Shopping Destination : Firozabad, UP, India

A couple of years back, I saw these Turkish lamps at the India International Trade Fair and was fascinated by their colorful mosaic almost stain-glass beauty. I was in two minds to buy them as they were on the expensive side, and finally let go of them.

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Years later I chanced upon a similar lamp at a small wholesale shop on NH2 at Firozabad. This Uttar Pradesh town is know for glass bangles and is now crafting intricate glass lamps that dazzle in homes in countries like Kuwait, Spain, Dubai, Australia, France, and the US.

 

I was surprised to know that almost 70 percent of the country’s small-scale glass production is concentrated in this district of Uttar Pradesh. This town is know for the unique skill that involves recycling rejected and damaged glass articles and making beautiful glass bangles. Today, the glass-industry of Firozabad has evolved so greatly that it’s difficult to keep track of the number different things that are produced here.

Although the shops don’t serve as a retail market for its glassware like lamps per se, Firozabad nevertheless makes for a great shopping destination because one can pick up exquisite items at a fraction of the cost that they will be sold at once they hit the store shelves in the cities.

The owner of the shop, where we got our lamps said that, they have so many different kinds of artifacts that it is not possible to display everything. Understandably so, in their shops one would therefore find only sample pieces – one of each kind.

I picked up a bunch of things. Of course the lamps, this one has already found its place. I also got some glass bottles meant for perfume, but I will use it to serve olive oil on the table, I also got these colorful jars for something I haven’t decided yet.

Firozabad mozaic turkish lamp

Pro-tip: Check everything. Each glass, each bottle, each lamp or whatever it is you are buying. Everything is handmade and will have little defects, although at the price you are getting them for you may let go of most of them.

Check out my store LuckyDuck to see lots more.

Naturals Ice-cream – in Delhi – from Kolkatta

icecreambox

“Chocolate, Butterscotch or Cassata Sir” the  guy asked as we stopped our car next to his ice-cream truck at India Gate. Those were some great times and we still manage to that once in a while. But I am so glad that there is much more to offer in the Ice-cream space.

I love that we have started experimenting with the flavors, and so the creators are also thinking out-of-the-box. Yesterday, we walked into an ice-cream parlor that served Masala Chai, Wasabi, Paan and fresh fruit like Tender Coconut and Orange Basil. We were pleasantly surprised both at the variety and quality.

F&N
Pabrai’s Naturelle has recently opened a shop in C.P next to the famous Kake-da-hotel. Originally from Calcutta, they have an impressive client list & are inventors of Pabrai’s Nalen Gur Ice-cream. We got chatting with the owner, who said people like the Paan, Chandan and fruit flavors. Cocolate Hazzelnut and Mango remains the top seller. Wasabi was liked more by the foreigners and was supplied to hotels mainly. I tried the Masala chai, which tasted exactly like a spicy chai. Didn’t really have a taste for the gur but really enjoyed the little bits in tender coconut & paan.

If you like the Natural Ice-cream from Pune & Mumbai , you are sure to like this one too. Go, give it a try!!

I’m so glad that other than the regular Amul, Cream-bell, Kwality Walls and so on – We now have Giani’s, Baskin Robbins & a couple of Gelato joints scattered across the city. Even Mother Dairy Cookie Crumb,  Tener Cocnut & Bluberry Bliss are top notch.

unusual

We may never really reach the Tomato and Tofu flavored ice cream popular in Tokyo, but a little bit of experimenting is always good. So the next time you are asked what ice-cream would you like – Dare to think beyond Hot Chocolate Fudge.
Do let us know what’s your favorite unusual ice cream flavor and where can we try it?

Shopping Destination : Dilli Haat, New Delhi, India

IF you had just two days to spend in Delhi and just a couple of hours to shop – Traditional, Indian, Artistic, Authentic and mostly Handmade, visit Dilli Haat. One stop shop for souvenir shopping from India.

 

Breezy summer evenings and sunny winter days were made for strolling around the beautiful things India has to offer. A joint collaboration between the New Delhi Municipal Corporation and the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Department, the basic idea of setting up this crafts bazaar was to promote the Indian handicrafts industry and Indian cuisine. There are now two Dilli Haat in Delhi.  the original one at INA, Aurbindo Marg  and the relatively new one at Pitam Pura near the TV tower.

