World’s only alpine crane species, the elusive Black-necked crane breeds on the high-altitude Tibetan plateau and winters at lower wetlands, alpine meadows, and river marshes in China, Bhutan, Eastern Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh in India. Now that Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh in India are not a part of the same state, each will have to crown their own UT bird and for Ladakh, no other bird could be more appropriate than the magnificent Black Necked Crane, the king of birds in the Himalayas.
Set amidst fields of rice & corn, the iconic red Vietnamese flag dominates the stunning karst landscape at Lung Cu peak that marks Vietnam’s northern boundary with the Yunnan province of China. Untouched by mass tourism with only Home-stays for accommodation, Lung Cu, located in the remote Dong Van district of Ha Giang province, is the northernmost point of Vietnam.
Unique accommodations in the Himalayas – Sikkim, India.
Waking up to the cacophony of chirping birds in the midst of nature, while still in bed I look at the mesmerizing view of the Himalayas from my window. Sipping on a hot cup of chai with dreams still lingering in my mind I walk out to the balcony and spend the morning spotting birds. Some places that I’ve stayed at while traveling were so refreshing that I could be in the resort all day with a camera and binoculars or a book, and still feel I was on a holiday!
Ravishing panoramic views of the entire Annapurna range of the Himalayas, right from your bed! At Raniban Retreat, Pokhara.
Panoramic views of jagged green Karst Mountains jutting out endlessly till the horizon, winding roads lined with wildflowers passing through small towns & villages surrounded by terraced paddy and cornfields, it was an enchanting world floating in the mist, weathered by monsoons soaked in rain.
Some unique and interesting things about Nepal that I learned on our first trip and scenes from my travels in watercolors & ink on paper.
Nepal Tourism tagline that says, “Naturally Nepal – Once is not enough” holds absolutely true! From trekking up through a rhododendron forest, to ridge walking above 4000m with jaw-dropping views of the Annapurna Himalayas up close, to enjoying gorgeous sunrise views of the entire mountain range from a village on the foothills, to chilling in a resort on a hill overlooking Phewa Lake & Pokhara city, chasing the one horned Rhino on a jungle safari at Chitwan National Park, experiencing the living heritage city of Patan in a traditional Newari home, to devouring delicious momos, sekwa, Dal Bhat and other traditional food in Kathmandu, it was the most eventful, thrilling & enjoyable two weeks I’ve spent in any country, and I am definitely coming back for more!
I remember the first time I saw Jupiter and its moons through a telescope that could fit in my backpack, I was spellbound! So when I got the opportunity to visit one of the highest astronomical observatories in the world that too in Ladakh, I was ecstatic and I wondered if we could see planets, stars or distant galaxies through the telescope at the observatory!
To reach a place as isolated in the Himalayas on motorbikes requires a heart full of courage and a spirit of adventure, other than a map of course or you could end up in China! Crossing some of the highest mountains passes in the world on broken, sometimes non-existing roads or mere dirt tracks to lead the way, it’s a challenging bone-chilling ride.
As we climbed higher it became cooler passing through breathtaking Himalayan scenery. Pristine white snow-covered mountain roads are a sight to behold but they’re a tough climb. Riding in thin cold air through wet & slushy ice on the road was a challenge and the potholes added to the bumpy ride. Adding to the excitement one of our motorbikes broke down on the slippery road a few meters from Chang La pass!
Before we set out on our road trip through the Central Highlands of Vietnam, I was nervous about riding for the first time in a new country. It took me a while to get comfortable on the motorbike and let my eyes off the road to enjoy the scenic views. But after riding more than 1300 km through half of the country, I am convinced there is no better way to travel in Vietnam than on a motorbike! And the freedom of exploring a place riding on my own adds to the depth of my travel experiences.
I remember being overwhelmed by the exquisite beauty & scale of the Himalayas after my first trip to Ladakh, a Ride of a lifetime! Waking up to stunning views of Pir Panjal mountains on the historic Mughal road and Aharbal with gorgeous landscapes of pine-covered Himalayas, rivers gushing through the mountains, orchards laden with fruit and heart warming people, this was my first time in Kashmir. Already in awe of its beauty I was looking forward to less explored Lolab valley.
If it weren’t for the downpour that evening, we would’ve had a different experience riding through the road probably, maybe a more comfortable one. But I will always cherish our memories of that adventurous night on the historic Mughal road, where we not only got to ride on it we even slept on it for a night! 😉
Starting from bustling Ho Chi Minh City in the South to riding through the Vietnamese countryside with gorgeous landscapes of the Central highlands and paddy fields, rivers and emerald lakes, cruising through the misty cloud covered hills at Hai Van pass to the historic UNESCO cities of Hoi An & Hue in Central Vietnam, with excellent roads & amenities, delicious flavorful food, fresh Ca-Phe (coffee) and friendly Vietnamese people, it was an awesome experience to ride through half of Vietnam and experience the local way of life. The thrill of riding a motorbike and the freedom of going anywhere, was a dream realized… leaving me with yet another reverie, of the higher mountains of North Vietnam!
Surrounded by the misty blue Shan hills, Kalaw is a great place to relax, enjoy the view, other than cycling around exploring the town, to nearby monasteries, pagodas & the market. With beautiful views of the surrounding hills, it’s quite rewarding to spend time at the Buddhist monastery and see the daily life of young Buddhist monks who call it home.
The most exceptional thing about the Intha people is the magic they weave with lotus fibers – Lotus textiles! A Buddhist symbol for purity the lotus flower is sacred in Buddhism and the textiles were first made for a Buddhist monk’s robe.
Did you know the Burmese use tea leaves as a food ingredient? Other than brewing a tea, the leaves are fermented to make a special Burmese tea-leaf salad and its yum! Myanmar offered a varied set of experiences from historic temples to nature hikes in the hills and boat rides exploring life on a lake, but it was the delicious Burmese food, readily available salads (and avocado!) and the people who stole my heart!
On the banks of Hooghly, in North Kolkata is a labyrinth of narrow lanes, older than the city and full of vibrant color and art, Kumortuli – the potter’s colony, where idols of Gods and Goddesses are made from scratch for the Hindu festival of Durga Puja. Various artists work on different stages of sculpting, painting & decorating the idol of Goddess Durga in the workshops here. Deeply engrossed in the making of the Goddess, they look meditative.
Two memorable weeks in the most remote parts of Arunachal Pradesh – Land of the Dawn-lit Mountains in North East India. Turquoise Lohit river flowing in all its glory, to the misty blue mountains of Walong in the Eastern Himalayas, wild jungles of Namdapha, tea gardens of Wakro, lush green rice fields of Miao, handmade bamboo houses on stilts, hanging bridges, cheerful happy people with a taste in music and the brilliant way locals sustain themselves on nature, liters of beer, bonfires and lots of memories…
Other than mountain goats, sheep, horses and Yak that are commonly seen grazing around the pastures, the trans-Himalayan plateaus of Ladakh are home to several rare and endangered species of mammals and birds. The jaw-dropping scenery of Ladakh is mesmerizing enough and the exotic animals add magic (and perspective), to the scene!