FootlooseIndian

 

Hi, my name is Sudha Mahalingam. I am an Indian. I live in Delhi. And I am footloose. That's right. My feet won't stay in one place and chase after my fancy which roams free. I am a passionate traveller,  on the move although not as frequently as I would like to be. I am neither rich, nor young as you can see. Married, mother of two, and holding a full-time professional job that has little to do with travel writing or photography, it has taken some doing - on my part as well as that of my family - to keep my wheels turning.

 But turn they do and here I am,  to share my travel experiences with you.  Posted below are photos and published travelogues of the locations I have visited in the last two decades. Come, see the world through the eyes (and lens) of a footloose Indian woman journeying mostly solo, from time to time with family or friends.  

FootlooseIndian has over 200 articles posted here, all published in mainstream Indian newspapers and magazines since 1996 and almost all of them can be accessed in their original published locations by clicking on the respective links.

 (Text & Photo credits : Sudha Mahalingam)

 

Go to the sidebar and click on the location you want to read about.  Click on Read More under the location to open the travelogue. The numbers in parentheses indicate the number of visits to each country/location.

My Travel Map:

 

Transnational Road Rallies

  1. Kolkata-Kunming Car Rally through India, Bangladesh, Myanmar & China 2013
  2. Central Asian Car Rally through Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan 2013
  3. Nikitin Car Rally through Russia, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Baharain 2006
  4. Desert Rally in Rajasthan 2007

Transnational Road Trips

  1. Drive through South Island, New Zealand, 2016/17
  2. Coastal Drive from Sydney via Narooma & Melbourne to Great Ocean Road 2015
  3. Singapore - Cameron Highlands, Malaysia 2014
  4. Bangkok - Chiang Mai, Thailand 2012

River Journeys (Under Compilation)

Beas, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Irrawaddy, Kapuas, Mekong, Nile, Sutlej, Volga, Zanskar


Lo Manthang, Upper Mustang, Nepal, October 2017 (3 women group)

Cartography may be a science, but planning your trek using only maps certainly is not, not when the destination is the high Himalayas, not when you are 60 plus. Originally, our plan was to trek to Annapurna Base Camp, at 13,000 feet, over six or seven days from Pokhara, that picturesque lakeside town in Nepal. But poring over the map spread on the dining table, I had a brainwave. Nepal’s legendary Mustang province, home to Khampas, those irresistibly roguish Tibetan bandits who valiantly tried to repulse the Chinese advancing into their beloved land, and Lhobas, also of Tibetan origin, seemed to be in the same Annapurna Conservation Area. So why not extend our trek to Lo Manthang, the capital of Upper Mustang fabled for its Buddhist art treasures? On the map, it seemed doable..... Read More

 

                 

Annapurna Base Camp 4100 m, Nepal, October 2017 (3 women group)

             

Muktinath, Nepal, October 2017 (3 women group)

     

Pokhara, Nepal, October 2017 (3 women group)

   

Kathmandu, Nepal, October 2017 (3 women group)

    

Alice Springs, Central Australia, August 2017

Alice Springs has much in common with other frontier towns like Kalmykia, the Buddhist outpost in the Siberian steppe, Yazd, the caravanserai town in the Iranian desert, Bhuj, our very own star of the salt pans in Kutch. Despite their remote location, all these towns are magnets for travellers in search of interesting settlements in the boondocks. All these offer 360 degree horizons, starry night skies, and particulate-free air but Alice Springs offers much more — a surprisingly vibrant cultural and sporting scene for a town located on seemingly endless stretches of spinifex — a type of outback grass that clings to your clothes and footwear....... Read More

            

Skydiving in Uluru, Central Australia, August 2017

As the first rays of the rising sun caress its smooth flanks, Uluru glows red-hot against the surrounding flat scrubland. From this height, it seems every bit as iconic and seductive as the posters make it out to be. But there is no time to admire the spectacular views. Our tiny tinbox plane is already cruising at 15,000 feet (4,572 metres) and it is time to jump off. Aloïs, my tandem guide from Skydive Uluru, slides open the flimsy door of the plane to let in a savage gush of wind that almost knocks us out. Aloïs has recently relocated to Uluru, all the way from his native France. He claims to have successfully completed more than 3,000 tandem dives so far, most of them in France. I have my doubts, though, considering his youthful face and impish smile. This plane can seat exactly two people, stacked like two teaspoons, legs stretched flat in front. The roof is inches above the head with little room for manoeuvre......Read More

      

Uluru & Kata Tjuta, Central Australia, August 2017

        

Birding in Tippagondanahalli, Bengaluru, Southern India (with group)

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Munsiyari, Kumaon, Uttarakhand, Northern India, April 2017 (with spouse)

Kamala Pandey may appear petite, and even frail, but like all hill women, she is a formidable powerhouse. Saree draped neatly around her slender frame with nary a crease and a smile that seldom leaves her face, Kamala spins like a top, attending to the myriad chores that crowd her typical day. By 7 am, the courtyard has been swept, the kitchen garden tended, the family’s clothes hand-washed and neatly hung out to dry where the torrential rains of the afternoon cannot get them, the family members fed and seen off to their respective destinations for the day. Your breakfast — piping hot paranthas with aloo-subzi, curd and tea is already served and a substantial lunch of a different menu is neatly packed in takeaway containers and delivered to your room.......Read More

              

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, Rajasthan, January 2017 (with friend)

          

Singapore, January 2017 (with family)

Driving Through South Island New Zealand, Christchurch, Franz Josef, Wanaka, Doubtful Sound, Mt.Cook, December, 2016 (with family)

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand’s second largest city, seems reluctant to emerge from the burrows it had buried itself into after the devastating earthquake of 2011. The 6.3-magnitude quake laid waste large parts of the city and left it in a shambles. But life had to go on. So churches with severed steeples commenced services in the undamaged parts. Shopping malls sprang up in freight containers and continue to operate, giving the city an art nouveau look. An apparently undamaged car is perched dramatically high on the side of a cracked building, making one wonder what forces deposited it there. The roads are festooned with ribbons and tapes to cordon off construction sites; many buildings have shed their designer looks to don garments of scaffolding. A tourist tram trundles past in the midst of all this. .. Read More

                                    

Sydney, Australia, November-December, 2016 (with spouse)

      

Everest Base Camp, October 2016 (group)

AUTHENTIC Italian cappuccino, draft beer, German bakes, Swiss confectionary and a Finnish sauna at 3,300 metres above sea level? No, I am not in the Swiss or Austrian Alps where these can be hoisted up on aerial ropeways or cable cars. I am at a village in Nepal, and the only mode of access to it is an arduous eight-hour climb through treacherous boulder-strewn slopes. The nearest city—Kathmandu—is at least a week’s trek away. That is Namche Bazaar for you, a jewel of a village nestling in a depression in the high ranges of the Himalaya, watched over by a string of snow-clad eminences, not excluding the grandest of all, Mount Everest..... Read More

          

Zakopane, Poland, July 2016 (group)

   

Krakow, Poland, July 2016 (group)

KRAKOW, the imperial capital of Poland for five centuries from 1038 to 1611, has often been compared to Prague, Vienna and Budapest on account of its baroque splendour, but for me, the most endearing images of this city are those of Kazimierz, its bustling, bohemian and eclectic Jewish quarter. Kazimierz seems to have put its traumatic past behind it to emerge as the most happening suburb of present-day Krakow. Its atmospheric cafes are packed with tourists and local people, its art galleries, a magnet for the cognoscenti from the world over. Kazimierz is deliberately contrarian, decidedly edgy and delightfully bohemian.....Read More

         

Warsaw, Poland, July 2016 (group)

       

Diving off Lady Elliot Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia, June 2016 (solo)

WITH wildlife habitats shrinking rapidly, we are hardly surprised when wild elephants raid villages for water or noisy red-wattled lapwings choose urban rooftops to raise their fledglings. But it takes some time to get used to the reality of an oceanic turtle getting up-close to us, wanting to be scratched on its carapace. The carapace is criss-crossed by nerve endings, and the turtle, later I learn, enjoys a bit of a back massage. But at this moment, I am spooked, and my first reaction is to get away from this insistent hawksbill quickly. I recall the British broadcaster naturalist David Attenborough saying turtles have powerful jaws that can snap your wrist if you get too close for comfort, and am taking no chances now. I flail my arms and flippers clumsily and try to put some distance between this feisty reptile and myself, but the playful creature is in no mood to avoid me; it swims alongside, seemingly companionably and gracefully...Read More

               

Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, June 2016 (solo)

   

Chasing King Cobras in the Rainforest, Western Ghats, Agumbe, Karnataka, South India, March 2016 (with friend)

THE knotted black bundle under our feet heaves rhythmically as the occupant seems resigned to its fate of being trapped in a bag. But then, every now and then, our vehicle hits a bump causing the bag to jerk and twitch. We hold our breath, keep our feet safely up and away from the bundle and hope we do not get into any accident that would throw up consequences similar to those faced by Pi Patel in Yann Martel’s acclaimed survival drama, Life of Pi......... Read More

 

      

Diving in the Great Barrier Reef, Northern Queensland, Australia, January 2016 (with spouse)

Its beady eyes seem to size me up as it weaves circles around us, each circle nudging it closer and closer until its body brushes against my hand. It seems friendly enough. I put out my hand gingerly and pat its slippery back. There is a swish of tail, a torpedo-like movement, a whirl of dizzying colours and it is gone, only to be back in a few seconds, perhaps, wanting to be touched again. It is a Maori wrasse, a species of fish that is ubiquitous in these waters. Wrasses are known to be curious. They love to get up close to divers and hang out with them for hours. .....Read More

             

Rainforest, Northern Queensland, Australia, January 2016 (with spouse)

         

Sydney to Great Ocean Road through the coastal route via Melbourne, Australia, October 2015 (with family)

               

Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia, October 2015 (with family)

   

Drive from Delhi to Bangalore via Udaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Goa & Karwar May 2015 (with spouse)

             

Sydney, Australia, March-April 2015 (solo)

      

Kanha National Park, Central India February 2015 (with spouse)

         

Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, & Manyara National Park, Tanzania, December 2014 (with family)

Skirting the rock cluster, we are almost upon him, a full-grown lion in all his mane-ly glory. His shimmering halo silhouetted by the flaming African sun, he is standing on tiptoe, snout upturned ever so slightly to catch the scent of zebras milling about in the distance. This cat is massive, perhaps 10 feet long from tip to tail; every muscle in his body is taut and raring to go. Instinctively, I retreat into the entrails of our vehicle, just in case. But he could not care less. After all, every day, he sees hundreds of SUVs like ours, their blathering occupants gawking and gesticulating, their lenses and binoculars protruding comically out of the open top...... Read More

                                

Ngorongoro seems like another version of Noah’s ark. It teems with all kinds of creatures although there is no sea for a few hundred miles in any direction and the ark itself is nothing but a collapsed crater. This crater is the planet’s largest inactive, intact, unfilled caldera, formed by a volcanic explosion millions of years ago. The Ngorongoro volcano is believed to have been taller than Mt Kilimanjaro. Today, the crater is a hospitable habitat for the thousands of wild animals and birds that have made it their permanent home. Nutrient rich soil, abundant grass, and waterbodies drained by adequate streams, all situated deep inside a 2,000-foot crater which forms a natural shelter, make up the ideal environment for wildlife to go forth and multiply. Of course, where there is prey, there are also predators, but both have learnt to live with each other, guided by the delicate balancing act of Mother Nature...Read More                                                        

Zanzibar, December 2014 (solo)

ZANZIBAR sounds more exotic than it actually is, especially for those of us hailing from the Indian subcontinent with its rich tapestry of cultures and ethnicity. This tiny island 20 kilometres off the coast of East Africa has been a melting pot of many cultures—Persian, Portuguese, Omani, British, German, African and Indian—for centuries. Naturally, it ingested and integrated the essence of each and yet managed to distil an identity uniquely its own, yet familiar. Today, Zanzibar is a vital link in the cultural continuum of the Indian Ocean littoral..... Read More

         

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania December 2014 (solo) 

     

 

Dushanbe, Tajikistan, October 2014 (solo)

          

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia, July 2014 (with family)

         

Singapore, July 2014 (with family)

Sichuan Province, China, July 2014 (with friend)

TRAVELLING through Sichuan is like playing hopscotch on a colourful mosaic. One moment you are in a valley, dwarfed by the stunning barren snow ranges whose crowns are hidden in cotton-wool clouds; within just a few hours, you are cruising amidst verdant conical hills of the lowlands where a youthful Yangtze or one of its lesser siblings leaps through the gorges and plays hide and seek; another step takes you to the most fashionable pedestrian-only shopping district in central Chengdu, where the trendy come to shop for the latest designer labels. A few hops away from the city take you deep into a bamboo forest where you imagine a giant panda behind every bush, although all you see are rogue macaques blocking your way, demanding bananas. Yet another move and you are enveloped by the serene silence of a Buddhist temple where you just catch a glimpse of a silken yellow robe disappearing down the cobblestones of the courtyard in an ancient monastery.......Read More

         

Chengdu, China, June 2014 (with friend)

          

Lhasa-Chengdu on the high altitude railway, China, June 2014 (with friend)

