10 Reasons Why Spiti Valley Should Be On Your Bucket List

A couple of weeks back, I got an opportunity through Wanderknots to take few travellers to the mystic valley of Lahaul and Spiti in the state of Himachal Pradesh.

Spiti is a sparsely populated cold mountain desert which is still one of the most unexplored destinations in Himachal Pradesh. Of late, Spiti is slowly gaining popularity among travelers looking to drift away from the tourist trails.

The valley remains cut off from the rest of India for six months during winters but when it opens up, it is a beauty that should not be missed by any traveler.

Here are the 10 reasons why Spiti valley should be on every traveler’s bucket list:

  1. Magnificent Landscapes

Spiti Valley is by far the most beautiful destination I have ever been to.  In your journey throughout the valley, you will find varied landscapes which are a feast to the eyes. And never does a person get tired of seeing these stunning views.

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  1. Rustic Travel

Spiti is not commercialised like Ladakh. Often called the long lost cousin of Ladakh, Spiti has bare minimum necessities for the travellers. Homestay in the villages is a humbling experience. With nothing fancy to offer, the rustic travel will remain one of the best travelling experiences I have ever had.

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  1. See a Naturally Mummified Body of a Monk

One can see find naturally mummified body of Sangha Tenzin in Gue, a Tibetan Buddhist Monk, who according to a folk lore, is believed to have sacrificed his life to save the town from scorpion infestation.

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  1. Send Postcards from World’s Highest Post Office

    Spiti boasts to have the World’s Highest Post office. The small post office is located in Hikkim village at an altitude of 14567 ft. You can send postcards to your near and dear ones from this post office and keep the letter writing culture alive.

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  2. Visit Highest Village connected with a motorable road

The world’s highest village connected with a motorable road, Komik, is in Spiti. Komik is located near Kaza, the district head quarter of Lahaul and Spiti District.

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  1. Visit ancient monasteries

Spiti is home to some of the oldest monasteries in the world. Tabo Monastery, Key Monastery, Dhankar monastery are some of the monasteries to visit in the valley.

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  1. View Marine fossils

    At 14000+ ft lies Langza village known to house marine fossils. One can see fossils of marine creatures and plants that lived on our planet millions of years ago. Currently government has put a ban on collecting fossils from here.

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  1. Enjoy simple yet tasty food

Be it Dal Chawal and paranthas at a homestay or momos and Thukpas in a small restaurant, Spitians offer you yummy food to relish.

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  1. Camping at Chandrataal lake

Camping at Chandrataal Lake is one of the highlights of a trip to Spiti.  Tucked in between snow-capped mountains, the turquoise blue lake is a stunner. The crescent shaped lake is accessible on foot from Batal and Kunzum Pass and there is also a motorable road. Camps are set up 3 km away from the lake. You can either trek or drive up to the lake.

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  1. To live without network

Lastly, with only BSNL sim cards working in few areas of the valley, one can enjoy a network free holiday. Today when we are used to updating every minute detail of our lives on social media, living without network for some time is highly recommended. It encourages you appreciate nature, food and the people you are spending time with.

 

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6 Things To Do In Amritsar

Located in Punjab, the holy city of Amritsar is just a 7 hour bus ride from Delhi. Founded in 1577 by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ram Das, the holy city is a spiritual and cultural centre of the Sikh religion. The city attracts thousands of tourists every year.

One can easily cover the city’s main attractions in two days. Here is my list of things that one must do once in Amritsar:

  1. Visit the Golden Temple
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    View of the Golden Temple, Amritsar during day time

For years, Golden Temple in Amritsar had been on my bucket list. All I wanted to do was witness the beauty of the temple and the fine craftsmanship. It is only when I visited the temple, I realised that it is more than just a beautiful structure.

Built on a level lower than the surrounding land level, the temple teaches a lesson of humility. The four gates welcome people from all four directions irrespective of their caste, religion or gender. It symbolizes equality in true sense.

If you happen to visit the temple then don’t miss the Guru Ka Langar. The community kitchen of the temple feeds around 50,000 devotees every single day.

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View of the Golden Temple, Amritsar at night

2. Visit Jallianwala Bagh

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We all have read about the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in our history textbooks. Jallianwala Bagh is a public garden where on 13th April 1919, men, women and children were mercilessly killed on orders of British officer Dyer. The garden still bears the bullet marks on its walls.

