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Dalhousie Dharamshala Travel

Delhi to Dharamshala

Last month we travelled from Delhi to Dharamshala, McLeod Ganj, Dalhousie and Kajjiar. We made the trip by train via Pathankot. There are plent of trains from Delhi to Pathankokt. All run full to capacity. I think one of the bookings I made was for the last available ticket!

There is no direct train from Delhi to Dharamshala. We travelled Delhi to Pathankot by Dhauladhar Express and from Pathankot to Dharamshala by taxi. We made the return journey by the same train as well. I had looked up the net for the difference between Pathankot station and Pathankot Cantt and made the booking for the station code PTK. Pathankot Cannt’s station code is PTKC.

The train starts from Old Delhi Sation. The night time journey is very convenient because one can easily sleep with stretched out on the berth. The train arrived towards 8 am at Pathankot. Taxis are easily available as soon one exits the platform. The greatest benefit of train stations in smaller towns is that they are cleaner and one has to walk lesser.

We took a taxi drop to Dharamshala. Of course, we had deliberated whether to go to Dharamshala first or to Dalhousie. I decided by calling up the hotels and was informed there wouldn’t be much difference either ways. Initially the prospect of a night train from Delhi to Dharamshala and then a taxi trip immediately afterwards appeared daunting. But once we started it was all very smooth.

Here are some photographs of Dharamshala

The road trip to Dharamshala was very pleasant. We had breakfast at a dhaba en route. Delicious paranthas and hot chai. Upon arrival at Hotel Dhauladhar of HPTDC (Himachal Pradesh Tuorism Development Corporation) we were provided a nice and comfortable room overlooking a garden. There was a big surprise in the room. An air-conditioner with heating. This is usually not seen in India and was least expected in a hill-station. Things have really changed in India.

We freshened up at our own pace and went in to the restaurant for lunch leaving all travel planning for later. Afterwards, we out for a walk in the market, Kotwali Bazar, near the hotel. The Dharamshala taxis stand was also close by and we enquired about the taxi fare to McLeod Ganj, Dalhousie and what else could one do in those parts. There were plenty of plans available with fixed rates each covering several points.

We located a small and clean sweets shot with coffee and snacks and had a cup of hot coffee.

Upon returning to the hotel I sought the receptionist’s advice and decided upon a short trip to McLeod Ganj the next day.

The next morning we piled into a hired Alto and drove up to Naddi point near McLeod Ganj and later went to the Tibetan Moanstery.We returned to the hotel by late afternoon and had snacks for lunch at 5 pm.

In the evening we went for a stroll in Kotwali Bazar and found our steps took us to the sweets shop again for another great cup of hot coffeee.

The nights were spent watching TV and having a very slow dinner in the restaurant.

HPTDC is great, of course.

Here are some photographs of Dalhousie

Next day, after breakfast, we started for Dalhousie in a taxi. We arrived late afternoon in Dalhousie at Hotel Manimahes of HPTDC. We were shown into a room with a fabulous view of the mountain range. It had snowed a few days ago and the weather was cold. We went down to Gandhi Market to streth our legs. Here again we happened upon the taxi stand which was close to the hotel and equired about the fare to Khajjiar. Then, we went to a confectionary store and had steaming hot momos.

We were advised to have dinner in the room due to the cold weather. It was an enjoyable meal which was had watching a movie on cable television.

We had a buffet breakfast the next morning. We learnt the short route to Khajjiar was blocked by snow and we would have to take the longer road via Chamba. We were very keen on visiting Khajjiar since it is referred to as the ‘mini Switzerland’ of India. It is a long drive of 3.5 hours by this route. The view at Khajjiar is fabulous. It is a large open ground with Deodar (Himalayan Cedar) trees all around. One can see the snow capped peaks through the tree leaves. At times we could see paragliders soaring up above the tree tops.

It started raining lightly on the way back and we stopped for chai pakoda at a dhaba. We returned just as night was falling and went straight to our room. Room service provided us with chai and hot milk. This was followed by another enjoyable and sumptuous dinner in the room with a movie on cable television.

We were to start our return journey to Delhi the next day. The train was scheduled to leave from Pathankot station at 11 20 pm. We decided to go to the Gandhi Market in Dalhousie in the morning and left for Pathankot after lunch. We placed our luggage in the Cloak room at the Pathankot Station and walked to the City Centre Mall located 5 minutes away. We bought tickets for Badri ki Dulania and followed it with a liesurely dinner in the mall. Afterwards, we walked back to the station. The road felt safe enough. There are shared autos also available.

The train was already lined up on the platform. We collected our bags from the cloak room, located our coach and settled in for the journey back to Delhi.

