Before, I begin, I must put it out as a disclaimer that by stating my thoughts and ideas on travel, I am only giving my personal view. Do not travel until its absolutely necessary for you. For people like me travel is not just a vacation or part of life that is avoidable, as it is the only reason I live. Also for some it might be absolutely necessary to see the ocean or mountains to find peace and gain mental strength and avoid depression. This post is for them, in a way to help.
However, I will strongly advice, in case you do travel , try not to come back to old people or very young ones, for whom, Corona can be more riskier as a disease contracted. With stronger immunity we generally will face mild symptoms of the deadly virus, but that might not be the case for everyone out there, if you are not sure about your immune health yet.
In the end, I trust all my readers are mostly mature men and women and I put my faith on your intuitions and decisiveness. It is upon yourself, to decide if traveling and going out is an worthy option for you, depending how and where you live. Governments of state has slowly opened tourism with rules and regulations to follow, and it is absolutely necessary that all of us must comply to this rule if you decide to hit the road.
For every travel lover out their, the pandemic and lock down has been a lesson of patience and frustration both. Mostly because, eyes that find beauty in the vast expanse of mountains and beaches , had to resort to pictures on social media to soothe their eyes. The freedom lost in the times of pandemic will be remembered for long. But the good news is slowly but surely the world is opening up. So even if in immediate future, we cannot plan our dream destination or vacation, we can certainly, have some flavors of wanderlust and take upon journeys.
Here I am assembling some great ways to take a vacation, journey and trip during the times of pandemic which might satiate your hunger for the world for sometimes.
1. City Walks & Exploring unknown facets of your own town.
Most of us might have been , living in our cities and towns for long, yet I am a cent percent sure, there are spots in cities , that we have not yet experienced or been to. As a tour guide, who gives multiple city tours in Kolkata , Delhi and Mumbai, there is always something new coming up in my tour, even if I had been there before. Every city has a rich history, various communities and their folklores, waiting to be discovered. If you google a bit or read a book based on your city , you will find lesser known places which might amaze you , when you visit them. Hence, for a start it would be a great idea to have explore your unknown side of the city. You can do morning explorations, perfect to avoid the crowd and maintain social distancing. Walks or on bicycles, are both a great way to explore your town and stories unheard in your own cities. Also do not forget to take your camera or phone to indulge in street photography, which will be a pleasure for you surely !
2.Road trips with your friends or family.
As more normal life get back on, it will be a wise idea, to take road trip in a rented vehicle or self vehicle to some places accessible to your current location with four to five hours of drive. Road trips are always great , and in current times , road trips will help you be securing better movement , avoiding public transportation. I am sure , we all have lesser known villages or natural spots near to our current locations, where we did not visit yet , and we kept it for someday. Often it happened to me, being young , I always thought of wandering the furthest places, and kept all that was good in my surrounding for later years, as retirement plan. Well now , it is exactly such a time, to test your choices.
When we should access, this remote yet near places, we must savor the journey more than the destination. Take breaks on road to click more pictures. With monsoon just finished in India, most roads are vivid green and beautiful. Even if the spots are not in your bucket list, I recommend this highly, since in the end , Travel is more about journeys than destination. And what better way to enjoy journeys, than a good road trip!
3. Camping or hiking in nature or remote places.
Camping does not always have to be on mountains, neither hiking. But if you can somehow access hills and mountains, your luck is with you. Even if not, you can always search out for a place, which is quiet remote and go for a camping trip. Do it alpine style to involve your adventure senses more. Alpine style camping or hiking , defines , when you go for a hiking trip or camping in the wild on your own, without any help of professional hands. It is indeed, one of the best experiences in holistic ways, where you learn a lot about survival. With right people it is often too much fun, and even if you are alone, it is a great time to spend under the spell of nature and solitude. There is no better way to see a sunset or sunrise, or take a bath in a natural lake, than from a vicinity of a tent.
Generally , camping and hiking takes your to places which are not too crowded, and that will help your chances of social distancing.
Hiking is also safe , as not much people are involved in it. Already goverments of Kashmir ,Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have opened up hiking and trekking. Following their rules one must be able to go back again to wilds of the unknown.
If you are interested , I am myself going hiking in next month. Check out the simple plans here, and connect if you would like.
4. Travel to Homestays.
Home stays are run by people , who live and run their lovely homes and give out exceptional experiences for travelers like us. Safety in times such as this, can be found best while traveling to their homes. Since they as residents will want to keep themselves healthy and safe, they will take the best measures for a secure stay. A lot of home stays, can be found remotely located which are not destination specific , but can add up to a travel experience greatly. I think , this is the perfect time to try those locations out. A simple relaxing stay in a new and strange place can calm your mind , and help you against the stress, the world is going through and putting on you. Add to that meeting the strangers and listening to their stories, which in itself , is of great adventure.
