Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Thai Adventure Part 2: Koh Tao

So after having a great time in Chiang Mai, we traveled south-west-ish towards the island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand. We decided to try diving. We'd signed up for the basic course and be certified divers by the end of it. With this certification, we could dive anywhere in the world! For this, I had to swim 200 mtrs and float for 10 mins as a test of my swimming skill(which was non-existant when we first decided to go).

Backstory: I really do like water and have always been beach person but somehow I never ever learnt how to swim. I wanted to learn but never really got around to it. When boyfriend suggested diving, I thought this is the push I need to learn how to swim. I had 2 months to learn and I was determined to have some skills at the end of it. By the time it was time to leave, I had spent quite sometime in the water (and quite some money too) learning a basic life skill. However, I had spent all this time in a pool where my feet hit the bottom. I was really nervous about swimming in the sea.

Koh Tao is a small sleepy island really, especially around the rainy season. We travelled nearly 24 hours to get there. First impression: the beach looked beautiful. It was a cloudy day but the water looked pretty clear. We headed out to our resort, Crystal Dive. We got a really nice room for really cheap because we were diving with them! I had a pit in my stomach just thinking about the starting class the next day. Since we did our classroom training online, we spent the afternoon chilling out at the beach. It was a beautiful evening. Sunshine and clear waters.

The next morning was our confined water training which is a fancy way of saying: diving in a swimming pool. We put on all our gear and jumped into the pool. I was petrified but somehow I got through the whole morning. I freaked out quite a bit at first then it got easier the more time I gave it. We basically practiced some skills that are needed as divers. We would have to repeat it for real that afternoon. The pit in my stomach was getting bigger and wider. But I held it together.

Then, We had our swim test. We had to swim 8 laps around a deep deep pool (16ft is deep deep). Everyone in our group jumped in and lazily swum those laps and I struggled to step in. Our instructors were super nice though. :P They gave me fins and snorkel and told me to take as much time as i wanted. Somehow I got through it and was so happy that I did!

Then it was time to hit the boat and get geared up for our first 2 dives. It was so surreal being in the sea, watching fish going by, doing their thing. We practiced all our skills and then just swum around, pointing at things excitedly. We had some hand signals which I kept getting wrong! It was one of the most exhilarating moments in my life. We did two more dives the next day, the weather wasn't so good that day and just got worse after that. Since our basic course went so well! We decided to stay on and do the Advance course which was 5 more dives which gave us different skills. So we spent our free time reading up on our course, eating, drinking and being merry!

We had fun even though the weather wasn't on our side really. The day before we were to leave, we heard talk about boats being cancelled. Instantly, we were worried since we had a visa for 2 weeks exactly, our tickets back were booked. We went to their office and learnt that the boats were indefinitely cancelled. Our hearts sank, we were surely going to get fined and never allowed entry to Thailand for overstaying our welcome. We spent a very rainy evening postponing tickets, extending our stay indefinitely and feeling sorry for ourselves. The weather didn't look like it was letting up.

We woke up the next morning to sunny skies and suddenly we were hopeful of leaving the same day. Our original flight was the next morning, it suddenly all looked possible. We went to the booking office got tickets on the boat out (yes!) and re-booked our tickets on the same flight and got off the island! Island life looks so good from far away and then at moments like these you realize that how nature can really play havoc in an instant!

At first we were sad to leave, but once all the drama happened, we were happy to leave in time for our flight and the end of our visas. All in all it was a eventful, adventurous and fun trip!

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Thai Adventure Part 1: Chiang Mai

After much deliberation and discussion, Boyfriend and I decided to go to Thailand this October. When travelling to a new country or discovering a new culture, it's so difficult to decide where exactly to go. You go through a dozen guidebooks and hundred websites and just end up being more confused than before! We(more like he :P since I dithered and whined and gave up on taking a decision) FINALLY decided to spend a week more or less in 2 places, Chiang Mai and Ko Tao!
It was to be a leisurely discovery of two different parts of Thailand!

We arrived at Bangkok which looks like any city on the surface but has its quirks! I Love the tuk-tuks in Thailand. They look sooo much cooler than Indian ones. All fancy colours, nice and airy. Like a convertible! We didn't do much in Bangkok really. We spent most of our time hanging out at Khaosan Road. What a fun road! In the night, it's lit up with colourful lanterns giving the whole street a pretty glow. There are tons of restaurants, lots of stalls selling weird food, good food and cocktails! I wish there were cocktail "thelas" in Mumbai, I really do! We got back to hotel, slightly drunk on alcohol and happiness!

