! Hello nako! ❤

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The much famed Nako lake.Am highly in love with reflections.

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The most fun part for me as a cook is that i get to learn new recipes and dishes.The home stay i stead in this village,my host taught me how to make the amazing thukpa-the traditional way.

Being a passionate cook i would have million questions to ask about the cooking and they would answer with a big smile each time.

The rustic kitchen,Ah!How do i tell you that feeling of that smell of coal?Of the small child giggling seeing me cook?

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The traditional noodle maker i saw at most homes (it beat all the fancy pasta making machines i thought!)

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Lahaul and Spiti is surrounded by high mountain ranges.It possesses a Buddhist culture much like Ladakh.Two ways to reach this land by either from Manali route or via Shimla.Spiti is summer home to hundreds of semi-nomadic Gaddi sheep and goat herders who come to this valley for grazing their animals from the surrounding villages.They enter the valley during summer as the snow melts and leave just a few days before first snowfall of the season.Tourists from outside India need inner line permits to enter spiti through Kinnaur.For us indians,we are just blessed to be born in this gorgeous land of picturesque  abundant beauty!

This was and will be one of the most amazing journeys of my life, having said so you should definitely goto spiti as soon as you can.

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Love for windows.Or things that look like them.

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One of the many chortens spread all over.

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Nako village evening.

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After enjoying few days of sun and local home made food my next pit stop was Kaza.The town is divided into the old, as Kaza Khas and new as Kaza soma sections.The Tangyud Gompa dates to the early 14th century and is built like a fortified castle with massive slanted mud walls and battlements with vertical red ochre and white vertical stripes. It is on the edge of a deep canyon and overlooking the town of Kaza, 4 km from the town.[

The inside intricacies of the Tangyud Gompa

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Buddhist culture fascinates me as to am a big fan of the current Dalai Lama and have spent past few summers at the monastery in Dharamshala teaching few kids and learning a lot myself about what he says,how life should be lived full of love & compassion.Monsteries like churches give me a lot of peace and i like sitting by myself and just being.

Travel alone.It gives you,your you back 🙂

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As though god sends these funny things for you to chuckle as you walk alone one hot afternoon(hills are hot in the day!)

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Be happy.

Be content.

Read.

But first travel.

This blog is not about preaching how to go about things but just a glimpse of whats waiting for you out there.

Next blog we go ahead on this journey to Kih monastery and Kibber.

ok?

Till then

Love

A

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Old Goa

Goa.

The name of this place has been synonymous with partying for many decades even before we were born.This time that i paid my visit to goa i wanted to visit the old church side of goa and being a history fan i ached to feast on the stories behind those churches.I also wanted to witness the very old goa carnival that happens during this hot month(for goa at least) of February here.Religion for me is nothing but a word.Belief for me is everything but a word.I believe in a belief that all religions or no religion should practice only humanity and compassion & love being their core teachings.

I say this because in our country we do talk like,aap kya hain?

I say hum insaan hain.

Nai nai matlab hindu,muslim,christian?

No,nothing.

My grandfather was a very religious man and all thanks to him that i know the numerous stories from the glorious book called Gita & also other sacred texts.He would always tell me to respect each one irrespective of caste,creed,religion.I would ask him as to just because am born in this house so am a hindu & my friend Farhat is born in a muslim household so she’s a muslim?

He would smile and say to the ten year old me,darling never worry who you are,always just have love in your heart and you shall be a good person.He never talked ill of others(i picked it from him) & for me that’s a religion.

I speak of religion because it is unimportant.Important things everyone talks about.

So going to churches gives me a lot of calmness,a lot of serenity i feel.I like sitting on those wooden benches and be,just be.

Walking is amazing know.You see so much around you,i love walking and one fine hot day i saw my shadow as i walked in old goa and took a picture.

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Warnings with a description!

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The Se Cathedral.The Se Cathedral was built to commemorate the victory of the portuguese under Afonso De over a Muslim army, leading to the capture of the city of Goa in 1510. Since the day of the victory happened to be on the feast of Saint Catherine, the cathedral was dedicated to her.The architecture style of the Se Cathedral is Portuguese-Manueline.The Se Cathedral’s tower houses a large bell known as the “Golden Bell” on account of its rich tone.It had two towers, but one collapsed in 1776 and was never rebuilt.

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The tourist in front of the gorgeous entrance of the Basilica of Bom Jesus.Bom means holy.This is one of the oldest churches in Goa and in India. The floor is of marble inlaid with precious stones. Apart from the elaborate gilded altars, the interior of the church is simple.This beautiful church is one of the most gorgeous UNESCO world heritage sites located in India.The church took ten years in its making and was completed in 1605.(I had a young goan guide telling me few details,i had too many questions and after some time he was so  done answering!)

