Category Archives: Travel

New York

The city has been beckoning me to visit since a very long time. The few times I have been in the United States, it’s only ever been to the west coast. After a close friend who moved to this city has generously agreed to host me, I had no choice but to visit. Cheap tickets and spring weather made it easier. A 14-hour flight later I was there.

A first timer’s trip to NYC is incomplete without a visit to Rockefeller for the views of Empire State. The price I paid to go up top and the additional sunset view surcharge only to notice the lack of any sun or sky, made me chuckle.

As the light faded, the city started to light up, from hundreds of thousands of homes sprawling across Manhattan, making me wonder if this city had just started to wake up.

On other days, I mostly experienced similar perspectives repeatedly from the streets down below. After living in the Netherlands for a few years, a country with mostly flat land and small buildings, the sight of real tall buildings crowding the streets was novel and a strangely belittling experience.

The visit coinciding with the September 11th anniversary ensued Americana on display everywhere.

I couldn’t stop admiring the iconic Yellow cabs all around, contrasting against the rustic colours of the buildings.

Residential areas wore relatively more vibrant shades. Perhaps “vibrant” is a strong word considering there was nothing particularly dynamic about the colours. Rustic pastels seem to suit the feel.

The sprawling subway system was surreal. It seemed a different world existed underground, defying the borders encased by the rivers, the coast, as well as the tall buildings and their foundations.

Of course, what is New York without fashion

or the perpetual seepage of steam from the underworld onto the streets. 

Five days and 100 kilometres of walking later, half of it constant rain, it just seemed that there was no end to the fantastic sights that NYC had to offer. Every one of them seemed un-missable, especially Times Square,

The Statue of Liberty

the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, plus a view of the bridge from the Dumbo area of Brooklyn. This particular view managed to trigger the strange feeling of “jamais vu” despite it being the first time I was seeing it in person.

Waiting at airports

Over the past month, I have travelled more than I did in this entire year. And spend the equivalent of several days in planes and airports. Am forever fascinated by this mode of journey despite the little annoyances of getting through immigration and security.

Watching people – as they wait, as they look towards arriving at their destinations, fills me with sober hope.

Leh

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.

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.