THE flagpoles groan under the weight of hundreds of yards of fabric — all rainbow-hued prayer flags — draped around them by devotees. The flagstones in front of the temple wear a glossy sheen, polished by the repeated prostrations of countless worshippers. The streets around Barkhor Square ring out with the chants of dozens of devotees rolling over the cobblestones, their arms raised in prayer; they are performing full-body prostration, a quintessentially Tibetan form of worship. The acrid smell of yak butter lamps envelopes the square in a haze, contrasting it with the brilliantly clear cobalt blue skies overhead....Read More

       

Tibet, June 2014 (with friend)

THE Tibetan plateau is one of the most isolated places in the world, surrounded as it is by formidable mountain ranges on three sides—the 2,500-kilometre-long wall of the Himalayas to the south, the Karakoram range to the west, and the Kunlun and Altyn Tagh ranges to the north. Four of our planet’s 10 tallest peaks straddle its border with Nepal. The snow-laden peaks and the lakes in Tibet are the sources of almost all the major rivers of Asia, including the Indus, the Ganga, the Brahmaputra, the Sutlej, the Mekong, the Salween, the Yangtze and the Hwang Ho. Tibet is also home to some of the extremely cold wildernesses outside the polar regions....Read More

         

Lhasa, Tibet, June 2014 (with friend)

OUR small plane takes a sharp turn to the left, dodging the towering massifs that line up to form an amphitheatre and eases itself neatly into a narrow gap to begin its descent into the Lhasa valley. For the better part of the last five hours, we have flown over a densely layered mountainscape, virtually all of it barren and some of it dusted with powdery snow. An occasional lake would dazzle, like a turquoise jewel amidst the greys and whites, but, for the most part, there has been no sign of any habitation. But now, we can see the neatly laid-out tin roofs of an army camp; soon we glimpse the settlements; the iconic Potala comes into view, atop a tiny hillock....Read More

                        

Beijing, China, June 2014 (with friend)

       

Andretta, Palampur, Himachal, Northern India, March-April 2014 (with spouse)

THE wisterias have burst forth in celebratory profusion. Mauve, white and pale pink blossoms carpet the ground, drift in the wind, get into your hair and eyes, and scent the ambient air. The slopes are brightly decorated with blood-red rhododendrons. Azaleas, narcissi, larkspur, buttercups, cornflowers and even tulips have erupted unbidden, lining the pathway in cheery welcome. The meadows are flashing with tiny yellow and blue wild blossoms, inviting you to step on them barefoot to feel their dewy caress....Read More

        

Colombo, Sri Lanka, Feb 2014 (solo)

Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand, Northern India, Dec 2013 (with family)

  

Silk Route Expedition. Khiva, Uzbekistan, Oct 2013

           

AFTER the severe steppes of Kazakhstan and the stark mountains of the Kyrgyz Republic, the India-Central Asia Foundation (ICAF) expedition through Central Asia entered Uzbekistan on the last leg of its journey. This republic came across as a stark contrast to the lands we had crossed so far, not only for its varied landscape, vibrant people, colourful culture and chequered history but also for the thoroughness of the Uzbek immigration and customs officials at the land border. Our luggage was rummaged through meticulously, even our laptops were opened and files scrutinised. The procedure took a long time, but all the while we were entertained by the immigration officials who spotted resemblances to Bollywood stars in the facial features of the three young women in our team.......Read More

The final leg of the ICAF (India Central Asia Foundation) car rally takes us through some of the stunning cities of Uzbekistan – Samarqand, Bukhara and Khiva and through the unending expanse of the Kizylkum desert. Gazli, is a desert town in the midst of the wilderness sports a signpost for a gas compressor station which shimmers in the noon haze somewhere in the horizon. The much talked about pipeline through which Turkmen gas flows into Xinjiang region of China goes through this desert. ...Read More

Silk Route Expedition, Bukhara, Uzbekistan, Oct 2013

         

Silk Route Expedition, Samarqand, Uzbekistan, Oct 2013

       

Silk Route Expedition, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Sept 2013

         

Silk Route Expedition, Ferghana, Uzbekistan, Sept 2013

         

Silk Route Expedition, Andijon, Uzbekistan, Sept 2013

       

Silk Route Expedition, Osh, Kyrgyz Republic, Sept 2013

           

THE Central Asia motoring expedition organised by the India-Central Asia Foundation (ICAF) crossed into Kyrgyz Republic eight days and 4,000 kilometres after it began on September 18, 2013, at Astana in Kazakhstan. Kyrgyz Republic shares borders with China, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, each with many border crossings. We chose the shortest route though, between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyz Republic, one that takes no more than two hours. Korday, a village on the Chu river on the Kazakh side becomes Akjol-chu on the other side of the border. It is a busy crossing where traders cart merchandise from one country to the other....Read More

A week after it commenced the silk route journey in Astana, the Kazakh Capital, the India-Central Asia Foundation-led Car Rally crossed from the Kazakh steppe into the less-intimidating landscape of the neighbouring Kyrgyz Republic on September 27, 2013. The rallyists boarded a new set of vehicles after the border crossing and drove into Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic with its leafy neighbourhoods, and lush gardens..... Read More

Silk Route Expedition, Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, Sept 2013

            

Rubber swallows road as the India Central Asia Foundation-led car rally through Central Asia speeds past some of the most spectacular mountain ranges on planet earth. In 10 days we had crossed the Altai, the Alai, the Tien Shan, the Chat Kol and even just grazed past the Pamirs in Tajikistan, just short by twenty kilometres across the border.... Read More

Silk Route Expedition, Almaty, Kazakhstan, Sept 2013

         

Six days after it was flagged off from Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, the Silk Route Car Rally rolled into Almaty, the former capital of the country. The rally has been organised by the India-Central Asia Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank. After the gleaming towers and deserted avenues of spanking new Astana, Almaty feels comfortably familiar. The traffic is terrible and chokes the streets for miles during peak hours. The neighbourhoods are leafy, a majestic mountain range watches over the town and oak trees line the high streets....Read More

Silk Route Expedition, Khorgos on Kazakh-China border, Sept 2013

            

Khorgos, the border town that straddles two countries – Kazakhstan and China - is a beehive of activity with construction cranes crowding the horizon. A steady stream of Kazakhs queue up at the immigration booth, waiting to cross into China and bring back manufactured goods for marketing back home in Almaty and other towns. The ICAF rally reached Zharkent on Sunday and drove to Khorgos on Monday morning and was received with much warmth by Kazakh officials at the border. Although the delegates did not have a visa to enter China, the team was whisked around in a bus across the customs check post into China’s Xinjiang region to showcase the development planned for the city.....Read More

Silk Route Expedition, Taaldeqorgan, Kazakhstan, Sept 2013

     

Silk Route Expedition, Balqash, Kazakhstan, Sept 2013

     

The India-Central Asia Car Rally that rolled out of Astana on Thursday reached Temirtav, Laxmi Mittal’s steel city in central Kazakhstan. Temirtav seems like a Kazakh city with a distinct Indian identity. Arcelor Mittal seems to be everywhere, running everything from schools and hospitals to city trams. In fact, Mittal even supplies electricity to the town from its own power plants fired by coal from its own mines. Homes and businesses are heated by Mittal’s heated water pipelines and even the hotel we stay in is owned by Arcelor Mittal. The menu at the hotel is entirely Indian and has upma and sambar apart from other Indian dishes. The Indian presence in this remote part of Central Asia is indeed palpable.....Read More

Silk Route Expedition, Karganda, Kazakhstan, Sept 2013

        

Silk Route Expedition, Astana, Kazakhstan, Sept 2013

          

LANDLOCKED Central Asia, rugged, remote and relatively inaccessible, has straddled the Silk Route between Asia and Europe for several centuries. The region is home to some of the loftiest mountain ranges on our planet—Hindukush, Karakoram, Altai, Tien Shan, Alai, Pamir—fierce deserts, Kizylkum and Karakum, and the vast and featureless steppes where nary a blade of grass grows. Yet, it has allured traders, treasure-hunters and adventure-seekers alike. Merv, Sogdiana and Turkestan bristled with challenge and danger but yet reverberated with the sounds made by the hooves of camels and horses drawing caravans bearing precious silks, tea, glittering gems and other cargo headed for markets as far as Venice and beyond. In the last millennium, geography and history conspired to give this region a shared destiny from which the constituent nations have disentangled themselves after the break-up of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s....Read More

The India-Central Asia Car Rally that proposes to cover 3,000 km of the most-challenging terrain in the world began its journey on Thursday in Astana, the Kazakh capital with the release of a clutch of colourful hydrogen balloons at the Bayterkek Square. Organised by India-Central Asia Foundation, a Delhi-based think-tank and blessed by the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, the rally hopes to traverse part of the ancient silk route. The next stop is Karganda, Laxmi Mittal’s steel city in the heart of Kazakhstan. Over the next week, the rally will pass through Lake Balqash, the uranium mining town and make a detour to Kazakh-China border at Taldyqorgan and then reach the former capital Almaty. From Almaty, the rally will enter Kyrgyzstan. It will pass through Bishkek, Osh and the Ferghana Valley. The route will also go through Andijon, Babar’s birthplace, then to Kokand and Tashkent. The final leg of the journey will go through Tashkent, Samarqand, Bukhara, Khiva and end at Ugrench. The entire distance will be covered over the next three weeks. .... Read More

Andretta, Himachal, Northern India September 2013 (with spouse)

Kashmir, August 2013 (with family)

           

 

Leipzig, Germany, July 2013 (group)

       

Dresden, Germany July 2013 (group)

WHO could have visualised that something as unremarkable as an abandoned gas tank could be transformed into a spectacular art show, one that would invite a steady stream of connoisseurs and visitors from all over the world? But then Yadegar Asisi did, and thus sprang the Panometer, a circular structure smack in the middle of Dresden city, offering panoramic views of the Saxony countryside as it might have been in 1756....Read More

           

Binsar, Uttarakhand, Northern India, June 2013 (with family)

gollu Devta is the patron saint of justice in Kumaoni pantheon. When you visit the temple, you literally pick your way through clusters of brass bells slung about everywhere — not just the pillars and beams, but even the stately pine, oak and birch trees. The bells are packed so tightly together that every gust of wind produces a collective tinkle. The ambient hills and valleys reverberate with Gollu Devta’s message...... Read More

     

Dali to Kunming, China on the Kolkata-Kunming Car Rally, Feb-March 2013

A gurgling stream flows right down the middle of the cobbled pedestrianonly high-street. Water wheels at frequent intervals ensure that the crystal-clear water does not stagnate. Ersatz bamboo bridges arch across the stream and lead to alleyways that meander seductively through the plaza. Not a single piece of discordant architecture - no chrome, glass or concrete monsters to mar the view. I wonder if I have strayed into the sets of a Yunnanese film.....Read More

           

Tengchong to Dali, China on the Kolkata-Kunming Car Rally, Feb-March 2013

The Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar (BCIM) car rally crossed into China from Myanmar on Friday night after a memorable journey through India, Bangladesh and Myanmar over the past nine days. The complex geography of the region entailed entering India twice, once at the start from Kolkata and again from Bangladesh through Sutarkandi in Assam. From Assam, the road stretched to Manipur through Silchar and entered Myanmar through the Moreh-Tamu land border.....Read More

           

Ruily to Tengchong, China on the Kolkata-Kunming Car Rally, Feb-March 2013

         

Mandalay to Ruilly, China on the Kolkata-Kunming Car Rally, Feb-March 2013

   

Ka Lay to Mandalay, Myanmar on the Kolkata-Kunming Car Rally, Feb-March 2013

       

Tamu to Ka Lay, Myanmar on the Kolkata-Kunming Car Rally, Feb-March 2013

     

Silchar to Imphal on the Kolkata-Kunming Car Rally, Feb-March  2013

     

Dhaka to Silchar on the Kolkata-Kunming Car Rally, Feb-March, 2013

           

Kolkata - Jessore - Sylhet on the Kolkata-Kunming Car Rally, Feb-March 2013

A motley group of adventure enthusiasts rolled into Dhaka Saturday evening in a convoy of twenty cars on the first leg of a historic journey that would take them all the way from Kolkata to Kunming. The stated purpose of this journey is to build new bonds and forge friendships in a region bound by geography but riven by geopolitics. At the very least, it attempts to restore road connectivity in the four countries of the region — Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) — driving through a disused trans-Asian roadway that used to ferry people and merchandise before the Second World War. Once this road becomes usable, trade and people to people exchange is expected to follow..... Read More

 

         

Avenue of Volcanoes, Ecuador, February 2013 (with friend)

     

Amazon jungle, Ecuador, February 2013 (with friend)

THE Yasuni National Park is much in the news these days, mostly for the wrong reasons. Located deep in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, this 9,000 square kilometres of reserve forest, arguably the richest biodiversity hotspot on the planet, was “discovered” a few decades ago by oil companies ever questing for new reserves. The oil reserve in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oilfield within the park is estimated at 850 million barrels, a resource too sumptuous and too precious for a developing country like Ecuador to leave in the ground for environmental reasons. ...Read More

           

     

