#Me & #Manali – 2

Transit is way of life – a permanent one

Last time I wrote about Manali it actually wanted to write about Laddakh & Leh. Thinking about Manali makes me emotional I guess. Last time I went to Manali was for Cycling with in Manali and Manali was the base camp, however this time it was just transit, I had to reach Leh for another cycling expedition and I stayed in Manali for less then 24 hours.

The time one spends on #the #MALLROAD can give you an experience in itself and lessons as well. Talking about Mall Road, it has become fashionable name as most famous hill station has a Mall Road of their own. The trend originally started in Shimla and due to popularity of the road other towns in Himalayan region got one main road with same name.

During those hours, by the way hawkers approached tourist, I realised few things like:

Indian Men need “Shilajit” or Desi version of viagra

Indian Men definitely need this thing if they are with a girl roaming about Mall Road

Everybody must eat & shop

Consistent pestering of hawkers can be as irritating & tiring as dogs are for monkeys.

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Mall Road on a Rainy Day|Picture Courtesy: TripAdvisor

Passing time and observing around I happen to encounter couple of people playing musical instruments on road (which is not allow anymore for reasons best understood by Manali Police). Music was amazing and I stood there listening to them and in some time crowd gathered for the same. They kept playing & people kept listening peacefully. That was one of most peaceful road concert I have ever been part of.

I had made a mistake however which was to eat a sumptuous dinner and I was unaware to how was it a mistake till I boarded the mini bus that night round 2am for Leh. I threw each and every drop/morsel of fluid I might have had in my stomach in next few hours.

This visit made me see Manali I did not see last time, The one which tourist see as introduction, the one which makes you eat “softy” & buy “Shilajeet”. The one which is like  a mini carnival with all the colors scattered around. The one which is selling itself to survive that season. The one which sees much more Indian crowd then otherwise.

I bade my good bye for this one that night…. and boarded the bus for Leh.

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Let’s Fly…..!

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This picture had been taken at village Tedagaon near Jim Corbett National Tiger Reserve, India while I was cycling there with a group of amateur cycling enthusiasts, the things on the branches are Not leaves but parakeets which are common in this region.

Jungle, People, Escape & Tamasha 

You might be wondering what kind of title is that! Well, its some what as incoherent as my thoughts are but don’t worry I would try to make these edible for you but in case I fail to manage ( not that I passed in that earlier post!!) please  cut me some slack and read it anyway. So coming to the main theme….

I have spent last few weeks in Himalayan foothills, cycling in and around Jim Corbett National Tiger Reserve along with couple of hundred more people while helping them out with various knick knacks of mountain biking and jungle as and when required and was fortunate enough to have a direct or indirect conversation with some of these people.

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During these conversations interesting phenomena came out. Many were behaving totally differently then they do in their regular lives. Notable point here is almost all the people were practically strangers to each other or most of others in this gathering of wanna be off road cyclists and they had an opportunity to portray themselves whatever way they would like and no body would know in their regular lives about it.

Whatever happens in jungle stays in jungle

People tried to engage in conversations at their will and possibly argued/ talked in more free way then they would do compared to their regular settings.

They cracked jokes, exchanged pleasantries, ate, slept, cycled, laughed, cried , loved, be loved, roamed, practically Lived their lives more as they wanted to and less as they were supposed to.

It felt like they were living an alternate reality , an alternate life.

An Escapade!

Not very long back there was a hindi movie released on similar theme with the title Tamasha, featuring Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone as lead pair. Just it was taken more towards a happy ending where patrogonist is sucrssfully able to breakfree from his life and covert his alternate reality into the main stream reality with the help of his lady love. Cherry on the cake was everybody ( family, friend and other not so insignificant people in his life) understood his actions snd approved in one way or another. What did you say?! Unimaginable in real life? Ofcourse why do you think its called reel life?

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However lets hope everybody is able to live their alternate reality daily at least in bits and pieces to keep their mind sane and heart from exploding!

P.S. : The observations and thoughts completely belong to the author and are completely made up and has no gaurantee of being real/ facts whatsoever. People in the mentioned gathering ……..oh one minute? Which gathering?

P.P.S : Picture Courtesy : Cycles : Nitin, Riders : Shanil, Rest : Mrigank

Me, Cycle & Tiger Reserve

It is interesting to see sometimes that how much difference is there in perception & reality. With each passing day and people a mole becomes a mountain and then wise people make a saying on that. We, as human race, seems to be self obsessed specie. Are n’t we?

