- San Francisco ( < Istanbul < New Delhi)
- Yosemite National Park, 269 km by bus
- Los Angeles (bus) 616 km
- San Diego (bus) 807 km
- Las Vegas (bus) 435 km
- Grand Canyon West rim (bus) 200 km
- Dallas (flight)
- Houston (connecting bus)
- Lake Charles (bus), 505 km, Baton Rouge (connecting bus) 204 km
- New Orleans (bus) 130 km
- Memphis (bus) 635 km
- Washington (flight)
- New York (bus) 360 km
Click to view a snapshot gallery from the DLSR-
we headed for LA via MegaBus. Our original plan was to do West to East coast of US by road. At LA, we were picked up by our French driver Philip who migrated from Paris in 1970 and felt very strongly about how much LA has changed since then. After checking into the Best Western plus Sunset Blvd. walked down Hollywood Boulevard down the walk of fame. Glanced around at souvenir shops. Marijuana is legal in the US so we could smell weed all over the streets. There were also large signs of free HIV checks at one pharmacy. We also spotted a Ferrari painted in weed graphics claiming to be the fastest marijuana delivery service. Did the Hollywood celebrity homes tour. Saw the homes of Silvester Stallone, Paris Hilton, Borat. Later we walked from our hotel to Hollywood Boulevard. Found a freestyle artist at the footlocker crossing. Damn he was good. Check him out-
- Visit to 6th floor museum– from where JFK was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald,
- Perot Science museum,
- Kennedy Memorial
- World aquarium,
- Klyde Warren park,
Dallas apparently has the least corporate tax so this is home and headquarters to many corporations. This place felt a bit like Gurgaon – a lot of glass buildings and eat-outs and food courts on the ground floor. A lot of old traditional heritage buildings still look good around Elm street where our hotel is. We stopped on the way to Houston.
Our trip through the US changed something in our heads; too much of fresh air maybe. But we saw the country differently – for better reasons. We understood people better (and partial reasons for why Trump won). But more importantly we also saw India better. There are good and bad things about every place. Thats what travel does I guess. About Greyhound buses – when we returned we Googled Greyhound buses and found that it was not rated highly and most people mentioned loss of luggage. Others we spoke with had a few things to say about the people on board. Our experience was different all the way. We interacted with so many people at the stations and got back with all our 6 bags we travelled with. Its upto you and how you see things so have a great time on your visit to to the US- by far the greatest country on the planet right now.
I carried my DSLR throughout the trip – a Canon 6D Mark 2. Though it is heavy, it did two things – I got high quality photographs and it opened up conversations with total strangers in shops and buses. One also tends to look more carefully and compose a picture while looking into a DSLR.
Our trip was organized by Dewberry Holidays LLP, Mumbai. A great team stayed online with us throughout the trip. Our friends wanted to know what difference really does an organizer bring to the trip. Well, somewhere you need the experience of others to optimize your trip. The organizer will at the most suggest the most popular, relevant, best or historic things to see. Its upto you if you want to go there or not. Either this or you do your own research and travel.
My portable desktop studio came in today. This was ordered via Instagram a few weeks back. This is the larger size with a white and a black curved backdrop.
This setup needed a test so I figured some toys lying around could help in a quick story.
A wedding in the family took us to Chandigarh. Serendipity brought us to Rock Garden. Tickets are for Rs 30 and in case you missed your morning workout, the artificial terrain is good for a December afternoon.
This little paradise made from urban waste was created by Nek Chand – a government employee in the roads department during the 50s. Though this is my second visit here, I noticed new things. Apparently everyone who visits observes something different. Sculptures and surfaces of labyrinths are made out of discarded bangles, sockets, ceramics, tiles, malba (broken concrete), cement sacks, stones and pottery. If you are visiting Chandigarh, you must keep aside two hours for this getaway in the city. Its a quite and serene place. What really spoils the experience is the selfie-obsessed crowd, so do try to be here early in the morning.
Nek Chand’s creativity is amazing even today. We say the creative space has exploded today so this must have been an insane challenge back then. Imagine convincing the bureaucracy with your artistic fancy. For one man to have this vision, fight against all odds and realize his dream is nothing short of inspiring. Do make it a point to walk into the museum which displays all the awards and photos covering New Chand’s life. There’s a section that showcases dolls made from discarded clothes. We had had our fill of visual textures! Towards the far end of the park there is a place of swings. I had to try this out. Its a surreal place and a must-visit for designers, environmentalists, innovators, entrepreneurs, photographers and children. Be inspired as early as you can.
Once you see things like this, you wonder what stops you from doing things you wanted to. It takes time and effort, but things are achievable if you stick to your goals. Rock Garden will tell you that you can make anything out of nothing, and nothing comes easy.
On our second road trip to Udaipur, we figured its not about the palaces, kings and history so much, but more about its people. These are regular folks who work in palaces, museums and common areas for tourists. They make the city feel great, and your experience memorable. What we are doing here is just watching people going about their daily task. We are sketching and photographing them without a purpose or agenda.
