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bharath's avatar
02:14 PM
31 July 2009
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A journey to Ladakh

Posted By bharath

When I think about Ladakh, the tale cannot be narrated without starting from the very beginning. Having made vague plans to travel to Ladakh six months previously the time to do something about it was overdue. I had decided to buy myself a Qualis with the express purpose of travelling to Ladakh with it. Of course, Toyota had stopped making the vehicle as the modern and up to date successor had been launched. The demand for the older cousin however, had not diminished at all, I must have driven over 20 of them before I found “the one”. When I did lay eyes on her, she had broken taillights and a cracked windshield and was covered in a layer of mud, but when I entered the cabin, the dash and upholstery were well maintained, and the engine was brilliant. I knew that this was the prefect vehicle the moment I drove it. To cut a rather lengthy explanation short …..I bought a Qualis.
The journey to Delhi was very interesting as we followed the GQ with the scenery changing from state to state. The most surprising aspect was the road itself, never having driven on the GQ before it was a brilliant experience as we covered 800km a day without too much effort (the road had just been completed). It had been a while since I had been to Delhi and really enjoyed the change, since the induction of CNG had changed the air quality.
We continued our drive up north after, spending a few days in Delhi recuperating. Manali brought about a dramatic change in scenery as we were now in the Himalayas. We enjoyed spending a couple of days resting in Manali and stocking up on canned food etc in case of an emergency. The drive from Manali to Leh is one of the most brilliant drives in the world. Nothing compares to the change in landscape from Himachal to Ladakh. The 475km drive took us two days, as is the norm but we weren’t keen on doing it any faster. The starkness of Ladakh is mesmerizing and the road extremely dangerous.

Anyone who enjoys driving has to do this section of India. 
The danger about driving here is the possibility of high altitude sickness and we were starting to show signs of it. Manali being approx 6000 feet and our overnight stay at Sarchu being close to 14000 feet didn’t help matters either. Lingering around was not an option and getting to led as soon as possible was important. Leh being a pleasant 11000 feet and planted with vegetation was the ideal place to acclimatize.

I shall curtail my narration to mention just two places which are my favorite in Ladakh. Pang Gong Tso and Tso Moriri. We had spent nearly an entire month driving through Ladakh, to Nubra Valley, Rupsu Valley as well as numerous monasteries Hemis, Thiksey etc. covering all the 3 highest passes in the world in the process each place was unique and brilliant in ways that would take pages and pages to describe. Enclosing photographs here, will I hope compensate with regard to the other places.

Pang Gong Tso was the first lake we went to, around approx.140 km from Leh the road passes through the third highest pass in the world Chang La. The word ‘Tso’ means lake in Ladakh and Pang gong is definitely that, the lake stretches for 130 km from India to china, with 2/3rds of the lake in china. The drive to the lake is through typical Ladakhi roads but the terrain after the pass is marshy where it is possible to spot the Black Neck Crane, Marmorts, and Mountain Goat. As you make your way to the village of Tangste the lake is around 40 km from here. Driving to the lake as you make your way around the last turn you are greeted by all shades of blue. It makes for a spectacular sight as you see the lake surrounded by snow capped peaks in the background.

We managed to driving 7 km along the lake to a village called Spangmik where we spent the afternoon eating lunch and watched the sun break through the clouds. The water on the Indian side is brackish largely due to minerals dissolved in it, the Chinese side however has fresh water. It wasn’t possible to drive right up to the end as the road was non existent even to Spangmik. Pang gong is one spectacular lake and worth going back to.
Tso Moriri is located around 240km from Leh and is in the Rupsu Valley, it is about 28km long and it is possible to drive along the lake right up to Korzok the nearest village to the lake. The color of the water at Tso Moriri is a deep ink blue that has to be seen to be believed.

This area is populated by the Kampas who are nomadic in nature tending to their goats and yaks. This region has quite a bit of wildlife and is protected though the area surrounding Tso Moriri is especially vulnerable because of poor soil and precipitation. Surface damage and uprooted grass takes years to repair itself and therefore one needs to tread carefully when walking around the lake as well as driving.

