Category: Travel

Your Ultimate Packing Guide for Ladakh

Posted By : Escape Route/ 101 0

The land of high passes, the cold desert, the toughest terrain there is, the land of surreal landscapes, and so on – there are many reasons for you to go to Ladakh and all are just. But one must note that neither travelling to Ladakh (by road) or staying in Ladakh is easy for it is not easy for everyone to acclimatize to this region. But the right set of packing gear to accompany you can assure a comfortable experience, and rest is always up to us to explore.

We have collated a list of things you will need in Ladakh, some of which you must pack along to be prepared to explore the cold desert:

  1. Luggage – Do not carry big bags / trolleys to this region. It is ideal to pack light in a suitcase / trolley or a big rucksack, so that you can drag the trolley and carry the rucksack on your shoulders wherever you go. Pack as much as you can lift all by yourself, and also remember to pack smart. You will not have help everywhere you go with your luggage.Tips for Ladakh Packing
  1. Clothes – Ladakh is the only place where you can get a sunburn and a frost-bite at the same time. A lot of people misjudge the climate at Ladakh. The temperature fluctuates between 20 degrees Celsius to under zero degrees, all in a day. And if you catch a cold easily, it will be prudent to stay covered all day. Please carry warmers, woolen socks, high ankle walking shoes and jackets to keep you covered throughout the day and night. Hats / caps / beanies, mufflers, shawls, gloves etc. come in handy in this region. Flip-flops / chappals will be required too while you rest indoors.
  1. Medication – Ladakh is not an easy terrain as the roads are bumpy and the long drives will make you feel sick. Also the deficiency of Oxygen has multiple effects on your body. Also, since you do not get the food you are used to for days at a stretch, your stomach getting upset is a possibility too. Keeping these things in mind, do carry all the medicines prescribed to you by your doctor.

Diamox is used commonly to fight AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). It is advisable to take basic medicines for headache (Saridon); body ache (Combiflam); body ache with fever (Crosin/Paracetamol); loose motion (Roko/Dependal); cough and cold (Waterbury’s compound); stomach ailments (Pudin hara); altitude sickness (Avomine); vomiting (Stemetil); dehydration (Electrol); energy (Glucose); and for wounds – cotton wool, bandage and antiseptic.

  1. Vanity – This dry area will make your skin go dry and over-exposure to the sun will leave you with a bad tan or sunburn. Some moisturizer, and Vaseline for dry lips is essential. It is a good idea to keep your hair oiled for some days and keep it covered to have at least one good hair day through the duration of the trip. Do not forget your sunglasses (carry a couple of them atleast).
  1. Self-help tools – Anybody can be the X-Man or X-Woman in Ladakh just with the help of the right tools at the right time. A swiss-knife, garbage / trash bags, thermos, multi-point chargers, external battery pack, thermos, portable umbrellas, windcheaters, pocket knife, tyre inflator, GPS Navigator, torch, headlamps etc. come in very handy during this trip. Wet clothes do not dry soon, so some extra zip locks, and plastic covers in different sizes to carry your wet clothes is a good idea.
  1. Toiletries – Go overboard on this one. Some of the must-haves are Sunscreen – SPF 50, body lotion, face cream, moisturizer, Vaseline, lip balm – SPF, shampoo & conditioner, hair oil, shower gel, face wash, toilet paper, toothbrush & toothpaste, mouthwash, wet wipes, dry tissues, sanitizer, deodorant, soap strips, hair brush, ear-buds etc.
  1. Water bottle – Please carry your own water bottle, preferably a metal bottle. This will not only be your personal bottle throughout the trip, it will also help reduce the plastic waste being added by tons each day in our mountain valleys. The water in Ladakh is scarce but the drinking water quality is good and feel free to fill your bottles from houses or restaurants.
  1. Quick bites – You will feel hungry at a lot of spots and multiple times during the day. Please keep some nuts / dry fruits handy, some protein bars, tea and coffee sachets, gluconD and Electrol for dehydration, granola bars, dry muesli and some chocolates with you throughout the trip.
  1. If a local kid asks you for money, which is sadly a truth because our fellow travelers find the Ladakhi kids ‘cute’, please do not offer any money. Just offer a few chocolates and share the love.
  1. Documents and IDs – Some places in Ladakh are out-of-limits for foreign nationals due to security concerns near the border areas. However an Indian can reach anywhere with the right set of documentation. You would need a national photo ID like an Aadhar Card, or a Driving License etc. If you are travelling by your own vehicle, you need the attested photo copies of the Registration Certificate (RC), Pollution Control Certificate and Insurance as all times. You will need green permit while crossing over from Manali to Ladakh and will need inner-line permits to travel in and around Ladakh. The same can be obtained from the DC office at Leh.
  1. Be ready – Do not expect to find money at every ATM or even to find an ATM in the first place. Keep your cash handy starting from your hometown and be responsible. It will be wise to budget in your days and expenses and stay prudent on the road atleast. If you save enough, you can go bananas at the Leh shopping market!
  1. Camera equipment – If you are carrying DSLRs, be sure to carry them in an organized DSLR case with your lenses, memory cards, tripods, mono-pods, selfie stick for the selfie enthusiasts, extra batteries, charges and multi-point plug chargers etc. You will have electricity at Leh and a few spots to be able to charge your equipment so carry extra batteries.
  1. Network – Your city network operator may not be functional in Ladakh. Most of the pre-paid or post-paid sims stop working the moment you cross Rohtang Pass and will only work in Leh. If you want to stay in touch while on the move, do take a BSNL post-paid sim along for the journey.