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Way back in 2007 when I drove past Neemrana towards Jaipur, my friend and I tried a stopover at the Neemrana Fort Palace. The palace has limited rooms and is a heritage property, and we were not allowed in without prior booking.
Cut to 2015, my wife and I are here with much planning. The place is beautiful. The food is organic and there are no TVs in the rooms. The property is on various levels since its on a hill side. Our room was on the 9th ‘floor’, so we walked up exploring the palace. It’s so heartening to see the staff maintaining the beauty and grandeur of this lovely home of kings. Perfect!
Here’s a glimpse of the experience-
Ushering in the new year had to be different this time in some way and the call came from good old McLeodganj, Dharamshala. Our friend Ani planned out much of it and we decided to spend a long year-end vacation in the small Tibetan
town. It was bitterly cold in Delhi and the BholeNath Volvo drove all the way from Delhi to Chandigarh at 30kmph. Bus journeys have become very comfortable lately. Our previous trips were to Manali and Beawar in Rajasthan. Though the roads have not changed much, these Volvos have made road travelling a pleasure. Some of them have free wi-fi on board which sadly work only sometimes. The plug points next to every seat are thoughtful though. There is a stopover at a roadside dhaba typically.
We reached Dharamshala early morning and checked in at Zambala Hotel. The rooms were nice and the washrooms were clean; which is all we really needed since we spent all day walking around McLeodganj. One of Ani’s friends runs Moon Peak Restaurant so we had breakfast there. The guys who run this joint make amazing coffee and their creativity shows on top of the coffee they leave with the Hershey’s and cream. The one thing we noticed around here was the peace between dogs, monkeys and humans. The local mutts were dozing off in the winter sun, inside restaurants and all over the streets. None of them were barking or fighting at all. Too much peace.
By day three we had scanned much of the streets and cafe’s here, so we figured it was time to stretch our ligaments a little more. We walked down to St. John’s Church on day two. We had heard much of a trek to Triund- a snow covered peak 7 kilometers further up. Though my wife and I are reasonably fit and run regularly, this was no cake-walk. On the 31st morning we started to trek up. The road disappeared in a few hundred meters and it was more like what we see in The Lord of the Rings as we trekked over stones and rocks. There was a path but it narrowed in most places and got steeper as we reached the top. Most of the trekkers were in their early 20s so this was clearly going to be good workout. Half-way up there was a cafe which served a bottle of water and Coke for Rs 50 each. What was delightful was that the trekkers and locals had separated the waste in metals, plastic and organic in three separate bags. There was this pile of Red Bull cans separated from the other trash.
its the last kilometer that is the toughest. There is a tendency to ask people returning on how much more to go for the top. The standard response was- ‘Oh just a little bit more but its worth it.’ We reached Triund top by 2pm. It was cold but pleasant up here. We met Vijay who we chatted up with at Moon Peak restaurant. The three of us had tea up here, took some selfies and headed back to town. Here’s my 360 degree Photosphere from Triund.
We met Sami Siva, who’s works were pretty awesome actually, and that includes his cooking. We later met at Hotel Tibet for lunch where the Tibetan chopseuy was the most delicious non-vegetarian meal I had had in a long time.
I decided to carry my camera with me despite the bulk. Its a Canon 500D with a Tamron 18-270mm lens- my best travel kit yet. Here are some photos taken in that blissful one week. This was one sketch I made while I was there.
Happy New Year!
The sleepy town was awaiting its tourists after Holi, so it was nice and peaceful when we reached. We stayed at a government-run place called ‘The Palace’, which was originally built in 1460 and was renovated and converted into a hotel.
We booked the best room on the property called ‘Fozal Peak Suite’- which sounded like a corruption of ‘Frozen’ peak. Nevermind… the view from our balcony was lovely and it was a bright sunny day. It was cold though and the water from the taps was finger-numbing cold.
We walked down to a restaurant called ‘The Nightingale’ which has been around for atleast 11 years since I visited the first time. Though renovated and more modern looking now, the food was still good and expensive. A pizza and a pasta with locally made fruit juices cost us Rs. 850.
On day two we walked around a little more towards Nicholas Roerich’s home and museum which was uphill. Though the ground floor was closed, we walked around the house and to the first floor. The inside of his home was like a time box, frozen in with furniture and artefacts of that time.
After all this walking we needed to eat. We had heard so much about the local trout fish that we decided to give it a shot. Its interesting how its served here- entirely with the head and tail, with vegetables!
On Sunday, the locals were playing Holi here. As we went about exploring the hillside, we spotted the local villagers meeting at a temple. The celebration got us interested and we decided to join them.
One thing that we noticed instantly was the decency with which they played Holi, compared to the way city folks play.
The hotel had a great view of the village and valley below. This was a great opportunity to study bird flight. Since Art school days, bird flight and crows have been interesting subjects.
Just in case this looks easy, it took over 300 clicks to get these right. Getting clear photos of the crows in flight meant, zooming in and following, focusing and clicking. The work paid off.
Finally on the day we were checking out, the weather changed for the worse. It rained the night before and everything around was freezing up. Here’s the before/after of the weather in Naggar-
It was a great trip at the end of it all. Naggar stays on top of my fave spots in the world.