There were no radio taxis in Dahramshala and Dalhousie. There we no Ola Uber in Dharamshala and Dalhousie.
The mobile signal is straon in Dharamshala and Dalhousie. The internet works fine in Dharamshala and Dalhousie. Throughout the journey from Delhi to Dharamshala and other places I had great network coverage.

The trip from Delhi to Dharamshala, Dalhousie and other places proved to be a rejuvenating breeze.

Categories
Amritsar Travel Wagah

Places to visit in Amritsar

Last month we travelled to Amritsar by road. Eleven people in a Tempo Traveller. The journey took a long time with a few breaks to stretch legs, have a bite and sip on a cup of tea. Roads have improved a lot in India and it was a smooth journey. The places to visit in Amritsar are the Attari-Wagah border, the Golden Temple and the Jallianwala Bagh.

We went to Wagah border near Amritsar for the lowering of flags ceremony at the India Pakistan border. It was very crowded. It was possible to look across the border into the amphitheater in Pakistan when seated high enough.

Afterwards we had a sumptuous dinner and retired for the night. We still had two more places to visit in Amritsar.

Next morning we woke up early. Really early at 4 am and got ready to visit the Golden Temple. We arrived at the Golden Temple before 6 am and there were only a few people outside. The adjoining area has been renovated and looked very beautiful. After removing our shoes we dipped our feet into the water at the entrance to the Golden Temple. To our surprise the water was heated! Inside it was crowded. We realised our visit had coincided with a public holiday in Punjab.

Upon exiting the Golden Temple we still had one left of the places to visit in Amritsar. One, that we very much wanted to visit. Jallianwala Bagh. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were brought to life in our minds. And, of course, Udham Singh.

The air was much cleaner than in Delhi. On the return journey we came across a field in which crops were being burnt.

Since, we had our own bus we didn’t need to hire a taxi. Didn’t see any Uber in Amritsar. Didn’t see any Ola in Amritsar. Didn’t see any radio taxis in Amritsar.

On the way back we stopped at a food court on the highway and had dinner and tea.

We decided a train would have been more comfortable for such a long journey. If possible, an overnight train.

Here are a few photos I clicked.

I think I have never seen greener fields than those I saw in Punjab. In a couple of fields local dangals (wrestling matches) were being conducted much like depicted in the movie Sultan.

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Goa Travel

Best Time to Visit Goa

Recently I travelled to Goa twice. A beach holiday each time. Doesn’t usually happen. The first trip was self-funded. The second was a reward in an office contest. I learned the best time to visit Goa is when I can.

Dabolim airport in Goa is much smaller than the Delhi airport. This results in shorter walks in and out of the airport. I happened to visit Goa in October followed by a quick visit in January. Both months proved to be great times to visit Goa.

The beach resorts were an hour away both times I travelled. The first trip was spent in South Goa and the second trip in North Goa. Both are delightful. There is no Uber in Goa. There is no Ola in Goa. Looks like there are no radio taxis in Goa. But, there are pre-paid taxis available at the airport. Or, one can ask the hotel to provide a taxi. Sometimes, hotels include airport transfers in the holiday package.

I enjoyed my stays at Varca beach and at Candolim beach. A walk on the beach in the morning and evening is refreshing and good exercise. Though I can swim in a pool I restrict myself to floating in the shallow water by the beach. Catching a wave as it comes in and floating on it is a great experience. Para sailing in the Arabian sea is good fun. The boat men suggested we take a dip in the sea with the life belts on and we did after some coaxing. A few minutes of backstrokes a kilometer from the shore is awesome.

Walking along on Candolim road in the night I could hear music wafting out from the cafes along the road. Many had karaokes and it was the guests singing. People of all nationalities throng this road. The breeze is cool and the traffic is gentler than in Delhi.

Here are a few photos I took in Goa.

The pace of life slows down so much that whenever one visits Goa turns out to be the best time to visit Goa.

Categories
Mansar Lake Travel

Mansar Lake

A few years ago I had travelled to Mansar lake. It is 62 km from Jammu.
The lake is beautiful and one can spend time walking around it and pedal boating.

There are ducks and a few animals in the grounds around the lake. You’ll also find big sized turtles.

Here are a few pictures.

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Nainital Travel

Delhi to Nainital in UK (Uttarakhand)

Nainital is as picturesque as ever. Being there after many years was a pleasure. The weather in Nainital was pleasant. The lake is well maintained. Both pedal boats and rowing boats are available. The people are very helpful and everything is available on the Mall road.

Driving to Nainital in Uttarkahand is a mix of pleasure and disappointment. The roads are very good and hopelessly broken at places. There is a Bikanerwala at Gajaraula with nice, clean washrooms and a wide variety of food.

Communications: Dish TV, cellphones, data cards. All these work in Nainital though the mobile network signal can drop at places.