Additional tips for girls by StreetTrotter:

“3 years back I invested in couple of tank top warmers with attached bra pads from Uniqlo. Till date they have been my best winter + travel buys. While the warmer keeps you warm on the inside, with the added bra support all in one – makes you feel light with so many layers on your body in extremely cold places like Ladakh,” adds Shraddha Gupta, Founder of StreetTrotter. Here are some more travel tips for girls from her personal experience:

  1. Carry your pack of sanitary pads, with extra disposal options such as some old newspapers, or disposal bags.
  2. Finding a clean bathroom at every stop could be tricky, so carry a pack of soft wet wipes, your own toilet paper, and a hand sanitizer as a must.
  3. As mentioned earlier, Ladakh can surprise you with fluctuating temperatures – so keep your makeup on the minimal side. Avoid base foundations and keep your skin as clean and basic as possible. Carry face tissues, face cleanser, and a face cream/gel with a higher moisturizing content to keep your face fresh and less dry during the trip.
  4. If you are picky about hygiene while sleeping, carry your own light and foldable bed sheet.
  5. Ladakh is also a tricky terrain. So replace that hand purse by either a backpack or a handy side sling. Make sure to keep your hands free at all times.
  6. Other than a cap, its good to carry a warm headband to save your head and your ears from the biting cold.
  7. Trusting your instinct and carrying a pepper spray are just some extra precautions that never harm!

It is important to book your first trip with an experienced road-captain or a travel company of your preference. This way you can focus less on planning and more on having fun and exploring the place without any hassles.

Moscow

From Russia, With Love

Posted By : Aarti K Singh/ 42 0

Moscow has something for everyone – whether you want to spend the night in a Bohemian art café or be in a nostalgia-rich beer club, says Aarti Kapur Singh

Moscow is a city held by its denizens as being limitless. That can also be said about the nightlife here.Whether you are a jazz aficionado, a hardcore clubber, or just a plain old alcoholic, Moscow has an amazing array of nightlife options and a scene for. A night out in Moscow can be rather dizzying. All the ‘rules’ of going out in other cities don’t seem to apply in Moscow. But giving into it, and letting yourself be swept along by all the excitement, can be a very exhilarating experience in itself.

Since the nightlife is so diverse, it is hard to arrive at generalisations. But even then there are some things that if a traveller becomes familiar with, nightlife in the bustling city will be a breeze.

The-Hungry-Duck

Firstly, a bar or nightclub in Moscow is rarely just that. Nearly every drinking venue in Moscow doubles up as an eatery too and some also multi-task as a bowling alley, snooker room, casino and even a bookshop. This is probably so because Moscow is such a vast metropolis, and getting around in cabs so expensive, that owners want to provide their customers with a ‘one-stop-shop’ for nightlife entertainment – rather than send them out into the, often bitter, cold night for a bite to eat!These multi-purpose venues often charge a cover, but rather it’s best to choose your spot for the night and stick with it. Moscow’s nightlife is also highly-charged. From the newly rich flashing their cash in seriously expensive and snazzy clubs to the more humble citizens in downright seedy bars, everyone seems to be slaking their thirst as only Muscovites know how. Clubs tend to be on the pricey side – and full of people admiring themselves. Some of the more recent additions have melded great international music with the less sophisticated pop fare for which the city used to be known. Moscow’s bouncers are famous for exercising what’s known as ‘face control’, a rigorous screening of people trying to get into their clubs. The best advice to get past would be to dress up a little more than usual. Many travellers are slightly disconcerted by the extent to which lap-dancing clubs are considered acceptable. A number of mainstream clubs that you’d never have thought to be strip joints even offer private suites for those with the money and the inclination.There are some places that one should definitely not miss.

beer-barrels-in-Kamchatka

Put on your dancing shoes

Gipsy

Thanks to its big summer terrace with a picturesque view of the Moscow River, Gipsy remains one of the most popular party locations. A big indoor dance floor with a bar in the middle, disco balls hanging from the ceiling and walls upholstered in fake cheetah skins help sustain the party atmosphere. The Gipsy’s public is rather pleasant and includes plenty of gorgeous girls. Some of the city’s best techno jams take place here on Fridays, while Saturdays are reserved for mash-up and alco-dance music. During the day, Gipsy transforms into a good restaurant, which we highly recommend visiting in summer for lunch on the terrace.

Solyanka

Solyanka is widely believed to be Moscow’s central nightclub. Once called a “hipster stronghold”, Solyanka is located in an antique mansion in the centre of Moscow. To enter the club, one has to climb up a marble spiral staircase leading to the first floor.The dance floor is the last of the rooms and also the most spacious. Parties are held from Thursday to Saturday (and sometimes on Sundays, too) and the music ranges from techno and house to funk and hip-hop. The club also hosts interesting guest performances on a weekly basis. Special mention should be given to the Love Boat party run by famous fashion blogger Vitaly Kozak.

During the day, Solyanka transforms into a trendy and quite affordable restaurant and the Thai curries are particularly good.Part restaurant and part club, Solyanka also has its own designer accessories shop and a fashion magazine on site. Spread across the second floor of an old mansion, parties here have the feel of a giant house party, albeit one where your friends are all unusually stylish and good-looking and don’t give a damn about jumping all over the furniture.

Sit Back & Relax

Muscovites are not always on some sort of hyperactivity trip. Some of them like to have laid back evenings as well and you can give them company at several places.

Kamchatka

Darling I’ll Call You Later

The Darling I’ll Call You Later chain consists of three Moscow bars that combine rock-n-roll, delicious beer at $6 and a home-like atmosphere. Here you can enjoy a tasty breakfast or lunch while watching a cinema masterpiece or a music show.

In the evening, major sports events are broadcast and football tables are installed for those willing to play. On Fridays and Saturdays, the bars throw parties, where famous TV presenters, editors-in-chief of glamour magazines and next-door music fans can all spin the turntables. A typical lunch here costs $20.

Kamchatka

Kamchatka is a city centre pub in a prime location right in front of the city’s most luxurious department store, TSUM (the local version of London’s Selfridges or Milan’s Rinoscente).This two-storey bar, meticulously decorated in Soviet-style, is a must-see for any foreigner interested in the drinking and eating habits of Communist Russia: Kamchatka’s menu complements its interior quite harmoniously. The 1980s and 1990s Soviet pop songs are played non-stop and the prices are quite affordable. The house speciality beer is called Kamchatka.

