Archive for the ‘Tourism’ Category

It was 2 am, a crescent moon was giving the perfect glow that the sea needed as we lay on the beach with a million stars twinkling above us. Chandu, an expert astronomer was guiding us through the Orion and Taurus constellations. I have never seen a clearer sky. Tanay got up to guard the wind to light up a joint. We were already hallucinating with clouds looking like  Hanumanji flying and the boulders around us looking like some fairytale beasts.  We passed the joint around and finished the last bottle of beer. Somewhere around 100 mts from where we sat a group of foreigners were singing and playing guitar around a bonfire. The tune sounded like a song by Floyd, “Wish you were here”.  It’s been 5 years and I can still remember the smell in the air.

Om beach, a place in the western ghats not known by many. The best way to reach is by trekking from Gokarna town. It’s an easy but exciting 4 hours trek where you walk  through jungles and cross small streams with a beautiful view of the Arabian sea on one side. With the first glimple of Om beach you will understand why its called so.

India Karnataka Om Beach

India Karnataka Om Beach (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After reaching we searched for a decent place to stay, Namaste Cafe had no rooms to spare. We were already high on 5 joints and were dying of hunger. We ordered some fish n chips and beer. The interior was very interesting with painted mud walls and ashtrays made of bamboo. The whole structure looked like a temporary shelter with no modern technologies used for anything. The 2 best things that I like about Om beach is, it has limited supply of electricity and no mobile network. A perfect vacation from civilization. No laws, no rules, practically you can do anything anywhere so long as you don’t bother someone else, in which case you’ll be thrown out. As we sat inside the cafe,  I saw the people from places all over the world. Some of them playing with their children, some reading books in the sunlight and some writing diaries and  some rolling joints or making a chillum. The place had an unnaturaly peaceful environment. No one had any idea which day or date it is or the time. No connection to the outer world. Its like living in a secluded island with a handful of people from different countries with same purpose.

Om Ganesh Cafe was around 10 minutes walk from were we stayed and the cafe looked like the place you always wanted to stay. A colourful and comfortable place. The interior was simple and everything informal. A tall dark guy wearing lungi (a wrap-around for guys covering from waist to feet) and a white vest with a big bright red flower tucket behind his left ear was the cook . He sat on top of our table with a huge smile and asked for our order. Everything was right out of a fairytale. The food was tasty, cheap and served in good quantity. The ambience was perfect with indian classical fusion music and beautiful colourful curtains flying around and everything around us was organic.  A beautiful clean beach, with hills in the backdrop and a few happy and trippy people around. A perfect place to get high.

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All we did those 3 days was eat, drink, smoke and stare at the untouched beauty of nature at its best. The experiences were crazy and strange. The silence so deep that you will hear the sound of your own heartbeat. The night was a playground for moonlight, darkness and stars. We were like alice in worderland. It was a journey that can never be forgotten, and it was nature that blew me again.

For those who might be interested in visiting the place, here’s the necessary info, courtesy Wikipedia :

Gokarna is about 453 km from Bangalore, 238 km north of Mangalore and about 59 km from Karwar. It is between the Gangavali and Agnashini rivers and situated along the Karwar coast by the Arabian Sea. It is 200 km north from the college towns of Suratkal and Manipal. Gokarna can be reached by buses and maxicabs from Kumta (36 km), Ankola (26 km) and Karwar (59 km) on National Highway 17( NH-17 ). Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) also runs long-journey buses from many cities like Panaji, Bangalore and Mangalore. Private buses (Vijayanand Roadlines – VRL, Sugama, Sea Bird, etc.) operate night journeys from the capital city of Bangalore to Gokarna daily. It can be reached by train Konkan Railway on the Mumbai to Mangalore route. The railway station ( called Gokarna Road ) is 6 km away from the town. The nearest airports are Dabolim at Goa and Mangalore International Airport at Bajpe.


I kept staring at that small piece of rock (approximate 36 square-inch) which  was not reliable enough to risk my life on. I do not know how long I was staring at that but it seemed like hours . A  thousand thoughts crossed my mind . It was the first time when I felt like praying to GOD .Trust me it was the first time I prayed .Then  I thought of looking at the surroundings for the last time before I take the decision . I took a glimpse .

Well , In short I was standing at 500 ft above ground ,  15,500 ft above sea level , climbing a steep 75 degree slope of a  half naked eroded hill made of loose rocks and boulders which were rolling down frequently.  I was standing on the middle of a waterfall and waiting for the last action to cross it . If I look down I could see the Gangotri glacier stretching 20Kms long and 4kms wide. No site of greenery as far as eyes could see. It was like crossing a desert of rocks and boulders . Retreating was pointless . I looked up to get a glimpse of the lakshya (final destination). 100mts left  to reach Tapovan .