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A beautifully incarnated lamp.

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The basilica holds the mortal remains of St.Francis Xavier.The church also holds paintings of scenes taken from the life of St. Francis Xavier.

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The Basilica of Bom Jesus is more than 408 years old and is open to the public every day. The body of St. Francis Xavier is in a well-decorated casket, which can be seen in the photographs below. Solemn exhibitions of the ‘body’ are held every ten years. Some photos taken inside the church are attached for better understanding of the art work of that time. These art works are called “murals”.

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After some history lets revel in the joy of what goa carnival had in store for me.Art,dance forms,big super road show with fun displays of social issues,dragons with the helps of cars,installations and dances.Carnival happens before the start of the Christian season “Lent”.(Mid february).The streets come alive with light,colour and people.

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The ‘Carnival’ is exclusive and unique to Goa, and was introduced by the Portuguese, who ruled Goa for over five hundred years. The word Carnival (Carnival in Portuguese) is derived from a Latin word meaning- ‘to take away meat’ and it is an expression of the 40-day period of fasting for Lent, during which, abstinence from meat is compulsory.

Earlier, the festival was generally meant for the Christians residing in Goa but now it attracts a lot of people from around the globe. The streets become lively with the traditional carnival costumes, floats, strumming of guitars, western dance forms, etc.

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Freedom of expression.It was highly liberating to watch such huge installations giving out messages(some not!) and trying to bring the needed change in the society.iphone pictures 1736

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Such diverse facial expressions

wohahahhahahaha 🙂

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You gotta have a mask if you are going to a carnival!

ok?

🙂

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Another taste of old goa is to go try one’s hand at the casino on ship.One evening you can chill by the deck of the ship,eat some food and try your luck.(Play roulette if you don’t ono the games!).

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So saying bye to goa is always tough but going back to come again.

Ciao goa.

See you soon

And all of you keep reading but first keep travelling!

Next blog is taking you to Punjab:)

Love

A

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Hola Mohalla,Punjab

India.

It is a magical country.We have festivals nearly every single month of the year celebrating Gods,weather,the produce of the year and many others that i wasn’t familiar with.Hola Mohalla is one such festival that takes place near Anandpur Sahib in Punjab on the day of badi hopi every year.Its a festival of celebrating the khalsa.This is a festival that showcases spectacular display of ” prakarm”& “shaurya” by the Khalsas.The fair held at Anandpur Sahib is traditionally a three-day event but participants attend Anandpur Sahib for a week, camping out and enjoying various displays of fighting prowess and bravery, and listening to kirtan, music, and poetry.The event concludes on the day of Hola Mohalla with a long, military-style procession.The festival was found by Guru Gobind Singh(the tenth guru).

The very adorable young khalsa.

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The Guru made Hola Mahalla an occasion for the Sikhs (and many Hindus at the time who gave sons to Sikh families) to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles. This was probably done forestalling a grimmer struggle against the imperial power and channeling the energy of folks to a more useful activity. Hola Mohalla became an annual event held in an open ground near Holgarh, a Fort across the rivulet Charan Ganga, northwest of Anandpur sahib.

This scene is highly unforgettable where in i saw a very brave man control three horses at a time.

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They carry very beautiful “astra-shastra” of the old times remembering their glorified history.

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Look at that!

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Among the Sikhs, the Dastaar is an article of faith that represents honour, self-respect, courage, spirituality, and piety. The khalsa Sikh men and women, who keep the Five K’s, wear the turban partly to cover their long, uncut hair (kesh). The Khalsa Sikhs regard the Dastaar as an important part of the unique Sikh identity.

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People from all over the world come to witness this beautiful festival.I saw the biggest lenses,fanciest cameras being used fro people of different countries.I didn’t see many Indians there at the festival though(apart from the locals).

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Thought she was super cool.Being proud of one’s identity.How amazing!

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Ok madam how you like india & Hola mohalla?

Bhaisahab hum yahin kai hai.Hindi mein baat kerte hain!

Two bits on the festival to a local channel.

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With giving due respect to the opponent(they bow to each other before the fight and even after it ends),i saw amazing sword fights(friendly) and the culture i had only heard of,coming alive right in front of one’s eyes.

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People from nearby villages come in trucks full of them to catch this.

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Big rallies happen on roads all heading to the main maidan where all the activities(horse riding,sword fighting take place).

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Swag(I couldn’t resist the temptation to use that word for him!) 🙂

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Hello cuties!

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At Anandpur sahib gurudwara,decorated for the festivities.

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A father-son moment.