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The bullet marks on the walls of Jallianwala Bagh

3.Watch the Beating Retreat Ceremony

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A young girl enjoying the Beating Retreat Ceremony at Wagah Border

The Beating Retreat Ceremony takes place every day at Wagah Border. During the ceremony, the flags of India and Pakistan are lowered by their respective security forces at the border in an elaborate fashion.

There is a different kind of energy that one experiences during the ceremony from both the sides. And while you are there, you will find yourself cheering for our soldiers at the top of your voice.

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You can take shared public transport or hire your own private vehicle to reach Wagah Border from Amritsar.

4.Visit the Gobindgarh Fort

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Laser show at Gobindgarh Fort

The Gobindgarh fort was occupied by the army until the start of this year. This 257 year old historic fort is now open to the public. The fort conducts multiple shows.

Laser show (Whispering walls) in Punjabi and English is conducted in the evenings. The infotainment shows take you back in time and you get to know about the rich history of Punjab and the story of the fort.

A 7 D show, Sher-E-Punjab, is conducted in regular intervals in the evenings. The show depicts the story of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

The fort also has a shopping zone and swad gali where you can relish some delicious Punjabi food.

5. Indulge in Kulchas, Lassis and Amritsari fish

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Amritsari Kulcha

Amritsar has a lot to offer to the foodies. From yummy kulchas to mouth-watering authentic Punjabi dishes in Kesar da dhaba to delicious amritsari fish in Makhan, the place is a heaven for food lovers.

6. Shop till you drop

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Amritsar is a shopping paradise. Katra Jaimal Singh Market and Hall Bazaar are famous street shopping areas that sell selling value for money products. Amritsar is famous for juttis, phulkaris, papads, spices and achaars (pickle). Make sure to buy these items before you leave the city.

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So that was my list of things that one must do in Amritsar. Do let me know in the comments below if I missed anything.

Till then Keep Travelling!

House Party with Beatmap

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post.

Have you ever imagined attending a house party with strangers? No, right? Neither did I!

So when I read about Beatmap – a start-up, organising house parties in homes of regular people like you and me – I was intrigued. I immediately sent a DM to the team and voila, I got selected for one of their house parties.

The party was being hosted by three roommates in Marol (Andheri East). The fact that I literally had to make a weekend getaway plan from far end of Navi Mumbai  to reach the venue made me hope all the more that the party is worth all the travel.

I reached Marol metro station only to find another attendee waiting for an auto rickshaw. It felt awesome to start making friends even before reaching the venue. What was more amazing was that I entered the house and found yellow lights on the wall and who doesn’t love yellow lights?

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Picture courtesy: Sanchi Kalani

I took a comfy seat in one of the corners of the room and that’s when Hari, the founder of Beatmap, like all our teachers in school, separated all the groups of friends who had come together. It was the beginning of real fun!

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Picture Courtesy: Sanchi Kalani

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Picture Courtesy: Sanchi Kalani

I had conversations with 16 year olds to 30 year olds,  from aspiring filmmakers, musicians, founders of start-up to corporate slaves like me. Our topics of discussions ranged from talking about serious topics like facing sexism at work to sharing our funny memories (and somehow most of the funny stories involved alcohol :P)

While it was fun to talk with young adults about their dreams and aspirations and encourage them to pursue the same, I found solace talking with someone older than me about my dreams and aspirations. Turns out this time I needed the dose of encouragement and that little pat on the back saying you are doing great.

Just when I began to feel this is it. Hari announced that Ilina and Rohan will perform their gigs for us. That is when things became magical! Have a look yourself..

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Picture Courtesy: Sanchi Kalani

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Picture Courtesy: Sanchi Kalani

I ended up staying long after I had imagined I would. And it was all worth the trouble of travelling so much.

SO..

Get out of your comfort zone and try out something different. I would totally recommend an evening full of art and interesting conversations with strangers.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

All you have to do is fill a form (Link here) and the Beatmap team will get in touch with you. Once selected, you will have to pay an entry fee of Rs 500.

You can bring in your own food and beverages. In case, you don’t. You can always order in.

If you want to host a party then you can sign up here

AND WHAT’S MORE?

They will be soon hosting parties in PUNE and BANGALORE as well.

P.S.  A special thanks to Atharva for selecting my name out of the hundreds of applications he receives and for making sure there are no cats in the house. A big shout out to the cool hosts (Rishi, Ayush and Tejas) and Hari, the life of the party.

Street Food at Mohammad Ali Road During Ramadan 1.0

The holy month of Ramadan has begun and Muslims all over the world fast from dawn till sunset during this month.

