Sunday morning, there was no sunrise, for the whole neighbourhood appeared to have disappeared, cloaked under a veil of thick fog. Visibility was low, so I decided to go out biking. No sooner than I got out, the sun was out and fading away the fog to reveal the colours. I stopped at a narrow walkway with trees arching over to take in the spectacular saturated greens.
When the prospect of exploring the Himalayas popped up, I was above and beyond ecstatic. Most I have been around mountains was outside India. There were only handful of occasions I saw them in India in over two decades. Part of the tradition to explore India every time I visit, following a trip to Agra, a friend and I made impromptu flight reservation to fly from the capital of the country to the capital of the Himalayan kingdom – Leh.
As soon as we landed in Leh, we were left breathless both metaphorically and literally. At 3500m, not only did lack of oxygen has caught us unawares with altitude sickness, but also the cold. Excitement turned into grumpiness. Breathlessness, cold, grumpiness and of course drama enveloped us.
One hotel customer was kind enough to chide us for being so unprepared and gave us medicines for altitude sickness. That breathed life into our miserable souls and lifted our spirits up. With that, we hired a taxi and proceeded to explore.
Pretty much everything around Leh is built by the Indian Army. The amount of engineering that had to be done to make life possible there was beyond imagination. Life in the Himalayas is hard. There is no internet, water supply, fresh foods, for weeks or maybe even months during winter (which spans almost the entire year). And yet, somehow human spirit found ways to survive and thrive.
The morning dose of chai at an altitude that exceeds most peaks in the Alps, certainly gave me goosebumps.
Pretty much all infrastructure is built and maintained by the Indian BSF (Border security forces). Civilians are allowed to use most of it with exceptions for certain roads which restricted to foreigners.
There were several temples we visited. The peace and tranquillity I observed left a desperate to give up life in the urban rat race and live there.
Leh palace was a stunning sight. Sitting atop a small peak, it had incredible views.
Next stop was the Lamayuru Monastery, Kargil.
The most ubiquitous piece of gadgetry in the Himalayan range turned out to be satellite tv. The satellite dish antennas were everywhere! In hindsight, it seems obvious now, but I was amused to see them. They perhaps are the only means of connecting to outside world.
Cricket – not surprisingly, the most popular pastime. I loved seeing kids dressed in monk’s red-orange robes playing the game everywhere, brought a smile to my soul.
Everything I imagined and knew about the US, from past experiences in the US, has been around the Bay Area. As such, I was unprepared to experience the more laid back vibe in the city. It was and felt much different. A happy surprise.
Missing luggage is how my trip to the US began. Security on my way out of baggage area was eyeing me curiously and then proceeded to stop and ask as to why I only had a carry-on. Once I got out, I went and bought a shirt, checked in, ate some food and headed straight to work, which was just a block away. My colleagues offered to take me to Kerry park, which was another two blocks away from the workplace, for a break. The views were spectacular.
Later after work, few other friends were going to see the cherry blossoms in the Washington State University grounds. As I just missed out the cherry-blossoms in Amsterdam at Kersenbloesempark, I was more than happy to go check it out.
View of Mt Reiner from the WSU area
At night, jetlagged and luggage-less, I went and sat down in one of the cafes, to do some people watching on the street. I was truly “Sleepless in Seattle.”
The next day evening, colleagues invited me to hang out with them at a bar near a marina. I fail to remember the name, but I would certainly love to go back there and take the float plane from the club situated there.
The weekend arrived, and I met up with a good friend who showed me around Seattle. Starting with the iconic gum wall, which I never knew existed. It was as gross as it was good-looking.
The next day after I parted with my friend, I went around exploring to the edge of the city. I was on my way to rent a car to drive out to the countryside. The way sunlight lit up, and casted shadows couldn’t help me but attempt to capture them.
I got back at night and went to Kerry park yet again for getting some night shots of the city view.
The two weeks ended and before I realised, I was already on my way back to Amsterdam
I love coffee. I love ice-cream. The combo of both is something am staring to love as well. Turns out it is a thing and has a name.
Seeing the Taj Mahal the second time, after almost 15 years, reminded me of my first visit during my childhood. Although I don’t remember much of what I saw back then, the feeling of having been there brought back nostalgic memories from times past. This time around I had a good camera to capture the sights.
Getting there early in the morning gave us spectacular views without too many people around. Here are those sights