Chiang Mai is a smallish city, nestled at the base of hills in the North of Thailand. It's a beautiful city and has lot of Buddhist temples called "wat" spread across the city centre. It's a very laid back city but with a lot of things to see and do! We really enjoyed this place.

We were there on a Sunday so we got to witness Chiang Mai's Walking Street. I've never seen a people so collectively shopping crazy. This market is made for people who love to shop and love to eat. Half the time, we had no clue what we were eating! Somethings tasted really bad (like the coffee jello with brown sugar. Bleagh!) and some were delicious! (coconut cake thing, slurp!) When we got tired of looking around, we decided to stop for a Thai massage, one hour of pleasurable oblivion. Thais really know how to treat you right!

We spend the next few days exploring the wats, temples around Chiang Mai. There are some very touristy attractions on the outskirts of the city which we as tourists couldn't help but try out. We went to a snake farm, an orchid farm, a tiger kingdom (might as well have been a farm) etc.

The most exciting part was probably trying out some adventure sports. It was my first time bungee jumping, what an adrenaline rush! I wish I had made the jump myself (I got someone to push me :P) but I probably would've been there all afternoon trying to jump. It's not scary when you're looking at from the ground but once you get up in that small box and look down at the small people and small cars, your heart starts thumping and courage just flies out the window!

Few minutes later, we tried out a Xorb ball. I haven't laughed that much in a while! So you're strapped into the insides of a huge plastic ball and rolled down a hill and bounced into a pond. The rolling down the hill part was fun, then once you're in the water, you're supposed to kind of run like guinea pigs in one direction so that you can move the ball towards the shore but because of the water inside, we kept slipping. My balance has never been the best and that's an understatement. So we made a fool of ourselves for 10 minutes and then just gave up and waited to be pulled to shore!

We also tried some mountain biking. 3 hours of downhill in the hills that surround Chiang Mai. Sounds fun and easy right? When we got to the start point, they gave us a a lot of protection (elbows, knees, shins, the works!) I thought maybe these firangs are over-doing the safety... How wrong was I? Hurtling down a dirt track with roots and sticks and stones strewn all across, I was thinking otherwise. I had done some biking over the preceding months but it was mostly on roads and not like this. By the end of it, my bones were rattled, my palms hurt from gripping the brakes to hard and my butt from where I fell a few times but I was glad that I'd done it. We finished our ride with a nice lunch at a lake. There were small huts built on the lake off the shore. It was a nice way to end the ride!

Tiger Kingdom was pretty interesting too. Thai people are seemingly good with tigers. They seem to run tame whenever they're around(or at least seem to be). We decided to hang out with the smallest ones and the biggest ones.(I thought the adolescents might just be too enthusiastic for my liking) I'm not an animal person. In fact, I'm scared of four-legged creatures in general. SO going to Tiger Kingdom was obviously not MY idea. The little ones, I must say, are the cutest things. They still have teeth and so I kept a safe distance but they are adorable. The helpers kept trying to get me to hold one, I politely declined. The big one, when I saw how big. I refused to enter when I saw how big. That thing could tail-slap me and I would be on the ground! Once I gathered the courage to enter, I could no longer call them tigers, they were big tame cats really. They just sat around staring into space. I wondered more than once if they'd been drugged or something. I mean what tiger or cat for that matter would let you hold its tail for a photo! I was kind of happy and relieved when we were done: Happy to have seen a tiger up close, relieve to not have to go back again.

Over the week that we were in Chiang Mai, We met an American who I'd gotten in touch with through a site for travelers called couchsurfing. She was really nice and gave us a lot of insight into Thai people and how things really worked in Thailand. She took us to all the local places in Chiang Mai and through her we got our look into the local night life. We frequented the local markets and tried out some great food! We talked a lot, shared stories and at the end I was happy to have made this connection in a foreign land.

Our week in Chiang Mai ended on a high note, but I was sad to leave but I was also looking forward to Koh Tao, a small island off the coast of Thailand and probably the best place to learn to Dive.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

To the top and back. (June 2010)

In the middle of 2010, 4 of us decided it was high time we saw the Himalayas in all its glory for Real. How long were we to wait for the universe to get us in shape? It was high time we took action! So we jogged some, cycled some, gymmed some and walked some but we also drank in litres, we ate sumptuous meals. So at the end of 2 months, were we ready for the Himalayas? If only that mountain could talk!

(Day 1) So in late June, we reached Dehradun, the starting point of our trek up Rupin pass (4500m or 14765 ft). Tired but excited after a long ride through the hills of Uttarakhand, we finally reached our base camp at Dhaula.
(Day 2) The next morning we started our trek to the next camp which was at Sewa. We saw eagles on the way, I huffed and puffed my way up. We stopped at Sewa to check out their temple which doesn't look like any other I've ever seen. Our camp was outside Sewa on the bank of the river. It was a nice evening with a bonfire, some charades and of course plates and plates of food for us hungry trekkers.