Stamp Dilli-Haat-Gate

 

SHOPPING

Most handicraft bazaars are filled with Kashmiri and Gujrati handicrafts, but in between those Dilli haat offers a taste of Assama & Naga hand-loom, Bihar Silk, Odissa lamps, silver jewelery, ceramic pottery, Punjabi phulkari and I can go on and on.

Originally, you could see the artists in action on their current project, it was intended to promote artisans and give them an outlet to sell their handcrafted things. Now, I mostly see traders and some people are almost permanent there.

DH - block printing

My tip – Shop for the unusual & Bargain Bargain Bargain !!

Almost everyone loves to get a great bargain. The thrill of getting a great deal on a purchase is addictive. Here is how i do it. First, Think how much you would pay for something you like before asking the price. That’s your maximum. Now ask the price, quote 60% of it and see the reaction.  Most of the time you will get your best price, especially if you go on the last day of the festival which is generally 15 or 30th of the month. As the artisans don’t want to pay the cartage to take things back.
And then sometime, I just pay more than they ask – to appreciate the artist, support the art or motivate them to come again.

EATING
There is a selection of food from many about 20 different states. In fact, there was a time I visited Dilli Haat for eating and not shopping. Yes, there was a time when I wasn’t interested in shopping!! The food is not as good as it used to be.The most popular eats are momos, fruit beer and the state specific thallis. The prices have increase from college day but INR 500 still gets you a couple things. My current favorite stalls are Maharashra & Sikkim.

SELLING
Not only is this a great place to shop, its a great place to sell. If you have a collection you would like to showcase, get a stall here, its relatively inexpensive & 15 days gives you a good opportunity to connect with shoppers. more info here.

What I love about Dilli Haat is that it is clean, festive, strollers friendly and inspirational. And like someone said – it’s a one-stop-shop for one of the best representations of what’s out there as far as handicrafts goes!  Plus it has a  play area for kids at the back. Its walking distance from the INA metro station and it fits everyone’s budget. What more can one ask for !!

Here is the official info on How to get there? and Other stuff.

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Travel Picks – My Top 10 in Leh,Ladakh

Julley, Welcome to Leh.

Reaching Leh is the end of one journey and beginning of another. One can spend days on end just exploring the local sights and then proceeding to short trips around Leh. If you are staying in Leh you are most likely living in or near the Leh market. Although, online bookings beforehand will ensure availability of hotels & tours on reaching, you’ll find many tour operators in the market for the spur-of-the-moment plans.

In fact, there are flyers and posters in internet café and shops with info about the trips one can take, and availability of space in shared tours.Depending on your interest, time and level of fitness there are monasteries, architectural delights, lakes, valleys, treks, biking, camping, eating & drinking joints and much more available here.

Here are my Top Ten must do in Leh. Please note that it is impossible to rank them so they are in no particular order.

LEH MARKET

Since you’d already be in LEH MARKET, I think it is best to start there. You know, get into the groove of taking life easy and enjoying the little things in life. There are small Tibetan bazaars, general stores and some souvenir shops spread about in the many lanes of Leh Market. Get a custom made embroidered patch made in an hour, some pashmina shawls, prayer wheel or flags and silver artifacts.

The best part about this market is the food; you’ll find influence from all over the world. If you feel the restaurants remind you the vacation you had last winter in Goa, it may be because you went to the very same restaurant in Goa. Most restaurateurs move to Goa in the winter season. What a life! Right?

We spent many hours at a German Bakery run by a sardarji & watched a FIFA match with bonfire at Summer Harvest. Good Times!

PANGONG TSO

Now that you are acclimatized, lets venture out. My list starts with the mighty PANGONG TSO. It is about 150 km from Leh and I can bet you have seen nothing like this before. On the way we crossed Chang La.  It is the 3rd highest motor able road in the planet! Pangong is an army outpost, requiring one to climb 17,500 feet before descending to 14,000 feet to reach there. Some trivia – the lake is 134 km long, 6o% of it is in China and the rest in India. It is an Endorheic Lake, meaning it is a closed drainage basin that retains water without any outflows to rivers or oceans & the Lake freezes completely in the winter even though it is a salt water lake. There is a garnet hill near the lake, and I have actually picked up rocks with teeny-tiny pieces of the red garnet in them.

KHARDUNG LA

KHARDUNG LA lies at a distance of about 40 kms of Leh. It is believed to be the highest motorable pass & road in the world, 5602 meters above sea level . To visit Khardung-la foreigners need to obtain special permit in Leh.