Galapagos Islands, (San Cristobal, Floreana, Espanola, Chinese Hat, Seymore, Plazas, Santa Cruz etc) Ecuador, January-February, 2013 (with friend)

The blue inflatable panga (raft) is bobbing up down, waiting for us to board, its outboard motor sputtering impatiently. But how to step over all those sea lions sprawled on each of the eight steps leading down to the panga? Some are snoozing and others look bored;it is abundantly clear they have no intention of stirring. To add to our dismay and fascination, there are giant-sized bright orange crabs crawling all over the walls and rocks of the jetty. We hurriedly dig into our bags and pull out our cameras to click, little realising that we would be seeing literally thousands of them over our next few days on the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.......Read More 

The baby sea lion looks up at us with beseeching eyes as if asking for his mom. She has gone hunting in the ocean. He seeks us out despite the fact that the beach is packed with sea lions – mothers, adolescents, babies all sprawled in groups, their brown coat shimmering in the sun. Should something happen to his mother, the baby will be orphaned and face sure death. No other mother will adopt him. One would not guess that when hundreds of sea lions lie next to each other in great conviviality as though they are one large family....Read More

 

The pink and blue iguana looks at me quizzically as I train my lens inches away from his scaly face. How could  I disturb him when he was on his way to a debutantes’ party on the other side of the spur? He has donned his best attire of the season to impress the bevy of beauties gathered under the thorny shrub yonder. He is indeed handsome.....Read More
 

 

                               

CHARLES DARWIN, all of 22 years old in 1832, stumbled upon Galapagos Islands, partly to escape his persistent seasickness while on a five-year voyage on HMS Beagle. At the end of just five weeks’ stay on the islands, he collected enough specimens of both flora and fauna to come up with a path-breaking theory that would turn upside down the worlds of science and religion. At that time, Darwin’s theory of natural selection and evolution ruffled many feathers, elicited many jeers and earned the wrath of the Church. But since then, evidence adduced by Darwin himself and other researchers who followed in his footsteps validated beyond doubt not only the theory of natural selection but also the revolutionary theory of evolution that rocked the very foundations of Christendom inasmuch as it questioned the theory of Creation....Read More

AS Letty crosses and recrosses the Equator several times during the voyage, calling at a new island each day, we are treated to a variety of fauna and flora, none as dazzling as the marine iguana, the mascot of the archipelago. While iguanas, like sea lions, are found on all the islands, Espanola, 42 nautical miles from San Cristobal, is teeming with these creatures. They are on the beach, all over the rocks, behind the shrubs and in the water. There are baby iguanas galore, most sprawled on the rocks, watching adults swim while some youngsters take their first tentative plunge into the sea. The adults, usually four feet long from nose to tail, sport rainbow colours—pink, yellow, blue, green, red, black, brown and even purple. The colour comes from the rich algae that constitute their main diet. Ivan, our naturalist guide, tells us that iguanas are generally black or dull in colour but, this being the mating season, they have put on their best vests to impress their females. We do not know whether their females are impressed, but we certainly are.... Read More

THE mother Nazca booby looks at me quizzically as I inch towards her offspring, a fluffy white featherball, in order to get a closer shot. She makes no attempt to block my way, secure in the belief that no harm will come to her chick. The chick stares straight into my lens, perhaps bewildered by its own reflection in the glass. Like all other animals in the Galapagos islands, the birds are fearless. Early visitors to the islands captured many birds for food and sport, by simply grabbing them. Bishop Tomas de Berlanga of Panama, one of the earliest visitors to these islands, remarked that the birds were “so silly that they did not know how to flee and many were caught by hand”. Darwin also noticed how tame the birds were and came to the conclusion that fear of humans is not “acquired by individual birds in a short time, even when much persecuted; .. in the course of successive generations, it becomes hereditary”. From what we see, it is obvious that the fear has not yet become “hereditary” and quite happily so. ... Read More

Guayaquil, Ecuador, January 2013 (with friend)

     

Quito, Ecuador, January 2013 (with friend)

“You have been selected,” gushes the breathless airline attendant in her charming Spanish-accented English as I approach the boarding gate. Her English vocabulary exhausted, she then lapses into Spanish. I am mystified but also flattered about having been chosen for whatever it is. Visions of a free across-the-world trip for two as gift from the airline unfold in my mind’s eye. Meanwhile, she brings a colleague to enlighten me. He explains that of the 200-odd passengers bound from Quito to Miami on that flight, I have been singled out for reopening of my X-rayed and checked-in baggage, which had already entered the entrails of the aircraft. I am marched a mile to the aircraft by a uniformed attendant who even holds an umbrella to shield me from the drizzle. The suitcase is disgorged from the stationary plane’s belly and laid out on a bench under its wings. A menacing sniffer dog is curled up under the bench, and two beefy security men signal to me to open the locks....Read More

         

Nara, Japan, January 2013 (solo)

        

Kyoto, Japan, January 2013 (solo)

           

THE room is achingly bare, except for the tatami mat on the floor. A large tatega window with frosted glass panes covers an entire wall, accentuating the starkness. The window looks out onto an even starker courtyard where the only ornamentation is the gravel on the ground neatly raked into concentric ovals. A discreetly hidden cupboard reveals a mattress and a pillow to be spread on the floor only at bedtime....... Read More

Tokyo, Japan, January 2013 (solo)

Not only does the ATM promptly spit out my perfectly valid global cash card, but to add insult to injury, on the ATM screen, two comic figures—a boy and a girl— nod and bow their heads in commiseration. Try the machine a second time, and it beeps in panic. The comic figures have been replaced by squiggly Japanese characters blinking in red, which one presumes, is a warning. Arriving at Narita, one of the most modern airports in the world, you would expect things to work better. Most ATMs refuse global cards. Currency change counters are already closed and if you think you can swipe your credit card everywhere, instead of handling unfamiliar currency— one that runs into tens of thousands even for simple purchases— think again. Except expensive outlets, the rest accept only cash in this city that prides itself as one of the finance capitals of the world. Outside Tokyo, it is virtually impossible to get by with only a credit card. Fortunately for me, my hotel has sent me pick-up........ Read More

              

Beijing, (hutongs) China, January 2013 (solo)

         

Bangkok, Thailand, January 2013 (with family)

             

Sukothai, Thailand, January 2013 (with family)

       

Chiang Mai, Thailand, December 2012 (with family)

          

Singapore, December 2012 (with family)

Ooty, Tamil Nadu, Southern India, November 2012 (with friends)

Lansdowne, Uttarakhand, Northern India, Septemer 2012 (with family)

LANSDOWNE is a jewel in the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand that has so far managed to remain undetected by the roving eyes of the inveterate SUV-borne Delhi tourist. It is a benign and a relatively obscure hill town with a seductive name and can barely provide beds for car loads of tourists who may land up without notice. Lansdowne can accommodate no more than a couple of hundred people at a given time. And these are wise people who have planned their trips and booked their rooms well ahead..... Read More

   

Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, August 2012 (solo)

Kabini, Karnataka, August 2012 (with family & friends)

         

Mudumalai, Tamil Nadu, July 2012 (with spouse & friend)

SHE strides majestically into view, her calf trailing along. At the edge of the forest, she stops and surveys the road before leading her calf onto the macadam. All cars stop to let her pass. She makes sure to flank her baby securely until they both have crossed the road into the other side of the forest. She turns back and trumpets, her trunk held high, as if to tell us to go. But some visitors don’t move. One of them have set up a tripod on the road to shoot her picture, but she doesn’t like it. After another longish trumpet, she moves purposefully towards our car while the calf hesitates and stays back. The ‘photographer’ grab his tripod and drives off.....Read More

   

Dublin, Republic of Ireland, July 2012 (solo)

   

Coastal Drive, Northern Ireland, July 2012 (solo)

          

Travelling in Northern Ireland can have a strange effect on your mind. Else why would this Victorian country-house in an isolated, wind-swept, rain-lashed corner of the Atlantic coast sport an Indian flag atop its roof? I examine the flag closely. Surely it represents some unimaginative sporting club that has copied our national colours and design. But it is indeed our very own tricolour, resplendent and proudly aflutter. A closer scrutiny of the building that hosts it reveals that it is Bush Mills Inn, a quaint hotel-cum-restaurant in an even quainter corner of Northern Ireland. You could knock me over with a feather. And then I spy them, a bus-load of Indian tourists. They have brought the most business to this tucked away inn this day and the flag is in their honour. Knock me over again, with the same feather. Haven’t we Indians arrived, well and truly.... Read More

As we enter Bush Mills Inn, I spy the Indian flag fluttering flamboyantly from the flagpole on top of the roof. I am disconcerted. My companion teases me saying the inn had advance information of my visit and it was in my honour. I am truly baffled. After all we are in the wilderness of Northern Ireland, somewhere on a windswept, rain-lashed coast where I had not thought it possible to encounter another Indian. After all, is it not every traveller’s dream not to bump into your own compatriot, but be the sole representative of your part of the world - at least for the day that you are visiting......Read More
 

Londonderry, Northern Ireland, July 2012 (solo)

It took just one little word to salve our wound, aye sir, that’s what it takes to heal,” says Martin McPherson, our tour guide, his voice choking with emotion. We are standing on the ramparts of the city walls overlooking the Bogside, the exclusively Catholic neighbourhood of Derry in Northern Ireland. Hitherto known as Londonderry, to reiterate London’s stronghold over this quintessentially Irish town, Derry today is shrugging off that prefix.  Derry is the second largest town in Northern Ireland, in the province of Ulster, which is part of the United Kingdom. The town leads a somewhat schizophrenic existence. A majority-Catholic town in a Protestant nation, Derry is independent enough to maintain its Irish and religious identity while being practical enough to belong politically to the U.K.... Read More

         

Kathmandu,  Patan & Bhaktapur, Nepal, May 2012 (with spouse & friends)

            

Junagadh, Gujarat, March 2012 (with spouse)

Something nuzzles me from behind. I turn back, expecting to see one of those ubiquitous cows munching away at posters and garbage strewn all over the streets. But it turns out to be a donkey trying to rummage in my bag for some tidbit. I hurriedly grab the bag and move out of the way. A three-wheeler scooter screeches to a halt, having just managed to avoid hitting me. Its strident horn blares indignantly even as its packed passengers gape at me with amused indulgence. I jump out of my skin and take a few steps backwards to get out of the way, only to be knocked down by a cyclist. As I scramble on all fours, an impatient minibus that comes weaving through traffic with the ease of a cruising monorail comes to an abrupt halt, waiting for right of way! I hurriedly jump on to the pavement, scaring away a slumbering dog and stepping on rotting flowers....Read More

   

Pirotan & Narara Marine Sanctuary, Gujarat, March 2012 (with spouse)

It is 3.30 am. The road is smooth, straight and illuminated with sunken lights and pointers as if leading to a space station in some science fiction movie. On both sides of this ribbon of perfection rise stacks of twinkling lights in vertical columns as if in some fairyland. For a moment I think I am playing an X-Box 360 game or maybe I am hallucinating. After all, we are not in Chicago or Hong Kong, only in rural Gujarat in the Gulf of Kutch. We are driving towards Narara, one of the 42 islands off the coast of Jamnagar where the receding sea leaves behind exotic marine creatures for you to inspect at close quarters as you stroll on the sea bed. But you have to be there at low tide to take advantage of this unique spectacle of nature which is why we had to leave at that unearthly hour.....Read More

         

Khijadiya Bird Sanctuary, Gujarat, March 2012 (with spouse)

JAMNAGAR in Gujarat seems an unlikely location for a bird sanctuary or a marine national park. The capital of a former princely state known as Nawanagar, the city is located in the Gulf of Kutch, an arid belt abutted by the Arabian Sea. Virtually untouched by British architectural and cultural legacy, Jamnagar is dotted with dilapidated palaces, crumbling structures and effete edifices, all painted in deep red and quite distinctive. Its outskirts, once a pristine wilderness, host a forest of towers, stacks, columns and buildings, all reaching out to the skies and spewing vapours and smoke. Jamnagar is home to two petroleum refineries, one of which is the world's largest. These are fed by a continuous stream of ocean liners called very large crude carriers (VLCC) that bring crude oil from halfway around the world and disgorge it into a pipeline or tanker to be sent to the refineries where they are cracked into all those products without which modern life would be unimaginable. Beside the refineries, there are assorted other industries, such as fertilizer and chemical industries and power plants, lining the highway. One would have thought that with so much of industrial activity, Jamnagar would have scared all wildlife away......Read More
 

       

Colombo, Sri Lanka, March 2012 (solo)

     

Chakrata, Uttarakhand, Northern India March 2012 (with spouse) 

   

Colombo, Sri Lanka, February 2012 (solo)

   

Ranathambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, Northern India, January 2011 (with family)

      

Atlanta, & Helen, USA, December 2011 (solo)

   

Philadelphia, USA, December 2011 (solo)

Washington DC, USA, November 2011 (solo)

    

Spiti Drive (Shimla-Narkhanda, Kalpa, Nako, Tabo, Kaza) August 2011 (with friends)