Spending a couple of days here was worth the detour because of the breath taking views we were subjected to on a regular basis. The road on the way back existed only on paper as we drove through sand and stone trying to find our way back.
The brilliance about Ladakh and the brilliance about driving there is the isolation which is hard to find in the rest of the country. We would have driven for hours before we even passed another vehicle or human being, sometimes after having driven for a couple of hours the only signs of life would be a herd of goats that we may have spotted far away in the horizon.
We did manage to return to Bangalore without any incidents, but with memories of Ladakh always lingering on.   

radhika's avatar
03:34 PM
30 July 2009
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Ek Cutting chai, please

Posted By radhika

My route with chai and specifically masala chai on the streets of India has been a long and winding one. For me, masala chai has always been about sugar and spice and all things nice( Yes, chai is the only strong gujju trait that I religiously cling on to.)

Tea is the highest beverage drunk the world over second only to water. From China to England to India to Morocco tea has left its mark on every civilization. In some ways I think it is because tea can adapt itself to many cultures and brings an inventiveness in terms of individual tastes and expression.

Coined from the word Chinese word cha, tea is about 5000 years old and masala chai is said to be an ayurvedic concoction. Anyone who has traveled through India notices the masala chai ingrained in everyday life be it round street corners, the railway stations in every little village to every major city( except maybe in the south where coffee is more popular).Kept hot in small kettles, the brewed concoction consists of black tea, milk and sugar and the famous mixes of spices or the masala.The tea is usually Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon or Nilgiri leaves. The spices consists of cardamom, ginger, crushed pepper. Other add-ons are cloves, lemongrass and fennel. Jaggery or Gur is often used instead of sugar in villages.

The ubiquitous chaiwallah serves his chai with snacks and local gossip and a tea stall is where I have made countless acquaintances and had a number of discussions with random people. What I love while traveling especially by the Indian railway is the call of the chaiwallah early in the morning. Driving through tiny villages esp in Bihar where it is served in Khullars( clay cups) which are to be smashed to the ground once you drink the tea gets me equally excited.. Back to the earth where they came from( Instant recycling!!)
Specifically called cutting chai in Mumbai (it refers to half a glass of tea) my evening chai-time at home is my ‘quiet time with myself’ and chai shared with many friends over endless discussions especially in the monsoon is one of my favourite things in the world.

My always empty glass of cutting

P.s- For all you tea lovers do let me tell you about my close friend Mo’s story on hibiscus tea or karkady sometime… smile


radhika's avatar
02:19 AM
30 July 2009
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Traveler Types! A fun quiz.

Posted By radhika

No two travelers are alike. Some like to soak up the rays on a white beach while others run from museums to archeological sites. Some swim with the dolphins while others would rather enjoy meals swimming in sumptuous sauces.
Since all 12 of us couples obviously enjoy traveling I thought it might be fun to see what travel personality types we belong to…

Select one choice for each of the questions below. Then check out the scoring section to determine your travel type. smile

1. When it comes to vacation dining:

a. You’d like to find out how to cook those decadent desserts yourself. (3 points)

b. You’re happy with a burger and a pina colada served on the beach. (1 point)

c. You’re game to try conch meat (yes, those things that look like really big snails) or unidentifiable fruits from the rainforest. (5 points)

d. You’d enjoy a bountiful buffet while watching islands in the distance. (2 points)

e. You prefer a quiet, candlelit restaurant. (4 points)

2. What do you think of Parasailing?

a. It’s great to watch from the beach. (1 point)

b. It’s OK to watch from a great distance. (2 points)

c. You’ve got to try it for the thrill. (5 points)

d. It’s interesting to read about. (3 points)

e. You want to meet that Nice looking man/woman who you saw Parasailing. (4 points)

3. Your idea of a terrific place to stay is:

a. A snug condo far from any bustling cities, with a fridge stocked with champagne. (4 points)

b. A well-appointed room with a view of the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum or Buckingham Palace. (3 points)

c. A thatched cottage on the beach with the sounds of the surf lulling you to sleep. (1 point)

d. A quiet cabin on a ship with the waves rocking you to sleep. (2 points)

e. A large tent in the jungle, with the roar of lions lulling you to sleep. (5 points)

4. Your idea of vacation entertainment is:

a. Non-stop glitzy shows, dancing and sports. (2 points)

b. Touring an art museum. (3 points)

c. Listening to lounge music at an club. (4 points)

d. Lying down on the beach. (1 point)

e. Flying in a helicopter over an erupting volcano. (5 points)

