25 December: We had to end the year with a road trip to… somewhere. The very thought of spending the last 10 days of the year at home was unbearable. on Christmas morning, we woke up at 4 am with the first goal- to get into the car in 2 hours and head out. We were on our way by 7am. When we reached the GT Karnal road by-pass, it was foggy and we decided to stop for breakfast at Amrit Sukhdev. After another 100 km at the McD’s in Khanna, we booked our hotel at Amritsar. We reached Ramada Amritsar by 6pm and walked down to Golden temple. It was cold and late so the crowd wasn’t too bad. Since we had the place to ourselves, we spent a good hour at the three levels of Golden temple. I bought a red turban from a shop outside for Rs 400. It was available for hire for Rs200. At the hotel, we booked our hotels at Dalhousie. All hotels were totally booked at Dalhousie for new year’s celebrations, so we were losing hope when we heard of one cancellation. We jumped on it and managed to book it by paying online.
26 December: The next day we logged out of our hotel and paid a visit to the Partition museum just next to our hotel, adjoining the Golden temple. We went next to Jalianwala Bagh. After a quick walk around, we headed out to the hills for Pathankot. Dalhousie was another 70km from here with a long and winding route on the hills. We reached hotel snow valley where we spent the night. All hotels and a heater pillar – a 4 foot tall thin rod heater. We parked on the slope outside the hotel which made us very nervous!
27 December: we logged out of here and headed out 7 km further up to Aamod resort. This area had snow on the roads and is much colder than town. This is a lovely eco-friendly resort. The place is much quieter than Dalhousie town. We stayed here for two nights.
28 December: The road was glazed with frozen mud so our car kept slipping on the road. Since we wanted to go to Khajjiar, we decided to hire a taxi – a Maruti Alto for Rs 1900. Our man took us to Khajjiar lake – also called mini Switerzerland. Though this place is beautiful my main thought was it needed lesser humans around. There should be a people filter to beautiful places like this. We got bored quickly of this place and drove up to Daikund. This place is also am army radar area. There was a separate route through the snowed out forest for tourists. Rubber shoes were on hire for Rs 100. We walked up to the temple -a 3 km trek. This was a much better experience since there were not many takers for treks like this. We walked back and headed back to Aamod resort. C;ick here for Google 360 photos:
29 December: we checked out after a filling breakfast and headed for Jalandhar where we have family. Here’s the route we took that covered 1300 km-
- 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.
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.
My sixth trip to Goa happened to be the best ever. Though we went during off-season, it was a better time to be here than December for New Year’s celebrations. Hotels rates are lower, beaches are cleaner and we saw lesser traffic, people and pollution. During our 5-day trip to celebrate our anniversary, we tried out different restaurants by the beach, rented a scooter for two days, got an awesome massage that undid some knots in our muscles, gambled a bit at a casino and just walked around the place. Here are some tips to make the best of your trip.
Pack less than half your limit when you leave home. There is a hundred percent chance you will bring back loads of tshirts, cashew fenny bottles and memorabilia. Though our combined limit was 30 kilos, our luggage weighed only 16 when we checked in at the airport.
Walk as much as you can. Considering your appetite will swell here, walking between 6-8 kilometers a day will keep the metabolism burning off the indulgence. Beef, pork, sea food, mutton, chicken dishes and other local food goes really well with the weather. So does the local beer- Kings.
Converse as much as possible. Get chatting with people while you are here. You should get some tips from their experience. We got the idea of hiring a scooter from a couple who took the table next to us at the Sunny Side Up restaurant in Candolim beach. Scootering between beaches made our trip so much more enjoyable. We rode around 60 km between Fort Aguada, Candolim, Anjuna and Baga beaches. Our steed was a Honda Activa. It’s also easier to chat up with anybody because Goa is inarguably a happier place than any city you’re trying to get away from.
Carry cash. Most of the shops may not accept cards and that’s the charm of the place. For instance, you will need cash to buy petrol in plastic bottles from local shops – for your scooter! That’s because the few authorized petrol pumps are way too far from the beaches. Tent shops selling interesting tshirts will take cash.
Carry beach footwear. Pick up floaters, Crocs or anything that’s waterproof. You never know which beach you may turn towards- which is the whole point of being here.
Keep a cash and time limit for the casinos. If you recall the line from the Ocean’s Eleven films- the house always wins. That is true. Keep a time and cash limit, and walk way from the tables. Deltin Royale is an addictive place.
Enough talk. Now go have a great time.
It was 2010 in Kolkata and I didn’t know what to make of this city- which is capable of changing, and yet remains the same. People are peace-loving, approachable and love a good chat on politics. Infra has improved. Flip side is – pollution is up and cleanliness needs to be high on the agenda here. Yellow cabs, hand-pulled rickshaws and trams are still around. I had to make my customary trip to KC Das- a famous sweet shop on Esplanade crossing.
Science City needs an overhaul. This meseum and exhibition ground has so much potential but has now been reduced to a selfie-zone for picnickers. Hope to see some change there in my next trip to a great city.
Street food is the best thing here. Avoid hotel food as much as possible. Be out there savoring the works of geniuses on carts and roadsides. Enjoy rummaging through second-hand books stacked on narrow footpaths.
It’s a quaint city to get away from everything, yet being in a city.
Mode of transport remains the same.
The life is on the streets. You can enjoy a walk with so much going on with yellow cabs, red cop cars and a city painted in blue – a show of power by the ruling party!
If you are making a trip to Kolkata, just enjoy yourself and don’t think too much about what local residents complain about.
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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-