For your part you are helping them, by letting them earn a little after the long cease of their work and livelihood. It is also true , now you are more prone to find better deals as not much people will be heading anywhere. Grab this opportunity to visit some of the most wonderfully located home stays around yourself.
I will definitely recommend you to start shortlisting home stays now, by checking on Google and may be fixing a destination in mind. You can always also consult me for a free advice.Do connect with the host before traveling , so that they can aid you with the current scenarios, which will help your travel. Making sure, when you are arriving , also helps them to prepare for a safe stay.
This is a new term for the wanderlust stricken youth of India. In world wide travel, a many of people are known as digital nomads. They work but their job does not require them to be mandatory, to be situated in a single destination. With good internet, they can work from anywhere in the world, and that is how a lot of people , including me live from place to place of our desire.
With the pandemic, most working companies have now WORK FROM HOME scenarios, where you are also a kind of digital nomad, if you have the will ofcourse. There are great many a hospitality properties with amazing wifi, giving the chance to people to come and stay with them and work from their beautiful properties located in amazing destinations all around. For example I know a property in Pushakar who charges only 7000 INR to start with for a stay plan , in their super cool hostel, and work from their. High speed wifi to connect and work, and amazing places in Pushkar in vicinity to go around. Ping me up privately if you want to know more.
For a lot of people, they are moving to small towns and villages in the Himalayas, through me. They have rented amazing rooms in the heavenly destination and for next two to three months at least will enjoy travel and work together.
This is one of the brighter side of pandemic, that this chance is on offer, and will surely not repeat. So for people who had a long wish of moving to mountains and staying long, this the perfect time, as your life could be a mix of vacation and work. Check out some amazing properties to work from mountains here.
I hope soon enough, you can hit the roads, and start the journey. Travel will help your mind , and relax the stress we have been going through. Lastly , it will help people and regions economically , when you can take services from them. You can connect with me to know more about planning your travel during this times. Advises and friendship are free to those who love to wander! Do connect with me through my social media buttons on your right top corner.
Lastly , though we did cage up ourselves for the need of survival, I hope all of you can take up a little courage to take calculated risks.
For life is not just about survival, it is To Live!
As more and more Indians are traveling , places are slowly turning into destinations that adhere to crowds and more Instagram friendly population only. Yet there are a lot of us , in search of places which are quite less visited or known. The small village of Pedong and my experience there will be one such. I did not hear about this place till last year, and January meant a good time to explore, and begin the year 2020.
Situated in the borders of West Bengal and Sikkim , in north east region of India, Pedong is a small village nestled in the laps of Himalayas. Surrounded by dense terai forest , a bird watchers paradise , Pedong is an ultimate destination for the nature loving folks.
The surrounding hills of Pedong give a lot of options for hiking, and which of course caught my heart. Small hamlets and hill top view points adore the region surrounded. Hiking through the dense jungle trails, discovering the bounty of nature while on it , makes up for a special experience here. From local berries in the forest , to an abundant healthy population of variety of birds, bush walking is all worth doing here.
The hiking trails also take you to other smaller villages situated at higher altitude. It is very much possible to spend a day or two and then come back. A lot of view points adore this regions, with breath taking views of Himalayas that border with Tibet and China.
Pedong is also well connected by road. It is the first night halt if you want to do a road trip in the Old Silk Route. The old silk route is the tail of the ancient silk road that connected China and India. Today it is one of the best road trip circuit, less visited yet unsubstantiated beauty. The road trip can be done in car, but motorcycles are more prefered. I was fortunate enough to find a co traveler , to explore the region near by. We rode to beautiful villages of Lolegaon, Lava and Rishop through misty forest tracks and mingled with the clouds and fogs.
All this villages have unique view of the Himalayan higher peaks, but are mostly covered in clouds and fog , except in early morning. So i will advise you ride more during those hours.
Pedong is also home to an ancient Tantric Buddhism monastery. The region flaunts its spirituality in beautiful monastries nestled in hills and covered by forests. The prime population of Pedong is Buddhism with a majority of Christianity too, The nearest big town to Pedong is Kalimpong , which is a colonial town built under the influence of British Raj.
It is easy to reach Pedong for backpackers or any travelers. Buses to Kalimpong are very frequent from Siliguri , the nearest town with train station and airport. From Kalimpong , shared taxis ply with in half an hour to reach this beautiful village.
