Tawang: Land of the Monpa People

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be off to explore another magnanimous Himalayan destination. Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh.

This destination has been on my list ever since I kindled my love for the rustic parts of the Himalayas! One of the most interesting things about the beauty of these mountains is, no matter how many times one visits the magical paradise, no matter how much time you spend there, you are bound to seek out more. The thirst for exploring wilderness amidst these peeks is never quenched.

It’s not an easy task, mind you, whether you’re trekking the high altitude snow tops or for that matter driving or moving around on the slithery roads of the highest motorable roads in the world the adrenaline rush is one that compounds the thrill of being in the company of enchantment.

That’s what I’m looking out for when my travel partner Feet on the Map and I will head out in a couple of weeks to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh! Thanks to Ride And Climb Adventure, we’re hoping to get an experience of a lifetime.

From what I’ve heard so far, Tawang certainly seems to be one of the popular yet less explored and so called off-beat locations! One where you’d ideally visit ‘luxuriously’ with whatever little luxury you can afford in such high altitudinal locations.

Not that you don’t get material comfort, but I never was the one that seeks that, Tawang is a land known for it’s Tibetian heritage, Buddhist monasteries and of course the beautiful lakes and majestic mountains!

Tawang was historically part of Tibet inhabited by the Monpa people. The Tawang Monastery was founded by the Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso in 1681 in accordance with the wishes of the 5th Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, and has an interesting legend surrounding its name, which means “Chosen by Horse”.

The sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, was born in Tawang. In fact, when the 14th Dalai Lama fled from Tibet to escape from Chinese army, he crossed into India in 1959 and spent some days at the Tawang Monastery before reaching Tezpur in Assam… I realized this when I’d watched a beautiful movie called Kundun on His Holiness!

A good destination like this must have a great itinerary and interesting places to visit. While we’d be visiting most places, and be off the grid for a whole week. While there are plenty a places that we’ll visit and pass through, I’ve already made up my mind on what places are going to entice me spiritually and of course scratch the traveler’s itch within me.

Tawang Monastery: A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of the Gelugpa sect – constructed in 1681. It was the birth place of the celebrated 6th Dalai Lama, and is home to more than 500 lamas.

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Tawang Monastery

Bum La: The Bum La Pass is located about 37 km away from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh, at the Indo-China border above 16,500 ft above sea level. This is an old traders road went from Tawang via Milakatong La Pass (La in Tibetan is pass) to Bum La Pass and finally to Tsona Dzong in Tibet province of China. This area is heavily guarded by Indian Army and one need to obtain Protected Area Permit (PAP) to visit this place. PAP can easily be obtained with the help of travel agents in Tawang.

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Indo-China border at the Bumla Pass

P.T.Tso Lake: This lake is situated above Tawang and is frozen for about 4-5 months of a year. One can hire a local vehicle and go to this lake. The lake itself is splendid as well as the views from the lake are also unbelievable.

Nuranang Falls: About 100 metres high, these falls are located in the Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh, India. It is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in this part of the country, yet is unknown to many travelers. It lies some 2 kilometres away from the town of Jang on the road connecting Tawang and Bomdila, so it is also known as the Jang Falls. There is a small hydel plant located near the base that generates electricity for local use. The Nuranang river originates from the Northern slopes of the Sela Pass. Just below the waterfall it falls into the Tawang river.

Jang Falls, Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang

Bomdila Monastery: And of course on our way back to Guwahati, the visit to Bomdila monastery is a must. A home to Buddhist Lamas and monks at Bomdila in the west Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. The colorful land of Bomdila, which lies amidst the graceful Himalayan ranges at a height of 8500 feet above the sea level, is the headquarter of the western Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.

The small and beautiful land of Bomdila is an attractive destination for the tourists from all across the globe, who come here to get themselves pampered by the mother nature and have a closer look of Indian culture, Buddhist tradition and hospitable locales of the north eastern India. An ideal place for trekking, the land of Bomdila and its culture is under a strong Tibetan cultural and traditional influence, and therefore, also nests many Gompas or monasteries.

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Now begins the 2 week wait and hopefully ends in an eagerly awaiting trip to the land of the Monpa People! And of course, once the journey’s over, hopefully I’ll have many a stories to tell…

Oriental Delight – Hong Kong’s finest chow!