Sin City

The Hungry Duck

No guide to Moscow’s nightlife is complete without paying lip service at least to its most notorious venue. The Hungry Duck has seen some very raucous action in its time, and although it might not be quite the no-holds-barred haven of hedonism it once was, there’s still plenty of life in the old bird yet.At the peak of its popularity, “the Duck”, as it was known, was an icon of Moscow hedonism until it was closed in 1999 after complaints from members of the Russian State Duma. The bar was reopened in 2012.The bar was known for it’s uninhibited sexual and sometimes violent atmosphere. Its “Ladies Night” is especially notorious, with male strippers entertaining a packed bar filled with women paying almost no entrance fee and consuming free drinks.

Now that you are all sorted, get set to say dobryyvecher Moscow!

This article was written by Aarti Kapur Singh on http://www.gypsyonexploration.com/from-russia-with-love/

5-asian-hotels-for-a-budget-friendly-holiday

5 Asian Hotels For A Budget-Friendly Holiday

Posted By : Aarti K Singh/ 28 0

Travelling is an escape, a medium to get away from your daily mundane life. And you want to indulge in this luxury of travelling to some really exotic and tropical places, sipping on some bourbon with a great view. But we all want these fancy-dreamy trips at an affordable budget that doesn’t burn a hole in our pockets. Well, it is possible to have the cake, and eat it, and keep some in the fridge for tomorrow.

Here’s the best of both worlds – 5 Asian Hotels for A Budget-Friendly Holiday. These are places that are exotic and luxurious but under the budget of INR 50,000! Yes, it is for real, on this awesome website called www.escapesclub.in.!

Mövenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The magical city of Dubai has something for everyone

Brought to you by one of the world’s most iconic hotel brands, you can enjoy a memorable escape to the glamorous Arabian city of Dubai, where sun-kissed beaches meet exotic medinas, glittering architecture and world-class restaurants. Indulge at the palatial Mövenpick Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel Dubai with daily buffet breakfast, a welcome drink, 20% discount on Spa treatments and a leisurely late 4pm checkout. All this is available for 3 nights @₹20,574/room; all inclusions are valid for two people.

Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park, Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok is a cosmopolitan city buzzing with shopping, dining and nightlife

Soak up the electric atmosphere of Bangkok, staying in five-star luxury at Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park – perfectly positioned to enjoy the city’s shopping, dining and nightlife. Access exclusive M Club Lounge privileges including daily breakfast, nightly free-flow drinks and canapes and much more, and a welcome drink each at the hotel’s spectacular ABar Rooftop boasting panoramic views across the city skyline – plus, two kids 11 years and under stay free! All this is available for 3 nights @₹25,451/room; all inclusions valid for two people.

Saranam Resort & Spa, Bali, Indonesia

Experience a five-star wellness getaway in the centre of Bali. Nestled between an unspoiled landscape of volcanoes, tranquil waterfalls and scenic rice paddies, Saranam Resort & Spa is located just one hour from Ubud. Enjoy five or seven nights of tranquility in this all-meals-included escape featuring a private transfer to or from the airport, daily minibar refill, two 60-minute massages and two 30-minute reflexology treatments to share alongside daily meditation and yoga classes. Plus, there are no blackout dates! All this is available for 5 nights @₹52,290/room!

Sofitel Luang Prabang, Luang Prabang, Laos

Laos has many ancient Buddhist temples to explore

Discover the timeless beauty of Laos with a sophisticated stay in a century-old colonial mansion. Explore the ancient Buddhist temples and charming local villages of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Luang Prabang while staying at the five-star Sofitel Luang Prabang, enjoying daily breakfast, a traditional cooking class, an exotic dining experience at 3 Nagas Restaurant where you can sample authentic Lao cuisine, a daily cocktail and a lavish afternoon tea. Plus indulge in a relaxing 60-minute massage each, a foot ritual on arrival, airport transfers and more! The cost for 4 nights is ₹45,795/room!

Beyond Resort Khao Lak, Khao Lak, Thailand

Treat yourself to the ultimate romantic getaway at Beyond Resort Khao Lak, a relaxing adults-only haven set on a beautiful white sand beachfront. Surrender to complete relaxation in this palm-fringed oasis and indulge with daily buffet breakfast, two exotic buffet dinners, a daily cocktail or beer, two 30-minute massages per person, an exclusive invite to the resort’s management cocktail event with free-flow drinks and canapes, a Thai cooking class followed by lunch and a convenient airport pick up from Phuket. Enjoy this awesome holiday for 8 nights @ ₹50,719/room!

Wild Planet Jungle Resort, Nilgiris, India

An escape to a luxury hotel in the lap of nature is just the best thing

If you want a quick getaway within India to disconnect from the rest of the world, don’t look beyond the lush Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu with an exclusive stay at Wild Planet Jungle Resort, an intimate and secluded resort surrounded by nature. Spend two nights in a Valley View Cabin, offering splendid views over the wilderness, with breakfast, lunch and a romantic candle lit dinner included in your Escapes Club’s package – @₹21,977 /room for two nights for two people.

All these exotic destination vacations can be taken under the budget of INR 50,000. Flight costs for these destinations cost approximately within INR 15,000 to 30,000. So, it’s time for you to plan your next trip to one of these destinations. So get down those bags from your attic, take out your fancy vacation hats and fasten your seatbelts as you take off for your vacation to these 5 star properties in Asia- Happy travelling with Escapes Club!

5-awesome-backpacking-trips-to-undertake-this-year

5 Awesome Backpacking Trips To Undertake This Year

Posted By : Aarti K Singh/ 27 0

Whether you are trotting down a rustic ‘road’, jostling for seat space in a rickety rickshaw, or digging into local curries, a backpacking adventure in India is an education like no other!

If you branch out the beaten paths, that is. Backpacking is not everyone’s load to carry. It is only those carefree souls that are willing to experience places that are yet relatively (or more so) unaffected by the onslaught of mass commercialised tourism. Here are three really unusual destinations that offer lots of unusual sights, sounds and adventures – and allow you an authentic immersion into the vibe.