So I have searched and read about Jim Corbett National Tiger Reserve many times ( in hope to just pick my bag and leave for the place ). I heard a lot about it from travellers, friends & traveller friends which led to some sort of imagery in my mind about the place. Indian film industry popularly known as Bollywood also fed some dramatics in my already hyper dramatic mind ( no, it is not my assumption but I have been informed by lovely people around me about the same, I just embraced it with fervour , coming back to main theme), so you get the picture, don’t you?

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The Jungle

This is what this jungle offers you when there nothing else to offer which include picturesque sights, Tiger, Leopard, Elephant Tuskers and other wild animal species & a lot of wait if you are just interested in Tiger as King is not easy to spot. In our case it was more interesting case as we wanted to spot Tiger before he spots us as we were riding our cycles in this jungles and just in case Tiger spot is first and make up his mind to have a quick snack, we did not stand any chance, in theory at least.

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Tiger Pug Mark, Wrist Watch & Tyre Marks

I spent almost 15 days in the jungle and cycling in and around the region and it was meditation for me as I was doing two of my favourite things together that is being in jungle and cycling.

Every day was filled with anticipation of danger and thrill of spotting wildlife.

The moment when you are taking a leak in jungle and hoping that any wild life wont prefer this time to meet you in person.

Looking at pass by safari jeeps as they watch us in horrid expressions and extra open eyes riding out cycles.

Getting cycle puncture in the middle of jungle and fixing it on the spot anxiously.

Appreciating the life every moment as it can be your last moment any time.

Crossing water streams riding on cycle.

Eating at river bank and drinking fresh water after lunch.

Looking at Sun Rise & Sun Set from different angle every day.

Spotting flora and fauna and learning new things about them.

Camp Fire and fun at night.

I can keep writing like this and this post would never end.

Thank You Jim Corbett National Park for a wonderful time.

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Sunset

Sikkim & Bhutan -16

We left from Thimpu, Checked in Paro and concluded the day with stroll right beside the Paro Dzong.

Planning & Research Courtesy: Insignia

Next day we were supposed to trek to Tiger’s nest or Takshang Lakhang or Paro Takshang or Takshang Monastery. We started early from Paro and reached the start point in less then an hour.

When you reach there, you get to choose options to go up there the mountain. These options are by foot or trek, by pony. However ponies do not deliver you to the last point and last leg of the trek which is not really difficult.

Information Board at Start of Trek

Information Board at Start of Trek

We took almost three hours to reach to the Monastery with several short breaks ( few minutes) and one long break ( ~half an hour, at the cafe which is en route the monastery ) while following standard precaution of drinking water in regular interval etc. which all trekkers now a days and I am skipping on that part.

When you trek up the monastery there are several trails and you can pick any of them as most of them lead to the monastery. I happened to take one of those trails and came to know not all the roads lead to Rome. This trial led me to take a little detour and I reached to a house where few people were going about daily chores.

After having a chat with them I came to know these were residents and lived there and currently were in process to add some portions to their heights. These locals offered some more insights about local weather and their life style being on a mountain. They also happened to have something to do with local pony business. They very politely redirected me to correct trail towards Tigers nest.

Trail

Trail

To know further, keep watching this space.

Sikkim & Bhutan -14

We reached Thimpu and Visited Tashi Dzong.

Planning & Research Courtesy : Insignia

Weather in Thimpu was cool and for some it could be called cold though according to locals it was start of summer. Temperature hovered around 8 degree Celsius in Thimpu.

Office of SAARC!!

Office of SAARC!!

We started for Dochula Pass which is at altitude of 3050 m and offers 360 degree panoramic view of Himalayas. This place also have 108 Druk Wangyal Chortens and Druk Wangyal Lakhang beautifully built majestically in middle of the pass amidst tranquility of the  mountains.

Druk Wangyal Chortens!

Druk Wangyal Chortens!

It was peaceful experience to be there for some time and just stare at mountains, it feel enriching to one’s inner self.

We got back to Thimpu after this and went to under construction Buddha Statues which sits above the city and visible from anywhere in the city.

Giant Buddha Statue!

Giant Buddha Statue!

We visited Changangkha Lakhang after that and returned to our hotel in order to leave for Paro.IMG_2561

What happened in Paro?  For that keep watching! Stay Happy.