I re-discovered the small lens at the lake in Nainital. Many years ago I had clicked photos using an Olympus RC 35 which has a 42 mm lens. It is a rangefinder camera that allows manual focus. I have now discarded the Canon 18-55 mm kit lens of my Canon EOS 300D DSLR and have bought a Canon EF 50 mm f 1.8 lens. The initial results look very good. It is easy to use and is unobtrusive.

I browsed through many articles and websites before buying the Canon EF 50 mm f 1.8 lens. Amongst others, Kenrockwell.com, photo.net, dpreview.com, flickr.com

Here are a few pics I had taken in Nainital many years ago interspersed with those I took recently.

Categories
Hong Kong and Macau Travel

Hong Kong and Macau tour

A few years back I had the opportunity to go on a  Hong Kong and Macau tour.

I found Hong Kong to be very organized and full of hustle and bustle. Macau was rather relaxed.

Since the trip was short I didn’t visit the Hong Kong Disneyland.

The itinerary was:

Delhi-Hong Kong by air, same day transfer by ferry to Macau

2 Night stay in Macau and transfer to Hong Kong the next morning by ferry

1 Night stay in Hong Kong and travel back to Delhi the next evening by air

Here are a few photos I took during that trip. I had used both the Sony Cyber-shot and the Vivitar 3800N that I have. This time I had used Fuji slide film in the Vivitar.

Hope you like the pics.

Hong Kong time is ahead of India time. Hong Kong time difference with India time is 2.5 hours. Just add 2.5 hours to India time.
Bunjee jumping at Macau Tower is a great experience.
In Hong Kong Mong Kok is a great place to shop.
I remember Air India had a direct flight to Hong Kong.

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Ananda in the Himalayas Travel

Ananda in the Himalayas

A few years I had the opportunity of staying at Ananda in the Himalayas. Here are a few photos. These were taken with a Sony Cyber-shot pocket camera.

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Mumbai Pune Travel

Pune to Mumbai

Last month I visited Pune and then we drove to Mumbai for a quick day visit. Pune had cool weather and a sedate pace. We entered Mumbai and merged into its frenetic pace and humid weather. Here are a few photos of the Pune Zoo, a lake en route from Pune to Mumbai, the Bandra-Worli sea link, the Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Hotel and the boats in the harbour.

A match between the Pune Warriors and the Mumbai Indians would have been a treat.

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Shimla Travel

Japan Tsunami 2011 en route to Shimla

As I drove up the twisting roads to Shimla in the foothills of the Himalayas on 11th March I learnt of the severe earthquake and the tsunami in Japan. I also learnt of a relative who was in Japan to attend business meetings. It was two hours to sunset and my aim was to reach the Shimla before darkness fell. I didn’t want to drive uphill on the mountain roads in the dark. I drove with only a 5 minute break for a Limca  and reached the hotel as the sun slipped behind the hills.

Over breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant the next morning I watched the news on BBC World. I learnt of a rumoured nuclear leak from a power plant about 150 km from Tokyo. I SMSed my relative stuck in Tokyo so he’d redouble his efforts to get out. Unaware of the  electricity situation and to help conserve the battery of his cell phone I didn’t call. The delivery report of the SMS was enough.

On the Ridge in Shimla children enjoyed joyrides on horses, people licked ice-cream and had their photos clicked with the Church in the background.

As I climbed up the steep slope to Jakhu temple, in faraway Japan, the threat of a nuclear disaster loomed big upon the small nation struck by the earthquake-tsunami. I looked at the scenic Himalayas and wondered if they were rumbling inside. The Himalayas are in a highly seismic zone being one of the youngest mountain ranges. The thought refused to bother me.

I climbed up the steep slope calmly huffing and puffing while the monkeys pranced lightly on the trees.  I felt tranquil and the monkeys didn’t appear to be threatened by the Himalayas, either. I wondered how the situation could change in a flash and devastation engulf us. Yet, I just enjoyed the invigorating mountain air which brushed my cheeks, ruffled my hair and rustled in my ears.

Meanwhile, thousands of kilometres away in the Fukushima nuclear plant 200 operators stayed behind to mitigate the effect of the nuclear disaster. With clothes probably seethed with radiation their last ditch frantic efforts are for the benefit of not one person but for all the people who might be affected by the nuclear radiation. Maybe they hum, under their breath, Everything I do, I do it for you.

The ‘Fukushima 50‘ are the living embodiment of the Bryan Adams’ song, Everything I do, I do it for you. The answer to the question, Who’d be affected by radiation, is blowin’ in the wind. The direction in which the wind blows would decide that. As BobDylan sang, ‘the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.’

There are others like the ‘Fukushima 50.’ Here is what my relative told us upon his return.

