Tuesday 31 December 2013

2013 - the Year in Review for Climber & Explorer

Now that 2013 is coming to a close here is a review of where all I went this year. I was fortunate to visit eleven places in India and thirteen outside India.

Goodbye 2013

There are some posts that I have not been able to write till now about my visits due to time constraints which I intend to write soon. Do click the links to further read about the travels.

The year started with a visit to a farm house in January where the air was fresh and invigorating giving a good start to the year.

Next visit was after a long gap to Rishikesh which was a fun and adventure filled trip with some trekkingrappelling and rafting involved.

In April visited Farrukhnagar, a small town not very far from Delhi where some old structures are still standing though in a state of disrepair. Prominent among them were the Ali Gosh Khan Baoli, Sheesh Mahal, and Sethani Ki Chattri.

After that I visited Hoshiarpur in Punjab. Also visited some villages and experienced village life of Punjab. The wood inlay work of Hoshiarpur is very interesting. Also paid a visit to the unique Gurudwara at Sussaan

I visited Anandpur Sahib in April. The museum here is beautifully made. Also visited Kiratpur bordering the state of Himachal.

In the months of July and August first I visited Lancaster in England where among others I saw the Ashton Memorial and the Lancaster Castle.

This was followed by Conwy in Wales where I saw the Conwy Castle and the Town Walls. This was followed by Llandudno in Wales which is considered the queen of the Welsh resorts.

I also visited the beautiful town of Edinburgh in Scotland. Besides Calton Hill which is considered the Atens of the North also saw the Edinburgh Castle, Arthur's Seat, King's Mile among others.

Did some trekking in the Windermere area of the Lake District of England.

I was able to visit the sea-side industrial town of Liverpool, the highlight of which was the huge and beautiful Cathedral.

I also saw the various buildings and markets of Manchester, considered a shoppers paradise.

Did some trekking and visited Morecambe. The highlight of the visit was sighting of a seal.

Spent three days in London attending some official functions as well as doing a lot of sight seeing again as this was my fourth trip to London.

Did a beautiful trek in the Keswick area of the Lake District. Also visited Grassmere which also is beautiful like the whole of the Lake District.

Visited the small town of Clitheroe where I saw a very small castle and then saw some green farming being practiced at a farm house in the Lancashire area.

In October went to Alwar and saw several places including the old fort of Bala Quila, palaces and monuments.

Stayed at the Siliserh Lake, away from the maddening city crowds.

In November went to one of my favorite locations McLeodganj for a short vacation and enjoyed lots of Tibetan food.

December took me to Chandigarh. Though I am not new to Chandigarh but visited the museum for the first time. I would write about it soon.

Other highlights of 2013 were that my blog was considered among the top travel blogs as well as listed in the best travel blogs directory.

I hope I get plenty of opportunities to travel in 2014 as well so that I can share those experiences with you.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Siliserh Lake near Alwar, Rajasthan

I recently went and stayed at Silierh which is about 15 kms from Alwar city and about three and a half hours drive from Delhi. Also the Sariska Tiger Reserve is just 20 kms or so away from here.

Siliserh Lake viewed from the Siliserh Lake Palace

Silserh Lake and reservoir is a huge man-made lake made by the King Vinay Singh in 1845 to cater to the water needs of the Alwar town and the water channels are still intact from that duration. I am not sure though if the water is still supplied from this lake to Alwar or not.

Siliserh Lake with the Siliserh Lake Palace

I stayed at the Siliserh Lake Palace Hotel run by the RTDC which is the only accommodation available right next to the lake itself. I will specifically write about the Siliserh Lake Palace Hotel in a separate post though. The Lake is spread over ten square kms in area surrounded by the Aravalli hills on three sides.

Siliserh Lake surrounded by the Aravalli Hills

The advantage of staying at this site is that if you come otherwise during the day then sometimes there are many tourists but in the mornings and evenings you can have the place to yourself and enjoy the tranquility of the place is serene surroundings. The sunsets are not very spectacular as the sun sets behind the hills but the sunrise are definitely worth getting up early in the mornings.

The west side of the Siliserh Lake

The place also has the facility of boating which includes pedal boats, motor boats as well as speed boats but the prices for hiring these are steep as there is a monopoly here. The pedal boat can be hired for Rs 200 for half an hour whereas the motorboat costs Rs 600 and the speed boat can be taken for Rs 1000 for a 15 minute ride.

The east side of the Siliserh Lake

There is a great potential for the water sports to be developed here. The lake also generates revenue in the form of fishing rights that are auctioned every year and a local told me that this year the contract was for sold for 8 million rupees.