If you travel to Sangla Valley in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh in August, you might end up upsetting an apple cart or two, literally! There is a steady stream of trucks laden with juicy pink Kinnaur apples clogging up the macadam. With the winding mountain roads having been washed away in the temperamental and frequently torrential downpour, it is difficult not to drive into an apple truck, especially when it comes bearing down on you as if to edge your puny vehicle out of the road into the waiting precipice below. But, it is not altogether an unpleasant experience to be grazed by an apple-laden truck, especially when a crate topples over and the cloudburst is accompanied by apple burst! .... Read More

"STOCK up on pain balms, spare spectacles and take an oxygen cylinder,” advises a friend when he comes to know of my plans to drive into Spiti, Himachal Pradesh, in an all-senior-citizens' group. I am slightly apprehensive about the altitude sickness I am invariably prone to; how would the others react at such heights? But even more daunting is the prospect of throwing a set of perfect strangers – all of them are my friends, but they do not know each other yet – into a small vehicle for extended hours on the road for 10 days. I need not have worried. The journey turns out to be utterly delightful as much for the kaleidoscopic and stunning scenery that the drive serves up along the route as for the interesting, and at times desultory, conversations we have on a range of topics. Contrary to my fears, no one reported altitude sickness, except me, not even at Demul, a village perched on a promontory at 14,000 feet (4,200 metres), where we stopped for the night at a typical Spitian village ‘homestay'...Read More

 

                

Jungles of Borneo, West Kalimantan, Indonesia, June-July 2011 (with son & friends)

THE Kapuas may not be as well known as the Cauvery river, but is as wide and impressive. Its delta is a tangle of tributaries, each as wide as the parent river itself, and spreads over several kilometres. At 1,143 km, the Kapuas, originating in the highlands of central Kalimantan and flowing west into the South China Sea, is the longest and biggest river on the island of Borneo, Indonesia. Unlike the Cauvery or the myriad other great rivers that flow through our planet, the Kapuas seems to support few human settlements, at least in this part of Indonesian Borneo called Kalimantan Barat .....Read More

COMFORTABLE as Sukhadana is, we desert it the next day in favour of further adventure deep in the jungle. Our next destination is LubukBaji, the campsite hidden away in the jungle. It is not on google maps; after all, it is just a notional shelter, a half-hearted shack made of wood, with neither walls nor doors but just a sloping roof supported by wooden pillars hoisted on a platform with a ladder to climb. It is situated on top of a hill in the jungle. But to those who have trekked the rainforest to reach here, it is nothing short of paradise.......Read More

If you think the rainforest is a tranquil haven to escape to when you tire of the din of cities, think again. Jungle sounds can be as cacophonous as peak hour traffic at New Delhi's ITO crossing. By day, gibbons intimidate you with their strident calls, orangutans swing nonchalantly from one tree-top to another, their acrobatics accompanied by guttural grunts and violent snap of branches; macaques vent their frayed tempers on each other as they settle scores and establish territory; giant hornbills dart across, their wings flapping as loudly as a hovering helicopter....... Read More

How does it feel to be on the equator? Hot and humid for sure, but also as exasperating as it is exhilarating. A 360 degree horizon splattered with rainbow hues, endlessly flat delta crisscrossed by expansive and meandering rivers, deep and dark jungles harbouring strange life-forms seen only on National Geographic channel and glorious sunsets that dazzle. The exasperation quotient comes from the leeches that tenaciously explore your nether regions and have a nasty way of ending up in your lingerie — no matter how well protected you believe you are — and the eternal dampness that comes from temperamental downpours even in the supposedly dry season, and most importantly, from the vast stretch of oil palm plantations that have displaced lush green rainforests....Read More

                        

 

Borobudur & Prambanan, Jogjakarta, Indonesia, June-July 2011 (with son & friends)

MOUNT Merapi (mountain of fire, in Javanese) looks enigmatic, almost benign, as though it were a guardian angel watching over its favourite ward. A placid plume of smoke curls out of its top as from an incense stick. Yet, as late as October 2010, this live and throbbing volcano erupted in ugly fury, spitting out pyroclastic debris that gobbled alive at least 190 Javanese who happened to be in the vicinity and drove more than 3,50,000 people to safer havens, beyond its radiant radius of 20 kilometres.....Read More

       

Dhanaulti, The Himalayas, June 2011 (with family)

       

Macau, March 2011 (solo)

        

Mandavi, Bhuj, Gujarat, Western India, January 2011 (with family and friends)

       

Dholavira (Indus Valley Civilization site), Gujarat, Western India, January 2011 (with family and friends)

        

Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, Western India, January 2011 (with family and friends)

       

Nothing like the Rann to put you in your place. The Rann of Kutch gives you a whole new perspective, bringing home with clarity and poignancy your own insignificance in a vast and wide universe on a lonely planet. As you stand on the parched and cracked earth with nary a blade of grass between you and the 360-degree horizon that sports resplendent sunrises and sunsets, you know you will never be the same person again! ...... Read More

Nalsarovar, Gujarat, Western India, January 2011 (with family and friends)

     

Jilling, Kumaon, Northern India, New Year Eve, 2011 (with family & friends)

    

Along the Siang (Brahmaputra) on McMahon Line on Indo-Tibet Border, Arunachal Pradesh, November 2010 (with friend)

            

Gelling, Tuting, Yinkiong, Pasighat, Arunachal Pradesh, Northeast India, November 2010 (with friend)

The three-feet-wide bamboo bridge bound together with worn out ropes sways ever so lightly, as you step on it, but it feels like an earthquake.  A glimpse of the gushing river through the cracks in the bamboo floor makes you giddy. You wonder if this is what vertigo feels like. A misstep could land you into the swirling Siang, 100 feet below. From the other side of the river bank, there is a steady stream of villagers, some laden with sacks and bags. It is an ordeal to hold on to the unsteady ropes on the side to let them pass. Eventually, somehow, you manage to reach the other end from which there is a steep climb up a jagged slope to reach the road where your vehicle is waiting for you. ..... Read More

From the McMahon Line on the Indo-Tibetan border, the Siang seems almost benign. Is this the same river that routinely ravages the plains of Assam every year as Brahmaputra, washing away homes, hearths and wreaking havoc? Is this the same river that spreads out in chaotic tentacles meandering through the plains of Assam to throw up Majuli, the largest river island in this part of the world?........Read More

         

Shibsagar, Assam, Northeast India, November 2010 (with friend)

      

Budapest, Hungary, September, 2010 (with spouse)

THE enduring image of Budapest, the capital of Hungary, is the river that splices and nourishes the city perched on its banks. By day, a drive up the funicular to the top of Buda Hill offers a panoramic view of the city sprawled on the plains of Pest. At night, the Gothic edifices that dot the river front on both banks appear bejewelled in their glittering lights. The illuminated bridges festoon the river, vesting the city with a carnival air. Indeed, the river Danube defines this city.......... Read More

       

Munich Octoberfest, Germany, September, 2010 (with spouse)

       

Oktoberfest in Munich is an unmitigated, but not altogether unpleasant assault on all your senses – visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory and olfactory. Of course, everyone present, including yourself is both perpetrator and victim. We’re there in the evening when the place is a visual delight with millions of twinkling fairy lights festooned all over, complimented by brightly illuminated rides and roller-coasters. You can indulge your every juvenile whim and fancy – shoot balloons, get tossed in a swirling merry-go-round that rides up a pole and opens like a giant umbrella to hurl you upside down, drop down in a stomach-churning devil trap through a vertical shaft or saunter through an artificial cave to confront demons and monsters trapped there exclusively for your entertainment. .... Read More

 

Dachau, Germany, September 2010 (with spouse)

   

Washington DC, USA, September, 2010 (with spouse)

   

Vancouver, Canada, September, 2010 (with spouse)

       

As our ferry from Victoria, an idyllic town in Vancouver Island just across the bay, glides unhurriedly towards Canada’s mainland, thickly forested islands, with occasional smoking chimneys peering out of the foliage, line up on both sides. This seems quintessential Pacific Northwest, untamed and unharmed by modern civilization or so it appears...... Read More

Victoria, Canada, September, 2010 (with spouse)

     

The Clipper ferry from Seattle splices the mist and shoots through the bay like an arrow. We're headed towards Victoria in Vancouver Island which might well seem like the edge of the earth. After all, it is the last inhabited island in the Pacific Northwest of continental America. But it belongs to Canada and is the capital of British Columbia, an honour Vancouver city across the bay would love to wrest for itself..... Read More

 

Seattle, USA, September, 2010 (with spouse)

       

Grand Canyon, USA, September, 2010 (with spouse)

       

IN a planet shrunk by satellite television, one in which armchair travel has excised the excitement out of journeys and rendered them redundant, and where superlatives are used to describe exotic destinations, there are places that still awe the visitor with their beauty and grandeur. The Grand Canyon in Arizona in the United States is one such. It richly deserves its appellation. Chiselled by the Colorado river that courses through the desert State of Arizona, the Grand Canyon is one of nature's marvels... Read More

Toronto, Canada, September, 2010 (with spouse)

     

Niagara Falls, USA, September 2010 (with spouse)

        

Lake District, UK, June 2010 (solo)

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills
When all at once, I saw a cloud
A host of golden daffodils
Besides the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze...

Oh, treat the last three lines as just poetic exaggeration! I did wander lonely as a cloud through Wordsworth country, but there were no daffodils........Read More

     

London, UK, June 2010 (solo)

        

Nancy, Lorraine Province, France, June 2010 (solo)

HITHERTO obscure, and ruled alternately by the French and the Germans, Lorraine, a province in the north-east of France, has had its fair share of identity crises throughout its chequered history. That might, however, be a thing of the past. From now on, it may no longer remain obscure, having firmly carved out its identity as a laboratory for creative arts, thanks to the just-established Centre Pompidou in Metz, the capital city of the province. Centre Pompidou-Metz, like its whacky older cousin in Paris, is an avant-garde museum of eclectic art, housing a medley of creative art forms – paintings, sketches, photographs and even art from waste.... Read More

       

Metz, Lorraine Province, France, June 2010 (solo)

     

On a planet where UNESCO hands out world heritage site tags as freely as pizza fliers, are there any places still left unflogged by travel channels and untrampled by tourist hordes? Despair not, there is Metz for instance. Pronounced Mez by the locals, this is a French town in Lorraine province on the German border, just under the tourist radar. With the whacky Centre-Pompidou-Paris establishing its trendy twin in Metz recently, it is unlikely that Metz will remain hidden for too long.....  Read More

Petra, Jordan, June 2010 (with son)

          

 

Jordan comes to a standstill on Fridays. Nobody tells you that, not even Lonely Planet. We land at Amman airport around 10 am on a hot Friday in June and ride a taxi to South Station from where we plan to take a bus to Petra. The bus station is deserted; the few loiterers hide under the belly of the parked buses to beat the heat. ....... Read More

PETRA, derived from the Greek word meaning rock, is a rather pedestrian appellation for a dazzling ancient city painstakingly carved out of sandstone and hidden away in a labyrinthine rocky gorge deep in the Arabian desert. A pink jewel in an otherwise arid landscape, it is indeed a striking example of how aesthetic sense and artistic skill can transform barren rock into a citadel of immense beauty and grandeur. More than 2,500 years ago, Petra used to be a flourishing caravan city, right in the middle of the desert, between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea in what is today known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Located at the crossroads between Arabia, Egypt and Phoenicia, Petra, in its heyday, was nurtured by a range of influences, including Hellenic and Roman, which enhanced and embellished the native Nabatean culture. Today it lies ruined and neglected, but like a magnet still attracts connoisseurs, art lovers, historians and archaeologists.....Read More

Ramallah, Jericho, Bethlehem, Palestine, June 2010 (with son)

       

Driving through wastelands towards the proverbial nadir of the earth may not be everyone's idea of travel, but that it is what we embark upon when we undertake our journey to biblical Jericho, a couple of hours' drive from Ramallah, the Palestinian capital. It is a vantage location to get the best worm's-eye view of the world. For, Jericho is situated on the lowest point on planet earth. And every worm would have loved the view.... Read More

The barbed wire fence is never out of sight. It is no more than a few meters away almost wherever you go in this town of blocked roads and spiked gates.  In some patches, the spiky wire is draped around a reinforced steel and concrete wall, a foot thick.   And even to the jaded Indian eye, the graffiti and posters seem excessive.  Gun-toting men, many in uniform, are not an unusual sight. There is palpable tension in the air..... Read More

Jerusalem, Haifa, Acre, Dead Sea, Israel, May 2010 (with son)

JERUSALEM is a mosaic of three major religions, myriad religious denominations and a multiplicity of races, and a melange of cultures. The city is a magnet for students of history as it is for the devout who throng to its holy shrines and sacred sites. This venerable town is indeed the jewel of the Holy Land (also known as Bilad Ash'Sham in Arabic), a geographical region of the Levant which today includes, apart from Jerusalem, the Palestinian territories on the West Bank and parts of Jordan and Lebanon. Most of the revered sites of four religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Bahai Faith – are clustered in and around Jerusalem.........Read More

You may join the procession as an irreverent tourist indulging your curiosity, but don’t be surprised if the experience turns out to be a spiritual catharsis. That is what happens to us when we decide to join the Franciscan monks and other pilgrims through Via Dolorosa, or the Way of Sorrow in Jerusalem’s walled city. This was the same path that Christ had walked on from the Judgement Court to Golgotha, the site of his crucifixion. We, a motley group of tourists and pilgrims find ourselves sombre and grave, as we relive the pain and agony Christ must have endured 2,000 years ago, as he walked the same path bearing the cross on which he was eventually nailed......... Read More
 

