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The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Wanderlust

A couple of weeks back, in mid of April, I was in Ooty, a hill station in the Nilgiri Mountains in southern India. On April 17, I went for a day trip to the neighboring town of Coonoor, known for its greenery and scenic beauty.

I enjoyed every bit of this road trip as we drove past beautiful bungalows, orchards, canopied roads and sprawling tea gardens along the slopes.

Coonoor, tea garden, nilgiri, hills

And it was during the Ooty trip, I realized the usefulness of smartphone cameras. They are very handy when it comes to clicking pictures from a moving bus or car. Thanks to my Lumia540. 🙂

I’ll be sharing my Ooty Diaries soon…

Published in response to The Daily Pose Photo Challenge: Wanderlust
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The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Pure

buddha, dordenma, thimphu, bhutan

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“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
~ Buddha 

This week’s photo challenge theme, pure, transports me to that beautiful morning in Thimphu. The morning I had a glimpse of Buddha, pure and sublime, overlooking the hills and the city.

buddha, dordenma, thimphu, bhutan

Published in response to The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Pure

Rewind Time at Yercaud

coffee estate, yercaud, tamilnadu

Imagine a place in the hills, where the wind sometimes wafts, sometimes freewheels. The mercury is too cautious to cross the 30th degree mark, and the homes are the old world. Where a thousand greens tinge the same hill. The forests become lakes and lakes become forests in a wink. And a dozen peaks take your eye to the furthest horizons. More than 173 years ago, Sir Thomas Monroe, the governor of erstwhile Madras Presidency, found such a place. Not enough has changed in Yercaud. Like many of its sisters, it has avoided the ravaging beast of urbanity. The whirls of smoke don’t choke its forest air, and time is sedentary. Yercaud resorts take pride in showcasing the antiquity of the place, giving you much to marvel at.

Yercaud Forest walk, Tamilnadu – Image via Flickr by Joseph Jayanth

Shevaroys for the Quaint Nature Lover

Nestled in the Shevaroys Range in Eastern Ghats, Yercaud is some 5,000 feet above sea level, and, luckily for the reserved, sparsely populated. The jewel of South India, it heavily contrasts the bustle and chaos of regional metropolises. Like many hill stations, it still retains its colonial buildings and institutions like the prestigious Montfort School, Fairholme Bungalow and Grange summer resort. Central to its charm is the Yercaud Lake, a silvery body of water lined by hills, dense parks, and natural shoals. When you’re not boating, the lake-side parks, which include The Botanical Garden and The National Orchidarium, offer irenic strolls.

yercaud lake, botanical garden yercaud, tamilnadu

Botanical Garden, Yercaud, Tamilnadu – Image via Flickr by solarisgirl

The undulating landscape attracts trekkers from around the country to see the enchanting Kiliyur Falls empty into the valley below as it swells with the waters of Yercaud’s lakes. On the way to the highest point of Shevaroys Hills, where its famous temple stands, is the hill station’s oldest cottage, Norton’s Bungalow. Situated nearby, the Bear Cave is a short potholer’s journey of a few hundred metres.

High Points and Horticulture Delights

Yercaud hill station, yercaud, tamilnadu

Hill station in Yercaud, Tamilnadu – Image via Flickr by Joseph Jayanth

When the British developed this hill station, they introduced fruits to sustain its economy, a trade that still continues. Visitors to Yercaud can stroll through its citrus fruit groves, banana plantations and coffee estates, where the coffee bloom dots the forests with white flowers in fairy-tale effect. The plantations transport you to old-time India, where regional cultures blended seamlessly with borrowed British idiosyncrasies.

Coffee estate in Yercaud, Tamilnadu – Image via Flickr by V.v

During the time of the British, trekking to Yercaud Hills’ vantage points wasn’t uncommon for both men and women. The topography is home to old and new temples and fascinating places to visit in Yercaud that you may stumble into. East of the hills lies the popular Pagoda Point, where the sun drowns in into the vast, dense jungles of Yercaud edging towards the brightly-lit Salem city – a breathtaking sight for an evening picnic with friends and family, where you can indulge in archery after your picnic, depending on the Yercaud hotels you may be staying. Like Pagoda Point, these hills are home to many other vantage points: Tipperary Viewpoint, Karediyur viewpoint, Arthur’s Seat and Lady’s Seat, which aristocratic British women had been known to visit. A short distance from Lady’s Seat is Yercaud’s renowned Silk Farm and Rose Garden, both popular attractions that immerse you in the artistry of nature and man.

yercaud hill station, tamilnadu

Hill station in Yercaud, Tamilnadu – Image via Flickr by Joseph Jayanth

Because that is really what a holiday in Yercaud is all about: witnessing the endearing relationship between its few residents and its overwhelming nature. Whether you’re starting from Chennai, Hyderabad or Bangalore to Yercaud, your travel will be comfortable thanks to the fine roads.