(Day 3)The next day was a long one. We were going to climb up to Jhaka which is a village at 2650m. The last 2 hours we trekked in unforgiving train. The valley looked green and beautiful in the rain while we struggled for happy thoughts walking up what seem like an unrelenting climb. We kept meeting villagers on the way and they kept saying it's just 15 minutes away. After 1 hour of being told it was 15 minutes away, we finally reached Jhaka and were welcomed by warm smiles from our hosts and hot tea! That night we stayed in a wooden house in the village with its warm rooms and one bathroom (which the girls got! hell yeah!)
(Day 4) After a good night's sleep, we were all pumped up for the next day. The next day we saw the landscape change. We started with a walk through a pine forest and as we walked further, the trees got scantier the river bank got wider, we could see green meadows and at the end we finally got a look at Rupin pass! Snow capped and FAR away! We reached our camp at Saruwas Thatch just before lunch. This was a nice camp with lots of bushes at the back.
Our biggest problem or obsession you could say on this trip was to find a nice shady spot far from prying eyes to "dump" all our troubles away :D. All we seemed to discuss was, what was a good spot to go, when and where to go for best coverage. Since we were 3 girls at this time and we got one whole side of the camp to choose from, there were a lot of spots at first but later on they were harder to find and by the end of it, we just got creative. So this camp at Sarwas thatch was probably the best place coverage wise! :P

(Day 5) The next day was a pretty short trek. Since we were gaining altitude every day, we had to make sure that we were acclimatized. A very serious problem at these heights is Altitude sickness. It strikes especially when you gain altitude to fast. The best way to avoid that is to keep a slow and steady pace and always let others know if you're falling ill in anyway. Rakesh our trek leader, thought that we needed a nice rest day with a short walk so that's we did. We strolled to our next camp at Dhanderas Thatch, playing near the water since it was too cold to go in! We reached our next camp and did some river crossing. It was shoe-flinging, toe-freezing fun! We climbed up a mountain-side for a beautiful view of the waterfall we were to climb up the next day and the other waterfalls that surrounded us on all sides.

(Day 6) This day was a doozie! We had to cross a waterfall on a section that was frozen. We started early although, it wasn't the best of weather. It was rainy and cold all morning. Slowly and steadily I clomped up the side of the waterfall. The icy crossing was pretty scary as we had heard about a farmer who was crossing a few weeks earlier and had lost his balance and fallen and died.
So we were very careful while crossing. We were aided by our ever helpful and extremely brave team of porters! We reached camp surrounded by clouds and the river just in time to avoid 2 hours of continuous rainfall. When nature was done showing us who's boss, we got out of our tents to be awestruck by the beautiful valley we had just crossed. We had a view down the waterfall we'd just crossed. It was just beautiful! That night we got a clear sky with stars and the snow shining bright through it. It was probably one of the most striking night skies I've ever seen.

(Day 7) Everyone was excited, we were finally going to reach Rupin pass and what a beautiful day to do it on! Clear skies, puffy clouds here and there and gleaming snow! We trudged up a mountain-side till we finally got a look at Rupin pass and the snow field that surrounds it! In 6 days, we went from thick forests to pine forests to meadows to snow fields. We were all pretty kicked and felt an energy burst for the last stretch to Rupin pass. The gully that heads up to Rupin pass is pretty steep. It was probably the most exhilarating part of the whole trek. When we got to the top and looked on the other side, the struggle to get there was worth it. We got a view of the whole range and we were finally there at Rupin pass which was not the top of the world but felt like it for us! We celebrated being there with some screaming, back slaps and of course celebratory photos. Our porters and guides said a pray to the Goddess of Rupin.
Then it was time to continue, make our way down from Rupin to our next camp. To make our way down from the past was another adventure. We made use of a very useful body part:
Our butts. We slid down about 400 ft on our butts! It was like a roller coaster (more like a butt-o-coaster). All of us were screaming and bouncing on ice! Everyone was cheering each other and squealing in delight like kids. After 3 times, our butts were frozen and we decided they had done their job. We continued to trudge on to our camp. We kept running into small streams and beautiful vistas on our way. We finally reached camp around 4! It was a long an eventful day and we were all tired but happily so.