My total weight 130Kg . No am not that fat!! 75kg  is of my of  my once athletic  body and a 55kg backpack . I had to do a  full stretch to place my right foot on that 36 square-inch rock which was covered with moss and looked slippery . Then cross my left foot immediately from behind and do a full stretch again to reach the other side of the waterfall . And I had to do this real fast because  that small rock was just not stable enough.  I had to make sure I do not lose my body balance in this process or else I will  fall through the waterfall and my body will be untraceable. Unfortunately it was not a part of AXN Fear Factor, else it would have followed with a loud applause and half  naked chicks  jumping and clapping and maybe giving me hugs and kisses. Sigh …

After completing the most difficult 100mt climb of my life we reached Tapovan . And what i saw once I reach there ? You guys must be dying to know that . Well its a place which cannot be described in words.I tried write a paragraph 5 times and none of them were worthy enough.  Let it be portrayed through photographs.

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All of that would not have been possible without the help and support of the entire group which consisted of 11 guys ( Tanay, Garg, Gunjan, Jhankar, Major, Ruru-da, Achintya, Subhodip, Vineet, Khatri and me ) and 11 porters including one guide. Crossing a rapid  on 2 thin logs, walking on the edges of the mountains were one wrong step will make you fall a 1000ft , step jumping on loose rocks to cross glaciers or spending the coldest night of my life inside a cave  would not have been possible without them.

Lets give you a brief idea of how we reached Tapovan from Haridwar. We took a traveller van and after  8 hours of riding through the winding snake-like highway along the river Ganga we reached Uttarkashi,  a small town on the banks of Ganga. Next day we left for Gangotri, its a small town at 10,000ft altitude with a beautiful view of Ganga and snow peaked mountains. Its also a pilgrimage spot as this is where the Ganga used to originate according to the Purans, the source has now moved back almost 20kms to a place called Gamukh. We reached Gangotri in the afternoon after a dangerous ride through landslide hit roads. From there the next day early morning we started the trek. We walked 16Kms and reached Bhojbasa(14,000ft), the only place with human habitat between Gangotri and Tapovan. After a night’s rest in the tent we started off  for the last half of trekking. We crossed Gamukh (the birthplace of Ganga) and walked through the  cold desert of loose rocks and glaciers to reach Tapovan. The main motivation which kept us going was the view. I had to pause after every 15 minutes for a 360 degree view of the place and each time it was more beautiful, exciting and dangerous. It was breathtaking and out of the world experience, specially for city dwellers like us. It’s like a dreamland where everything is out of proportion and massive. This experience will make you realize the value of life and many more important lessons.

I am grateful to Himalaya Trekkers for this opportunity. By the way, I might write one more blog about the experiences during my 3 night stay in Tapovan and how we survived there. Don’t miss it.

Cheers to life !!!

P.S : If you want to know more please ask.

English: Gangotri/Gaumukh Namarupa Mahayatra 2...

English: Gangotri/Gaumukh Namarupa Mahayatra 2009 (Terminus of the Gangotri Glacier, Gangotri, Uttarakhand, India) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Where in India would you find a beautiful coastline, peace, cleanliness and less traffic in a single city ? No idea? Ok! I will give you some more hints. This city  serves the best continental food and has the best restro bars in India. Still no clue ??  This heavenly place is none other than Pondicherry or widely known as Puducherry. Located in the eastern coast of India, this place is a 4 hour drive from Chennai. The best way to reach is by Volvo from Koyembedu bus stand, ticket priced around 150 bucks.

Next on the agenda, find a place to stay near the ashram area and you are all ready to peace out. Wake up early and don’t miss the amazing English or Spanish breakfast served in Daily Breads or Hot Breads.  The heat quite bearable at this hour making it the perfect time to roam around the ashram area. It looks bright and beautiful with a lovely view of the early morning ashram activities along the coastline.

Then you should thoroughly explore the ashram area and the French part of town where you will get a good view of  beautiful french architecture and the interesting boutique shops. You will feel like you have been tele-ported to the narrow pebbled old streets of Paris. You walk along the streets and you will find very cozy and unique eat outs serving confectioneries and snacks. The restro pubs are just mind blowing!! The best eat outs spots as per my find is Le Space, Pizzeria, Ajantha and Le Duplex. The Le Space has a very unique architecture and the place plays the most amazing world music and jazz. This place has every time surprised me with something or the other. Sometimes the furniture or the waiter (the varieties include hot Australian babe, stoned Nepali or bare chested south Indian) , the common factor being all of them are too cool like the Mojito served there. The menu board is interesting and the place has got the best lighting and ambiance imaginable. Ajantha bar has got an amazing view as it is located on the fourth floor of the Ajantha Inn situated right next to the coastline. The lighthouse on the right  gives it a perfect touch so that you can enjoy Fish N Chips and Rum with the sea breeze brushing over your face. Now its time to visit the place which made me gain 3 kilos in 7 days. Its none other than Pizzeria. This place is managed by a Goanese who makes world’s best pizza in a clay oven. The moment you walk inside you will fall in love with the place. Follow the spiral staircase to reach the terrace where you can sit under the starry night and enjoy the handmade delicious juicy mouthwatering pizza with beer. If you’ve a heavy pocket then try out Promenade and Rendezvous too.