         

Periyar Game Reserve, Kerala, Southern India, March 2010 (with spouse)

     

Guruvayoor, Kerala, Southern India, March 2010  (with spouse)

        

Kaziranga Game Sanctuary, Assam, Feb/March 2010 (with niece)

The baby elephant comes bounding towards us and thrusts her trunk at us. Flattered by this unexpected attention, we stroke her trunk tentatively and pat her prickly back, but she pushes our hands away and nuzzles again and again. We are both amused and perplexed. After a while she turns away rather abruptly and goes after an elderly man carrying a bag. Then it dawns on us. The young animal is actually looking for something to eat, perhaps a bunch of bananas. She is the baby of one of the safari elephants waiting to take you into the jungle. The mahout shoos her away, but she knows how to wheedle a banana out of him which she swallows in an instant. .... Read More

       

Namdapha Game Sanctuary, Arunachal, Eastern India, February 2010 (with niece)

           

THE mahout cuts a humungous green bamboo pole from a thicket, and with four neat slashes, transforms it into a step-ladder for us to alight from the elephant. We’re now on the forest floor, piled high with sodden leaves and buzzing with butterflies and insects. The jungle is deep and dark and sunlight filters in slender shafts, rather reluctantly, through the chinks in the forest canopy. We step gingerly so as not to disturb the pulsating life all around. A coppery pink snake slithers underfoot and disappears into the foliage. A woodpecker stops its hammering to watch the intruders with interest...... Read More

Wayanad, Kerala, Southern India, January 2010 (with family)

         

Deafening, soulful silence reigns, occasionally interrupted  by the chirpy chatter of exotic birds; stimulating scent of cardamom, pepper, vanilla and nutmeg in various stages of ripening hangs heavy in the air; shafts of sunlight filter through the mist to spotlight a coffee bush ablush with ripe red berries;  lofty trees stretch their crowns skyward, their trunks entwined with vines and laden with pepper; your powerful SUV heaves and sputters on a winding hill-road so badly potholed that it would deter all but the most persistent and discerning traveller wanting to escape the tumult that our cities and towns have become...... Read More

Jageshwar, Uttarakand, Northern India, December 2009  (with family)

        

Chennai, Bangalore & Goa, December 2009

Lima, Peru, November 2009 (solo)

        

Machu Picchu , Peru, November 2009 (solo)

Mist, mystique and mystery are the defining characteristics of Machu Picchu, the Inca ruins in Peru, the latest addition to the list of new world wonders. Tucked away in the Andean heights, perpetually draped in gossamer clouds and concealed from the prying eyes of treasure-hunters and tourists for over four hundred years, Machu Picchu burst on the world historical and archeological scene only in 1911 when Yale historian Hiram Bingham stumbled upon it quite by chance. Bingham was in search of Vilcabamba, the legendary city of the mighty Inca empire which, at its zenith, sprawled across a vast expanse of about 4000 square kilometers and included societies as far away as today’s Columbia, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. Bingham never found Vilcabamba, but what he did find in Machu Picchu was no less awe-inspiring. .... Read More

Your train hurtles up the slopes of the Peruvian Andes while the Urubamba river meanders alongside, mostly placid, but at times turbulent or tempestuous. Occasionally the train intersects her on a bailey bridge, but doesn’t digress too far.  It is as if Urubamba is loath to be separated from her lover, the railway.  The quilted mountain slopes sport a patchwork of potato,maize and vegetable crops. There is something uncannily familiar about the countryside that unfolds in rectangular blue frames from your perch inside the train. Uncanny because you are at least 6000 miles away from home, yet get a feel of déjà vu.... Read More

        

Cusco , Peru, November 2009 (solo)

The little girl selling alpaca scarves and painted calabashes is insistent that I buy at least one. She does not know I am good at fobbing off persuasive salespersons. But she has tricks up her sleeve. She asks me where I am from. India? She breaks into a Bollywood jig right there. This is followed by Chhaiya chhaiya sung in a Spanish accent. As I give in and delve into my wallet for a few Soles, I marvel at the enormous distance Bollywood has travelled — across the globe to Cusco in the Andean heights of Peru. ........ Read More

          

Cleveland & Atlanta, United States, November 2009 (solo)

 

Okhlohoma City, United States, November 2009  (with colleagues)

   

Chicago, United States, November 2009 (with colleagues)

       

Gazing in wonderment at traffic speeding 1,450 feet below my feet makes me dizzy. I am in what they call ‘skybox’ sticking out of the side of the 108th floor of Sears Tower, the mother of all skyscrapers in North America in the city of Chicago. The skybox is made of glass, not just its three sides, but even the floor is sheet glass. You step onto it gingerly, hoping you never hear the dreading sound of splintering glass, as the mind conjures up images of a great fall...... Read More

 Gir Forest, Gujarat, Western India, October 2009 (with spouse)

This is one wild life safari that begins long before you reach the jungle, all the more thrilling because you never expected it! Provided you travel at the right time of the year – between October and December. As you drive from Dwaraka to Somnath, you are delightfully surprised by a parade of avian visitors darkening the skies with their sheer numbers and rending the silence of the marshes with their raucous chatter.  Copenhagen seems distant and climate change concerns, a trifle exaggerated as these migratory birds keep their annual tryst with a primordial cycle – of  flying thousands of miles to mate, lay eggs, hatch fledglings, raise them to adulthood and take them all the way back to where they came from.....Read More

         

Dwaraka, Somnath, Gujarat, Western India, October 2009 (with spouse)

     

Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Western India, October 2009 (with spouse)

   

Zanskar, Pangongtso, Nubra, Siachen, Ladakh, August 2009 (with friends - all women group)

AT 4,200 metres above sea level, Penzi La may be the official gateway to Zanskar, a valley embedded deep in the entrails of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. But it is Drang Drung, the towering glacier just a few metres past the mountain pass, that dominates your digital lens and memory card, forming a spectacular backdrop to all those photographs that is guaranteed to excite envy back home. The glacier, a languorous river of virgin snow, seductively veiled in mist, meanders sensuously between towering massifs. Drang Drung is the source of two rivers – the Stod and the Lungnak – which, like a feuding couple, diverge in opposite directions although eventually they do make up and merge once again in Pakistani territory. One of them goes to water the Zanskar valley, while the other clothes the Suru valley in an emerald blanket of barley and wheat..... Read More

We are in Padum, truly a one-yak town that comes alive just for about three months every year. Sitting astride a gurgling Zanskar River — also called Chador in these parts — Padum, the capital of Zanskarin Ladakh, is probably the remotest town in India, inaccessible for nine months in a year. The road is open only from July to September. One has to fly to Srinagar, drive through Kargil, Suru, and Panikhar, cross the Parkachik glacier and Penzi la to reach Padum, which at least four days before you can arrive at this outpost.........Read More

              

Srinagar & Kargil, J&K, Northern India, August 2009 (with friends - all women group)

AFTER spending eight days exploring the remote Zanskar valley in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, we, a group of three women, retrace our footsteps through the same route by which we came – Rangdum, Parkachik, Panikhar, Suru and Sankhoo – to get back to Kargil to begin the second leg of our journey lasting a week. This leg would take us from Kargil to Leh via Lamayuru, from Leh to Pangong Tso via the Chang la and from Leh to Siachen Base Camp through the Khardung la and the Nubra valley. That would mean making Leh the base..........Read More

       

Goa, Gokarna & Marudeshwar, Western India, July 2009 (with spouse)

        

Palampur, Himachal, Northern India, June 2009 (with spouse)

         

The Kangra Valley toy train is waiting for us at Pathankot railway station.  Like all hill trains, this one is a narrow gauge tin box with big windows and a noisy engine. There is only one class of travel – janta – and we board the bogie right next to the engine, the only one with cushioned seats.  We are happy to note that there are absolutely no tourists on this train. All are locals going about on their everyday business. The train chugs out of the station on the dot at 7 am and soon we are treated to rectangular steel frames of lush Kangra valley with its water-logged rice paddies arranged on terraces.  A distant mountain range and expansive meadows form an alluring backdrop. ...Read More

Pachmarhi, Central India, May/June 2009 (with spouse)

“Let someone say
And say to your shame
That all was beautiful here
Until you came”

So screams a placard placed strategically at Sunset Point. To me, however, Pachmarhi seems just as beautiful and tranquil even now.  There is an uninterrupted continuum of velvety green tree tops all the way to an orange-splattered horizon set ablaze by a setting sun with nary a human construct to mar your view.  The tranquility is enhanced rather than rent, by wild bird calls and whispering winds that caress your soul.  Barring a few minor exceptions in the market area, Pachmarhi does not sport ugly multi-storeyed glass and chrome hotels that blight the pristine beauty of our Himalayan hill stations.  Spaced out and spacious colonial bungalows have been left intact to be equipped into hotels with minimum fuss.  Al fresco dining is the norm and you can bite into your tandoori roti under the canopy of riotous laburnums and flaming gulmohars...... Read More

        

Sarahan, Himachal, Northern India, April 2009 (with family)

         

Palermo, Sicily, Italy, April 2009 (with son)

The receptionist at the hotel in Palermo cannot find our bookings. He fingers our passports nervously and fumbles with the keyboard of his computer. “India? Is it near Sri Lanka?” he asks. This perhaps must be the first time anyone identified formidable India by its little neighbour. Indignation is just about to get the better of our politeness, until we glance at the lounge mirror. The penny drops. ........... Read More

        

Amalfi, Italy, April 2009 (with son)

Smugness comes naturally to Indian travelers. We know we have everything in our vast and varied landscape- from drop-dead gorgeous gorges and glaciers at fantastic altitudes to pearly white sandy beaches studded with exquisite temples and churches, dense lush jungles thick with the promise of endangered game, emerald backwaters caressed by swaying palms, endless sand dune deserts populated by armies of wild ass and millions of flamingoes, and much more. So when we board the bus at Sorrento, a couple of hours’ train ride from Naples, we don’t really fight for the window seat.  Surely, much touted Amalfi coast can’t be a patch on our very own Konkan and Karwar coasts?.......Read More

       

 

Positano, Italy, April 2009 (with son)

       

Pompei, Italy, March 2009 (with son)

       

AUGUST 23, A.D. 79. The day dawned bright and sunny as usual and seemed full of promise. The citizens of Pompeii went about their daily business, blissfully unaware of what destiny had in store for them. They were totally unprepared when late in the evening their world erupted in a pyroclastic flow - of molten lava, pumice, ash, hot stones and debris, suffocating, singeing, charring and melting everything that lay in its path as a river of fire gushed out in primordial fury down the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii and its 20,000 inhabitants were buried alive in an instant. ..... Read More

“Going to Pompei?” asks an incredulous friend when we tell him about our itinerary. “But don’t you have to travel through Naples?”  This is a typical refrain from most travellers to Italy who tend to skip all lovely spots south of Lazio just so they don’t have to go through Naples.  Yet, there was a time when someone did say “See Naples and die”.  That must have been a couple of centuries ago when Naples still carried its sheen and justified its name – Neapolis means New City – and could pretend to be a rival to Rome and Florence..... Read More  

Naples, Italy, March 2009 (with son)

     

Florence, Italy, March 2009 (with son)

You’ve heard of intelligent machines, but have you encountered any? Well, you would, at Roma Termini station. Every time you ask for a ticket to any destination on Trenitalia, the vending machine invariably displays the most expensive train and ticket options. For instance, when you query for a ticket from Rome to Florence, it would offer you a couchet on the long-distance Eurostar to Venice, although the journey time between Rome and Florence is just two hours! After you’ve coughed up the extortionate fare and picked up the ticket spat out by the machine, it will display all the cheaper options you could have availed had you known better, the cheapest being just a quarter of the fare you just paid! Well, now you know what it is like to be taken for a ride even before you board the train..... Read More

        

Rome, Italy, March 2009 (with son)

VISITING Rome can be a schizophrenic experience. The city is a modern metropolis striving to establish its contemporary identity over a largely antiquated and often crumbling edifice of immense historic value. The sprawling cityscape is dotted with gorgeous ruins and exquisite monuments – familiar images from posters, picture postcards and pages of history books come alive in the earthy hues of brick and sandstone..... Read More

       

Paris & Versailles, France, March 2009 (with son)

         

Hongkong, February 2009 (solo)

          

Konark, Orissa, Eastern India, February 2009 (solo)

       

Bhitrakanika & Gahirmatha, Orissa, Eastern India February 2009 (solo)

The ever-effusive god of instant gratification for impulsive travellers, Google, is stumped for sites when I query for Gahirmatha. All I get is sketchy Wikipedia and repetitive sales spiel by tour operators when I am looking for specific information on whether the Olive Ridley turtles have turned up this year on the secluded beaches of Orissa coast. .....  Read More

     

Pushkar, Ajmer, Northern India January 2009 (with friend and spouse)