NUBRA VALLEY

NUBRA VALLEY was a stopping place on the historic Silk Route. Caravans of traders along this route used the double-humped Bactrian camels. People travel far and wide to see the camels today. To get to Nubra Valley, one has to take the road through Khardung La. The drive to Nubra Valley is enchanting, especially crossing the Shyok Valley. Permits will be required here also.

TSO MORIRI

TSO MORIRI in the Rupshu Valley is a remnant lake, these lakes are originally structural but represent the remnants of vast lakes. Some other examples are Tso Kar, Pangong Tso and Dal Lake. Tsomoriri Wetland Conservation Reserve is heaven for wild life photographers. Since you are there, check out the Korzok monastery which lies on the western bank of the lake is one of the oldest settlements of the world.

MONASTRIES & GOMPAS

MONASTRIES & GOMPAS are and will always be the major attraction for tourists travelling to Leh. My recommendation is seeing Hemis, Thikse, Spitok & if time permits- Shey.

Among all the monasteries in Leh, I have a special place in my heart for Hemis. I saw the Hemis festival many years ago and can still recall the fascinating images. The annual festival of the gompa is held in the summer in the honour of Guru Padma Sambhav’s birth anniversary. Situated 40 Kms from Leh, Hemis is the wealthiest, best known and biggest Gompa of Ladakh. It also has the largest thanka in Ladakh which is unfurled once in 12 years. The next unfurling will take place in 2016.

Thikse is located about 17 kms south of Leh travelling towards Karu. It is probably the most photographed monasteries of Leh. A magnificent complex with its red and yellow main building rising grandly above the numerous monk cells. The Chamba lhakhang houses an impressive Maitreya Buddha. The roof of this monastery provides a panoramic view with the Zanskar range in the backdrop.

Spitok stands prominently on the top of the hillock at one end of the airport runway. The fifteenth century monastery houses, what many consider to be Kali Mata. I have read that it is actually Yidam Dorje Jigje. There is also a collection of ancient masks, antique arms, and an awe inspiring 600 year old painting in the temple.

Shey Monestry, 15 kms upstream from Leh, the palace was once residence of the royal family. The palace is believed to have been the seat of power of the pre-Tibetian kings. A 7.5 metre high copper statue of Buddha, plated with Gold, and the largest of its kind, is installed in the palace. It is now in ruins and restoration work is going on.

HALL OF FAME MUSEUM

Learn some facts about Ladakh at the HALL OF FAME MUSEUM. The Museum houses information related to Leh culture, way of life, history, vegetation and animals. It is a fascinating place run by the Indian Army showcasing the history, glory and the tools of the trade related to army operations defending India in some of the most hostile terrain in the world. It also has a captivating display on the Siachen battlefield – the highest and more arduous battlefield in the world.

SHANTI STUPA

SHANTI STUPA was constructed by a Japanese Buddhist organization, known as ‘The Japanese for World Peace’. I recommend a visit for the spectacular views at sunrise and sunset.

GURDWARA PATHAR SAHIB

GURDWARA PATHAR SAHIB is just 20 kms away from Leh. It is a must stopover for hundreds of truck drivers who pass through the Leh-Kargil road and also for Army convoys and has an interesting legend behind it.

CHUMATHANG

Enjoy a spa experience by diving into one of the hot springs at CHUMATHANG. The hot sulphur water springs are known to have healing properties for various ailments like arthritis.

Places of interest that didn’t make it to my top ten lists are

The Leh Palace, that includes Namgyal Tsemo Gomp and Tsemo Castle. Alchi Gompa 70 kms from Leh. Phyang monastery 17 kms from Leh. Lamayuru 125 km from Leh. Other almost famous monasteries – Chemrey Monastery, Deskit Monasteries, Stok Monastery, Matho Monastery, Karsha Monastery, Phyang Monastery, Shachukul Monastery, Dakthok Monastery, Sani Monastery,Soma Gompa and about a dozen more. Jama Masjid a historical mosque is situated in the heart of Leh town and Masjid-e-Shah-e-Hamdan in Shey village.

Some other non-religious attractions include Magnetic Hill, Panamik- another hot water spring that bubbles out of the earth and is reputed to have therapeutic qualities.

Sangam of Indus and Zanskar just 4 km before Nimmu village. Enjoy the rafting experience on Indus and Zanskar Rivers only between July and September.