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Do not miss the park located at the center of the French part of the town. Sit there when you want to beat the afternoon heat and relax under a tree or read a book. Its very clean and peaceful and if you are lucky you can catch  sight of French chicks or someone practicing juggling act or some other interesting activity. This is where you can sit after having lunch in Le Vietnam or Richie Rich. This place called Richie Rich is a must for all ice cream lovers as they have got the largest variety of delicious and cheap ice creams. The best according to my opinion is Death by Chocolate and it lives upto the name. These are pretty much the places you have to visit. However if you are a fan of  Rishi Aurobindo or Shri Shri Shree Ma,  or if you are a spiritual person then you have a lot of places to visit and lot of activities to take part in.  So all the good holy spirited people check out these websites  and

A warning for all  shopaholics. Your wallet will take a bad hit once you visit the shops like Casablanca, Titanic or The Auro shop. But whatever your economic situation is, please do visit these places atleast once as it will help you to get the idea of what items to buy to build a perfect dream home or what will complete your dream wardrobe.

So grab your backpack and fill it  with summer clothes and visit this paradise. My suggestions?  Lose some weight before going there,  carry a GPS device and good shades, learn to drive a scooty before leaving and carry a good camera. And its a request, if you know of any other interesting places around (am sure there must be loads) please do share it with us. I will add it to my ‘to do’ list while planning my next trip.

Puntang Dechen Phodrang Dzong in Punakha, or &...

Puntang Dechen Phodrang Dzong in Punakha, or "Punakha Dzong" , Bhutan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The authors of this blog recently took two long-overdue vacations. Not together, you understand. We both happen to be of the conventional orientation, thank you very much. I went to Bhutan with family. And unless you failed in geography, you would know that it is a country, not a hill station in India. It’s small compared to ours, but it’s beautiful, and very very different.

The thing that any Indian is most likely to notice is that they take their laws seriously. Smoking in public is prohibited, and you wouldn’t see anyone smoking anywhere on the streets. Sticking posters here and there is also forbidden, and you do see clean walls everywhere. The political parties have to be content with small “Election Notice” boards that are erected at places. Imagine those two laws (both already in place in our country by the way) being followed in our country.

The place, as I’ve said before, is beautiful. Its cold, clean, green and peaceful, and it is kept that way. Bhutan has a near-perfect combination of majestic snow covered peaks, rivers, valleys , beautiful weather, picturesque villages and a modern, functional capital. It could have made a killing as a tourist destination. It refused and preferred to have a life of peace and quiet. Away from most of the rest of the worlds noise, pollution and so called culture. They are happy to live with their own, with just a little bit of rock music and a few foreign made SUVs thrown in.

They have a custom which I really liked at first glance, then wasn’t so sure about. Bhutanese citizens are supposed to be in their national dresses when they are working(whatever the profession is) or visiting any official places. I agree, this ensures a certain amount of dignity, but isn’t it an unnecessary enforcement too? I mean, how would we like it if we were required to put on dhoti-kurta on weekdays? Also, think about how many wardrobe malfunctions that would have caused on the Kolkata metro or a Mumbai suburban local during the average weekday rush-hour.

And finally, the question that still has me stumped is, how the heck does their economy work? They have no heavy industry, neither is the country exactly agriculture friendly. There are no gleaming office buildings. They don’t even make toothbrushes in their own country. Yes, there are a lot of handicraft shops, but they are absurdly overpriced, and the owners do not appear to be the least bit interested in making a sale. A few tourists do come to visit, but the body language of the place makes it abundantly clear that it is the tourists that are interested in the country and not vice versa. And yet, and this is what kills me, every other guy (quite a few gals too) seems to own a shiny Hyundai Tucson or a Toyota Prado. I wish……

Bhutan is a kingdom, and any local guy will tell you with evident pride and a huge grin that theirs is the “Happiest Kingdom” in the world. The reigning king, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth of his line, is not just popular, he is practically worshiped all over the place. You will not find a single house, hotel, shop or office building that does not have the royal couple’s picture hanging on the wall. And the people are genuinely fond of him. Apparently, he has done a lot of things for the development of his people and he has shown ample evidence of his love and devotion to his subjects. They just love him back as strongly. Brainwashed? I didn’t think so. They don’t share our disease of overexposure to media. The fit and smartly dressed cops(sigh…) also seem to have little to do except pointing bumbling tourists like us to the right directions with a smile and a lot of patience. The populace seems disciplined, sober and hard-working. And yes, one has to admit, they look happy. And this begs a question. Wouldn’t it be better to be ruled by an honest and benevolent king, instead of suffering the thousands of corrupt politicians in our glorious democracy?