 

This is a guest post by Nanditha, who is a travel writer by profession and works with HolidayIQ. She is a lover of world cultures, languages, and food, and guides travelers to make travel adventurous with her experience.
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Sikkim Diaries: Visiting a Piece of Heaven Called Gurudongmar

lake, Gurudongmar, Lachen, North Sikkim

Gurudongmar was on my bucket-list since 2011 when I planned with my friends for North Sikkim travel for the first time. Unfortunately, due to a devastating earthquake in Sikkim in the same year, we had to cancel our trip. Nevertheless, visiting Lake Gurudongmar was my destiny. I finally made it after 5 long years. 🙂

Selfie, Lumia 540, Gurudongmar, lake, north sikkim

Nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, at approx. 17,800 feet above the sea level, the holy lake is about 3.5-hour drive from Lachen, a small village where tourist can halt for the night.

We started early, at 4 am. It was a terribly bumpy ride on the rough mountain roads till the army check post after Thangu, which was our only halt during this hectic journey.

mountain roads, north sikkim

north sikkim, mountain, desert, road

26641876673_f105988cca_hThe road gets better from here, offering a smooth ride, which is a rarity in North Sikkim. 😛   😀  mountain, road, desert, north sikkim

North sikkim, lachen, gurudongmar, landscape, mountains

As we were nearing the lake the landscapes changed drastically without any trace of trees and plants. It looked more like a desert with dune-like formations visible at the horizon. Exalted and overwhelmed, one of our group members commented that the landscapes reminded him of Ladakh. 🙂

road, gurudongmar, north sikkim

mountain, desert, north sikkim, gurudongmar

Whatever it might look like, the mountain desert looked outlandish and fascinating to me. I was spellbound with the sights of such exotic landscapes.

way to gurudongmar, north sikkim, himalayas

mountains, himalayas, north sikkim

snow, mountains, north sikkim

We saw herds of yaks grazing on the fields, totally indifferent about the tourist vehicles that were running past them.

yaks, north sikkim, mountain desert, himalayas

27150318012_3e53ac0ac2_hFinally, we reached our destination, Lake Gurudongmar, at 7:30 am. That’s how the holy lake looked like in the morning light – still, calm, and unspoiled.

lake gurudongmar, north sikkim, reflection

The first few moments were speechless in silent admiration to such divine beauty.

gurudongmar, lake, north sikkim

There is a temple on the bank. I didn’t find time to enter as I was too busy in absorbing the beauty of nature all around.

gurudongmar, holy lake, north sikkim, himalayas

prayer flags, colors, north sikkim, gurudongmar

lake gurudongmar, north sikkim

Gurudongmar, north sikkim, landscape

And of course, posing for the camera with the lake on the backdrop. 😉

gurudongmar, holy lake, north sikkim, nature

However, amid this clean and clear environment, the taxis/rental cars were the direct agent of air pollution. These rental cars are so poorly maintained in Sikkim. I wonder why the local administration is so indifferent about them while it is so strict about keeping Gangtok clean.

environmental pollution, north sikkim, gurudongmar, mountains

In addition, there are the “litterbugs” who never forget to throw off their disposable belongings anytime, anywhere. If you zoom into the picture (below) you’ll see the discarded water bottles. Is it not the responsibility of the visitors, too, to keep the environment clean?

mountains, gurudongmar, environmental pollution, north sikkim

Our Tour Plan

We were lucky to have the weather in our favor during our tour from May 7 to 12, 2016. Our North Sikkim tour included 2-night 3-day Lachung-Lachen package. We stayed at Hotel Meylong in Gangtok and booked the Lachung-Lachen tour package through our hotel. You can check out my review of Hotel Meylong on TripAdvisor for more information.

Our North Sikkim tour plan was like this –

Day 1: NJP (New Jalpaiguri) to Gangtok (We reached NJP from Kolkata at around 9am by Padatik Express)

Day 2: Gangtok to Lachung (Night stay at Lachung)

Day 3: Visit Yumthung Valley and Zero Point – Back to hotel at Lachung for lunch – drive to Lachen (Night stay at Lachen)

Day 4: Visit Lake Gurudongmar and drive back to hotel for lunch – return to Gangtok by evening

Day 5: Gangtok sightseeing

Day 6: Visit Changu (Tsomgo Lake), Baba Mandir and Nathu La pass and return to Gangtok

Day 7: Start for NJP after lunch and reach there by 7:30 pm and board the train to Kolkata

Some Important Info

Please note that if you are an Indian citizen, you should carry your Voter ID card/PAN card/driving license as photo identity proof along with 4-5 photocopies of the same document and an equal number of passport size photographs for Lachung-Lachen tour. You may need to submit these documents to get the travel permit. However, you cannot rent cars on your own and arrange the tour directly. You have to go via a local tour operator or your hotel’s travel desk. They will arrange everything for you.