In Mumbai, Muslims breaking their fast and the city’s foodies head to eat mouth watering food in Mohammed Ali Road.

The streets of Mohammed Ali road offer a wide range of food items. From delicious kebabs to Yummy phirnis, you will get it all here.

It was my first outing at this place with my friends and we were amazed to see the madness. We tried our best to try out as many dishes as possible but we missed many. We are already planning our next visit to try the rest.

Here is a glimpse of the street food we tried at the Khao Gali in Mohammed Ali Road:

The Kebabs

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Photo Courtesy: Marina Rocha

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Photo Courtesy: Marina Rocha

Chicken Chengazi

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We had this with Rumali Roti

The Dessert

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Malpua

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This one is called Idli. Photo Courtesy: Marina Rocha

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Phirni: The best dish

What is your favorite street food at Muhammed Ali road?

And no Brother!?

Last week, I was travelling with my sister in Mumbai Local. A few minutes after we boarded the train, my sister asked an old lady sitting next to us: Are you a Bengali? Now I don’t know if you know many bongs, but they can talk and talk and talk (Yes! Even if they are meeting for the first time). I kept my phone aside and got ready for a good adda. After getting a fair idea about what we do, where we stay and the number of people in our family, the old lady asked: And no brother?

I have been asked that question by strangers all my life now. It is said that people get used to a particular thing if it keeps happening, but this question continues to annoy me till date. I quietly plugged in and tried to distract myself. Sadly, even Coldplay couldn’t help me this time (Chris Martin, I still love you!). I started thinking about the things I should have told her and perhaps the conversation would have taken place somewhat like this…

Me: Aunty, why did you ask that question?

Old Lady: Just like that beta…

Me: You know what I saw- that sad expression of yours after you learnt that my parents have no son. It is completely alright to just have daughters. Having a son is not the ultimate goal in life. People survive and in many cases, better than the ones who have sons.

Old Lady: Well! Now you are just over reacting.

*Silence*

Maybe it was a good thing that I did not say anything, because even if we both knew what she really meant, she could have always proved me wrong. At this point, I was trying hard to think about something else. But it is in moments like these, that my brain acts crazier. It chooses to always do the opposite.

I remembered the times:

When my neighbor couldn’t perform the last rites of her father. She and her mother had to wait for her uncle as she didn’t have a brother.

My mum was told by an aunt in one of the states in India after she delivered my sister to visit a Baba to get a son next time.

An uncle was denied his share of property by his own father because he didn’t have a son.

A well-educated family who had been maintaining a record of every generation couldn’t continue to do so. Why? No prizes for guessing this one. Yes! It is because the current generation only has daughters and no SON.

I am not saying daughters are better than sons, or sisters are better than brothers. The point I am trying to make is that, it is alright to have only daughters just like it is perfectly normal to have only sons. I have a sister and my parents are absolutely doing fine. Having a brother can be cool, but it is also nice to have a sister. Every day is like a sleepover with her. She has been a constant support system, critic and has taught me to love unconditionally. In spite of being the younger one, she has always been protective. She has protected me from the people who have troubled me and, quite often from my very own negative thoughts. Together we always try to keep our parents happy and I believe that we can do everything that is expected from any child.

But I guess, it will take some time for people to accept these facts. Though I really wish I live to see the day when people ask the question: And no sister?

Over a Cuppa

As I sit here with my fourth cup of tea and a pile of file on my workstation, I wonder is this what life is all about? Coming to work every day sharp at 9 am and leaving long after the sun has set. I can’t even remember the last time when I had my cup of cheers only to relish it and not to keep me awake.

Just when my brain thought now is a good time to switch on the philosophy mode, I notice that the boss has left her cabin. Screw presentation… Welcome Facebook! I scroll through my news feed and see a friend has just checked in at a local pub. I sometimes wonder what these people get by putting check-in statuses. I don’t want to know if you are shopping or eating or listening to music, or even that you got done from work super early and are enjoying happy hours in that goddamn pub.

I take a sip and try to calm myself down and look at my colleague from the other team getting scolded by his boss. We have an eye contact for few seconds and I give him a sympathetic smile. I know if Horrible Bosses 3 was to be made, then he would be the man for the script.

The boss is back in her cabin and I quickly shut Facebook and start working on my presentation. I see her pacing up and down. Did the super boss scold her? Does that mean more work for me?

Oh no! I can’t handle the tension. I better go and get another cup of tea. At least the drinks here are on the house!