Drokpa Valley, where the main attraction is the Drokpa Community resides, considered as the last race of the original Aryans.

There are many opportunities for adventure sports lovers like trekking, camping, river rafting, mountain climbing, cycling, camel safari, yak safari…the list is endless.

I can bet on one thing. Whatever you see or do, you will not come back with any complains.

 

(c) Photographs by Ritika Sabharwal and Sharninder Khera

 

Delhi Restaurants -Ambiance, Price & Food: getting the right mix?!?

Delhi now has a range of eating options – Fast Food, Casual Dining, Pub- Cafés, Fine Dining and the it’s many variations – Bakeries, Coffee houses, Dhabas, Buffets and thousands more. What differentiates them is primarily,  Food preparation style, Service (speed, quality and self/full), Ambiance and Pricing.

The top of the list is the Fine dining restaurant. They offer their diners the finest in food, service and atmosphere: hence the exorbitant prices.

My question is- Although, most average sized restaurants in Delhi call themselves Fine Dining, yet why can one never be sure of what one will finally experience?

In the last few months I have noticed that most restaurants in Delhi are a bit confused about their identity or they are just trying too hard to make a niche for themselves. Now, I agree, that it’s difficult to pinpoint what level of service and ambiance will justify the tag  of fine dining, BUT if the rating on 3 out of the 4 factors is not up to the mark then getting full marks on Pricing cannot be the ONLY factor to be a FINE DINING Restaurant.

What I basically want to say is, on an average, a meal for two excluding drinks and including taxes is about Rs. 1000, no matter what you eat – Thai, Chinese, Indian, Italian- whatever!

Actually, I don’t mind paying the thousand bucks also, as long as I am happy with what I have paid for. You can never be certain about – how good/authentic the meal will be? What quantity will be served to you? How  your overall experience will rate?

Try this simple test. Have a ‘Chicken Penne Arrabiata’ or a similar pasta at Big Chill (INR 375), Mrs Kaurs (INR 365) , Route 4(INR 325), The Kitchen (INR 300), Amici (INR 320), Café OZ (INR 350) and Urban Café (INR 350). Notice, they are all in Khan Market and within the same price range. Now compare the quantity, quality of the food and the overall experience in service, décor etc.

Or is it that the restaurants in Delhi have become so expensive that at 500 rs per head all you get is the bare minimum?

Another discussion I have had many a times is – The Food vs. Ambiance debate.

I have thought long and hard about this, for me, if the food is terrific, the place is good. Sounds oblivious enough!

But this is not true for everyone and they do have a good point. People go to restaurants – especially high end ones – for the whole experience. I have actually heard people say the place is so great but the food is ok!

To be blunt I could care less if a place is trendy. If the food isn’t good I don’t want to pay an arm and leg for it.

Take for instance the restaurant Gunpowder (22, Hauz Khas Village). It’s difficult to reach the restaurant on your own, especially the first time (including the four flight of stairs). The ambiance is average at best. The food however, is authentic and tasty.

But if you search for the review of the restaurant you shall find these as the top two reviews.  Anoothi Vishal at India food and Travel Guide starts her review by saying “It’s not a place that the average Dilliwallah”. And Chefatlarge gave it a rating of 2/5.

To each his own I guess!

All I really want is to find a restaurant with a perfect balance of Taste, Ambiance and Price and if it is close to where I live, that will be the cherry on top.


Destination: Leh – Ladakh – India

 

Leh – three small letters, but symbolizing a place with scenic landscapes, warm people and fresh air that you don’t find in the plains.

My holiday last year was from Srinagar to Leh. While driving we halted at Hambotingla, at a height of 13,202 ft with a breathtaking view. Standing tall were mountains shaded in brown dust, with vertical structures resembling Egyptian temples.

The endless winding snakelike roads lead deeper into the valley where we came across a village called Darchick, an Aryan Village remnant from the time of Alexander the Great with people having features similar to erstwhile Aryans like sharp noses and light eyes. To see an actual bloodline trace of our history still prevalent in our country was interesting.

En route from Drass to Leh was a beautiful monastery called Lamayuru, also the name of a small village with the 1000 years old monastery set amidst an area known as ‘Moon Land’ (as it resembles the topography of the moon) and a ravine.