Pushkar, congested, crowded and dirty by day, is magically transformed by evening. Come dusk, the quotidian makes way for the exotic, exciting and mystical in this temple town sacred to Hindus of all denominations. The ghats, swarming with bathers an d seekers of salvation, become bereft and silent as night falls. The lake tantalises through the silky mist, shimmering in the moonlight. An occasional white-robed figure glides down the steps to contemplate the stillness and drink in the spiritual silence........ Read More

         

Mcleodganj, Northern India, July 2008 (with family)

     

Paris, France, 2008 (solo)

         

Napoleon, perched nonchalantly on top of the 135 foot column at Place  Vendome, appears to be mocking me as I try to balance precariously on a three-foot high bicycle right under his nose. After all, I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in over a quarter of a century – wait, make that half - and am truly nervous at the prospect of trundling through the streets of Paris in this daunting contraption. But that is what we’re about to do, a motely group of visitors eager to experience Paris as a Parisienne would do nowadays! ....Read More

Minoan Crete, Greece, May 2008 (solo)

THE Greek island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea, known by its ancient name Thira, is believed to be the volcanic island whose fury destroyed the ancient Minoan civilisation. A recent theory points to the possibility that the same volcanic eruption may also have contributed to the destruction and disappearance of the legendary Atlantis, a mysterious lost continent hitherto thought to be a fictional location conjured up by the Greek philosopher Plato. Theories emerging in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami venture the hypothesis that Atlantis did exist and was perhaps destroyed by tsunamis generated by the Thiran eruption. ... Read More

When I boarded the Blue Star ferry from Piraeus, the port in Athens bound for Santorini, a Greek island twelve hours’ sail  away in the Aegean Sea, little did I realize that I might be sailing to a historic site with a hoary past. Santorini, known by its ancient name Thira, is believed to be the volcanic island whose fury destroyed the ancient Minoan civilization. Recent theory points to the possibility that the same volcanic eruption may also have contributed to the destruction and disappearance of a distant and legendary Atlantis, a mysterious lost continent, hitherto thought to be a fictional location conjured up by Greek philosopher Plato. ......Read More

           

Santorini, Greece, May 2008 (solo)

THE Greek island of Santorini in the Aegean Sea, known by its ancient name Thira, is believed to be the volcanic island whose fury destroyed the ancient Minoan civilisation. A recent theory points to the possibility that the same volcanic eruption may also have contributed to the destruction and disappearance of the legendary Atlantis, a mysterious lost continent hitherto thought to be a fictional location conjured up by the Greek philosopher Plato. Theories emerging in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami venture the hypothesis that Atlantis did exist and was perhaps destroyed by tsunamis generated by the Thiran eruption. .....Read More

         

Delphi (of the Oracle), Greece, May 2008 (with son)

“NAVEL-GAZING could make you dizzy,” warns Nikoleta, our guide, tongue-in-cheek as we peer into what seems like a deep chasm overgrown with thick shrubbery. We are at the legendary Delphi, which, ancient Greeks believed, was the “navel of the earth”. We ignore Nikoleta’s remark and go down the pathway to investigate the hallowed site where, for several centuries, men and women sought and received prophetic guidance on everything from routine everyday affairs to momentous decisions to go forth and transform the course of history. Many actually did...... Read More

     

 

Athens, Greece, May 2008 (with son)

        

Nile Cruise, Egypt, March 2008 (with family)

        

Aswan, Abu Simbel, Luxor, Egypt, March 2008 (with family)

“My name is Mohammed Atta and I will be driving you to Abu Simbel today” says the portly young man who comes to receive us at Aswan railway station. Before I could check myself, I blurt out, “ Surely, that is not a very reassuring name to have these days” . He is taken aback, but chooses to ignore what he probably considers a gratuitous remark from a boorish Indian woman.  “You can call me Mehmood, if you like” he says in an even tone. We pile on to a comfortable van and head to our hotel on top of a hillock in the far corner of the town.  The river front is cluttered with cruise boats and feluccas..... Read More

         

Alexandria, Egypt, March 2008 (with family)

     

Cairo, Giza, Egypt, March 2008 (with family)

Ascending the gateway to the other world is not for the weak-kneed, literally. You have to bend in half and crawl your way first down and then up, groping the walls on the sides of the very narrow passageway.  There is no stairwell, just a wooden board with slats on it to break your fall should you slip. Apart from your joints, your lungs also need to be in perfect condition to be able to draw in any oxygen molecules that might still be lingering in this alleyway.   The passage is just every bit as eerie as you might have imagined – dark, dingy and somewhat claustrophobic despite a diffuse light whose source is invisible.  There is a faint musty smell that is mildly nauseating.   The passage goes on and on, seemingly interminably, so much so, you come to believe anytime now you’ll ascend to the heavens straightaway. But no such luck. Eventually you reach a chamber, about 10 meter long and 5 meters wide......Read More..

            

UNESCO World Heritage Temples of Thanjavur, South India, January 2008 (with spouse)

           


Luang Prabang, Laos, December 2007 (with friends- all women group)

At the confluence of two mighty rivers, the Mekong and the Nam Khan, lies a quaint and picturesque town that belies the notion that the East and the West can never meet. Luang Prabang, the former imperial capital of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos, is a felicitous blend of two very different cultures, the French and the Buddhist, and is perfectly at ease with this hybrid identity. Luang Prabang’s high street is lined with trendy street cafés in the best tradition of their Parisian counterparts. Yet, the street is also home to splendid Buddhist wats and monasteries with gilded pagodas and glittering Buddha statues. The delicious aroma of freshly baked baguettes and croissants and the strong smell of dark-roasted coffee mingle with the heady fragrance of jasmine and parijaat garlands waiting to adorn the deities in the numerous temples that dot this town.....Read More

It’s the magical twilight hour before sunrise. The sides of the street are lined with bamboo mats on which the devout and the curious huddle expectantly. Their gaze is fixed on the horizon, but they are not waiting for the sun to emerge. Laid out in front of them is a row of rattan trays laden with goodies. There are different types of sweet sticky rice wrapped in plantain leaves. There is a tiny bamboo basket with steaming white rice. Some have a few bananas and an occasional coconut and jaggery toffee. You join the crowd and find yourself a place on the mat. For a few kips, you also acquire a tray full of offerings and join the excruciating wait. ...Read  More

           

Vientiane, Laos, December 2007 (with friends - all women group)

          

Angkor Vat, Cambodia, December 2007 (with friends - all women group)

A VISIT to Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, by the river route would be a fitting tribute to an ancient civilisation that flourished primarily because of its unmatched ability to harness water. According to recent research, the Khmer civilisation was indeed Karl Wittfogel’s quintessential hydraulic civilisation and the largest on the earth. Paradoxically, its ability to harness water turned out to be its undoing as well. At least that is what the latest theory surmises.....Read More

          

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, December 2007 (with friends - all women group)

       

Mekong Delta, Vietnam & Cambodia, December 2007 (with friends - all women group)

Christmas at chau doc. Scores of scooter-borne Santa Clauses wove nonchalantly through chaotic traffic. Floating markets sold plastic pots, flowers and fruit to customers in houses that also miraculously floated on the Mekong river. Disembowelled and dried snakes hung from hooks while live specimens eyed us warily from glass tanks in wayside eateries. Lovers gazed into each other’s eyes in parks unmindful of the stench from sewers. We were at Vietnam’s Mekong delta town—four working women with grudging families back home, footloose on a self-designed, self-indulgent, self-funded trip. This was the starting point of the Mekong delta cruise that would take us to Phnom Penh in Cambodia and from there to Siem Reap, better known as Angkor Vat, the world’s largest temple complex........Read More

          

Hochiminh City, Chau Doc, Vietnam, December 2007 (with friends - all women group)

          

Bangkok, Thailand, December 2007 (with friends - all women group)

            

Backwaters of Kerala, South India, December 2007 (solo)

       

Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary & Agra, October 2007 (with extended family)

          

Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, October 2007 (with extended family)

     

Bali, Indonesia, August, 2007 (solo)

FOR those of us who’ve glimpsed the cavernous, dust-filled and eerie crater of Mt.Vesuvius, Bali’s volcanoes come as a delightful surprise. They are as green as they come, their slopes, once overrun  by molten lava, are now robed in chequered  emerald rice paddies swaying  gently in the breeze. The green is leavened by blotches of magenta, purple and orange bougainvilla clusters.  A serene blue lake with nary a ripple hugs the volcano and goes around it. A plume of mist, not smoke, wafts languidly out of the crown of the volcano that belched  pyroclastic fury and swallowed entire villages not too long ago.  In fact, Bali’s legendary tropical fecundity is largely due to its volcanic soil.....Read More

         

 

Badrinath, Gangotri, Northern India, June 2007 (with spouse)

A sliver of mist has descended upon Neelkanth, curling around his crown like a gossamer scarf.  He sparkles, the silvery dust on his snowy mien magnifying million-fold, the first ultraviolet rays of the Himalayan sun.  Where was Neelkanth hiding last evening when we arrived at the valley?   Was he sulking behind the clouds as he is wont to do so very often?  Flanked by two dark massifs, much like security guards escorting a VIP, Neelkanth dazzles. The chance to catch a glimpse of his snowy majesty is reason enough to brave two days of treacherous ride to the temple town of Badrinath.   Read More..

 

Sikkim (Gurudongmar Lake, Nathula Pass) Eastern India, May 2007 (with family)

IMAGINE yourself at a height of 18,000 feet on a rocky ledge overhanging a precipice. A good 4,000 feet below, the ledge is the seemingly endless Tibetan plateau stretching as far as the eyes can see. Behind you, a chain of frosty peaks tower at leas t a couple of thousand feet above your ledge. You feel as though you’re standing in your very own box in the magnificent theatre of nature…..Read More

 

Vaishno Devi, Northern India, May 2007 (with spouse)

“JAI MATA DI” frenzied chants ring out in concentric echoes on the hillside. There is a confusion of colours in the profusion of merchandise piled high on both sides of the winding path.  Vivid red sequined nylon prayer scarves with fetching golden borders flutter from every pole and adorn every shop front. They vie for your attention and custom alongside framed pictures of Vaishno Mata and every other divinity in the Hindu pantheon. The road gets steeper with every step. It will eventually lead you to Bhawan, the abode of the divine Mother who attracts devotees from all corners of India like an irresistible magnet. A resplendent full moon lights up the towering peaks and plunging valleys. .....Read More

The Great Ocean Road, Australia, April 2007 (solo)

We hover over sheer cliffs that drop vertically down to the blue expanse fringed by frothy waves. On one side, the undulating coastline stretches as far as the eye can see while on the other, verdant hills form a wavy pattern. The sea has donned her bluest hue today, but the frills of her dress are pearly white. The waves furl and unfurl the lacy frills endlessly. From this height it is easy to believe weightlessness and timelessness are not abstract concepts..... Read More...

Melbourne, Australia, April 2007 (solo)

Canberra, Australia, April 2007 (solo)

Sydney, Australia, April 2007 (solo)

AT 134 metres from sea level, the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge is an excellent spot for a panoramic view of this bustling Australian city. But I was somewhat amused when my tour guide handed me a certificate vouching for my having successfully climbed to the top of it. Frankly, I did not think it much of a feat, especially since the precautions included an iron-chain tether to ensure that the suicidal among us did not jump off the bridge.....Read More

Istanbul, Turkey, March 2007 (solo)

THE plane tilts alarmingly to the side in preparation for landing at Ataturk International Airport. I gasp - three seas (the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean), two straits (the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles) and three illuminated bridges across the Golden Horn make for such a dazzling combination that even the smog takes on the seductive appearance of a veil that reveals more than it conceals. Between the Bosphorous and the Sea of Marmara lies the star-studded expanse that is Istanbul. A dozen-odd illuminated domes and their pencil-like minarets rise skywards as if challenging me to spot their crown jewel, the unrivalled Aya Sofia. All of them look equally grand and imposing. Finally, I give up trying to locate the queen among a bevy of bejewelled beauties...... Read More

   

Neemrana Fort, Rajasthan, Northern India, March 2007 (solo)

 

Desert Rally, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Northern India, February 2007 (with spouse)

 

Prague, The Czech Republic, January 2007 (solo)

WHEN I check into the elegant Schlosshotel Cicilienhof at Potsdam near Berlin, I have little idea of the historic significance of the location. It is only when I stray into the adjoining wing of the hotel, now converted into a museum, I learn that this is indeed the same place where three great statesmen — Harry Truman, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin — met and conferred on the contours of post-war Europe in July-August 1945. It would have been a great place to lounge around, but the weather plays spoilsport. A winter storm is upon us and I have three days to kill before I head home......Read More

Berlin, Germany, January 2007 (solo)

MY first visit to Berlin was in 1981 at the height of the Cold War. Back then, we were travelling by train all the way from Paris to Moscow, stopping in Bonn, West Berlin and Warsaw along the way. Truncated and traumatised, Berlin had already lost it s glory as well as its capital city status to provincial Bonn. The Berlin Wall dominated the West Berlin skyline and psyche. Checkpoint Charlie could well lay claim to being more photogenic than Marlene Dietrich. I remember gaping at those sentry towers with their smartly-dressed, rifle-toting East German guards. We gazed wistfully at Brandenberg Gate from across the Wall on the West Berlin side, having been refused a visa to visit East Berlin. We had to settle for rectangular frames of East Berlin served up through our train window as it pulled out of Frederichstrasse station and chugged its way towards Warsaw...... Read More..