It is a perfect destination for a two day stop , from a busy schedule of life. And if you are planning Sikkim, this should act as your country side experience to the beautiful state.
All in all , Pedong which is off the beaten path is sure to win hearts over with its rawness and simplicity. Travelers cannot forget the experience and surely would recommend others to visit here soonest.
To visit Pedong , or to know more, Kindly consult or message me. For a video experience of Pedong, click here
People tend to do something right , even though, they enjoy themselves in something else. And the best example of it is, the fact, that so many people I met love the countryside and village life for it's calm , simple and ordinary ambience. Yet they choose to build their life around bustling cities with their stressful ambience. Why we do it , is a deep resonance of the sub conscious mind and it's will to achieve a perfect life , even without knowing what actually " perfect " means for each of us individually. I won't go into that detail, for it's a detour of how our mind works but most of us do what we feel right, rather than what we actually enjoy. The total nuisance is in the Rights and Wrongs, inbuilt in us by years of conditioning in school , family and society.
Anyways , Everytime you visit small villages around the places you travel you get a slight conviction that it's not always peaceful to be trying to be right. And that is exactly this small village and it's residents taught me , while on my time there.
India throughout has picturesque landscapes. The India villages find their places in those extraordinary surroundings to a wanderer's eye. During my recent tour in South India, in the state of Tamil Nadu , I came to know about this village from a local wanderer and definitely made time to visit here with my ongoing traveler from England. It's an worthy effort to seek beyond the ordinary, and that for a Tour Guide means, better service and recognition from his traveler. I couldn't miss out on that opportunity. For a whole day we decided to live and explore around this well kept secret village.
Nestled among the hills of extended Eastern Ghats, close to the touristic town of Kodaikanal is the small village of Poombarai. The region of this village is quiet dramatic , as it lays in a bowl kind structure , walled by hills on every side. The village is agriculture based and all throughout the bowl, they have perfectly managed step cultivation with inch accuracy of perfection. The different terraces and steps add on to the colours of the village and surrounding, making it one of the prettiest sights I have ever seen.
The houses in the village are made of red soil tiles very ethnic to this land. It is the red soil with minerals that helps them grow such a rich harvest. The roofs shimmer in sunlight , and the walls are painted with bright colours, giving a beautiful eye catching contrast to every corner of this residential area.
My traveler and I , both enthusiastic about this bountiful surrounding we were in, decided to hike around the farmlands before heading in to the village . Eric , my traveler from England was a farmer himself and felt at ease and amazement both at the same time. He knew more about the crops that were growing than me. Probably because he is from the same kind of terrain, where as I am more local to the lofty high Himalayas and the agriculture there.
Prominently five crops were to be seen around. Majority was garlic. The whole area can be called a Garlic Haven, which reflects in the local food we tasted later. Second was the carrots. The sweet and tasty carrots. Other than this you find beans , peas and paddy. In a year they have three types of crops and do the crop rotation, which helps them keep the work on land going.
The farm lands are curated and organized in precise accuracy to use up the land as much as possible to most optimum ability. Tiny trails going through them were chosen by us to walk around, as we saw in far , the local men with strong bulls ploughing for the next set of vegetables. The people of Poombarai are as beautiful as their village from souls. The farmers in the field were so delighted to have us in their field, they offered their produces for us to taste. It was a first time for me to taste carrots straight out of souls and that was delicious. Peas were sweet as well , but I have had it in Himalayas too. Though the love involved in gifting them to us made it special on many ways. I am not a avid vegetable lover , but if I find this kind of it more, I have no complaints.
Lastly every part we went through, we were invited to eat food with them. We could only oblige a few, since of our already vegetable filled-up tummies.
What stuck me most, is though, people belonged to different sectors in financial conditions, that was evident yet all of them lived almost in same ways. Their houses looked the same , and the food eaten. It didn't matter how much they earned , it is their way of living that connected them.
Once we were passing by a house located distant from the main village, in the base of the farming fields. The farmer and his wife was having meal when we were passing by their farm. Without knowing our language, they just with gesture showed us, if we wanted to eat with them.
That was eye opening, to do it to strangers , in middle of your meal randomly. I can't imagine anyone doing that in the technology evolved more educated cities that we are from.
This people work hard to produce the food that we only eat as parasites , and just like me , I am sure a lot of you too, have no idea how to farm or actually create them. It is of no secret that we of all are the most dependant race. The ones that we live in the cities and have no idea of how to produce our own food. And it is such that why we have to keep living there and do things that seem right, just because it covers up our inability to live an independent life enough. Our dependency makes what seems right , and our dependency also does not let us enjoy the things we do. At the end , I am sure most of us would like to know , how to produce our own food, and live this content life that reflects in smiles of the people of Poombarai.
