Category Archives: Travel

Summer escape

After being cooped up in the city for far too long than I am used to, as the travel restrictions started being eased my confidence in travel picked up. Just as a heatwave started engulfing the entire continent, a friend and I decided to make a break for the mountains.

As our plan to drive towards Denmark fell apart due to travel restrictions, on a streak of inspiration, we changed destinations towards the Chamonix and the French alps via Switzerland. In the same spirit of spontaneity, we ended up making another impromptu detour towards Lake Como in Italy before heading back.

The Bob Ross-esque view of the mountains with happy little trees blew me away after being stuck in the flat country for what seemed to be forever.

The trip also ticked off an item from my bucket list – to see the milky way with the naked eye and shoot it. At first, I had thought it was cloud formation; however, a quick reference proved otherwise. I suppose I have been living in cities for far too long.

As we neared our destination, the views just kept getting better and better. We were forced to make a stop and walk along-side the cold glacial melt and admire the hard work of driving 12 hours straight payoff.

The Chamonix Valley was just as beautiful as I had seen it 5 years ago

Making a detour into Italy was an expensive affair, as crossing Mont-Blanc Tunnel cost us more than twice the toll we paid for entire Switzerland and all its innumerable tunnels.

The change in landscape and the weather was nothing short of dramatic. Looking back towards the mountains we were leaving behind, the views just seemed so Ansel Adam-esque.

The mountains slowly receded to appear no more majestic than cardboard cutouts.

The sky was no longer studded with stars, but the wine and panoramic views were nothing we could complain about.

We got down our perch and moved towards Lake Como in hunt of a beach.

Coffee was in order before we could jump in. One of my regrets was forgetting to get some of that deliciousness back.

I was looking forward for my first ever open water swim.

After debating exploring more places, we decided to save on some time and money and just drive through the night, stopping only for fuel and restroom breaks.

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 going somewhere and 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 a 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 the lack of oxygen had caught us unawares with altitude sickness but also the cold. Excitement turned into grumpiness. Breathlessness, grumpiness and of course drama enveloped us.
One hotel customer was kind enough to chide us for being 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. Living 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 an exception to certain roads which restricted to foreigners.

There were several temples that we visited. The peace and tranquillity I observed, momentarily left me wanting to give up life in the urban rat race and live there.

Sitting atop a small peak, Leh Palace was a stunning sight and it had incredible views.

Next stop was the Lamayuru Monastery in 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 were perhaps the only means of connection to the outside world.

Cricket – not surprisingly, was 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.

Lisbon, Portugal

I spent 2 days in Lisbon in January before heading on a road trip towards the atlantic ocean . It was 15-20 degrees C, sunny and surprisingly uncrowded for it was their winter – I couldn’t complain.

Loved seeing the yellow trams chugging along narrow cobbled streets.

Quaint plazas with sharp shadows

Pastel colors on buildings along pretty alleys

Sun gleaming like it was summer, squares empty as if it was winter

Calm cafes to rest my feet and consume coffee!

Sleepy vibe along the hilly areas

Spectacular panoramas