Baharain, December 2006 (expedition)

 

Shiraz, Iran, December 2006 (expedition)

Solemn and sombre, the women stand silently around the slab sheltered by an ornate blue-tiled octagonal pavilion. Without exception, all heads are wreathed in black headscarves, revealing little of the tresses underneath. As I draw near, I find that some of the women sport trendy black manteaus over blue jeans; the manteaus reach up to their knees, yet show off their slender contours to great advantage. The women are hunched over the marble slab inscribed with calligraphy, while a few men stand at a discreet distance....... Read More

 

Esfahan, Iran, December 2006 (expedition)

 

Tehran, Iran, December 2006 (expedition)

 

Baku on the Caspian, Azerbaijan, December 2006 (expedition)

Drive along the Caucuses in Turkey, Georgia & Azerbaijan, December 2006 (expedition)

WHERE can you see snow-topped mountain ranges straddling two seas, one aquamarine and another sapphire blue? Where can you drive through a continuous canopy of russet and golden maple leaves festooning winding hill roads? Where in the world does one encounter bright sunshine in one stretch of the road and a blinding blizzard in the other on the same day? How does it feel to get a panoramic 360-degree view of the horizon splattered with the myriad hues of a setting sun?..  Read More

 

 

Tbilisi, Georgia, December 2006 (expedition)

         

Trabzon on the Black Sea, Turkey, December 2006 (expedition)

         

On board the Apollonia from Sochi to Trabzon in Turkey, December 2006 (expedition)

Sochi on the Black Sea, Russia, December 2006 (expedition)

Sochi’s selection as the venue of Winter Olympics 2014 brings memories flooding back — of winding hill roads teasing you with tantalising glimpses of the Black Sea at every bend; of streets blanketed in canary yellow petals that rise up i n a swirling cloud as if to dodge crunching steel radials; of splendorous autumnal hues that span the spectrum from lemon to gold to russet forming a dazzling canopy above, of smoky shafts of sunlight filtering through the chinks in the foliage; of luscious fruits peddled by equally luscious but unself-conscious Caucasian women, of swaying poplars standing sentinel for farms ripe with corn and wheat; above all, of the magic and mystique of the mighty Caucasian mountain ranges straddling two seas......... Read More

 

Kropotkin, Cossack Country, Russia, December 2006 (expedition)

As the Nikitin expedition moves from Moscow into the far-flung provinces, the weather gets warmer. So does the hospitality of the people. From the Caspian shore, we are now driving towards the Black Sea. This was not exactly the route through which Nikitin had travelled, but then, we are not allowed to go through Dagestan and Chechnya for obvious reasons and have to settle for a compromise passageway — one that would take us to Georgia through Turkey.... Read More

 

Elista, Kalmykia, Russia, December 2006 (expedition)

Of all the regions of Russia through which the Nikitin Expedition — which retraces the footsteps of Russian traveller Afanasy Nikitin, on its way to India — has driven through since November 12, none has been more impressive than Kalmykia, the Buddhist Republic in the heart of the vast steppe.... Read More

Astrakhan, Russia, November 2006 (expedition)

ASTRAKHAN is not easy to spot on the map although it is Russia's gateway to the Caspian, replete with oil and sturgeon. Even the usually loquacious Google slows down to a slur when you ask about Astrakhan. But there used to be a time when the town was virtually a household name. Bales of silk, sacks of spices, stacks of furs, saddles, swords and bridles piled high on ponies and camels congregated in this town of caravanserais en route to markets in the Levant and beyond. Astrakhan was a key link in the ancient silk route. The infamous Golden Horde of the Mongols swept through the Volga basin and founded Astrakhan on its banks. In the 16th century, Ivan the Terrible reclaimed Astrakhan from its Muslim rulers and built an impressive Kremlin to commemorate the reinstatement of the Christian faith...Read More..

As the Nikitin expedition moves south and east, the urban landscape becomes more oriental than Russian even before you cross the Caucuses. Astrakhan, situated 100 km from the shores of the Caspian, is Asian enough to be familiar and provincial enough to be intimate....Read More

  

Volgograd, Russia, November 2006 (expedition)

Close to a fortnight after it began on November 12 in St. Petersburg, the Nikitin expedition reached the estuary of the Caspian shores where it will finally part company with the Volga river. While temperatures continue to be at sub-zero levels, the snow has all but disappeared. But we are now in the open steppe where the chill of the wind penetrates our very bones..... Read More

Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia, November 2006 (expedition)

As the Nikitin expedition rolls along the Volga river traipsing through three Russian time zones in as many days, from Nizhny Novgorod to Kazan to Samra and Saratov, temperatures have plunged to minus 15 degree Celsius during day time..... Read More

Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, November 2006 (expedition)

St.Petersburg, Russia, November 2006 (expedition)

The Nikitin expedition retracing the footsteps of the Russian traveller Afanasy Nikitin has been journeying through Russia for a fortnight now. Travelling in today's Russia may be easier than in Nikitin's times, but it has its fair share of travails, some self-inflicted. ...Read More

THE very mention of Russia evokes that single unmistakable imagery - of the strikingly coloured and stunningly patterned `onion' domes of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square. Virtually every news report from Moscow is telecast against the backdrop of this brilliant edifice, making it the unique symbol of Russia and all things Russian. It is immortalised in a million paintings, photographs, souvenirs and movies, including American cartoons where the domes have often been portrayed as the symbol of the `evil empire'......Read More

Tver, Russia, November 2006 (expedition)

BONE-CHILLING winds blowing from the Siberian plains greeted the Nikitin expedition which just arrived at Kazan, the capital of Tartarstan, an autonomous province within the Russian federation. This was the 12th day of the five-week journey which will take the expedition through five countries, including Russia, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran, on the trail of Afanasy Nikitin, the 15th-century Russian trader who came all the way to India looking for goods to take back to his countrymen. But unlike Nikitin, who came on horseback, by boat and occasionally on foot, this Indian expedition has been travelling in three Mahindra Scorpio vehicles, for the most part along the Volga river....Read More

Moscow, Russia, November 2006 (expedition)

MORE than five centuries ago — in an era when contours of lands beyond one's own borders were at best hazy reconstructions from hearsay accounts of wayfarers; when all you had was bush telephony and even that reached no further than the next province; when one's own two feet were the most reliable means of transport — a solitary Russian trader undertook a fascinating voyage into the unknown, without the aid of satellite mapping or global positioning systems. He sailed across three seas, down many rivers, crossed mountain ranges, trudged through thick jungles and vast steppes and marched across blazing deserts. And all because he had an extraordinary sense of adventure, a desire to know the unknown, see the unseen and experience the exotic.......Read More

 

Trivandrum, Kerala, South India, October 2006

Ajmer & Pushkar, Rajasthan, North India, September 2006

Goa, Western India, September 2006

Lisbon - Portugal, July 2006 (with friend)

Gibralter; Marrakech, Casablanca, Fes - Morocco, July 2006 (with friend)

THE Rock of Gibralter wore a shroud of midday haze. From my perch on the foredeck of the Comarit ferry, I could just about spot phantom white columns shimmering at a distance. As the ship did a complete U-turn and cruised closer to the rock, the shapes came alive — row upon row of white-washed multi-storeyed buildings, their glass windows glinting in the noon sun. The road lay limp like a supine serpent on which were crawling ant-like cars... Read More..

FOR those of us on the wrong side of fifty, the mention of Casablanca brings alive black and white images of that electrifying pair — Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, exquisite in their 1940s outfits. But don't go to Casablanca with stars in your eyes and nostalgia tugging at your heart. Now it is a digital city that has little that is black and white. A sprawling metropolis more European than Madrid or Naples, Casablanca is going through an identity crisis.. Read More

 

 Granada - Spain, July 2006 (with friend)

ENTERING the Alhambra is like stepping into an enchanting tale of Arabian Nights. This exquisite Moorish castle is so captivating that all the hyperbole that you assiduously shun over the years creeps insidiously back into your vocabulary as you attempt a description. Alhambra is the stuff of fairy tales, a glittering jewel in the otherwise barren Andalusian plains....Read More

 

Seville - Spain, July 2006 (with friend)

ANDALUCIA evokes imagery few other regions do — of Alhambra, Granada's Moorish jewel; of Mesquita, Cordoba's gorgeous mosque with its striped arches and doorways; of Giralda, Seville's towering minaret, crowned, rather incongruously, with a Christian belfry; of endless olive groves, energetic Flamenco dances, eloquent operas like Rossini's Barber of Seville, esoteric novels like Paul Coelho's The Alchemist; of endless turquoise coasts fringed with emerald fronds; of the perpetually snow-crowned Sierra Nevada mountains... the list is endless..... Read More

 

Toledo - Spain, July 2006 (with friend)

HOW does it feel to step into a sepia portrait? You will find out if you visit Toledo, Iberia's Rome, Damascus and Cairo, all rolled into one. Just an hour away from Madrid, Toledo's labyrinthine alleys and cobbled streets may also remind you of Stockholm's Gamla Stan or Warsaw's Stare Miasto, but make no mistake, Toledo's architecture is truly polyglot — a delightful blend of Moorish, Gothic, Jewish, Christian and much else. And the sepia tint comes from its sandstone buildings and colour co-ordinated roof-tiles.... Read More

Madrid - Spain, July 2006 (with friend)

Bhutan, June, 2006 (with family)

YOU’re on cloud nine, literally, as your vehicle teeters precariously on the hairpin bends that dot the 171 kilometer-long road from Phuentsholing to Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan.  On one side is the lush green valley polka-dotted with red rhododendron blossoms and on the other, steep hillsides with their stately pines, but all you can see is the sensuous soft cotton  wool mist that envelopes everything around you. The dew drops caress your face and the pine scent makes you heady. You feel as though you have walked into a dream scene in a Bollywood movie....Read More

 

Philadelphia, April 2006 (solo)

LANCASTER County is situated on the rolling plains of Pennsylvania. At first sight, it seems no different from the rest of suburban United States.  The same spaced-out two-storied houses with sloping roofs, neatly laid-out streets and well-tended farmlands with capsule like granary rising skywards. But then something is amiss.  You wonder what it could be........ Read More 

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-sundaymagazine/in-amish-country/article3232344.ece

 Washington D.C April, 2006 (solo) 

 

Thailand - Bangkok, March, 2006 (solo)

Singapore, March, 2006 (solo)

Myanmar - Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan,  January -February, 2006 (solo)

THE Mandalay-Bagan cruise on the Irrawaddy is not for the faint-hearted, especially if you're not travelling in a tour group herded by an ultra-efficient guide. You have to survive the trishaw ride to the boat jetty at four a.m., jostle for your space in the queue on a very wobbly gangplank, convince the inscrutable Myanmarese officialdom that you're not a spy, and finally, after obtaining that much-sought-after ticket for US $16, weave your way through a maze of backpacks of assorted sizes and shapes to claim your place under the sun - literally!  Read More

 

 Asaloyeh, South Pars in the Persian Gulf, Iran December 200% (solo)

 Tehran, Iran, December 2005 (solo)

IRAN  is full of surprises. Even before Mahan Airways flight begins its descent towards the massive arid landscape that constitutes most of Iran, the in-flight announcement reminds you - the woman traveler - to cover your head in accordance with the country's chosen Islamic laws. But that's not the surprise. It is what comes after........Read more

Sistine Chapel,  Vatican, August 2005 (solo)

IT was one of the hottest days in Europe this summer when I joined the serpentine queue along the outer wall of the Vatican to get a peek into the priceless treasures that make up the numerous Vatican Museums, of which the Sistine Chapel is the crowning glory. The queue itself was a microcosm of ethnicity, culture, religion, language and nationality. The three-hour penance under a merciless Italian sun.......Read more

Pompeii, Italy, August 2005 (solo)

AUGUST 23, A.D. 79. The day dawned bright and sunny as usual and seemed full of promise. The citizens of Pompeii went about their daily business, blissfully unaware of what destiny had in store for them. They were totally unprepared when late in the evening their world erupted in a pyroclastic flow - of molten lava, pumice, ash, hot stones and debris, suffocating, singeing, charring and melting everything that lay in its path as a river of fire gushed out in primordial fury down the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Pompeii and its 20,000 inhabitants were buried alive in an instant....Read  more

Rome, Italy, August 2005 (with extended family)

 

Venice, Italy, August 2005 (with extended family)

WHEN was the last time you were in a city without road traffic? Not encountering a single car, bus or truck is perhaps the most appealing aspect of Venice for the jaded city-dweller hoping for a getaway from petrol fumes for a few days. That is what drew me to Venice more than its famed gondolas, fabled bridges and quaint alleyways. Yet if you come here hoping to savour the tranquility of a traffic-free modern-day marvel, you would be disappointed....Read More

Pisa, Italy, August 2005 (with extended family)

Geneva & Interlaken, Switzerland, July 2005 (with extended family)

Xian, China - June 2005 (with friend)

BEIJING West railway station is as crowded as Chennai Central railway station, but is much grander and more orderly. Passengers are not allowed on the platform until a few minutes before departure. People stand patiently in queues in front of the gates without shoving or pushing, and there is no filth strewn around. Finally the train arrives and we find ourselves in the soft-seat compartment of the express train to Xian, the ancient capital of China. It is a luxurious air-conditioned coach with running hot water, gleaming wash-rooms, and disposable bathroom slippers for every passenger. And to crown it all, each berth comes with its very own television screen! Excellent value for the 300-odd yuan for a 10-hour overnight journey....Read more.