Siliserh Lake and the reflection of the hill as if it is a snake

Lot many local people do come here during the day and feed the fish. The feed is brought either with them or bought at the local tea shop. At the reservoir bund there are now too many monkeys and langurs and the government should take measures to shift them elsewhere.

Siliserh Lake - a boat and a crocodile in the foreground

I also saw couple of big crocodiles in the lake which made me think twice about the boating in the lake but still ended up boating nonetheless.

There is an entry fee to the hotel area for the tourist (not if you are staying at the hotel) which seemed silly to me as to why charge some money when no facility is being provided

Also read: Bala Quila – Alwar’s Way of How Not to Promote Tourism

Wednesday 25 December 2013

Wish You a Merry Christmas

I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and greetings for the holiday season.

Merry Christmas
Location of the Photograph: Parliament House, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Tuesday 24 December 2013

Christmas Eve Wishes

On Christmas Eve I greet all my readers. This is the day when the 'Santa Claus' would bring gifts to all the 'good chidren'!

It seems the reindeers of Santa Claus sleigh team are taking a break before their next trip!
(Photo location: Grouse Mountains, British Columbia, Canada)

Saturday 21 December 2013

Lancaster to Morecambe Trail

Given an opportunity and time availability I prefer to walk rather then  taking a bus or other means of travel as you are able to observe nature much more closely in this manner. So when I thought of visiting Morecambe from Lancaster I decided to take a trail.

Lancaster town & River Lune

I got down at the Lancaster coach station and after crossing the town crossed the bridge over the river Lune (which then flows into the Irish Sea). The river stayed on my left side for some distance before it went further left and out of sight.

Lancaster-Morecambe Trail

The trail from Lancaster to Morecambe is approximately five kilometers long and is used both by the cyclists as well as the walkers. So it is advisable to stick to the side meant for walkers as else you may hamper the cyclists going with speed as well as risking both yourself as well as the cyclists.

Wild Fireweed flowers

On both sides of the trail there are nice green trees. If one wants some diversion on the way then in between the two places there are few parks with their own trails! On both sides there were also several kind of wild flowers in bloom lending the trail with further charm.

Wild flowers on the Lancaster-Morecambe trail

Once you reach Morecambe you have to go through very little of the town before you hit the promenade and you get a beautiful view here of the sea as well as the Lakeland Fells.

Morecambe Town & Promenade

I would write more on Morecambe in a separate post but in the meanwhile also read my earlier posts on Lancaster as well as Morecambe by clicking the links given below.

Spotting a Seal in Morecambe
Lancaster Castle or Her Majesty's Prison
Ashton Memorial - The Taj Mahal of the North
The Hidden Gem of Lancaster University

Saturday 14 December 2013

How do you prepare for your exams?

Exam Preparation

It is currently exam time for many a college students. While driving I saw this girl pillion riding on a bike and studying from a book which she had put on the back of the person in front and was completely oblivious of her surroundings. I found it completely hilarious/funny/risky. One does observe the last minute reading by the students in various situations but nothing like this. This shows emphasis on rote learning in the Indian education system .

How have you prepared for your exams?

Also note that the girl has covered her face and head by a bandanna. Now I find this trend of tying a bandanna by girls of recent origin of say the past 10 years or so. She is not concerned for her safety as else she would have worn a helmet (neither does the local governments worry about the women's safety as by law even they have exempted them from wearing helmets giving strange logic of it being against the religion if one wears helmets - may be the governments want fewer women around and are contributing to the already skewed sex ratio of India!). The sole purpose of girls covering their face is to protect themselves from the sun and thereby keeping their skin 'fair & lovely'. This is the direct result of bombardment of advertisements on the channels about 'fair skins' being admired the most and prompting all girls (and now boys also) to use fairness creams.

Monday 9 December 2013

Llandudno - the Queen of Welsh Resorts

Wales overall is a beautiful area and within that Llandudno in the North Wales is the Queen of the Welsh Resorts.

Llandudno seen from the Great Orme with Little Orme in the left background

Llandudno is the largest seaside resort in the Wales and lies in the Conwy County Borough. Conwy is famous for the Conwy Castle. Llandudno lies at the limestone headland known as the Great Orme. So once I reached Llandudno my first priority was to climb the Great Orme from where one gets great views of the town, sea, promenade, pier and the Little Orme etc.

Llandudno Pier

Now there are four ways to reach the top of Great Orme – one is by the tramway, the other by the cable car (this was not operational at least on the day that I was there – maybe because it was too windy for the cable car), third is by road and last but not the least by foot. I chose the last one as this is the best way to enjoy nature and what fantastic views I got from the Great Orme. It was very windy at the top.

Among the other things to see in Llandudno is the Pier from where one gets good views of the sea as well as the town.