Pushkar

pushkar

Pushkar is that place with a mythical past where time tends to just stand still. Much like the lotus that Brahma, the Creator, is said to have dropped that led to the genesis of this town. Another legend alludes Shiva’s sorrowful tears for his wife Sati to have created the holy lake in the bang centre of what is believed to be one of the oldest towns of India. Yet another myth explains how a bird carrying the nectar of immortality dropped some at this spot – and so a holy dip is worth taking a chance for!

From mandatory camel rides to discovering mythological tales or unearthing royal secrets, there is so much to do. And the labyrinthine bylanes hide flavours that you may never have experienced. There is just so much to do in Pushkar. Do make the pre-sunrise trek to Savitri Temple – you can have the sun and the moon both in your sky. While walking around the temples, do wear closed shoes as snakes also love the heavenly vibe of Pushkar. Best season to visit Pushkar is between October to March as the weather is pleasant and cool. April to June are unbearably hot.

Because of Pushkar’s numero uno status among backpackers, there are a lot of budget options where you can stay while you explore Pushkar. Keep one thing in mind though – during the camel fair, prices multiply up to three-fold or more, so do book several weeks ahead. To reach Pushkar, you need to get a train to Ajmer. From Ajmer, Pushkar is a 45-minute bus journey.

Dharamkot

Dharamkot does not have the touristy kinds looking for nirvana. In fact it feels more like one’s own backyard because of the large number of people of Haryanvi and Punjabi descent. Even the language is a version of Punjabi. Trek through the cool forests in the region and get introduced to pristine and pure nature. Being on the base of Triund, in the Kangra valley in the Himalayas, possibly the most accessible snowline in the Himalayas, this area promises some serious hiking and trekking. Please don’t come here looking for luxury. And there is a serious amount of walking to do. In fact, this village doesn’t have any roads, except for a single road that leads to it. But the sounds of mountain birds, the whistling of air though deodar tree leaves, the distant smells of farm animals mixed with herb based cooking will awaken all your senses. Aimless walks through the village to various other view points, rocks, waterfalls and some treks will certainly help you find purpose in life. Do visit and spend some time with the children at Tibetan Children’s Village, that runs a school and training institute for about 2000 children (mostly orphans). Dharamkot is gorgeous all year round, though monsoons can pose a few accessibility issues and winters can be especially punishing. The quaint multicultural cafes serving fresh pita, orange cakes and a host of goodies certainly add to Dharamkot’s charm. Do try the Bhagsu cake – a crunchy pie crust, layered with sticky caramel toffee sauce and topped with dark or white chocolate. Homestays are the best option to crash in for a night, and in case you are staying for a month or more (yes, people do get charmed by this quaint destination), you can rent a whole house from the locals. You can reach Dharamshala and Dharamkot is a picturesque two kilometer walk.

Hampi

Hampi

This erstwhile capital of the Vijaynagar Empire is an open-air museum now, carved out of stone, for intrepid travellers. The stone ruins, the lamps lit by the priests in the temples, among the verdant greenery and the serenity of the Tungabhadra river, will take the strain off backpacking. The mystical stone formations keep you wonderfully awestruck. While one side of Hampi is dotted with architectural marvels, the other side, across the river, is a hamlet welcoming backpackers from all over the world.

A night spent playing hide and seek with the moon on the banks of the Tungabhadra is a serene experience. You could rent a bicycle for as little as Rs 50 a day or motorcycles at Rs 200 a day and gallivant all you want. Daroji Bear Sanctuary and the Elephant Stables are other attractions, at a stone’s throw from Hampi. November to February are the best time to visit Hampi. Hospet is the nearest railhead to Hampi and you can take the Hospet Passenger train from Bengaluru. From Hospet, autos or taxis take an hour to get to Hampi.

Varkala

Varkala, bordering Trivandrum is another backpackers’ haven with a delectable combination of peace, natural beauty and calm. This seaside destination is popular among backpackers for its sun bathing opportunities, swimming, water sports, seaside walks or just watching time go by, sitting on the beach, raising a toast to the setting sun. Then there are always the done-things to strike off from your list such as the Janardhana Swamy temple, Varkala beach, Anjengo fort, Kappil beach, Sivagiri Monastery and so on.

While the weather is hot and humid during most time of the year but December to February offer some reprieve with moderate weather. Do hire a scooter – it really is the best way to explore this unusual beach. Varkala Bus Station is well connected to all major cities of India. Varkala is just 47 km away from the NH 47. Though, this place is connected with all cities and towns, but if you wish you can avail bus from Kochi and Trivandrum to reach the destination.

Pondicherry

Pondicherry

This well-known destination is not just India’s version of the French Riviera. It is also a backpackers’ haven with colonial history and more than enough international appeal. The 2-kilometre sea-facing promenade that runs parallel to the Goubert Avenue is a miniature version of Mumbai’s Marine Drive. This is where locals and tourists gather every evening to dance to the tune of the waves. Pondicherry is a melting pot of activities. You can volunteer at any of the NGOs or in Auroville, surf the waves, explore the depths of the ocean with scuba diving – there is just so much to do! The stunning architecture of the houses, heritage hotels, chic boutiques and Parisian-style cafes will tempt you to just stand outside buildings and stare! The museums and the Botanical Garden (the setting of Life of Pi) are must-visits! For travelling within Pondicherry, opt for a local bus or the tempos. Try avoiding the rush hours unless you know you can make it the local way. You can also rent a bicycle for Rs. 50 a day to ride around the city and nearby places.

There are several buses that ply frequently from Chennai, Thanjaur, Trichy, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Madurai to Pondicherry.

What you waiting for? Now that you have the list, just pack your backpack and get going!

Things not to do in Ladakh

Things not to do in Ladakh!

Posted By : Sumit Singh/ 65 0

Please do not go to Ladakh just because he or she has done it,
Please go to Ladakh if you really want to do it!