Best of All, it’s in Hong Kong!

Indeed it is, especially when it comes to its cuisine, especially during your family vacation. Hong Kong truly is a place where all foodies can gorge on something or the other to their liking.

No matter which country you live in, if you’re traveling abroad with your family, then a dinner table or a breakfast table is where we all come together for delicacies galore. A large family meal whether it’s at a large table at a dim sum restaurant on a weekend morning or enjoying dinner in a local restaurant it’s always an hour spent in togetherness. Be it grandparents, parents, children and even kids, everyone loves food in Hong Kong.

While I may not yet have taken a journey across the “Pearl of the Orient”, I’ve heard many a tales of a place, which reflects the impressive nightscape of the city’s light decorations on the skyscrapers along both sides of the Victoria Harbor.

One to beautifully enjoy, sitting in one of the finest dining places across Asia’s world city. The closest I could come to eating Hong Kong cuisine was in Lau Pa Sat, somewhere in Singapore where you’ll find a bunch of cuisines across South East Asia, come together under one roof.

That’s when I realized the chow in Hong Kong must be tried after all! So here’s a list of cuisine that I would call a mighty delight, especially when one’s down in Hong Kong!

The famous Tai Cheong Bakery

Tai Cheong Bakery Hong Kong

If you’re into baked food and particularly fond of egg tarts, then this is the place, even though there’s going to be quite the crowd here, the egg tarts here are worth the queue! Tai Cheong Bakery located around Lyndhurst Terrace in Central, is a must visit for all its baked delicacies. Not to forget for its very eggy-flavoured custard.

Deliciously notorious Pineapple bun of the Kam Wah Café

Kam Wah Cafe

Although the cafe is small, just like any typical char chan tengs in Hong Kong so do not be taken aback by the cramped surroundings and the need to share a table. Cause the food here according to many is worth everything.

Traditionally, a pineapple bun contained no pineapple and earned its name because its chequered top resembles the skin of a pineapple. The top half of the bun is made from cookie-type dough, while the bottom is made from Chinese-style bread dough, which tends to be softer and sweeter than Western bread. To eat it like a local, make a slit in the middle and insert a thick slice of cold butter for instant guilty pleasure. This is known as ‘bo lo yau’ (‘pineapple oil’). Kam Wah Café, churns out a batch every 10 minutes in the morning — a testament to their popularity. It’s located in Bute Street, close to Prince Edward MTR station, Kowloon.

Fishballs for the Sea Food lover in you

Fishballs Hong Kong

Whether it’s late night street food or great restaurants, delicious food is never hard to find in Hong Kong. But some places in Hong Kong, are only known for their special kind of cuisine especially better than fancy restaurants, from what I hear. One such eating spot in Hong Kong is Tai Po. It is located in the New Territories, around 40 minutes by MTR from Central, but it is well worth the visit because it has some of the most delicious food in Hong Kong from what I’ve read.

Almost every one in Hong Kong has a favorite fish ball vendor. Bouncy and fluffy, the best Hong Kong-style fish balls are made with freshly ground fish paste, hand-beaten and slammed to springy perfection. Best enjoyed on a stick with spicy curry sauce, or over rice noodle soup in a specialty restaurant. Hong Kee and Yum Kee, both of which have over 40 years’ history, with fish ball noodles being the only item on their menu. Closest to Tai Po, Market station on the MTR.

Delicious Dim Sums to melt your heart away.

A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, they say. This dish literally does!

A popular family get-together meal, dim sum means ‘touch your heart’ and with as many as 150 items on a restaurant menu, and 2,000 in the entire range, it is a challenge to not find something you love.

There are snack-sized portions of pan-fried, deep-fried, and baked foods served in bamboo containers designed to be eaten communally and washed down with tea. Hence, going for dim sum is known as yum cha, which literally means ‘drinking tea’.

