Category Archives: Places

Leh

When the prospect of exploring the Himalayas popped up, I was above and beyond ecstatic.┬áMost 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.

Sagres and the Atlantic

Recently I did a trip to Portugal. While I landed in Lisbon, after couple of days I was tempted to go see the Atlantic ocean and so I ended up renting a car and driving about 750kms in 2 days, all the way to the south-western most point and along the Atlantic coast of Portugal.

The main subject on my agenda was to see the coastal cliffs in the town called Sagres. The views brought back memories of Etretat in France, with the biggest difference being the splashing sounds of furious ocean waves.



Standing alone on a secluded beach was such a delight


I drove a little further to see the spectacular sunset from the light house


As the light waned, I made a reservation in a nearby hotel, where I woke up to spectacular blues – both in sight and in mood for I didn’t want to leave that place.


Now I look back, dream of the day I drive along this road again, back to those blues.

Up and away

Airports┬ánever cease to fill me with this familiar feeling of total awareness of surroundings so full of people going somewhere, drowned in their world of unsettling emotions, excited anticipations and wishful retrospections, as they wait to enter this portal called the airplane which after hours of solitude in the crowded discomfort and unfulfilling meals – would leave them in a whole different reality.

Today I fly back to Shanghai, to the familiar hard and exciting reality of life in China; with hopes of returning in a month for good, to this romantic beauty of a city that Amsterdam is, which forever will stay in my heart right beside my first love San Francisco