Category Archives: Travel

Mawlynnong – A Model Village for “Swachh Bharat” Revolution

It was a pitch-dark night, I could only sense the jungle around me. It was the monsoon of 2014 when I first visited Mawlynnong, a tiny village in Meghalaya. Huts with thatched roofs were the only sign of establishment that could be spotted. I wished there were more street lights.

I was looking for a woman named Carol, whom I contacted on the phone for accommodation which she advertised on the internet with the name of “Bamboo Huts”. I doubted the whole arrangement since she neither noted my name nor demanded an advance, just confirmed the dates. On probing with locals, I was pointed to the Bamboo Huts and saw a man standing, looked like he was waiting for me.

“Hi, I am looking for Carol. I made a booking with her.” I said. I didn’t know if it was a right pitch because I didn’t have any confirmation to show.

“I don’t know any Carol”, he said sternly.

He looked pissed. I was puzzled.

“Do you have any availability?”, I asked sheepishly.

“No.” again a stern reply.

The clock already struck midnight. With the population of only 500, I wasn’t sure if I’ll find a guest house other than this.

“My name is Henry. Carol is my agent. I am angry because she did not communicate with me for this booking”, he said.

“Oh, I see. I called her twice to confirm. That’s very irresponsible on her part.” I said sympathetically.

Soon, he got warm and assured me there is an available hut and offered me dinner, which was music to my ears because I was starving from my 6 hours drive from Guwahati. The night couldn’t have been more eventful than this, and soon, I retired to bed.

Next morning, my eyes opened to another world. At around 7 a.m., it was drizzling and a bit foggy. The local women were already out cleaning the streets of the village. Suddenly, the reality hit me, another reason for me to visit this village was because of its identity of being the cleanest village in Asia. I looked around with the inspecting look, and noticed conical bamboo bins all along the street. The cleaning exercise is repeated on the evening. I was impressed and greatly surprised. Impressed, with the natural beauty of the village and surprised, by the natural consciousness of the people to make it clean.

IMAG1893 (2).jpg

Living deep in the jungle, in a world still to be permeated by modern technology, the people of Mawlynnong have naturally come to understand the importance of keeping their surroundings clean and garbage proof. Two years after the trip, when I now reflect as a city dweller, I fail to understand why we despite all that we know haven’t come to the same conclusion? Isn’t it something which should come naturally to us?

From Snow to Desert

Have you ever experienced landscape changes like this in one trip.? These pictures are from my trip to Hunder in Ladakh through the Khardung La Pass in 2011. To read my venturesome experience during this trip, visit my post Hunder, Ladakh.

Khardung La Pass, Photo Credits: A. Mittal
Hunder, Photo Credits: A. Mittal
Bacterian Camels in Cold Desert, Photo Credits: A. Mittal

Five memorable things to do in Philippines

Philippines is an amazing country not just because of its splendid beaches but because of its warm hospitality. I visited the country in November 2013 and totally fell in love with Filipinos. It is unbelieving that such a small county has so much to offer, from beaches to beautiful colonial towns and from natural wonders to irresistible shopping in big city. I am sure the internet is full of “must visit” list in Philippines. Here are five of the things that I believe will etch  Philippines in your memory.

Scuba Dive to watch Balicasag Turtlesturtle

This  was my first dive too!! Do not worry just take a dip and enjoy the serene sea life. Walk on the sea bed and feel the fishes around you and if you get lucky you may even spot a magnificent Balicasag turtle.  This species of turtles are found only in Bohol which is the best place to experience sea life in Philippines.  You can easily book your dive with any of the diving centers at Bohol beach (there are 4 or 5 centers only).  The rates are competitive but fair, no scams as such. They are quite safe too.

Get photographed at picturesque Virgin Island

IMAG0206_2 IMAG0245

Any ferry at Bohol beach will take you to this untouched, non-touristy white strip of sand called Virgin Island in sea.  The island live up to its name. Let your feet feel the warmth of soft white sand on this chaste land amidst the mammoth sized sea. This place is heaven for photographers. Since it is not so deep around this island, you can enjoy wading in the sea. You can get yourself clicked with star fish in quirky poses and be embarrassed for life.