Dim Sums Hong Kong

The unique culinary art dim sum originated with the Cantonese in southern China, who over the centuries transformed yum cha from a relaxing respite to a loud and happy dining experience. In Hong Kong, and in most cities and towns in Guangdong province, many restaurants start serving dim sum as early as five in the morning. It is a tradition for the elderly to gather to eat dim sum after morning exercises. For many in southern China, yum cha is treated as a weekend family day. More traditional dim sum restaurants typically serve dim sum until mid-afternoon. However, in modern society, it has become commonplace for restaurants to serve dim sum at dinner; various dim sum items are even sold as take-out for students and office workers on the go.

If you’re in Hong Kong then, one must visit Lin Heung Tea House, a century-old joint that’s among the few left that still uses dim sum trolleys. Closer to Wellington Street, it’s again located in Central, Hong Kong Island.

Nothing beats Pizza with a view, especially with your family!

So of course, if you are out of India, with your family, then there’s always that moment when you want to try something closer to home. Okay, maybe not Indian food, but we always try to get something that your taste buds are generally used to. For a lot of us in the family, a Pizza always does the trick! And it’s a hassle free ordeal for the vegetarians in the family. So what if you could top it off with a beautiful view of the harbor?

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Yeah, Pizza Express near the Ocean Terminal on Canton Road is your place to go to for sure. Decent pizza, great view, amazing food, what more do you want? If you go in the evening, then make sure you grab a window seat for yourself around 7.00 PM to catch the light show up close. And more importantly, the kids will love this place especially the desserts!

Oh and not to mention, this summer, Hong Kong celebrates 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and to celebrate this special offers are available to all Hong Kong visitors from 1st April, 2017 onwards. I guess, that’s why they say, this summer, Best of All, it’s in Hong Kong! 😉

Have you been to Hong Kong yet? Have you tried their cuisine yet? Any other items, a must eat? Tell me in comments! 

Disclaimer: This post has been written in collaboration with Hong Kong Tourism Board.

A trip down the memory lanes of Rajasthan

The land of the Kings! Certainly an enchanting aura that it carries, Rajasthan has always titillated my soul and senses and the one time I have been to this place, very early in my life as a travel blogger or as a wanderer, I’ve enjoyed the range of diversities and ethnicity of culture, craziness and beauty of the deserts and landscapes that take your breath away.

Throughout my week long escapade in the beautiful state of Rajasthan, I admired it not just for its true heritage and flamboyant art encompassed among the roots of its people, palaces and food, but also for the feeling it gave me of a rustic but divine revelation of sorts. Every different city that I explored had a native yet interesting niche that made it a tad different from every other city within the state. The museums, the forts and the cultural expose that I saw, made me believe in a grand heritage that actually told a lot of stories.

Be it the journey from Udaipur to Ajmer in a rugged jeep with locals staring at you with their sense of warmth and helping other locals out like the story of Bindaas Baaji, or be it the long stretches of just nothing but marble quarries on the road the roads told a story that no other could. Even the mile markers had their fascinating bits to add to the spice of the journey. Be it exploring the different admirable aspects of Jain architecture in Jaisalmer Fort or enjoying a chilled beer in the desert after a camel ride there was a stark contrast to every little thing we did in our travels across the state of Rajasthan. The amazing food we ate every evening at a different place, the warm milk and hot jalebis in a chilling weather in Japiur or the Rajasthani thali we hogged in Udaipur or the Parathas we ate outside Udaipur Palace, every memory is still etched in my mind till date. The ride to Pushkar encompassing the mountainous travails still remind me of the ride in the local bus. The beautiful sight of vintage cars in the Mueseum in Udaipur and how can I forget the huge and beautiful architecture of the Hawa Mahal! Not to mention the impulse that we carried at every step of the way, so much so that we managed to ditch a bus to Jaislmer and take a detour towards Ajmer, or extend the trip into Agra and back, every little incident was trivial and at the same time memorable till date.

