Friday, 24 July 2015

I Don’t Have To Pretend On The Road…


I’m my real self while I’m travelling.” This thought has been wandering my mind for a while now. Ah! Now when I’m able to travel quite frequently (or at least oftener than I have been until this year), I realise my life is so much more ‘real’ and ‘worthwhile’. I’m so happy with the fact that travel is my vocation in life.


My friendships and acquaintances are more genuine now. I don’t have to fake a smile or talk to somebody for the sake of it. I can’t believe travel can change your life so much. Mine has changed for sure. I was never a people’s person. I was never exactly an introvert, but I wasn’t an extrovert either. I was shy, reserved, serious and aloof (most of it was labelled by people, though).

Travel makes you real. It makes you come to terms with life. I don’t feel the pressure to please anybody on my travels. I talk to people on my own whim and I enjoy it immensely. In fact, I find it weird if I’m around someone and I don’t get into a natter with that person. The joy of talking to anybody to everybody is priceless.

So yes, I’m not reserved or shy anymore. Now I look at people differently. Now I find everybody interesting. I’d say I have learnt to live like a traveller. I don’t feel confined to a place or a situation. I feel the world is my home and I can go anywhere, explore, learn and just be myself.

Travel is liberating.

It allows you to be the person that you want to be. I’m so relieved that I’m not judged for who I am on my travels like the way I was when I was working in a corporate firm. Be it your neighbours, your close acquaintances, relatives or colleagues, they all tend to tell you what you should be doing at some point or the other. It’s strange but true. But when you are travelling, you are free to live the ‘real’ you!


The best part about being on the road is that you never get too close to anyone. You have no expectations from anyone whatsoever. So, you are more in control of yourself. You learn to look at life from a perfect distance and perhaps that’s why you find everything beautiful.

I also adore the fact that travel has no barriers of age, gender, class and beliefs. It’s exciting to meet new people every day. Nothing is defined or preset. You get to discover so much about a place by the conversations that you get into with people.


After I have travelled a fair bit, I realise most places and people are so misunderstood. I believe, if you really care to know what’s happening in the world, switch off that news channel and start travelling.

How has travel changed you? What’s the best part about being on the road?

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Sunday, 19 July 2015

Where To Stay In Srinagar?


I’m so glad to have travelled to Kashmir Valley. It is indeed a sublime place – a place you would want to go back to again and again. Besides the abundance of natural beauty in the villages, Srinagar, the capital city also has so much to offer. But, to experience it deeply, you must choose your accommodation carefully. I believe a good stay adds a lot of substance to your travel experience.


When I was planning my trip to Srinagar, I was particularly looking for home stays and guest houses for my stay. That’s when I stumbled upon Mahatta Home Stay – a home stay run by Ms Anita Mehta, a Punjabi lady who has been a Kashmiri bahu (daughter-in-law) for 48 years.


The first thing that made me want to stay at Mahatta Home Stay was that the Mahatta family has been in the business of photography in Kashmir since 1918. To my pleasure, Ms Mehta was gracious enough to have me check out their ages old photography studio. The studio still has old photography equipments, which makes it a photography museum of sorts.

Mahatta Home Stay is one of the best places to stay in Srinagar. It’s a home Stay for those holidaymakers who seek comfort and peace along with sightseeing. In fact, you would feel almost at home with the kind of atmosphere that’s created by the hosts. The rooms, the dining area and the garden – each corner has a homey touch to it.


Also, my conversations with Ms. Mehta were insightful. She talked a great deal about her experiences in Srinagar. Being a non-Kashmiri, I don’t think there could have been anyone better than her to have revealed the truth about the so-called “unsafe” Kashmir to me. It was endearing to hear her talk about her younger days when she lived amidst militants, too. She finds Kashmir absolutely safe for women and I couldn’t agree more with her.  


 
My favourite part of staying at Mahatta was definitely the food that was served. I was relieved to have something so similar to my home. If you are looking for delicious and wholesome home-cooked vegetarian food in Srinagar, Mahatta Home Stay would be happy to delight you.

By the way, do check out their ice-cream shop if you are around Lal Chowk.

Practical Information: Mahatta Home Stay is 11km from the Airport and four km from Dal Lake. To book a room at Mahatta, click here.

Note: I was hosted by Mahatta Home Stay. However, all opinions, as always, are my own.

Is Mahatta Home Stay your kind of a stay?

Monday, 13 July 2015

5 Reasons I Want To Visit Australia Again

Manly Beach, Sydney

When I listed down my travel wish-list (8 Countries On My Bucket List), I didn’t mention Australia because I had already ticked it off four years ago. It was the month of March, a beautiful time of spring colours in India when I flew to Australia to embrace its autumn hues.

Just like India, Australia is also a uniquely diverse country. There’s so much about it that I would still like to discover. I’m glad that I could experience two of its most stunning cities – Sydney and Melbourne. But, I want to explore MORE of Australia.

Swanston Street, Melbourne


So, without any further ado, let me just lay down why my passport wants another stamp of Australia –

Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and …

I just love the kind of vibe the Australian cities exude. There’s something so vibrant and cool about these cities. I don’t know how many cities I’d able to travel to, but I want to visit at least a couple of them. Adelaide is definitely on top of my list. I’m just fascinated by its name!