Llandudno Promenade with the Great Orme in the background

Promenade is an equally charming place to walk around with the sea on one side, the town behind you and the Great Orme majestically there on the left and the Little Orme to your right. An Orme in English means sea sepent which the two Orme's are supposed to resemble. The good thing about a good tourist place is that it takes plenty of care to welcome the old and the physically disadvantaged and I could see that Llandudno is taking great care in this aspect. I saw lot many old people using some aid or the other to move around on the promenade and there are plenty of benches for the weary feet to take rest and to admire nature.

Tourist taking a ride to see Llandudno

For the tourists to take a look at the town there are also tourist vehicles that one can take ride in the open air road wagons. The town is bedecked with flowers all the time. Llandudno also generates green energy by means of wind turbines located off shore.

Wind Turbines, Llandudno

Also read - 
Conwy Castle, Wales
Town Walls of Conwy
Chepstow in Wales, UK

Friday 6 December 2013

Loi Krathong Festival of Thailand

I was recently invited to the Loi Krathong festival held at Dusit Devarana in Delhi. The festival was organised by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

The 'Queen' with a Krathong

Loi Krathong is a festival of lights in Thailand wherein floating crown like decorations are floated in water body. It takes place on the full moon of the 12th Thai lunar calender which is normally in November in the Christian calender.

Thailand's Ambassador with the Krathong

The festival started with several Thai dances with the accompaniment of Thai music. Most of the dances were typically slow and graceful as the Thai dances normally are. After the dance performance all the guests were invited to light the lamps and incense sticks and then float them in the water. This part was led by the Thailand's Ambassador to India and then all of us followed suit. The floating lights in the water produced a mesmerizing effect. 

Lighted Krathongs being floated in the water

After the dances the dinner was again sumptuous Thai food and so many typical Thai desserts. The venue - Dusit Devarana  - is a super luxury Thai hotel and resort that has recently opened in Delhi on the National Highway number 8 very close to the Delhi-Gurgaon border. The landscaping of the hotel is fantastic.

I have recorded one of the Thailand's dances on this occasion and I prsent it to you here -

Video of a dance of Thailand on the occasion of Loi Krathong

Saturday 30 November 2013

Please Mind the GAP

Clean Ganga?

Recently I had gone to Rishikesh to do some river rafting and after completing the rafting near Muni-ki-Reti in Rishikesh I was just walking along the banks of the Ganga (or Ganges) and I was shocked to see a funeral pyre right on the banks of the river from which ash and other pollutants were entering the river directly.

Now the Government of India along with various state governments have been pumping millions of tax payers' rupees right from 1986 under the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) to clean the river. I wonder where all the money is going (You & I of course know) if they cannot even shift the burning of bodies away from the banks even from main tourist towns like Rishikesh. Think about all the other places where the industrial effluents are being released in the Ganga with impunity.

We definitely have to mind this GAP!

Also read earlier posts on Rishikesh -
Rafting Down the Ganges
Garud Chatti Temple, Rishikesh
Neergarh Falls: Rishikesh
Garud Chatti Waterfalls in Rajaji National Park

Tuesday 26 November 2013

A Walk in the LAKES - The Windermere Walk

Most people who visit Windermere normally either go to the main pier or take a boat ride but that is not what I had in mind when I went there.

Panoramic view of the Lake District

I decided to go for a small trek and that also on the other side of Windermere as it is the opposite side that attracted me as it has hills, serenity, less tourists and some trails through thick vegetation amidst picturesque scenery.

Dense vegetation on the Windermere trail

Windermere is a small town in the Lake District of England that can be reached either by bus or the train and can be a base for venturing further into the Lake District. Lake District is a vast area abounding outstanding natural beauty, several big and small lakes, hills and undulating plains.

View of the Windermere Lake from higher up

Once I reached the main pier of the Windermere I walked further along the edge of the lake and reached a point from where one can take a ferry to cross the lake. And unlike the boat ride for the tourists the ferry only charges 50 pence to take you across. There is only one ferry boat which goes and comes back at a point that is narrow and therefore takes only 10 minutes to cross.

Wild Flowers on the trail

After crossing the lake there is another short walk along a pond. The pond, though adjoining the lake, should not be confused with the Windermere lake as the lake is almost 17 kms long (probably the largest in UK) and due to action of the wind there is always tides like in the ocean. The pond's water is shallow comparatively and therefore still and serene.

A beautiful reflection

After leaving the road there is a steep trail that I took for my trek which took me through dense vegetation. Once I reached the top I could see vast stretches of the lake and the surrounding beautiful countryside.

Way to go

One can, if one is used to finding ones way, make their own trail. I saw a beautiful reflection in a very small pond formed naturally near the highest point of my trek. Also climbed further up some hills where there was no trail also.