Baaji

Baaji

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Into the Jaisalmer Desert

Into the Jaisalmer Desert

Vintage Car Mueseum: Udaipur

Vintage Car Mueseum: Udaipur

This probably carries a lot of significance in terms of the way I decided to travel across the country, the rugged trip across 7 cities in 6 days, the camel rides, the cycle rickshaws, the autos the desert the sleeping at night in buses and exploring cities during the day probably added to the beauty of the journey across Rajasthan. The almost getting beaten up in a fight that was not ours to get into, the almost getting ripped off by an auto driver, the street food and the drinking of beer in every city kind of made the journey as rugged as possible. This trip had an essence to itself, which denotes a lot of the style of travel I’ve adopted over a period of time. A style that gives me a reproach in terms of the freedom I need to feel when I wake up in a different city across the country, probably telling me that my wandering feet are free to choose their calling and all they need is a fresh smell of the road and the path that is available for the taking. Something that told me right at the beginning of my journey across various destinations that I was yet to take… Rajasthan will most certainly be one of those destinations and most certainly on my list to go to once every while…

13 reasons, travelers give you to ditch the Valentine’s Day this year…

Feet on the map

japanThe world is always your Valentine! (Picture source: Google Images)

It’s that time of the year again, when the couples are busy expressing their love for each other with strikingly packaged, over-priced red roses, heart shaped boxes of chocolates, tucking gooey Valentine notes in their better half’s lockers or deciding what sized teddy bear would make their better half happy! And the second half of the world, comprising of singles are either cribbing or scowling over “how useless and annoying these couples are!” while secretly walling away in their beds over romantic mushy comedies.

For me, personally it is an awkward day, because I am not single, but I don’t buy the Valentine hype either. As an introvert, it makes me cringe and I wonder if it is too sentimental or just a big fat scam for the commercial world to profit from! While I have nothing against the couples…

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Traversing the Mountains!

One of the most enchanting things in today’s age is the ability to seek unto a divine freedom of the soul!

Many men and women, dream of the clarity that they pursue time after time, especially because they don’t get it in their daily lives. While others, mostly travelers find this aspect of life to be an endless journey. One that is full of clairvoyance, meaning and clarity that others can only imagine.

And what better than the traversing of the mountains, wandering across the horizon to find serenity in nature and introspect, take a peak in your pondering mind. Traveling across the mountains without a clue, without a reason and without connectivity, especially to the rat race that we all take part in on a daily basis. That’s a true reason why I always enjoy hiking, especially in the Himalayas, but even if I’m not in the Himalayas, walking across any mountain range gives me immense pleasure.

One that you can only find when you surrender yourself to the unknown trails, paths, like your destiny that lead you to a mesmerising sunrise, or an enchanting sunset! Traveling across the beauty of organic and natural surroundings without any worldly worries. That’s something that I yearn for, especially when I want to detox, unwind and just completely disappear into the wilderness.

Sometimes I even feel there is a dire need for me to go back into complete dissonance of technology. One that’ll help me attain a nirvana of sorts. I wonder how beautiful every single day would be, with just the nature, a few books, okay maybe a Radio at best to give me company. Imagine the joy of visualising your dreams, settling down and farming on a hilltop, viewing and experiencing the pleasure of sunrise and sunset without having to run for a meeting and or thinking about deadlines!

Someday, that day will arrive soon! Until then, I keep meandering across the world finding the sweet spot, the balance of life between my travels and my work. And it is these mountains that always help me rejuvenate and revive my spirit within, to get back to the grind that will eventually help me get to that ‘Someday’ I’m looking for.

Rural & Real – Rajasthan at it’s best

Sometimes life has a way of letting you explore some of the best paths in a funniest way possible.

You tend to explore some beautiful rustic paths when you hadn’t even imagined you’d end up doing so. Meandering across the paths of life, some taking you far, some taking you close. Close to your destiny.

I always imagine someday, something’s going to give and I’d be happily dreaming in the mountains, farms and a beautiful life full of enchantments that a traveler, a semi-hippie like me would love to die for!

That’s exactly what my experience with Rural Odyssey was a couple of weeks ago. Some traversing through the wildlife, some experiencing local food, climbing hilltops, and of course a little bit of magic of the forts of Rajasthan! Beauty at it’s best I must say…

We had a really amazing cultural experience in a small village a little away from Jodhpur. A Marwari home, some really down to earth people and boy, should I say some really amazing food! Not to mention an evening musical delight of Rajasthani folk songs, sung by a maestro, a local but internationally acclaimed musician, a certain Sagun Ram!

Add to that was a short visit to Bishnoi village to know an interesting community that laid their lives to protect trees and what principles Bishnoi follow. And of course what better way to experience the wildlife than to get a glimpse of the rich wildlife hidden in desert where we saw a black buck!