The earthquake struck while the visitng team from India was in a meeting with a Japanese firm. Initially taken lightly, the smiles turned to fear and then to resignation when the earth didn’t stop shaking for a few minutes. The meeting resumed 45 minutes after the earthquake and ended sooner than planned. The drive to the hotel took 3 hours instead of the usual 35 minutes because of the heavy traffic. They were driven by a senior official of the Japanese firm they’d been meeting. Even though he had no information about the whereabouts of his wife and daughter the Japanese official felt it his duty to first drop the visitors safely at the hotel before looking for his family. The night in the hotel was spent in the lobby. Nobody wanted to sleep in rooms many floors above the ground. The hotel staff provided blankets, tea, coffee and dinner. The next task was to get to the airport. An Indian, a business associate, who’d been in Japan for 40 years, took it upon himself to see them off safely. He arranged taxis and didn’t leave till the boarding passes were in their hands.

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Manali Travel

Manali, Rohtang Pass, Solang Valley, Kullu, Manikaran from Delhi

The cold and rarefied air at Rohtang Pass was new and unfamiliar to me. The snow covered stark mountain sides were refreshingly alluring at one moment and scarily ominous at another. It clearly wasn’t a place to walk forward while looking back over my shoulder. I did slip a few times even though I walked slowly and  placed my feet firmly in the snow. The rubber boots kept my feet dry but did not keep them warm. It was all so different from life back home. Or was it really.

The food stalls at Rohtang Pass rival those at any of the Diwali melas that spring up in the parks in Delhi towards October. Maggi, bhutta, eggs, tea and coffee can be had without worrying about the litter at 13051 ft. There’s no point in driving up the highest motorable road in the world if one can’t carry on with the great Indian tradition of using the road as a dustbin.

The traffic jam at Rohtang Pass resembles the gridlock at Ashram, Indirapuram and Gurgaon. It makes one feel at home. The cold air at the high altitude keeps the car cabin cool as one inches forward at fifteen minute intervals. Some of the drivers are as reckless, careless and probably as drunk as on the roads in Delhi.

Some people try to overtake even if the road is only wide enough for one car to pass through. A bus and a truck jostle for space on a hair pin bend because the drivers are bent upon testing each other’s driving skills to the utmost. The prospect of a 200 m straight fall for either vehicle into the valley below makes the duel more exciting.

The mall at Manali is as crowded as Ghaffar Market, Ajmal Khan Road, Chandni Chowk, Sector-18 in Noida or the malls in Gurgaon. What’s missing are the drivers trying to wade through the pedestrians because the administration has closed the mall to the traffic.

The tiny Maruti Suzuki Alto makes its way along the grinding and winding road up to Rohtang Prass easily. The Tata Indica fumes and lumbers up. The big quasi-SUVs (Chevrolet Tavera, Mahindra Scorpio, Tata Safari) that are poor cousins to the Mitsubishi Pajero and the Toyota Land Rover climb up easily. Some have luggage piled up on the roof because they have been hired for a trip to Leh/Ladakh.

Most bikers announce their presence with the thud-thud of the Bullet echoing off the mountains. The smaller bikes keep you company noiselessly. Neither weaves through the traffic unless there is a traffic jam when a biker’s natural flair for streaking through traffic comes to the fore.

What else did we do in Manali?
Day 0 we boarded the overnight Volvo for Manali from HPTDC’s office in Delhi
Day 1 arrived in Manali and spent it on Mall road and the garden at the bottom by Beas river.
Day 2 was spent driving from Manali to Rohtang Pass, having fun at Rohtang Pass and a stop at Solang Valley on the way back to Manali
Day 3 we drove to Kullu, Manikaran and boarded the overnight Volvo from Kullu for journey back to Delhi
Ever after: Remember the refreshing Manali air, the rejuvenating holiday, the simple and relaxed life, tough uphill walks, hot tea in cold weather, shopping for trinkets

Be well prepared for the fickle Rohtang Pass weather. Light woollens required for the cold Manali weather. Pack a synthetic down jacket to keep you warm in Manali. Do not fly to Manali. The drive to Manali is full of twisting turns and enchanting mountain views. Take the bus. The Volvo bus is very popular. Or, drive your own car. Flying economy class to Manali is not possible since there is no airport there. You can fly to Kullu which is nearby. Best to stay in a hotel close to the mall. This way one is assured of a chemist near the hotel in case of an emergency.
Deforestation in Manali is seen on the hills since many trees have been felled. Wonder if there has been a rise in temperature in Manali over the years as a result. I regret not having chai pakoda in Manali. I did have fresh sweet lime juice in Manali which tasted great. Mobile signal was strong in Manali. Didn’t see any Ola or Uber in Manali. Didn’t see any radio taxis in Manali.