La-dakh meaning the land of high passes is a beautiful cold desert in India with landscapes ranging from rocky / muddy barren mountains to snow-capped peaks, rivers, lakes, sand dunes, muddy / rocky terrains, lunar valleys, clear skies with cotton ball clouds or clouds all over. While it is beautiful, it is not an easy place to be at.

First of all, the place is just too far with almost-no to no roads at all which are also open just a few months a year. If you take a flight from anywhere to Leh, you have the risk of getting AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) and most of Ladakh is well above the minimum prescribed altitude for AMS. The locals are used to that as their bodies have adapted to higher altitudes and less oxygen, but a regular city dweller has not. While the natives can breathe and carry on with their daily chores normally, you will probably feel dizzy, will throw up, lose your appetite, all your energy and hence the overall reason to travel and explore. Sarchu, Pang, Leh, Pangong Tso, Khardungla are few points where AMS is common.

Thar

It is not safe! It is not about the people, normally the natives are very warm and helpful, way more than you expect. It is the terrains that are unsafe and a lot of tourists do not get it. You cannot drive in Ladakh the way you drive on city roads. One wrong turn or an unexpected landslide and that becomes the final trip of your life. Ladakh has many important and tough passes to go from one region to another such as:

Rohtang Pass (13000 ft) to cross-over from Manali,
Tanglang La (17400 ft),
Baralacha La (16000 ft),
Fotu La (13400 ft),
Namki La(12100 ft),
Chang La (17500 ft),
Wari La (17400 ft) – connecting Nubra to Pangong,
Lachulung La (16500 ft),
Zozi La (11500 ft) – connecting Ladakh via Srinagar,
Pensi la (14400 ft) – Connects Suru valley to Zanskar,
Marsimik La (18300 ft)

You can have “maggi in the mountains” for probably one Instagram post and 3-4 meals, but you cannot survive on maggi and boiled noodles for the entire Ladakh trip. It is not easy for tourists with insatiable junk-food cravings to spend a couple of weeks in Ladakh. For some, this trip might be the worst nightmare as they cannot gorge over their favorite sandwich, burger or pizza.

The landscapes are undoubtedly surreal, but do you know that Ladakh is the only place in the world where you can get sunburnt and get a frostbite at the very same time. So one really needs to tread with caution while spending hours to get that perfect picture with the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop under the sun and clouds.

It is not secluded anymore; in their quest for off-beat locations, the trend-setters have reached to the last impossible point of this barren cold desert leaving behind a huge carbon footprint and unfathomable tonnes of plastic waste. While they got their pictures and
stories, the authorities are still mulling over the fact that how can they retrieve the plastic waste back to where they can do something about it.

Water in Ladakh is a luxury, it is a cold desert after all. The river beds are drying up due to constant global warming and the natives are generally struggling with the water shortage the year round. In winters, because it is all snow and in summers, because of the huge tourist inflow. We do not want a situation like that in Shimla recently, when there was no more water available and the ground water was contaminated barring it for daily use. The authorities requested tourists to stay away.

The monasteries are not just about gompas, colorful silk cloths and buddha statues, they are really important in the culture of Tibetan Buddhists. It is a pious place for meditation, also institutes for buddhist studies which help shaping up the lives of the little monks that you have seen in pictures. While at a monastery you are required to be calm, quiet, respectful, not intrude anyone’s space and other things which are very difficult for modern day tourist to follow.

There are many other issues at the place, mostly caused by the tourists and a number of challenges existent for the natives since forever. This article is not aimed at discouraging you from visiting Ladakh. We Escape to Ladakh every year, for it is our most favorite
summer retreat, but we try and be as responsible towards the region as we can.

You must visit Ladakh if it is something you wish to do. Think of it as a huge natural painting that you are seeing and with each new stroke of color, you explore something new about nature and about yourself. Feel free to see the painting as much and for as long as you want, just do not spoil it.
To join our Escape to Ladakh 2019, click here https://www.escaperoute.co.in/trip/escape-to-ladakh-2019/

The Asian Highway

A Road that can take you Places: The Asian Highway (AH 1)

Posted By : Sumit Singh/ 170 0

Asian Highway 1 is the longest route of the Asian Highway Network running 20,557 kms starting from Tokyo in Japan running through South Korea- North Korea- China- Hong Kong- Vietnam- Cambodia- Thailand- Myanmar where it joins the network of Indian National Highways. In the North-Eastern part of India, it starts from NH 39 ( Moreh –  Imphal – Kohima-  Dimapur ) running through NH 36 ( Dimapur – Nagaon ), NH 37 ( Nagaon –  Jorabat ) and NH 40 ( Jorabat – Shillong-  Dawk i) before entering into Bangladesh.

After a stretch of 508 kms in Bangladesh, it rejoins India in Petrapole which is a border check point between India and Bangladesh.  NH 35 ( Petrapole  – Kolkata), NH 19 (Kolkata – Durgapur -Asansol – Barhi – Allahabad – Kanpur – Agra – New Delhi), NH 1 (New Delhi – Jalandhar- Attari) from where it goes into Pakistan via the Wagah border. The total stretch of the AH 1 in India is 2,648 kms out of which 2640 kms is 2 lane and more while only 8 kms is 1 lane.

NH 1 is the Imperial Highway of the Indian sub-continent that we all have travelled a hundred times and which is popularly known as the Grand Trunk Road or GT Road is one of Asia’s oldest and longest roads that connects the major countries of the Indian subcontinent (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh). It is also a part of the Asian Highway 1 (AH 1) which is one of the branches of the much larger network of Asian Highways running through 14 countries having an intriguing and a vast history that dates back to the Mauryan Period of 4th Century.

The Highway was given different names under different imperial rulers.