What is your take on this ? Have you ever felt useless because you can't produce your own food ? Let me know. Thoughts are personal and garnered while my tour guiding trip of South India in February last week.
As more and more , travel industry is driven by social media , most travelers choose their next destination from pictures of other travelers and friends over Instagram and such handles. While it is a good way to promote such places, this also does not keep the destinations elusive anymore. You are expected to have crowds of other people , while visiting such a place . Yet to the blessing of huge range of Himalayas , some hidden hamlets and villages still hold on to their exclusivity. They are yet not, too much famous, in their reputation, and I chose to list five of them , for those who seek to go beyond the known trails. Check out if you have been to any one of this.
TONGLU - WEST BENGAL
Falling on the border of India and Nepal , Tonglu is my personal favorite. With majestic Kanchenjunga , world's third highest mountain looming large on the background , this village has some mind blowing landscapes around. Its just four houses in this village and settled atop a hill , pretty isolated from the rest of the world. With the chilling cold temperature round the year , Tonglu is a respite for summer and heat always. In the winter , snowfall, makes it beautiful and cold in both ways.
Falling near Darjeeling , it can be reached by car or foot . For more information to plan a vacation here, ping me directly.
THACHI - HIMACHAL
The village is well kept secret of central Himachal, and though the state continues to grow in its fame of tourism , Thachi still holds on to its elusive characteristics of being unknown.
Though Accessible by public transportation , the nature is still raw and well kept here. Most tourist know of Tirthan and by pass the turn that needs to be taken on Aut - Rampur highway to turn towards Thachi.
It is of your choice where you want to venture, but if you want to visit somewhere with almost no tourist along with you, then this is highly recommended. Addition to the beautiful nature, the culture here is highly rich , and amazing food delicacies such as SIddu can be found to adore the taste of locals. Also for travelers who might want to hike around , amazing temple tops as Churdhar Mahadev makes a place from where one can get uninterrupted views of panaromic Himalayas.
To know more , of course of this village , do message me directly.
OSLA - UTTARAKHAND
Legend has it , that this village has a temple dedicated to Duryodhana , the leader of Kauravas , from the epic Mahabharata. And the residents of this village are some of his descendants. But as all legends are , there is no proof to it, and the temple in the village indeed beautiful and striking in looks, is said to be of Lord Shiva , by the local residents. The temple door only opens during the annual fair which takes place in monsoon here, and thus the controversy remains. Hidden in the North western frontier of Uttarakhand , beyond reach of any transportation, this village is also gateway to a lot of amazing hikes and treks. A little tricky and time consuming to reach here , yet the journey and destination , totally captivates the mind and heart of all travelers that dare to go here. To plan a trip here, let me know.
GRAHAN - HIMACHAL PRADESH
A lesser known village in otherwise very famous Parvati valley , Grahan , in my view, is the most beautiful village of the valley , yet very less frequented. May be due to its accessibility only on foot, and no transportation makes it elusive as it is. The village still holds true to its customs and traditions and houses constructions that are two hundred years or more old. Surrounded by green mountains with snow during winter , Grahan is perfect to spend week , just detached from the outside world. Lonliness can never crop in , as the locals are very friendly and mingling with them is very easy. Activities here would range from hiking around forest, finding amazing waterfalls to take a bath in on sunny day. Evenings to mingle with other travelers and smoke some of the best hash in world. Interested ? You know whom to connect for a plan.
KANAK CHAURI - UTTARAKHAND
A very well kept secret of Uttarakhand, Kanak Chauri is situated in Rudraprayag distric. It is famous for its views of Himalayalan ranges , specially Chaukhamba that stands tall in the background. As it is connected with public transportation , reaching here is easy and weekend trips from Delhi suits perfectly. For travelers who wants to beat the rush , this place is ideal as hardly tourist know about this. Also for those who love hiking , the Kartik swamy temple sitting atop a hill , just 3 kilometres walk from the village is most amazing. One can enjoy the panaromic views of Himalayas from here, with 22 high peaks including Nanda Devi, Trishul, Nilkanth , Jankut , Kedardome , Chaukhamba and such visible from here easily. Travelers also stay in homestay and mingle with locals and walk around in the green farms around the village to see the true life of Garhwal Himalayas.
To know more about this place or to plan a visit , do consult with me.