Other interesting visits were to the Magnet Hill, also called ‘gravity hill’ as it produces the optical illusion of a vehicle moving on its own without being started. Near the hill is the Gurdwara Pathar Sahib, a Gurudwara famous for a stone placed within the Gurudwara which bears the mould of Guru Nanak meditating, and this has its answers in a mythological tale.

While in Leh the Shanti Stupa is a peaceful place, at a high altitude where a lesson in the history of Buddhism can be undertaken. It is built by Japanese for world peace & inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 1985.

The Thiksey monastery, few kilometres from Leh had a lot of old scriptures and a golden three story high Buddha statue in the main prayer hall. I also visited the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) where scientists had undertaken a successful plantation drive, driving up oxygen content in the region and even helping farmers produce vegetables (of massive size) when transportation routes from the valley seize during winter months.

A fascinating fact was the organised cultivation of seabuckthorn, a plant better known here as Leh Berry, which earlier grew wildly and was considered useless, now being used to produce a number of products, helping in economic and self sustainment of the people of that region.

Visit the Hemis Monastery, the largest & richest monastery in the region and the Stok Palace- the residence of the Royal family.

Ladakh is unparalleled by any other landscape in the country, a rare example of an intact historic Tibeto-Himalayan urban settlement.

(c) Photographs by Ritika Sabharwal

 

A Pillion’s Leh Travelogue: What to pack for a biking trip?

In most of my travels the luggage restriction was in terms of weight and not volume, so when my husband told me to fit everything we both needed for a 6 day trip in a single saddle bag, I was less than amused. Never the less, it is important to travel light, prioritize requirements and share with fellow travels.

Some of my tips as trip essentials that one can use as a basic blue print –

CASH:  Carry some money, ATM’s haven’t been installed and most people believe in the saying ‘In God we trust, the rest pay cash’.

CLOTHING:  On a trip like this you shall experience extreme heat and cold; you’ll get wet from the water crossings and have very dry skin from the cold harsh winds. So you’ll need it all. My suggestion is to only pack comfortable clothes and use the layering strategy. You’ll definitely need -

  1. All weather Jacket – water proof, wind proof, reasonably warm.
  2. Gloves – take a warm pair for the passes and cold that you can wear under the biking gloves. The wind is cold and harsh.
  3. Waterproof high shoes if possible, but keep a spare as your shoes will definitely get wet
  4. The normal stuff – T’s, socks etc take as few as possible, nothing really gets dirty under the big jacket you’ll be wearing. And all the pictures will have you in the same jacket and jeans anyway.
  5. I would also suggest Rain gear. It not only cuts the wind and rain, it makes up for an extra layer. Also, try to water-proof your luggage as this dust and slush out, especially during the water crossings.

TOILETRIES

  1. The basic toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush. Try to buy the small travel packs for everything.
  2. Must take sunscreen and Lip balm, and apply it like you are the Aussi Cricket Team. Your skin will peel off even under the goggles and helmet.
  3. Goggles or some eye protection
  4. Helmet and please wear it at all times on the bike. Not wearing it, is not Cool.
  5. Carry a roll or two of toilet paper and a box of garbage bag. One needs tissues and plastic bags all the time. As a special favor to me don’t dispose away the plastic bottles/ bags till you reach Leh. We have to protect the few clean places left in this world.
  6. Torch, Matches, Lighter
  7. Cell phone, camera, extra batteries, chargers etc

FOOD: You’ll find small eating places every few 100 km or so, they all will serve Maggie, tea/coffee, biscuits and dal-chawal. Trust me all of these taste awesome when you are hungry. Try to drink bottled water/ boiled water if possible if you have a weak stomach. Carry Mother Dairy Milk Chocolate for instant energy. Dry fruits and some small nibbles to keep in your pocket.

MEDICINES

  1. Diamox is used with varying success to speed up acclimatization. Those that are allergic to sulfa medication cannot use Diamox, should consult their doc. To avoid Acute Mountain Sickness drink lots and lots of water. The oxygen in the water helps especially on high mountain passes where oxygen is low.
  2. Basic stuff like pain killers, flu pills, stomach infection pills (constipation is not that big a problem), and other regular medicines one takes.
  3. Band-aid, muscle spray like Moove and crepe bandage.