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Yea,i was highly fascinated with all the weaponry around 🙂

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Its baffling to see such a big turban and so much respect for him.

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Best thing about punjab is the amount of love you get in all forms.They have the juiciest kinnos(a member of orange family) and they take out fresh juice for you right there.Ah! summer sorted! All through the traffic jam you ll be greeted with langars happening and offering you chana,chola,puri.Oh! nothing like this country.EVER!

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You can also take back home Ilachi daana,moodhi for snacking.

With a wish to return next time,i came back home talking to grand mum about how beautiful india is.(Ya i took her!)

So keep reading but most importantly.keep travelling.

Next blog we shall go to the mountains!

ok?

Till then

Love

A

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Gokarna

Travelling solo is that gift that you should give yourself once in a while.There are no reasons to give gifts i believe,either to others or to self.No occasions are required to celebrate life.No reason has to be given for you to find that time to travel alone.For you to give yourself time your self.To talk to your own self.We talk to others all the time but who’ll talk to the self.This self that you are born with.This self that you came with,this self that you’ll go with.

Travel.Walk.Go to lesser known places.Don’t search for beauty please.

Don’t search for nothing.Just be.Revel in that moment that makes you realise its the you that you have always,its the you,you shall live all your life with.Am not into preaching.I am into living.Each moment.Living without waiting for another being.

Travel teaches you like no other teacher.It lets you fall often and lets you dust yourself off to get up again and move ahead keeping in mind what mistake is not to be done again.

Gokarna is a small town located in Maharashtra that has a religious as well as a huge backpacking connection to its name.I took a local bus from Hampi(started at ten in morning from hospet) to reach Gokarna(evening 4 pm).Having done a bit of background check my destination was Kudle beach.A pristine gorgeous water full of life was awaiting to let me revel in it!Gokarna meaning cow’s ear.It is said lord shiva emerged from this ear here in Gokarna.

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Kudle beach has number of guesthouses to choose from and i nestled myself in the farthest most of them and after some dinner went to a relaxing bed,dreaming about the next morning.

I woke up to a beach that is not crowded.Due to over excited tourists mostly going to goa,gokarna only sees expats like most small backpacking places in India.Over the next few days i was to become addicted to this grape juice that you see in picture and the first breakfast in gokarna was of a mushroom omelette with some local cheese and toast.

Grape juice recipe:(As told by laxman)

A bunch of fresh grapes washed(the local grape variety from karnataka),a spoon of sugar,few ice cubes and blitz in a processor.

Its delectable!Its yummm!Its unforgettable!

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One of the famous beaches of Gokarna.It is named so for there is an OM you can see being formed on this beach.

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The sunset on OM.

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Travelling introduces you to great musicians,free spirited beings and music from various parts of this big big world.Its one of my favourite byproduct gift of travelling alone.You can sit and listen till when you want,no obligatory lets go(if you like) or lets not go(if you don’t like).I have high respect for musicians as i see with so much dedication they do the riyaaz(practice) and the heart and soul put in it.

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I remember the first time i saw a man with dreadlocks two decades ago as a small baby and had asked my mum if i could have hair like that and she had said no! Hippies they are.(What did she know!).Something that i find highly fascinating.Its tough to maintain them,have few friends who have them and this man’s were quite long and beautiful.

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Osho came in my life a decade ago.We share our birthday.An evening on Paradise beach,sipping onto a lemonana(mint leaves,lemon,sugar syrup ice blitzed all together to make this tasty drink)

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A shanti concert at a guest house.

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Gokarna is a town of contrasts, as it is a temple town and also a holiday destination. Gokarna is full of coconut, banana and other trees, blue seas and relatively clean sands. It is a laid back town with two main streets lined with shops and traditional tile-roofed brick houses. I was there at the time of Shivaratri and saw this cute lady selling masks for children or adults maybe.

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How sun plays with trees when its going down!As though saying good night my love,i shall be back tomorrow to wake you up.

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Picture by Ruksaar from Israel who took this picture of me in our guesthouse.

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Gokarna i found so much better than Goa because of the less amount of people on the beaches,bathe without being ogled at and also that i could go to the beach in the morning and feel the silence,the tranquility of the water coming to the shore playing with my feet to say a hello.

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Go to gokarna to be by yourself,to walk on the beach,read a  book,drink many mugs of that grape juice & hear some life stories.

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After Gokarna i headed to visit the old goa.No,not the part goa,but the old fort and the many beautiful church.

This is a picture taken by 7 year old jhumki on a local train from gokarna to goa.

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Story of Goa in next blog.

Hope you enjoyed reading.Write to me for any questions on the same.

Keep travelling!

Travel love

A