Photo source here

Tasmania

Tasmania is a big reason why I wouldn’t mind going through that taxing visa process again (I hope it’s easier this time). The first thing that appeals to me about Tasmania is that it’s a totally different side of Australia. I am curious to explore its national parks, wine regions and many small towns, such as Richmond, Corinna and Evandale to name a few.

Photo source here

Uluru  

Uluru is a remarkable site, which I want to witness in person and capture its exceptional beauty through my lens. Here’s a bit of Wikipedia about it – “Uluru, or Ayers Rock, is a massive sandstone monolith in the heart of the Northern Territory’s Red Centre desert, 450km from the nearest large town, Alice Springs. It’s sacred to indigenous Australians and believed to be about 700 million years old.”

Photo source here

The Barossa Valley

I’d like to visit the Barossa Valley for its sublime wine regions. It would be amazing to experience its food and wine tradition. Also, the landscapes of the Barossa Valley are immense, which would give me plenty of great photos.

Photo source here

Fraser Island

Though I am not much of a beach and island freak, I’d like to explore Fraser Island for its ‘greenery’ quotient. Besides, it’s known to be the biggest sand island in the world.

Photo source here
 
New Zealand

Yes! I wouldn’t want to miss out on New Zealand if I end up visiting Australia again. There’s so much to this gorgeous country – landscapes, lakes, hiking trails, food and wine, and also an interesting Maori culture.

Photo source here

WHAT about you? Do you also want to travel, but would like somebody to plan it for you?

Well, NOMADLY can help you! Just let them know your budget and interests, and they would be happy to plan and book your dream vacation! So, get ready to explore your dream country like a true wanderer – soak up the sights, smells and sounds like a local in a foreign land.

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Friday, 10 July 2015

My Food Trail In Kashmir

I’d like to admit that though I am a foodie, my love for food takes a backseat on my travels. Until a year ago, I didn’t focus too much on food. I just ate when I was hungry and I usually stuck to my own kind of food. But, when I wrote 9 Travel Mistakes I have Made, I resolved to try new cuisines in each place that I visit.

Kashmir: A non-vegetarian’s paradise


After tasting Sikkim, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka, I made it a point to discover Kashmir’s food culture, too. To begin with, Kashmir is a non-vegetarian’s paradise. A typical meat platter in Kashmir comprises both chicken and mutton (of both goat and sheep). If you are a non-vegetarian, you must try Kashmiri Wazwan, which is a highly relished traditional dish of Kashmir. It’s a huge platter of rice with mutton, sheep balls and Rogan Josh. If you order a full platter in a restaurant like Mughal Darbar, it would cost you around INR 2200. Since I don’t enjoy meat that much, it was difficult for me to finish even a quarter of the Wazwan platter.


Anyway, what I truly enjoyed was the street-side restaurant food in Srinagar – I tried a variety of Kebabs, tandoori rotis and naans. They mix besan (gram flour) in the dough for tandoori rotis, which gives it a beautiful yellow colour.

Bakeries

Besides the abundance of meat dishes, Kashmir has a prominence of bakeries, too. You will find bakeries almost everywhere in Srinagar. I particularly loved their plum cakes and Kashmiri breads, which go very well with tea. 
  


Kahwah and Nun Chai

And yes, how could I miss out on Kahwah and Nun Chai? Kahwah is a dry-fruit rich, sweet tea, served without milk, while the Nun tea is made with milk and is salty in taste. Quirkily, the usual tea is called ‘Lipton’ by Kashmiris. I must say that when you are in Kashmir, you can enjoy a cup of zaikedaar chai anywhere. Kashmiris simply don’t know how to make bad tea.


Room for vegetarians, too

Although Kashmiris love meat, they prepare green leafy veggies also with a lot of diligence. I had a nice Karam saag dish at Ahdoos Restaurant. Besides, I enjoyed Malai kofta with Kashmiri naan at Mughal Darbar. A Kashmiri naan is sweet in taste. The naan that I had was garnished with pineapple.

The way Kashmiris eat and drink shows their passion for taste and richness. Food is truly a celebration for them.

Have you tasted Kashmiri food? What did you really enjoy?

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Monday, 6 July 2015

My ‘Old City’ Photo Walk In Srinagar

Amusingly, the locals have no clue about the ‘old city’ of Srinagar. Perhaps they know it as Downtown. Anyway, I went on a photo walk of my own to old Srinagar, where you find Jamia Masjid, a really old mosque (14th century), old houses and old shops. Fortunately, I was there at the right time – the light was mellow, so the photos have got just the right hues. I’d like to admit though, that I didn’t take great photos (or the kind of photos I’d have liked to take). I mean I could have wandered a little bit more and could have discovered some unique nuggets for my lens. But, I just couldn’t do it – maybe I was a bit conscious of the fact that I was roaming alone in an unfamiliar territory, or I just didn’t give it much time. Whatsoever it is, I still would like to share what I captured.   

So, here it is –


The first thing that intrigued me about the old city was its 19th century houses, which were built with mud, timber and wood. They obviously look charming and say a lot about the thoughts and ideas of those old times.


The hanging balconies and windows whisper stories of the peculiar 'purdah' tradition.


The contrast of the 'old' and the 'new' - 


The traditional pots, which are made of white mud, are used for cooking Biryanis and curries -

The old shops that sell all traditional items -


The street vibe of the old city of Srinagar -


Have you taken a photo walk in an old city?

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