Eat, Drink and Dance with midgets

IMAG0485

The Hobbit House is one of its kind eating place located in Station 2 near D’mall in Boracay Island . Very easy to find. The best thing about the place is that from its furniture to staff everything and everybody is dwarf, so eating there is quite a  fun. The staff was super friendly and served great cocktails. Well I can only comment on its vegetarian Italian food which I found was pretty decent and priced on par with other restaurants in the vicinity.

Get drunk and famous in Boracay

cocomangas-menu-big

Boracay is famous for it nightlife. Although there are umpteen places to get drunk on the island, one such place where you can try your hands to get drunk and famous is Cocomangas. Located in station 1, the club is famous for its upbeat music and gimmick “Still standing after 15”. If you are still standing after 15 shots of different liquor and spirit, you get a number for your country, a Cocomangas t-shirt and your name gets engraved on the club’s Hall of Fame!.  The other cool places in Boracay where party never ends are – Summer Place, Juice Bar, Epic, Area 51 etc.  You can never get tired of getting sloshed at Boracay.

Get dirty in Burgos street in Makati

burgostype2

P. Burgos street is the prime red light area of Makati city. The street is strategically located near all posh hotels. It is a long street with dazzling neon hoardings that say dirty names, expats, half-naked girls and lady-boys.  You can enjoy a drink at Cafe Cubana which is a decent pub with live band. The street has a very lively feeling.

There are a lot many things that I couldn’t do in Philippines which is definitely a reason to visit it again.

 

Benares – The City of Gods

For Benares – If there is Heaven on this earth, it is here. Not because it is beautiful but it is the city of Gods.

Benares, also known as Varanasi, is a small town in Uttar Pradesh state of India. I had been thinking of visiting there from quite some time, and finally I made it last weekend. I decided to go to there on the festival of Holi. It can be reached easily by flight, train or car. Benares as I like to call it is the holy city of Hindus. It is said if a Hindu dies or cremated here goes straight to heaven. Well, my intentions were not fully spiritual. It is a unique city in a lot many ways.  Let me answer some questions about this city.

Why is the city so famous?

The city homes a very famous and important temple of Hindus – Kashi Vishwanath. It is the temple of Shiva who is deemed as the hippie God by foreigners. If you want to read about why is he considered as a hippie, you can refer to http://www.vepachedu.org/linga.htm.

What are the essential things to do in Benares?

Benares is small but has a lot to do. But 3 main things you mustn’t miss are – to roam around the Ghats; to eat Benaras Ka Paan (Betel leaves prepared and used as a stimulant) and to take home Benaresi Sarees (Indian ethnic wear).

What are the things you need to beware of?

The traffic in the city is crazy. Leave your vehicle and travel by cycle or auto rickshaws. Watch out for those pot holes in the road. Second, since the city is full of temples, the so-called priests sometimes squeeze out money in the name of donating to God. So try to be firm.

Where to visit in Benares?

The city can be covered in 2-3 days comfortably. 1. Kashi Vishwanath is one temple you would really want to visit. 2. I highly recommend visiting Ghats which are at walking distance from the temple. You should visit the Ghats both during sunrise and sunset. It is a beautiful site. Also see the evening aarti that happens every evening at 6 pm, it’s a spectacular site.

You can visit other temples out of curiosity.

On second day, you can hire a taxi to visit Sarnath which is about 15-20kms from Benares. Sarnath is the place where Gautam Buddha taught his first sermon. The place now has the ruins of monasteries, Buddhist temples, and a Museum. It’s small town full of monks.

One thing I am really sure you’ll love about this city is its Spirit.

Night view at Ghats

ImageSunrise at Ghats

Image

View of Ghats from Ganga

Image

Benares is famous for its small lanes. If you are not aware of the ways, you can easily get lost.

Image

Ruins of Monastaries in Sarnath

Image

Prayer flags in Sarnath

Image

A wild weekend

Last weekend I visited Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and spotted everything but a Tiger.

Was able to capture a stag crossing the path before us..

IMG_0894IMG_0895IMG_0896IMG_0897

Some other beautiful moments captured during the trip.

Perching…IMG_0931

Who is the most beautiful? me me me …IMG_0924 Photo courtesy: Payal, a friend of mine.

For more pictures look at my other blog entry here.