BIKE – FUEL & TOOLS

  1. Fill up fuel where ever you can. We got a 25 litre tank fitted on our bike for the trip and had success with it.
  2. Check the air pressure and one of the travelers should carry an air pump
  3. Spark Plug, Clutch Cable, Accelerator Cable, Front brake Cable, Spare Tube -2, Duplicate Set of Keys, Chain Link,
  4. Spare Headlight- Halogen, Spare Tail Light, Tool-Kit, Petrol Pipe, Spare Fuses, Insulation Tape and so on.
  5. Map

STAY & RESERVATIONS

  1. Make your bookings in advance wherever you can. Keep a print out of your tickets and hotel reservations.
  2. If you are staying in tents on the way, make sure you have enough warm blankets /clothing.

DOCUMENTS & PERMITS

  1. Keep identity card with yourself while travelling.
  2. Get permits for going to various places like Nubra Valley, Pang etc
  3. License, Vehicle Registration+ Insurance Papers- Original Xeroxes of the same-2, keep one copy in bike other carry with you or in the toolbox, another in the luggage.

CAMERA: I don’t think there is a need for an explanation here :)

Also, The Lazymoterbike has some great tips for the rider & pillion.

 

Bon voyage!

 

 

(c) Photographs by Sharninder Khera and Nitin Joshi

Thai New Year: Songkran & it’s Indian Connection

Last year at this time, we were drenched to the skin and loving it as we walked down the Beach Road at Pattaya. No it was not raining, it was bright and sunny. Hot to be precise. It was Songkran day and ice-cold water was being poured on us by everyone on the street.

Songkran is Thai New Year. A festival, celebrated for 3 days starting from 13th April, where getting wet and having fun is all part of the celebration.

At about eight in the morning we left our hotel and walked down the street in search for some breakfast. We noticed locals with bottles of water and big drums of ice water placed outside the shops, assuming that on a hot day like this, hydration must be high on the agenda, we walked on. But as we turned to the Beach road we were bombarded with a garden hose. Stunned, Speechless and completely Soaked, we felt a little Stupid not remembering that today was Songkran. The posters and information was available all over since we had arrived in Thailand.

From then on there was no looking back, you can’t avoid it (unless you stay in your hotel room for 3 days). The lively celebrations on the streets were infectious and we even spotted foreigners joining in with water battles. And they say – if you can’t beat them join them! So we did.

It’s like our very own Holi, just no colors and the other skin harming stuff. Only some chalk (white mud paste) and water is sprayed. From garden hoses to the well-aimed bucket or water-cannon delivered in a festive spirit. The best way to beat the heat, wouldn’t you say!

Bands of youngsters roamed the streets or whizzed past in open trucks with water guns and buckets of water with which they doused one another and others on the street. You’ll find toy stores in big malls selling water-guns and accessories. 7-Eleven sells handy little plastic purses that are the right size for a camera, some money and keys.

Although Songkran seems like amusement for the kids. It has a more significant role – the underlying significance of Songkran is the process of cleansing and purification – the purging of all ills, misfortune and evil and starting the New Year afresh with all that is good and pure. Water is symbolic of the cleaning process and signifies purity.

Traditional Songkran celebrations focus on the renewal of the earth and the home. Wats, homes and Buddhist statues are cleaned. Often, the statues are removed from their wats and paraded around their communities, allowing everyone the chance to make merit by washing them with water, which Buddhists believe will help them achieve a higher ranking in the celestial order when they are reborn.

Songkran Day has been celebrated as New Year’s Day in the Thai solar calendar since ancient times. It is also popular in the neighboring countries of Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. The date coincides with the day the sun leaves Pisces and enters Aries, usually falling on April 13 of each year.

Doesn’t Songkran kind of sounds like of the Hindu festival of Sakranti? Well, because it is related to it. Sankranti is the sanskrit word in Indian Astrology which refers to the transmigration of the Sun from one Rāshi (sign of the zodiac) to another.

Sankranti is celebrated all over South Asia with some regional variations. It is known by different names and celebrated with different customs in different parts of the country. In India it is known by different regional names Makar Sankranti, Uttarayan, Maghi, Pongal, Magh Bihu and so on. In Thailand it is Songkran, Laos – Pi Ma Lao, Myanmar – Thingyan, Cambodia – Moha Sangkran.

Here are some things that coincide with the Thai Ney Year, and are significant in India.