Sikkim & Bhutan – 13

So far we had reached Bhutan, finished formalities and paper works and had sumptuous Bhutanese Dinner 

Planning & Research Courtesy : Insignia

Next day we headed to bus stand at Phuntsoling and boarded a bus to Thimpu. I was surprised to see Toyota Coasters as mode of transport as these are reliable and fairly comfortable. Later during my time in Bhutan I realised Toyota is one of most dominating automotive brand in Bhutan especially in category of personal vehicle

We started to move towards Thimpu and shown our permits at appropriate places. I felt really comfortable the way Bhutanese treat Indians. We can use our own currency in mostly all denominations ( however it is not advisable to carry bills/ notes in 1000s).

Chitin Lam, we had our hotel on this road. There are many other hotel situated on the same road like Le Maridian etc.

Chhoten Lam, we had our hotel on this road. There are many other hotel situated on the same road like Le Meridian etc.

After reaching Thimpu our first priority was to check into a hotel and head out again for visiting the city, which did not came out to be very time consuming as Thimpu virtually has no traffic. We reached Norjin Lam in some 20mins and talked to couple of hotel receptions, checked out prices and asked for suitable one for us,which we settled in really quick.

We headed to Tashi Dzong which was not far away from our hotel, after resting for some time. Tashi Monastery is Magnificent fortress and depicts how closely Buddhism has been part of Bhutanese life. Buddhism has been integrated in administration of the country and government offices are being run from Dzong which is head quarter of religious and administrative authority in every district out of total 20 district of Bhutan. Tashi Dzong is one of top most authorities in country after the King himself.

We saw the Monastery for more then two hours and I was overwhelmed so grandeur and serenity it offers at the same time. Visitors are not allowed all parts of Dzong and one can only see main campus.

IMG_2449We came back from the Dzong and on the way back one see this local craft market where many kind of relics and handicrafts like bags, keychains etc. can be bought. We surfed this market and saw many Bhutanese articles and then concluded the day with dinner.

What more Bhutan offer you?

Keep watching this place and stay happy.

Flags!!

Flags!

Flags!

This kind of flags are common sight in Bhutan! This sight caught my eyes when checking in the hotel room, could see it from aisle! These buildings were not specifically marked like religious or anything similar.

Sikkim & Bhutan -12

So far we roamed in Darjeeling, Checkout Gangtok

Explored North Sikkim District.

Planning & Research Courtesy : Insignia

We headed to local Bus & Taxi Stop to enquire about transport to Jaigaon ( India) /Phuentsholing ( Bhutan) and after gathering information about our next days plan, we came back and surfed the local market, prepared for the paper work for Immigration at Bhutan Border and called it a day.

Hotel’s front desk person Mr. Vishesh was very kind who woke us up and asked a shared
taxi to wait for us for some time while we get ourselves together along with our stuff and get loaded into the cab.

We reached Siliguri by noon and then there after took a bus to Jaigaon which is last village at India – Bhutan Border on Indian side. Many people may not find this bus journey very nice and it might be advisable to hire a cab for comfort tourists.

It took us around four and half hour & three different mode of transport ( Shared Taxi, Bus, Shared Tuktuk)  to reach Jaigaon and we were lucky to reach in time for immigration office, Phuentsholing. Phuentsholing is the town on Bhutan Side, separated by a concrete wall from Jaigaon, India.

Indian nationals can just walk in without any hassle and get their permit done at immigration office. It took us almost half an hour to get our permits and start to Hotel hunting

The Gate at Indo- Bhutan Border.

The Gate at Indo- Bhutan Border from Bhutan Side

Ahh! We are in Bhutan now and hell! We see it all around us. Roads, dresses, buildings, people, Vehicle registration plates everywhere. It was our turn to get introduced with Bhutan and we did it nicely with a Bhutanese dinner at a local restaurant.We had Datsi among other Bhutanese dishes of soupy noodles, which is made in Yak butter and potatoes. It was tasty and filling.

Before going for dinner we checked into a hotel had some rest (if you take a bus ride to Jaigaon you are definitely going to need it). I even had a bath to get fresh feeling which turned out to be great idea as we roamed around a bit in Phuentsholing after dinner to check for local bus stand to get going to Thimpu next morning.

After saying good bye to Indian border we slept to start for amazing journey ahead.

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To know more about Bhutan, keep reading , stay happy!!!