Image Courtsey: Laurel Springs 

Pack, Unpack, Pack!

I HATE PACKING! It is one of those things that I will hate forever. But quite often, the things you run away from are the very things you finally get. I have been constantly on the move since the past 7 years and needless to say, my nomadic life has forced me to Pack, Unpack and Pack again and again every now and then.

It all started when my family migrated to Oman in 2008. After the mammoth task of packing up our things that formed an essential part of our childhood, and painfully even letting go some, we reached Sohar. The initial excitement soon disappeared when things started going downhill for me. Knee injury, low grades and no friends made life a living hell for an academically sound student, who was also a CBSE national level athlete back in India. But then I met a bunch of losers like me, who were equally clueless. Together we danced in chemistry lab when our experiments failed, ran behind smalls kids to trouble them, sang songs during math lectures and above all dreamt of a better future there, in that hopeless situation. Even with so many lows, the place bestowed me with friends for a lifetime and above all, taught me to love, hope and dream even in the worst of situations.

Then came the time when I had to pack my bags and come back to Bombay for graduation. Like every other first born, I was thrown in the ocean and asked to learn to swim on my own. By now, I knew it quite well that it is easier to adjust in an uncomfortable place, but almost impossible to adjust with people who make you uncomfortable. My naive nature and inability to judge people often landed me in trouble and this experience was turning out to be a bigger hell than the previous one. That’s when I got in a hostel in South Bombay and things started to fall in place. I was blessed to have found few amazing people in college and hostel, and each one played a special role to make my three year stay worthwhile. If one would religiously give me wake-up calls in the morning to make sure I attended college, then the other would take care of me like a mother and make sure that I didn’t skip meals. Yet another gave me a shoulder to cry on every time I fell apart, and one also made me a part of her beautiful family and touched my heart with her selfless deeds. With these friends, I had made a home away from home. Even though I had to pack and unpack twice a year to visit my family, the distance brought me closer to them and I started valuing their presence in my life a bit more. And when the time came to pack my bags and leave hostel, I had made such beautiful memories with this another family of mine that goodbyes were often accompanied by tears.

My next stop was a rented apartment far away from South Bombay. By the time I shifted to this apartment, I had seen so many different kinds of people. For the first time, it was just me and no one else to adjust with. Thanks to this experience, I learnt to single handedly search for apartments, buy electronics and groceries, cook edible stuff, handle day to day household activities in a better manner, and realized the daily chores done by mothers are not as easy as they make them look.

As I pack my bags and head for my next stop, I know I can be sure of few things; I may take time to adjust in the new atmosphere, there may be few down hills also, but in the end, I will make memories to cherish for lifetime. And as for the packing part, I know I will hate it forever but I am ready to go through the torture to be on the move. For after all, a rolling stone gathers no moss.

(Don’t) Tweet it, baby!

12.01 AM: Can’t sleep. I’m bored.

12.09 AM: #goodadvicein4words trending in Twitter.

12.11 AM: I tweet

And everything changed…

I’m on Twitter since 13th October 2013 and I was never crazy about it. I have had 35-40 odd followers and most of them were friends (I even forced some of them to follow me). The only time I tweeted was when I was bored and picked on someone for entertainment. But this day, my one tweet changed everything. The tweet was not just retweeted by the Hashtag game organiser but she also sent out a shout-out to her followers to welcome me in their community. At once my number of followers showed a steep rise, people were welcoming me with personal messages and I was quite overwhelmed.

Over a span of few days, my love for Twitter doubled just like my number of followers. I was eating, breathing, sleeping the Hashtag games on Twitter. I started keeping track of the trending hashtags, “Favorited” the top tweets in hope of increasing my profile visibility to get more followers, and quite often it worked. But my new found love for Twitter came with a cost. My sleeping pattern was affected, I started distancing myself from reality and delaying my actual work.

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A Date with myself!

For the past few days, I have been thinking, thinking about, the job that I shouldn’t have left; the relationship that took so much from me; friends who became well known strangers; the course which took two years to complete but has no value, I hear from many; the employers who wouldn’t hire me for my lack of experience; the people, my age who are doing something, as opposed to me; and the list goes on.

I wouldn’t lie. Things got ugly, pretty ugly. I cried my eyes out, whined in front of close friends and tried to shut myself from the world. Little did I know that I was doing myself more harm by losing my mind like this! I had always been dependent on others for my happiness, got overly attached with people and things, so much that their absence affected me real bad. But not this time.

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