The sun-kissed mountains, the chilly air, the waft of hot food. If there’s someplace to find yourself, it’s this. Ladakh draws mortals from all over and entices them such, that they fall hopelessly head over heels for it. And so did I. I travelled with A Lifetime Trip and an unforgettable group of girls. And what transpired, can only be partly recounted (still not doing full justice) by few clicks.
The mountains are calling, and I must go.
~ John Muir
Far away in the distant desert state of Rajasthan is a small oasis. A city of lakes and breathtaking palaces. The ancient capital of the royal Mewar kingdom, and the seat of the incumbent Mewar head.
Inside Udaipur’s City Palace.
If you are a lover of history and architecture, then Jaipur is your Mecca! The ‘pink city’ epithet for Jaipur was coined when Maharaja Ram Singh painted the whole town red (well, a lighter shade-pink) to welcome his guests, Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales, way back in 1876. It became so popular, that even today, every home, every shop inside the walled inner town is painted the similar pastel shade, but now, by law.
At the ministers’ court inside Amer Fort.
The Mughal empress Mumtaz Mahal, got herself a splendid mausoleum as a death-bed promise from her husband Shah Jahan. And true to his word, the besotted emperor left no stone unturned (literally!) to keep his promise and christened this poetry in marble – Taj Mahal, after his favourite wife.
The Taj- rightly called ‘poetry in marble’.
Odisha is a coastal state, with lots of lovely beaches. Apart from Puri, which is quite the favourite of both Odiyas and Bengalis, there are beaches like Chandipur, where the sea recedes for 5-6 kilometres during ebb or the virgin Udaipur beach located on the border of Odisha and West Bengal and is not yet discovered by the Puri and Digha tourists. So you get an overall idea of the hot and humid climate here.
There are a few hills which do not qualify to be hill stations, though. But, just 120 kms from the silk city of Berhampur is Daringbadi, standing tall at a height of about 3000ft, where the temperatures fall below zero during winters, and Odisha, of all places, experiences snowfall!
Coffee plantation forest in Daringbadi.
“Give time a break” – Puducherry Tourism tagline!
A long bus ride through the rugged roads of Tamil Nadu had left me craving for some exquisite French cuisine. Which was natural, as I had come to the ‘Europe of India’- Puducherry.
Darjeeling is an absolute delight to the eyes and the tummy. I can vouch for the fact that it is a foodie’s heaven! If you love experimenting ‘safely’, this is your place. If you are a vegetarian and feel left out for lack of veg counterparts of the tasty non-veg dishes, this is your place. If you are perennially hungry and complain that shop timings don’t correspond with your hunger timings, this is your place. If you believe the best antidote for boredom is munching, this is your place!
Waffles with caramel and ice-cream at FoodSteps.
A serpentine road leads you up, past mesmerising views, to the queen of hills. The drive from Siliguri is breathtaking (because of the views and the drive!) It is not for the fainthearted. Because we visited in summer, the temperature difference was even more prominent. As we climbed farther up, the temperature dropped rapidly and the flora and fauna transformed beautifully.
Driving from Siliguri beside the abandoned Toy Train tracks.
To reach Kalimpong, you’ll have to travel along the Teesta river. Watching the river change into a myriad of colours along its descent from the mountains is a sight to behold. You can stop on the way to try river-rafting which is very popular at Teesta. Don’t be surprised, Kalimpong offers other adventure sports like paragliding and zorbing too!
Paragliding at Kalimpong.
When you combine your love for bike rides with your best buddy’s company, you get an awesome bike trip!
Let me take you from Cuttack, the Silver City through Berhampur the Silk City, to Gopalpur, the beach city, further interior into the once naxal-infested region of Chandragiri and then to the religious town of Puri. And all this on a Honda Activa! Yes, that’s quite possible with a bit of providence on your side.
When it was my friend’s turn to ride and mine to click snaps!