Angling by the Windermere Lake

After covering a distance on the ridge I climbed down to the lake. Now this side of the lake is less crowded and people use this side for angling, camping and other leisure activities.

I would definitely recommend this side of the lake and the hills for any leisure or adventure activities.

Also read: A Walk in the LAKES - The Keswick Walk

Sunday 17 November 2013

The Unique Gurudwara at Sussaan

On the occasion of Guru Purab I present to you a unique Gurudwara - Baba Jawahar Dass Ji- at Sussaan.

Gurudwara Baba Jawahar Dass Ji

The Gurudwra is located at Sussaan in the district of Hoshairpur in Punjab. A huge fair in remembrance to the saint is held every year and devotees visit this place in thousands.

Lower portion of Nishaan Sahib

The Nishaan Sahib's lower portion has some very interesting artifacts like bangles, babies tricycles, chuda and parandi etc.that the devotees tie on it to make a wish

Nishaan Sahib

It is believed that when the Nishaan Sahib is raised it is only partly done so by men and the rest gets raised on its own (This is a belief of the locals).

Inside the Gurudwara

Unlike other Gurudwaras it also has the statue of its local Guru (Baba Ji) which is revered by the locals a lot.

Baba Jawahar Dass Ji
The devout come from far off places to make a wish and when their wish comes true they again come here to thank the Baba Ji.

Sussaan Gurudwara from outside

This Gurudwara is not much on the tourist radar (except for the locals who visit in huge numbers) as it is quite far away from any major town although it is located in a beautiful village setting. Interestingly there is also a Sufi Mazaar inside the Gurudwara compound.

Friday 15 November 2013

Why I love to go to McLeodganj

McLeodganj is a place that offers solace not only to those who are of religious bent but also to those like me who look at nature and food as an alternative means of solace. And McLeodganj has plenty of the latter two of these.

McLeodganj - Himachal Pradesh

Now there are lot of eateries in Delhi that do offer Tibetan food but the quality of food in McLeodganj is far superior and within a short distance there are so many restaurants that offer good quality Tibetan food and that also at very reasonable price. In fact compared to Delhi these are very cheap.

Amdo Momo with Rice Soup

One can have very good quality of Momos or Amdo Momos, Thukpa etc. Normal Momos are crescent shaped whereas the Amdo Momos are roundish. I also had Rice Soup served with the Momos for the first time.

Pizza Humpty Dupmty with another dish at Namgyal Cafe

The surprising thing is that I normally take the non-vegetarian Tibetan food but even the vegetarian Momos and Thukpa served here in several restaurants is exceptionally good especially the Spinach Momos.

Pizza Whale at Namgyal Cafe

But the most surprising part is that one can have the best of the pizzas here especially at the Namgyal Cafe whose thin crusted pizzas are definitely much better than any pizza offered by Pizza Hut, Domino's or any other multinational outlets in Delhi and elsewhere.


Earlier Namgyal Cafe was on the Temple Road and was part of the  Tsug-Lha-Khang Complex but recently has shifted to a lane close to the main town square.

Spinach Momos

McLeodganj can be reached by Delhi in about 12 to 14 hours. It is the headquarters of the Tibetan Government in Exile and the Dalai Lama (the spiritual head of Buddhist across the world) lives here.

Also read my earlier post on McLeodganj.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

The Hidden Gem of Lancaster University

Besides the fact that Lancaster University is among the top rated universities of England it has another jewel in its crown.

Woodland Trail, Lancaster University

The Woodland Trail that encircles the University is superb for both the nature and the sports enthusiasts.

A canopy of trees, Woodland trail, Lancaster University

This beautiful 4.3 km walk amidst the woodland canopy has mainly trees of beech, oak and sycamore. The earlier plants were planted in 1841 on the Bigforth Estate and later additions do include maple and poplar trees.

View of countryside from the Woodland trail

The walk takes you sometimes amidst dense foliage of trees and sometimes gives you the view of the open countryside.

The Lake on Lancaster University Campus
The south-eastern part of the woodland trail takes you next to a lake that has lotus flowers blooming as well as several ducks on its water body.

The Bailrigg House, Lancaster University
The north-eastern part of the walk next to the sports centre takes you near the beautiful old building - Bailrigg House - that has been built around 1899.

Flowers on the Woodland Trail
The woodland is home to several birds and on several trees I saw the bird houses built by the University. The undergrowth also had several kinds of wild flowers blooming making the walk even more beautiful.

Wild Flowers
One of the best parts was to enjoy the beautiful sunsets sitting on one of the benches in the south-west part of the campus.

Blazingly beautiful sunset
During my stay on the campus I did the walk several times and enjoyed it thoroughly each time. With such a beautiful woodland trail within the campus what more can one ask?