  • The festival of Baisakhi falls on April 13 every year and April 14 once in every 36 years. Change in date is because of the fact that date of Baisakhi is reckoned according to the solar calendar.The other celebrations are ‘Rongali Bihu‘  in Assam, ‘Naba Barsha’ in Bengal, ‘Puthandu’ in Tamil Nadu, ‘Pooram Vishu’ in Kerala and ‘Vaishakha’ in the state of Bihar.
  • On 13th April 1699, The Tenth Guru of Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh founded Khalsa Panth or the Order of Pure Ones and gave a unique identity to Sikhs. On the same day the guru administered amrit (nectar) to his first batch of five disciples making them Singhs, a martial community.
  • On 13th April 1875, Swami Dayanand Saraswati founded the Arya Samaj – a reformed sect of Hindus who are devoted to the Vedas for spiritual guidance and have discarded idol worship.

 

Back to our trip. Last year Thailand was under political unrest and yet the Red shirt anti-government protesters celebrated the Songkran New Year festival with full enthusiasm and let others enjoy as well. The Siam area where they were protesting was ironically a peaceful sight.

Like any other form of good entertainment, there is an unfortunate side to the holiday. There is a lot of drinking and roads/pavements get slippery and wet by the end of the day. It’s best to be careful mostly about – road accidents, rowdy hooligans and getting sun burnt. Basic common sense helps!

It would be silly in my opinion to avoid Songkran, I mean, welcoming the New Year with a gigantic water fight seems like the best idea ever. But here are some tips from Travelfish on avoiding the water festival.

Although Songkran Festival is celebrated throughout Thailand, I have read that Chiang Mai City is the best venue for the event. Here tourists can take part in the Grand Songkran Festival ceremony and pour scented water on the image of Buddha. The important ritual of bathing Buddha with the water is witnessed by thousands of foreign tourists.

We had a great time in Pattaya and Bangkok and wish I was there today!

Wish you all a happy new year!! sa-wat-di pi mai!!

 

Photos courtesy – Ratchaprasong, Kara van Malssen, Karol Gajda , Eternal Vagabond and Ritika Sabharwal

A Pillion’s Leh Travelogue: Day Si6 ‘Leh to Delhi Airport’

 

We saw all that we could in two days, shopped, ate and had a festive time. And now it was time to say goodbye. We were flying off from the Leh Airport to Delhi and the weather conditions were good, so unfortunately we didn’t have an excuse to extend our trip.

 

If you are flying in or out, make sure to book yourself a window seat since the view of the snow-capped Zanskar & Karakoram ranges from the aircraft with the dawn breaking is simply amazing! The mountains turn from deep blue to golden in a span of half an hour.

A trip like this traverses one of the highest road passes in the world and is surrounded by wild rugged mountains. The scenery is fantastic, though it is definitely not for the faint hearted. I’m glad I did it in this lifetime.

 

I might not have an opportunity to ride to Leh again, but I am gonna be telling the tales of my trip of ‘The Road to Heaven’ for a long-long time.

Hope you enjoy your trip, as a rider or a pillion, whenever you can. Do leave your comments and add to the Pillion’s chronicles of the Road Trip to Leh.

 

(c) Photographs by Ritika Sabharwal and Sharninder Khera

A Pillion’s Leh Travelogue: Day F5ve ‘Karu to Leh’

Today was an easy breezy rest day. The total distance we had to travel was 45 km, from Karu to Leh, and just about an hour of driving time. We rode along the Indus, appreciating the smooth road, the sun and the cool breeze. Enjoying ever last bit.

 

We reached our destination. It’s an uneasy feeling, for months you are planning a trip, preparing for it and in the last couple of days you are struggling towards it. But when the final destination is just an hr away – you don’t want it to end.

 

Many people rush through this route completing it in 2 days, which is a crime. Manali-Leh should be done leisurely. The real fun is in the journey and not the destination. Although if the destination is Leh you are still in for a lot more experiences.

Leh is India’s bond with the striking past, when long caravans plied the ancient Silk Route and lingered long in Leh to rest, to buy, to plan, or just to visit. Leh is situated at the summit of a triangular plateau formed by the Indus at an altitude of 3368m. Ladakh is the most remote region of India; a barren cold desert. Ladakh beckons for more than one reason. The defiance of its barren landscape is its unique flora and fauna, its culture, it’s clear blue skies and clean air, the land where things are done differently.

There are so many things to do in and around Leh that you need another week to get around it all. I’m going to need a couple of other posts to cover all of them. Right now, it is my day of rest.

 

(c) Photographs by Ritika Sabharwal, Sharninder Khera and Nitin Joshi