Hardwar, Northern India, April 2005 (with extended family)

Yazd,  Iran, March 2005 (solo)

DRIVING through the streets of Teheran, the Iranian capital, during the evening peak hour is an excruciating experience, especially if you have a train to catch. "Have oil, will drive," seems to be the motto of Teheranians. There is an endless stretch of Paykans before, behind and beside my taxi - also a battered Paykan - inching their way down the swanky Vali-Asr avenue. We move at a snail's pace and there is a good 30 kilometres to go. My nerves are on edge, but the taxi driver seems unfazed as he weaves through the traffic lanes, past flyovers and underpasses, and manages to deposit me at the Teheran railway station just in the nick of time....Read more

Lucknow, Northern India, December 2004 (solo)

Bastar, Central India - November 2004 (with family)

MAADUM HAAT is a feast for the senses, with its mosaic of colours, sights, sounds and smells, as only Indian bazaars can be. Yet this is not your typical Indian bazaar - it does not have trappings like Ferris wheel or candy floss. It is a barefoot bazaar, entirely ethnic and without any frills. There are no stalls, - even makeshift ones, only rows and rows of pots, some earthen, many aluminium, containing mahua, sulfi and suram, all local brew....Read more.

Ladakh, Kashmir, India - July 2004 (with friends - all women grroup)

LADAKH beckoned again. Two years ago, I had travelled from Demchok on the Indo-Tibetan border, where a youthful Indus enters Indian territory and courses through some spectacular mountainscape in Ladakh only to take its leave - rather reluctantly - near Batalik where it enters Pakistan.. It was sheer joy to witness the myriad moods of the river, mostly playful, at times sulking and occasionally turbulent and tempestuous. Now, it was time to acquaint oneself with its lesser-known siblings, the Nubra and the Shyok, which disappear at the foot of the Karakorams...Read more

 

Sariska, Northern India - April 2004 (with family)

Persepolis,  Iran, March 2004 (solo)

THE taxi glides smoothly on the gently curving six-lane highway leading north from Shiraz in southern Iran. The barren Zagros mountain range is to my left while fruit-laden orchards dot the right flank. Even at this early hour, there is heavy traffic on the road; cars swish past in both directions. This is the highway connecting Tehran to Isfahan and Shiraz and thence to Bander Abbas in the Persian Gulf. I am on my way to my dream destination - Persepolis, a city built 2,600 years ago by Darius, the great Persian king of the Achaemenid dynasty. It is a splendid specimen of Persian architecture and tradition of a remote period...Read more

Esfahan, Iran, March 2004 (solo)

WHOEVER said "Esfahan nesf-e-Jahan" (Esfahan is half the world) evidently knew what he or she was talking about. Located in the heart of the vast Iranian desert, this town is truly a jewel in Persia's Islamic crown. It is an architectural symphony born out of fusion of the very best in Islamic and Persian aesthetic traditions...Read more

Shiraz, Iran, March 2004 (solo)

Thanjavur, Srirangam, South India, February 2004 (with family)

 

Colombo, Anuradhapura, Kandy, Pollanaruwa, Sigiriya, Dombulla, Galle , Sri Lanka- January 2004 (with spouse)

THE flight from Chennai to Colombo is a kaleidoscopic experience. The plane cruises along the emerald coast of the Indian peninsula where waves flirt with beige sands, their pearly froth sketching an undulating design along the shores. Through the scratched panes of your Airbus 320 you spot Poompuhar, where the Cauvery, sapphire-hued and serpentine, mingles with the turquoise of the Bay of Bengal....Read more

Samarkand & Bukhara, Uzbekistan, November 2003 (solo)

THE flight from Tashkent to Bukhara in Uzbekistan takes about an hour. The An-24 flies low enough to offer you through its moving rotors tantalising slices of the Uzbek countryside. Neatly laid-out wheat fields, criss-crossed by a latticework of water channels, stretch as far as the eye can see. The alchemy of the morning sun has turned the water into molten silver, setting off the golden brown of ripened wheat. The aeroplane flies over a knot of barren snow-dusted mountains crowned with a lone lake that glitters like a jewel...Read more

Tashkent, Uzbekistan, November 2003 (solo)

 

Lake Issykul, Kyrgyzstan, November 2003 (solo)

Bishkek’s Manas airport is small even by Central Asian standards. The silvery grey aircraft parked neatly in the bays are tiny enough to resemble toys. It’s two hours past midnight in early November and I shiver despite three layers of warm clothing. ..Read more...

Paris, France, November 2003 (solo)

 

Ghent, Belgium, November 2003 (solo)

IT was a rainy morning in November when I boarded a train from Brussels Zuid to Ghent St. Pieters, just half an hour away. Ghent is not on the usual tourist map - that honour goes to Bruges, the lace-making, adjacent town which is a mandatory stop on all tour itineraries to the region - so I had no clue what to expect. I may never have gone to Ghent had it not been for an invitation to attend a seminar at the University of Ghent. Unschooled in history, I was blissfully ignorant of the historic significance of this picturesque town, and smugly assumed it would be a dull university town exuding quiet scholarship. To my pleasant surprise, Ghent turned out to be fetchingly different, with a charm all of its own.....Read More

   

Shivpuri & Gwalior, Central India - August 2003 (with family)

 

Himachal, Northern India - March 2003 (solo)

THE Sutlej gorge is at its seductive best in late March. Every hamlet sports a pink skirt of varying shades - the pale pink peach of blossoms, the rose pink of apricot blossoms, the deep pink of almond blossoms and the creamy pink of apple blossoms. The riot of pink partially covers the otherwise bare gorges, and offers tantalising glimpses of the moonscape that is Kinnaur. The blossoms are everywhere - on every slope, branch, twig, crag and cranny, with nary a leaf in sight. At this time of the year, it appears that nature brooks no other colour....Read more

Kaziranga, Assam, Eastern India, January 2003 (with spouse)

Along the Indus, Ladakh, India - October 2002 (with colleagues)<

Dhaka, Bangladesh, September 2002 (solo)

Tamu, Myanmar, January 2002

Manipur, Eastern India, January 2002 (with family)

Tawang, Arunchal, Northeastern India, January 2002 (with family)

River Rafting in the Ganges, India - April 2001 (with friends)

NO artist’s palette could have reproduced the colour scheme as strikingly. On the one side are the emerald mountains - majestic and rising almost vertically. On the other hand, the dazzling white beaches with their fine powdery sand interrupted by stretches of grey rocks of assorted shapes and sizes. Above is a sliver of the cobalt sky....Read more

 

Helsinki, Finland, March 2001 (with spouse)

The golden sun plays hide and seek behind the spires of the receding Stockholm skyline. The city's myriad holmens and bridges are silhoutted against the horizon. The green church steeples glint through the snowdust. From the deserted deck of my Viking Line cruise liner bound for Helsinki, I frantically try to capture the magic of  the Stockholm sunset on transparencies....  Read more

Oslo, Bergen, Fjord Cruise, Norway, March 2001 (with spouse)

The automatic currency changing machine at Oslo Central does not like my dollar bills. It spits it out everytime I feed it into the slot. I try various denominations, but without any success. It is a Sunday evening and the adjacent Forex Counter had just closed. I need Norwegian Kroners for the tram ride to my hotel. I had been told it was about five kilometers away. Earlier in the evening, as soon as I arrived from Stockholm I had off-loaded my luggage at one of those yawning lockers to take an unencumbered  stroll around the town while there was still daylight..  Read more

 

 Malmo, Stockholm, Sweden, March 2001 (with spouse)

Nothing quite prepares you for your first glimpse of Stockholm in lingering winter. In March, a foot-thick carpet of powdery snow covers every inch of city, turning it into a fairyland more perfect than any picture postcard you might have seen. The cotton wool you put on the Christmas tree back home in Delhi now seems soiled compared to the dazzling fresh snow on the conifers that dot the landscape.The scene is surreal. You almost expect Cinderella or Snow White to step out of those tiny red cottages perched on  the slopes...Read more

Copenhagen, Denmark - March 2001 (with spouse)>

Vienna, Austria - February 2001 (with spouse)

Berlin, Germany - February 2001 (with spouse)

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, India - November 2000 (solo)

If you think a tiny string of painted steel boxes balancing precariously on a two feet wide track meandering on the hillside is an unlikely candidate for the UNESCO World Heritage Site status, think again. It may not be as magnificient as Humayun's Tomb or Hampi which also have the same status, but there is something endearing about the grandiloquently named Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR). It is the second railway system in the world to get the 'heritage' status after the Zimmerin Railway in the gorgeous Austrian Alps. DHR now rubs shoulders with VIP sites around the world such as the Grand Canyon and the Niagara Falls....Read more.

 

Sanchi, Central India, July 2000 (with spouse)

  

Bhimbetka, Central India, July 2000 (solo)

As you drive from Bhopal to Bhimbetka, the forty- five kilometer stretch is the first hint of the drama that awaits you. The lustrous broad-leaved evergreen jungle abruptly gives way to vast plains carpeted by lambent meadows and lush shrubs. For miles, there is no sign of any habitation, no landmarks, except the winding road. And you begin to wonder whether you’ve lost your way and are going round in circles.  But then, like the Grand Canyon, you don’t see the caves until you’re actually upon them. The first glimpse of Bhimbetka caves is so stunning that you would be forgiven for thinking this is nature’s very own stage – a stage which itself is the drama. ...Read more..

Beijing,  China, May 2000 (with friend)

The attractive attendant at the travel desk at Jinlung Hotel in Beijing smiles approvingly when you ask to hire a bicycle. After all, she knows it is the best way to get the real flavour of this sprawling city of wide, straight avenues and endless traffic jams. If you had visited the city a decade ago, you would have spotted an occasional motor car. Today's Beijing has 1.4 million cars and 60,000 taxis, but the city has also retained its bicycle traffic, the resultant chaos notwithstanding.....Read more

Hongkong & Macau - May 2000 (with friend)

Three years after a hysterical western media expressed exaggerated concerns for the future of Hongkong at its historic handover to the Chinese, the former British colony appears to be more vibrant than ever before,  a  shining example of the viability of the one-state, two-systems principle.  The doomsayers and sceptics who forgot to hedge their bets then have had to admit, albeit grudgingly, that they had perhaps been over-reacting..  Read more.

 

Thailand - Bangkok, June 2000 (with friend)

Nawalgarh, Rajasthan, Northern India, March 2000 (solo)

Goa, India - January 2000 (with family)

Nalanda & Bodhgaya - Eastern India, November 1999 (solo)

Even the sun seems to linger wistfully behind the altar which must have once supported a giant statue of the Buddha, but is now bare and exposed to the cobalt skies. Its golden rays cast a cascade of chiaroscuro patterns on the votive miniature stupas that resemble baby elephants in a herd. The perfect stillness of the evening is rent by the screech of an owl. A couple of koels on the giant banyan tree take the cue and start an argument which begins on a low teasing pitch, but soon reaches a raucous crescendo. At Nalanda, nature’s very own sound and light show is being played out today, entirely for your benefit...Read more

Maheshwar, Central India - July 1999 (solo)

San Francisco, United States  - June 1999 (with extended family)

Grand Canyon , United States - May 1999 (with extended family)

 

New York, United States - May 1999 (with extended family)

Niagara Falls- United States, May 1999 (with extended family)

Atlanta - May 1999 (with extended family)>

Cleveland, United States- May 1999 (with extended family)

Florida, United States - May 1999 (with extended family)>

Jaisalmer, Northern India, December 1998 (with family)

Amarnath, Kashmir, India - July 1997 (solo)

A frequent traveller learns to expect the unexpected in practically every journey.  Even so, the Amarnath yatra is not without surprises. If you think the sheer location of the sacred cave, its remoteness and its relative inaccessibility would make for a quiet, contemplative trek through panoramic terrain, perish the thought. The route is crowded – with pilgrims, traders, porters, ponywallahs and the ubiquitous security men swarming like ants escaping from a disturbed anthill.  Read More

Mt.Kailash & Manasarovar, Tibet - July 1996 (solo)

As you slide down the snowy slopes of the 16,750-foot high Lipulekh Pass on the Indo-Tibetan border, you are greeted by a breathtaking view of the Gurla Mandhata with its powdery white crown of snow, a view that stays with you throughout your two-week soujourn in Tibet.  Three hundred and forty-four kilometers from Almora in Uttar Pradesh across the McMohan Line stands the 22,028-foot Mount Kailash (Kang Rinpoche in Tibetan), in mythology, the abode of Siva and his consort Uma. At its base are two shimmering lakes – Manasarovar and Rakshas Tal – which, in a setting almost surreal, mirror the silvery summit of the mountain in their placid turquoise waters..... Read More

 


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