  • “Uttarapath” (Uttara- meaning north and –path meaning route) was the name given during the Mauryan period (4th – 2nd Century BCE) to the highway that extended from Balkh in Afghanistan to Tamluk in West Bengal and was marked by the stupas and Ashokan Pillars at
    various places
  • During the Sur Dynasty under Sher Shah Suri, a Pashtun Emperor of the 16th Century the road was reconstructed under the name of “Sadak-e-Azam” or “Shah Rah-e-Azam” (the Greatest Road) and trees were planted along it apart from various sarais, temples, mosques, gurudwaras, associated water bodies for safety and well-being of the travelers. This connecting route was important to link the inaccessible provinces of his massive empire to make trade and travel easier from administrative and military point of view.
  • Under the Mughal Rule (16th – 19th Century CE), the highway came to be known as the “Badshahi Sadak”. They further refined the road by improving the physical characteristics of the road and its surroundings.
  • In the 19th century, under the British Colonial rule, this route was renamed to “the Long Walk” or as we know it today as “the Grand Trunk Road” where “Trunk Road” means a major road connecting two or more cities and which is considered as the recommended route for long distance travels.

Today this route has been divided into two Highways, National Highway 1 (link to the west to Delhi upto Attari, Punjab) and National Highway 2 (link to the east of Delhi upto Kolkata) and are maintained by the National Highways Authority of India.

The Grand Trunk Road ends at Attari, Punjab in India but goes on till Kabul in Afghanistan from where it stretches further connecting Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey where it merges with the European route marked as E80 leading to the European cities of Dubrovnik, Pescara, Rome, Valladolid, Salamanca, and finally on to Lisbon.

So the next time you travel through these National Highways keep a look out for boards that are marked AH 1 as you would be driving on a 20,557 kms stretch of road that can take you places. So, air is not the only medium you can use to travel around the world anymore. We’d suggest you to keep that passport handy!

India's Mini Switzerland

India’s Mini Switzerland… 6194 kms.. from Berne

Posted By : Laliitha Aiyer/ 247 0

There’s something about the Mountains….

Something that draws my soul to them repeatedly….

There’s a life lesson in the Mountains, the higher we travel, the sounds and sights get more magical… its almost like they are telling you- ‘Make the effort to know me and you will experience the ethereal’…

My quest to be in the mountains has taken me across some of the most marvelous vistas of India… Himachal, Uttarakhand,  Kashmir, in the North,  the Western Ghats in Maharashtra and Kerala, the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu and more recently, the eastern Himalayas in Sikkim. Just like ocean lovers will vouch that there is a uniqueness to each ocean and sea and even different beaches along the same coastline, each Mountain is amazingly distinct and every town, village and pitstop along the ascents and descents, has a view, breeze, ambience that’s its own…

When I ventured to travel solo for the first time, I opted for Khajjiar, a tiny Hamlet nestled in the Dhauladhar Mountain Range in Himachal Pradesh, 25 kms from Dalhousie. A friend suggested the place and I was drawn from that moment onward.

Referred to as Mini Switzerland, there’s a signboard in the picturesque Khajjiar meadow ( where innumerable Bollywood films have been shot) showing the distance from Khajjiar to the Swiss capital, Berne- 6194 kms..

Most travelers on the tourist trail tend to stay at Dalhousie and opt for a mandatory sight-seeing day sojourn to Khajjiar….A gross injustice to oneself, rather than to the location… Experiencing Khajjiar up close by living within its folds, was for me, far more enriching, amazing and uplifting than the time I spent in Dalhousie..

My journey to Khajjiar began with a flight to Chandigarh and then a road journey to Khajjiar.. Had a comfortable vehicle waiting for me at Chandigarh airport that I had pre booked… Since I was travelling by myself, the owner of Saini travels, Kiran Pal Singh ( 9815925310)  who has a fleet of vehicles for Corporates and individual travelers, was thoughtful to the extent of joining the driver and me for the 8 hour journey to Khajiiar.. The journey went off comfortably and in a spirit of camaraderie.. ( the shorter route to Khajjiar is by flying to Amritsar and driving down from there via Pathankot).

For the discerning traveler ( that I am) Khajjiar offers a lone and thankfully one of the best accommodation facilities, in the Deodar Manor Heritage Bungalow. A fairy tale manor set in the midst of breathtaking topography, the centenarian bungalow is owned by the family of Sardar Hanut Singh Bal.

I enjoyed the best of both worlds at the Manor, with a luxury style Room and Bath (they have five rooms with different names based on the view from the room) that opened onto a spacious verandah opening into a sight for tired city eyes.. The warmth of Room service and homely meals cooked in the Manor kitchen made the experience altogether delectable. To my good fortune, I was the lone guest at that time and no intruders to my time with myself..

The lush Khajjiar Meadow is a short descending walk from the Manor… ringed by a circular pathway to amble on, Having taken a half circle of the meadow, I went on to sink my feet into the grass to walk across the meadow.. The Khajjiar lake is right in the centre of the meadow.. Depending on the time of the year that you visit, the lake can be smaller or fuller…There are benches to sit on and breathe in the silence, bird song, and the overall marvel of Khajjiar..  As long as I was in the meadow, tourist cars kept driving into the periphery to offload tourists and take them back to Dalhousie.. It was July and offseason so blissfully not as many people and as noisy as it could have been. But yes, I need to visit Khajjiar once again in winter to experience the snow carpeted views and feel..

Just off the meadow is a temple with a 85 metre towering, beautifully carved statue of Lord Shiva.. Whether you stand at its feet or take in its beauty as you walk through the multiple trekking routes around, or have a one of its kind view from atop as your paraglider soars over, the statue apparently has been spreading its bliss and peace into the surroundings…

One of the most memorable experiences of Khajjiar was going on a trek with a local guide arranged by the Manor staff, taking a rustic, jungle route, off the beaten path…  just the sound of our muffled footsteps in the grass and bramble, occasional birds, the wind as we climbed higher, a few cows and goats here and there…. And the green mountain range and blue sky dotted with pristine white clouds…. We climbed till we got a sort of small flat plateau at around 12000 feet and there were the paragliding team waiting… We waited a short while for the right wind speed and direction.. Then I was strapped… and off we soared….. High above the mountain range, the meadow, the tiny homes, the imposing statue… literally getting a birds eye view…. it was a superlative feeling… and then the safe landing in an open grassy area… Wow! An experience I relive many times over and will always remain treasured..