There are many more such beautiful villages in every corner of regions of Himalayas. My list is here, on the basis that I have been to all this places , and have never seen, much Instagram post or a hash tag on or from this place.
If you know of such cool places or hidden villages, do leave the name in comment box, as I too , seek for more of such beauties.
A direct bus from Bangalore had taken me to Wayanad through the beautiful forest of Bandipur , and by the changing green from the traffic capital of India , I knew , Wayanad will be more than what is expected. Situated in the north east frontier of Kerala , the region of Wayanad , stays elusive yet. The end of the great biodiversity of Western Ghats , meets the civilization here. Of all districts in Kerala , Wayanad has the lowest population , which means more place for nature, and that is surely visible as you hop down from your vehicle here. Weekend destination for BANGALORE and Cochin people , Wayanad is generally more calm and easy in weekdays, and being a jobless vagabond, I chose that for my first trip here.
Nestled among the hills and hillocks , the great greens of Wayanad is feast for eyes looking for nature. As I made my journey here in monsoon , the green was more lush and the weather pleasant enough for me. Of course, the rain kept coming through out my endeavor , but then it was just water falling, so did not bother much. Wayanad region is made of small and big villages connected by its pretty road. The administrative head quarter is Kalapetta , and most buses drops or picks you up from there. A lot of hotels and homestays finds it place here , however , I chose my stay in a local neighborhood far from Kalpetta. Transportation is easy, with Auto rickshaws and buses plying , but walking the beautiful roads also help to experience Wayanad at its truest form. Getting a local homestay is better , as you get traditional food of the region and they help you to guide through for the most amazing spots of the region.
Staying in a local neighborhood meant experiencing their lives first hand. Wayanad famous for its fertile soil has a lot of farming all around. From Bananas to betel nuts , this farms stretch wide and far covering most of the landscapes. It is one of an experience to walk through them , as backgrounds are covered by pretty hills that surround them. Chembra peak , which is the highest in this region looms large at distance , and made up for a constant companion when I walked around. Trekking to the top is possible if not for monsoon season. I being mostly trekking and hiking mountains for work did not opt for that , though most travelers who have done it, recommends highly of it, Travel is a personal choice , so I leave this on your perspective best to choose.
However , do not miss the farm tours around. Just go in them and meet the smiling farmers and natives working here, My only warning , going around the fields, beware of snakes a little. Wear shoes always.
Banasura Sagar or the largest earth dam and reservoir was a good place to escape too. It is the biggest source of water and sustaible project being made out of earth and mud. It reminded me of the capability of the human minds. If it feels to procreate sustainable energy , surely that is possible. The people of Wayanad live and coexist with nature a lot. Every house is filled among dense green, and own plantations. Calm and peaceful way of living can be seen around , the elusiveness is also catered as it is not a hot destination as Munnar.
For next stop, I had chosen Edekkal caves , an ancient cave, where pre historic graphics and murals, made by our ancestors are found. To be honest, my heart , which was in search of a relaxed vacation in nature , was more happy to climb the hill and see the view from top , than the caves itself.
The most important of all plantations here, is the Coffee! The abundance of coffee plantation here, makes coffee as cheap as 10 INR, in every other shop, around the corner. Even the best souvenir to take back has to be the coffee powder. The homestay I stayed with, had their own plantation and I made sure to buy cheap powder from them , for the rest of my journey.
All in all , Wayanad will be highly recommended by me , for its natural and less crowded beauty. My super tips will be to visit in monsoon , when the whole world thinks Kerala is always flooded. Wayanad being on top of hills , is mostly safe of flooding, even though high rainfall is always there. And if you are more like me who enjoys just going around and observing things, rather than tick marking off the places in To-Do list , then definitely walk around the beautiful roads of Wayanad. Hop on any local bus , and drop at any point or part of road , you seem to find beautiful. Walk along with it. You can always use Google map to find your next destination or get a bus when you feel like it.
But those roads of Wayanad , are the things I miss most from my trip.
So if you are planning a Wayanad trip, let me know for advices. Also if you have been to Wayanad times and more , leave down your best memory from there. I am surely going to go back there and hopefully , might take up your recommendations. Happy traveling !!
Note from the Author,
" Travel made me rich and free. Magic and miracles are true , once you wander on the roads to places different and divine. I have collected so many thoughts and stories while being a Tour & Trek guide for last seven years. Sharing with you all, those memories and stories , and wishing you all , that someday you guys travel far and wide too. I am not a great writer , so ignore my grammar and spellings, read it with feelings, and you might just be affected with the wanderlust to hit the road"