(Day 8) We all woke up, happy and content. I was happy thinking that there was no more climbing. It's all downhill from here! That can't be too hard. How wrong was I? It was probably the most painful day (i had huge blisters on my toes at the end of it)
Anyway, before we could leave, we were startled by a herd of yaks! We could see them some ways up the hill from where our camp was and they suddenly started charging down towards us! We couldn't look away although I may have hidden behind a few people while doing that. Rakesh told us that they are attracted to the smell of salt and since we had just breakfasted, they were here to finish it up! We then started down to Sangla. All of us keeping different paces, laughing, joking and having a good time walking down. About 5 hours in. My feet had had it. They were blistery and painful but I continued on. I thought changing shoes might help, it didn't. Just had to suck it up and finish it!
When we finally hit Sangla, I have never been happier on seeing civilization! We all took showers and freshened up for celebratory lunch and some beers to go along with it! We talked and we laughed and we celebrated end of this trek but the beginning of many others.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Summer like it hot (Rajasthan April, 2010)

I've always wanted to go to Rajasthan. It has this exotic quotient that has always enticed me. A region of deserts, camels, palaces, colorful clothes and spicy food. When my brother suggested we go in summer,I was apprehensive. "Only a fool goes to the desert in summer!" I said. So of course, it was only natural that few months after this conversation, we were on our way to Rajasthan in April.

There we were, in the middle of Jaipur enamored with its sites, burning, but enjoying its beautiful palaces. Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar and Jal Mahal standing out in the summer sun.
What really makes an impression though is Amber fort. Its ramparts go on forever. Walking down some of its quieter corridors, you can almost imagine what it would've been like 400 years ago.

We then headed to Ranthambore thinking that one safari and we'll have seen all the tigers we need. It's not that we haven't notice all the "Save the tiger" ads and how few remain in the wild. We thought, we would be those lucky few who would see a tiger at first safari. This is not how it went down. After 4 hours of staring at brambles and realizing how annoying peacocks really are, we headed off to Pushkar.

First impressions of Pushkar were of pushy pandit wannabes and overly tourist-friendly shops/restaurants. It has lost its charm and itself somewhere along the way while trying to please its guests. We rented bikes there and headed slightly outside Pushkar and were so happy we did! We rode its curving roads surrounded by bare hills on either side, we explored little temples and fixed punctures every few hours. We watched a cousin, impress all the kids with his cool sunglasses. We managed to watch the sun go down and the swirling oranges and pinks with it.

From Pushkar, we headed south towards Udaipur, city of lakes and magnificent palaces. Jaipur has nothing on Udaipur. It's just gorgeous. The Lake Palace and the City Palace make such an incredible impression! Although we didn't get a look inside Lake Palace, we gazed longingly from the outside and took a nice long boat ride around it.

We returned to Bombay, pretty sites on the inside and a nice and crispy on the outside!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


This blog was about keeping track of my travels, adventures primarily and then maybe random rants here and there. Not that there haven't been any adventures in the last year, I just haven't gotten down to words yet. 2010 was a pretty eventful year. A lot of firsts!

This year's starting out retro. I'm back in the city I was born in but I realize it's not that same city anymore or maybe I'm not that same person that I was 6 years ago. So this year I'm going to start my adventures small. I'll start by re-discovering the city that was home to me before and home to me once again. I'll start by re-discovering friends I've lost touch with and maybe discovering corners that I've never been to before, stepping in puddles I haven't stepped before. I'm excited to begin!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

All Shook up

Today, as I watched "He's just not that into you" and made all sorts of "awww" sounds at the end of the movie, something profound hit me! I made a surprising discovery about myself I realised that I'm such a big ass sap! I didn't I was so sappy till just today when this movie ended. The movie was nice, it wasn't the greatest ever but at the end of it, I was all warm, gooey and happy. Like one of those cakes with melty chocolate stuff inside.(drool... why did i make this comparaison again?) Then realised I bought some of those a few days ago. This fact just solidified my mush theory.

Gawd, I used to think (keyword: think) I was so edgy! Haha! That I wasn't like the rest. Reality just bit me. I'm just as sappy as the rest. God help me!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Time's a bitch

Perpignan has been my home away from home for the last 8 months. For eight months, I have walked into my apartment with a feeling of well being, a feeling of home, a feeling of belonging. The last few days, this feeling has been less apparent. I think I've reached my limit of being away from my real home. I miss the people, the smells, the noise, everything! I'm even yearning for some good old fashioned work! I feel like I have been on pause for the past months and my life is going to start playing only once I get back! 9 months of mostly vacation seemed like such an awesome thing when I got here.

Now I know for sure, too much of anything is no good. I have loved nearly every minute that I've been here. I've met some great people, finally lived on french soil, eaten cheese and drunk fine wine to my hearts content, travelled some, seen something that I never thought I would. The fun experiences keep coming. I have pretty much been living my dream but now I'm waiting to get back to reality. Time has never moved slower! What a bitch time can be...