Finally, don’t forget to pack an umbrella if you are visiting in the May-June season. You may need it anytime. 🙂

To be continued…

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Bhutan Tour: My Rendezvous with Paro

paro, bhutan, paro valley

If I start talking (read ‘writing’) about Paro I won’t be able to include everything in one post. Paro is so beautiful and that beauty has so many facets to it that it is impossible for me to sum it up here. So it’s better to share the picturesque beauty in picture instead of words. 🙂  

Finally the day came. We had to leave Thimphu for Paro. Our journey to Paro started at 10:30 am (IST) and we reached there at 12:30 pm (IST).

paro, bhutan, valley

Paro, a fertile valley on the banks of the river Paro, surrounded by the sublime Himalayan Mountains, beckons travelers with its greenery, scenic beauty, and ample scope to explore the rich cultural heritage of Bhutan.

Paro monastery, paro, bhutan

I had heard a lot about this spectacular valley, which is dotted with monasteries, sacred edifices and landmarks,

Buddhist monastery, paro, bhutan

and a small but lively township, which we were to explore next.

Paro town, paro, bhutan

The river Paro meanders through the vale dividing it in two halves.

paro chhu. paro river, paro, bhutan, valleyAlthough there were occasional rain clouds hovering over the valley, the weather in Paro was warmer during the day than that was in Thimphu. But the nights were pleasant in summer months (May-June).

paro valley, bhutan

Initially, it was mountains on both sides of the road.

Paro, Bhutan, mountain road

As we entered Paro District the roads turned wider. The glimpses of the river running in parallel with the road made the journey even more exciting and visually appealing.

Paro, Bhutan, valley

paro, bhutan

paro, bhutan, valley, mountains

paro valley, bhutan

Finally we reached the point where we could meet Paro, the river. This is the place where you can touch, feel, and walk into the cool waters and enjoy a cable car ride across the river. 🙂

paro, bhutan, paro river

paro chhu, paro river, paro, bhutan

paro chhu, paro river, paro, bhutan

in paro, bhutan, paro chhu

After an exciting rendezvous with Paro Chhu (‘chhu’ is river in vernacular) we were back on the road again, heading towards our hotel. We drove past the small cottages,

paro valley, bhutan

lush green paddy fields,

paro valley, bhutan, paddy fields in Paro

and the small but spectacular Paro Airport.

paro airport, paro, bhutan

paro, paro airport, bhutan

It seemed Paro greeted us with waving white flags on the roadside

paro, bhutan, flags, Buddhist culture

and the rustling branches of peaches blooming with white flowers, everywhere. 🙂

peach flower, paro, bhutan, white flowers,

Our car finally stopped at the gate of the hotel Mandala Resort Garden, a hotel with excellent views, I must say.

orchid, paro, bhutan, mandala resort garden hotel

mandala resort garden, paro hotels, hotel in paro

paro hotels, hotel in paro, mandala resort garden

Whichever side your room is, you are entitled to get a clear view of the valley from the room as long as you are in Mandala Resort Garden. However, it is located in the hills outside the town of Paro, within 10 minutes’ drive from Paro Market.

paro, bhutan, paro hotels, hotel in paro, mandala resort garden

mandala resort garden, paro hotels, hotel in paro, bhutan

I’ll soon share the story of my sightseeing in Paro. But before that, enjoy some more colorful panorama of this beautiful valley through my lens. 🙂

paro, bhutan, paro hotels

paro, valley, rice terraces, paddy field, greenery, bhutan

pines, paro, bhutan

paro, paro valley, bhutan

paro hotels, mandala resort garden, hotels in paro, bhutan

paro, bhutan, bhutanese women

paro, valley, paro chhu, bhutan

paro chhu, paro, bhutan

paro chhu, paro, river, bhutan

Hope you enjoyed Paro tour with me. 🙂   Stay tuned for more.

in Paro, Bhutan

P.S: This is Part V of my Bhutan Tour Photo Essay Series. You can also check out the first four posts of this series for more photos and information on Bhutan travel.

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“My ultimate search has been for a muse”

road to Paro, hills, mountains, entering Paro, Bhutan

My ultimate search has been for a muse.

Dominic Monaghan

And I have found her in the mighty mountains, in the verdant vales and in the green slopes of the hills. I would love to come back a thousand times to the road that leads to mountain.

I can remember it was a cloudy day and it drizzled quite a few times during was our journey from Thimphu to Paro. I don’t understand the connection between rain and my travelling to hill stations… 🙂  But I must agree that the hill stations in the Himalayas have a different beauty when it rains.

road to Paro, hills, mountains, entering Paro, Bhutan

Published in response to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Muse.

Enveloped in Morning Light

morning, light, hills, kumaon, choukori, uttarakhand

Each day is a little life: every waking and rising a little birth,
every fresh morning a little youth, every going to rest and sleep a little death.

~ Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Kumaon region in Uttarakhand, India is famous for its beautiful hilly terrain enveloped in lush green plantation. But that’s during the day. If you rise early you may find the greenery enveloped in morning mist. The veil of fog thickens in chilly wind and falls gently down the valley. As the morning grows older the sun comes out from behind the lofty peaks of the Himalayas and envelops the earth with warmth and light. 

morning, light, hills, kumaon, choukori, uttarakhand

Published in response to Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge: Enveloped.
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