Was certainly a good unwind for a long weekend, and most importantly a great start to the new year, with many more trips to come soon hopefully!

Some glimpses of our experience in a short photo essay below!

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Smoking Pure Tobacco like a Bishnoi in a Chillum (Smoking Pipe)

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Camels grazing on cacti in the wild

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The infamous Black Buck, in the wild forests of Bishnoi

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City Dwellers experiencing folk music, dressed like locals! Not the old guy 😉

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Shadows of Music!

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Beauty of Sunset on a hilltop nearby!

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Squirrels Inside Fort Mehrangarh – Goddess Temple

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Fort Mehrangarh as seen from the Fateh Pol view

 

A glimpse of paradise through the Verandah by the Valley

Mumbai is always on the move! Isn’t it?

At least 90% of Mumbaikars hate the hectic nature of the city!

And most of them certainly admit that if they could, they’d get out of the city at the first chance they’d get.

Every weekend, for folks who want ‘Out’ of the hustle and bustle, are always trying to make a choice on where to go to?

Most places are either filled up with the same crowd, or are far off to do a weekend / long weekend. And have been visited to. That’s when I believe one of the top picks for them and even for folks in Pune for that matter, is Mahabaleshwar, Matheran and Panchgani!

For a change, I decided to take a #midweek break and travel to Panchgani when I was invited to stay over at this beautiful villa, Saffron Stays Verandah By The Valley

Considering it was a midweek break, the travel wasn’t that hectic. To add to that, it was receding monsoon, so the weather up there in Panchgani, was most definitely one to cherish!

Took the early morning bus from Mumbai, and reached Panchgani around noon! That’s how long it’d take for you to travel to this place. That’s the beauty of it!

One of the reasons why I’d decided to visit this place was because of it being a little off beat, surrounded by greenery, vintage yet contemporary and most importantly, the magnificent view that this place had to offer!

 

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The garden with a view!

It’s really delightful especially for a family weekend getaway, or a bunch of friends. I mean, who wouldn’t want to wake up in a  beautiful 2 and a half bedroom villa on the edge of a valley! The first rays of sun  if you’re lucky and don’t have any clouds. Or be it the beauty of the sky to fill your day with brightness.

It’s a quiet location with a rustic yet modern feel to it, especially with the surrounding greenery, the swing to sit on while enjoying a breathtaking view and listening to the sound of the wind whizz past you across the mountains into the valley. A magical experience, certainly helps a city dweller like me to keep my sanity! A must do once every while for sure.

Apart from that the  wooden staircase ascends to a charming mezzanine of dark shiny wood that contrasts with the all white interior. The simplistic interiors speak exude elegance. The colourful throw pillows, bedsheets and flower pots add just the required dash of colour making this villa a very welcoming place.

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Cozy and Comfortable. Just like a second home.

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Perfect place to set your morning cuppa

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Or if you’re sitting with friends/family, this is good too!

The best place to have breakfast in the morning. With the weather that was during the time I stayed there, even if it was a midweek and I had a few things that I had to work on, who wouldn’t want to work out a place like this, sipping on a hot cup of coffee!

A perfect view and a relaxed mind! Nothing more that I could ask for!

Apart from this, the most amazing experience I had at this place was a bonus for me. Especially since I’ve recently took upon the love for organic farming! The local caretaker, Santosh, gave me a tour of the plants/crops he’s already planted in the backyard. But apart from that, he also let me experience farming first hand, much to my delight.

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Caretaker and Farmer Santosh

 

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Some organic red and green chillies already growing in the backyard.

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The farm in the backyard with a drip irrigation set up

The place on it’s own has a magic to it. The garden, the backyard, the experential organic farming bit, the location with a view and most importantly the quiet and peaceful stay! Quite the experience indeed!

Special Note: I was hosted at the Saffron Stays Verandah by the Valley thanks to the guys at Saffron Stays! Apart from the magical experience and the delightful stay, I’ve not got anything in return! In case you want to book the place, you could do it by getting in touch with Saffron Stays. They also have an AirBnB listing, incase you are comfortable booking via AirBnB.