5. Your dream landscape:

a. Has breathtaking sunsets, a full moon and shimmering stars at night. (4 points)

b. Is a city skyline with breathtaking white marble monuments. (3 points)

c. Has swaying palm trees, turquoise waters and miles of shimmering sands. (1 point)

d. Is a sapphire-blue sea with islands on the horizon. (2 points)

e. Is filled with immense orchids, lush trees, and has a tiger or two in the distance. (5 points)

6. On vacation, you like to wear:

a. A wide assortment of brightly-colored bathing suits. (1 point)

b. Casual clothes in the daytime and elegant dresses at night. (2 points)

c. Sexy clothes all through the day and night.. (4 points)

d. T-shirts, hiking shorts and combat boots in the daytime and a mosquito net at night. (5 points)

e. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re experiencing something new each day. (3 points)

7. Your dream vacation:

a. Has animals, plants and cuisine that you couldn’t imagine before. (5 points)

b. Includes learning new skills. (3 points)

c. Includes several destinations. (2 points)

d. Must have a steamy climate. (1 point)

e. Must have interesting people. (4 points)

Your Travel Type Revealed

To figure out your score, add up the points after the answers you chose.

1 to 7 points: The Sun God/Goddess. Destinations like the U.S. Virgin Islands, Aruba and Sicily are sure to give you the tan and beachside relaxation you deserve.

8 to 14 points: The Cruise Controller. For non-stop meals and entertainment, hop a cruise ship and sail around the Mediterranean, the Caribbean or other ocean-and-fun-filled destinations.

15 to 21 points: The Culture Vulture. You’re happiest learning about culture, cooking, history and other subjects. Book a vacation with a cooking school in France or Italy, or take a language immersion course in Mexico or South America.

22 to 28 points: The Romantic Wanderer. You want to spend time with your significant other, or you dream of meeting a new love on foreign shores. Islands like Maui in Hawaii or Anguilla in the Caribbean beckon you with their tropical landscapes.

29 to 35 points: The Adventure King/Queen. You’re not afraid of giant insects or weird animals that bump into your tent at night. Sign up for an African safari, or experience the rainforests in Brazil or Panama.

P.S- The quiz copyright @ BBW magazine.

radhika's avatar
01:00 AM
30 July 2009
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India Inspirations…

Posted By radhika

While thinking about my travel plan this evening( Yes, I was in a meeting and barely paying attention!) I realized that traveling across India always inspires me to experiment with my art be it photography, a little dabbling with watercolors( I am super bad at it but am going to keep going till I find a style) or writing. The sensory overload..The smells, the colors, the textures gives me food for thought. Always.

Shooting images of people has made me a keen observer of peoples quirky ways of fashion…Looking at street style is something I love to do. The styles and wraps and drapes of turbans, saris, ghaghras and dhotis, The colors- all warm and earthy, bright and bold mixes of pinks and oranges..Every moment you stop in India and observe its ways you can be inspired to create..From its sculpture, paintings and everyday life..Its all right there for the taking… Every way of life an inspiration to be used to reinvent one’s style.

Putting in here interesting India inspired fashion( not from Indian designers who obviously have a knack for the Indian but famous fashion houses from all over the world giving us “India Inspired Collections” smile

The house of Hermes and their new scarf collection

Givenchy and their new spring line.
“I saw India as a bombardment of colors bursting forth to the rhythm of film music. I had already been a fan of this infectious music for a long time, but of course it was the imagery that really grabbed me—Bollywood and its palettes of colors burst with beams of light. In India, it’s so natural to be daring. No matter what medium you choose for venturing into this exoticism, what you find is Mother India and her deep roots, based on truly tangible values: earth, water, and light.
makeup artistic director, Nicolas Degennes

P.s- Here’s to hoping all of us get India-Inspired be it in cooking, painting or whatever we may choose to express ourselves with… smile

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About us

Being best friends with Bharath has been my biggest challenge to date. Constantly arguing about most topics under the sun and having diametrically opposite perspectives to life makes us such good friends.

Having met at photography school, our shared passion for travel, culture, music, books and art made us drive off to different places on photography ‘assignments’. 5 years down post-grad school we still make spontaneous trips to feed our wanderlust.


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