To those with a passion for the mountains, a discretion for the ‘different’, a yearning for basking in the lap of Nature, in one of its multifarious attractions… I would sincerely recommend a trip to Khajjiar as a standalone destination..

Hike to Triund, Two Rainbows and the Sleepless Night

Posted By : Sumit Singh/ 249 0

Life of a travel and hospitality entrepreneur comes with its own challenges. A day is never enough and the nights put up a pause in number of things you can do. There is no weekend, day-off, holiday, as a matter of fact ‘holidays’ are busier than regular days.

Last year, around this time, I managed to squeeze some time out for myself with the sole motive of a reccee trip, which is aimed at discovering a new place, new experience. I managed to finish some work and pushed all pending assignments to future. A 4-day solo
motorcycle expedition across the northernmost part of Himachal around to the amazingly beautiful and smooth Pathankot Mandi route.

Somehow the idea of a solo long motorcycle trip over a new route infuses an amazing sense of adventure in you. Moving away from concrete roads and sights of garbage towards no roads and views of approaching mountains is a happy feeling. The unfamiliar terrains
instilled the same effect as did the Mumbai – Delhi motorcycle ride a couple of year ago. At dusk, the motorcycle headlight was matching its way with the center line markings right in the middle of mountains and deep valleys. With the surroundings being completely dark
and nothing to witness other than an occasional fox, porcupine and wild rabbits, it was kind of getting sheepishly boring. Right at that moment, I spotted it staring at me with such love and a bright off-white illuminance. I have not particularly been an admirer of the brightest and the closest star in the sky, but let us blame it on the past few hours of looking through the helmet blinders, the moon really appeared as if it was talking to me. As I tried to comprehend the exact meaning of our distinguished conversation, I was disturbed by a
panicking honk. As I stopped to notice the disturbance, there was this startled gentleman in his mid 20s staring at me with fear in his eyes and mouth wide-open. As I turned back to understand his agony, it appeared I had lost track of the line markings and was heading
straight towards the drop (moon, if my opinion counts here). With an awkward smile, I turned and rode past that angel while he stood their frozen and dazed to exchange any words or even reply to my awkward smile.

After a fifteen-hour tiring ordeal, Dharamshala welcomed me with such soothing arms that I literally gave in to the comfort of the mattress and white clean linen unmindful of hunger and other formalities. I woke up next morning to breakfast overlooking the Dhauladhars. I met a couple of Australians who schooled me on the best things to do and places to see in and around Dharamshala. Overwhelmed by their detailed itineraries and quest to help me do / see the right things, I deemed it fit to leave the place before they started fighting and set out towards the globally renowned Triund peak; although it was my first time in the vicinity. Mcleodganj is the in-thing they say and it is so packed that you might want to stay on its circumference if you are looking at a date with the mountains. But sadly so, the route to Triund passes through the overcrowded, honk-full cross-road in the main market of Mcleodganj. It is time, we preserve the sanctity of such places by making them vehicle-free.

You are not a ‘traveler’ if you don’t know that Triund is approx. 8kms from the Mcleodganj parking spot, but if you have a pair pf two-wheels with you, you can shorten the hike by another 2 kms. Pleased with my smart move like many others, I started my 6km hike
towards Triund top around noon. I was told that it’s a long a not-so-easy trek. As I walked past the police check-point at the beginning, it was humbling to note the garbage-bins and garbage bags being offered to all trekkers. God bless all our waste warriors.

My garbage bag was soon filled with all the plastic lying on the route and I used my rucksack to store the remaining pieces, till that was full too. It dawned on me that I am probably the most inexperienced hiker in our country as I walked through the ‘travelers’ devoid of
Bluetooth speakers, loud chatting friends, fried chips, cool sunglasses, cold-drink bottles, the occasional hat and the ubiquitous ‘ J-stuff’ in my pocket.

The trek to Triund top is beautiful, thankfully the path is not covered with tiles offering a natural feel just like valley of flowers and few other treks / hikes in our country. A little over couple of hours and I was welcomed at the top with rain and sunshine at the same time
giving birth to multiple rainbows. While I was struggling to click a selfie with the rainbows in the background, a soft-spoken god-sent girl pulled me out of my misery and helped me spoil an otherwise beautiful image of the valley, rainbows and a hill dog. It took a while for the
rain to subside and there was ample time for us to exchange words under a little shed offered by the chai-ki-tapri.

I had not realized till that very moment, that if you do not have a chalked-out itinerary of your trip, do not know much about the place or choose to listen than talk and are just taking things as they come, you are interestingly cool, not strange. After the rain, there was a lot of
work for the limited caretakers and too many tourists as I found my tent for the night. There was suddenly a barrage of ‘travelers’ emerging out of different tents and corners of the Triund ridge as they overtook one huge rock at a time and their partners clicked new profile pictures for their social media pages. Somethings are witnessed better with eyes and the go-pro set to capture the sunset time-lapse didn’t help much, else that and not the sunset would have become the highlight of my Triund video.

I met another lone soul who had lost his friends to another group and was struggling to get a good picture of himself with the amazing background. I helped and the same was reciprocated. My picture went on to get me the highest number of likes on my Instagram till
date, thanks much (really tried finding his insta handle, hope he reads this and helps me update the same). Let’s call him Harsh (pls don’t kill me for this). After a brief exchange of words with Harsh while shooting lightening in the shy, he decided to join me in the latter
part of my road trip. He was warned of all the uncomfortable adventures that could present themselves in the days to come, but looked like Harsh is a risk-seeker. So, he gave up his tent and moved next to mine. The night was pretty much uneventful minus the loud
cheering and singing and tripping over tents by all the party people at The Triund ridge. After finishing the sunrise shot and watching a restless line outside the only toilet at the Triund ridge, we decided to race back to Mcleodganj with our intestines tied to each other
preventing mishap on the way down. We shot the introduction shot for the Triund video on the way down as I had Harsh hold my smartphone for a couple of retakes (P.S. if you don’t like the intro, please remember the situation we were in). We moved on to cover more of Mandi-Pathankot National Highway in the following two days, more on that later.

Facts and information about Triund:

  • The trek till Triund ridge is popular (read overhyped) among the college crowd of North India who would lose their breath while trekking up but will sing loud songs over liquor and marijuana outside their tents all night.
  • Travelers do not care of cleanliness or hygiene, though there are some real warriors who are trying to help preserve the place for the next generation (if at all).
  • A lot of travel agents are overselling Triund as a hot cake and the cost for a tent ranges between INR 600 – INR 1500 per night depending on your vulnerability and their smartness. The local agents’ coterie does not really allow you to pitch your
    tents on the top as also there is no place left.
  • It is a beautiful ridge with amazing views of Dhauladhar and the valleys. It is an easy trek for anyone with average levels of fitness. The height of the ridge is over 2800 meters, 9350 ft.
  • If you are looking for a decent sleep at night, Try and take a tent farthest from the crowd and hope for the best.
  • The trek till Indrahar pass (Altitude 4342 meters, 14245 ft) is ideal but only deal with it if you are serious and prepared for it. It is ideal to take a guide along for Indrahar pass.

Request: If you are heading to Triund anytime soon, please respect nature and try and leave the place as you would like to see it again.

Watch the video for a visual delight.

 

Venice To Start Charging Day Visitors With An Entry Fee Soon

Posted By : SS/ 195 0

Apart from paying a charge of €3, you will also have to pre-book your day visit to the Italian city.

If a Venice trip is what you have in mind for this summer, make sure to keep your entry permit handy. The island city will soon begin to charge an entry fee of €3 (INR 246/-) from its day visitors, starting May 1 this year. The decision was taken keeping in mind the heavy tourist inflow to Venice every year. However, students and the tourists there for an overnight stay, are left exempted from the same, since the hotel tariffs in the city already include a tourist fee.

Additionally, from next year on, this fee will vary from €3 (INR 246), €6 (490) upto €10 (INR 820/-), depending on the inflow during the day. The levy charges will be incorporated into tickets of tourists who arrive by cruise ship, in water taxis and by plane or train. If caught, the defaulters will have to pay a hefty fine of €100 (INR 8,200/-), which can go as high as €450 (INR 36,000/-). An online system for pre-booking day visits will also be introduced in 2020. Alternatively, you can avoid all the hassle by snagging a Venezia Unica pass that will cover entrance, public transportation, and even pre-paid entry to a few popular spots in the city.

As per records, over 60,000 tourists visit the city during a day without staying the night, and contribute very little to economic growth. Outnumbering the total of 55,000 residents, this huge number of tourists imposes a great stress on transportation, sewage and other services. Hence, the money raised would go after cleaning and maintaining the lagoon city.

Don’t follow travel; not to find peace at least!

Posted By : Sumit Singh/ 507 0

Either you are not as good as you are, or you are better than you thought you were. Either ways, who are you?

 

We live in world where deadlines are getting shorter and the list of aspirations is just getting longer. Everyone wants to support peace but there is no peace whatsoever, not in the world outside, not inside your own mind.

 

Everyone is looking to try something new, get a new experience, a new photograph, a new story in this never-ending race to be different. Travel has always been there as an option, but it has been expensive so far. Not so anymore.

 

Thanks to our photographers, bloggers, story tellers, social media stars, travelling is not an unaffordable luxury anymore. One can travel the whole world sitting at home without moving an inch and even better without spending a naya (new) paisa. Even if you have not been to the leaning tower of Pisa, or the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Safaris in South Africa or experienced the chill in the Himalayas; you exactly know what the place looks like, smells like, feels like or even tastes like. You have seen so many pictures again and again especially of the landmarks and even the off-beat places that you already know what to expect where and what to do when a plan B is called upon. You may not like it if you actually visit the place. Fiction is better than reality and its free.

 

It is being hammered into your mind at each social media platform that experience is the new currency and if you do not know about it, you are losing out. Brands are already portraying their products, services as an excuse to feed your never-satiating hunger for new experiences. Society is made of all of us, each one is a story teller and nobody wants to listen to the same story twice, doesn’t matter if you have the same story with a different experience, you will be written off at the beginning itself.

 

So, there are ones who want to tell you about all the experiences you are missing out on and make your already difficult life even more miserable. And there are those who are yelling at you to do your own thing, even if you do not know it. They are asking you to quit your job, jump off the building while calling it a leap of faith. Who would you believe?

 

Either you are not as good as you are, or you are better than you thought you were. Either ways, who are you?

 

We are reading, watching stories each day about people who are doing well, not-so-well, failing or making it big because they dreamt big. There you are also being reminded about writing your own stories and making it big for yourself.

 

Some of us travel to find peace, some go till Nainital, some till Ranikhet and some take the literal pain to reach the foothills of Himalayas while a select few climb it too. No matter how far you go, you will still have to pass through the traffic snarl at Ghaziabad, then Meerut, Hapur and so on both on your way to attain peace as well as on your back after having attained peace.

 

What is cruel is the restlessness of the other car which overtakes you wrongly at the toll point just to save that extra 10 seconds and then, there you drop the peace you had travelled all the way for. It must be true that peace comes from within but then some of us need to travel to find fresh air to find that peace within. There is a strong correlation between peace and things like fresh air, no-honks quiet, nature, innocent smiles etc. I am still trying to decode the same and I am told many people are trying to find a solution to attain peace at home. I hope someone cracks the code soon so that there is less traffic on the city borders for regular travelers.

 

I do not have a solution to any of the problems, no one has, probably each one of us has and we must try to find ours. If you keep searching for it on social media or in stories, that solution may not work for you. Either ways, just take a deep breath or not, drop that damn social-media-marketing-products-selling-device from your hand and find out what the problem is. There probably is none and just anxiety being caused by the thing you just dropped.