Friday, August 12, 2011

Discovering the Lonely Planet

World Metro Map by Alan Foale.
Traveling is the love of my life. And there's nothing more that I want to do at this point in my life.
I have such a long list of places I want to visit. 
To Rio to see Christ the Redeemer.
To the Arctic region to see Aurora Borealis.
To Italy to see Mt. Vesuvius. The Discovery Channel made it look amazingly amazing.
Or even Timbuktu. Just so when anyone asks me Where are you? I can say In Timbuktu.

Do you know where Timbuktu is?
It's in Africa.
But, that's one place that I'm not so keen on visiting. Only because you need to take a couple of shots before going there. Now, how could doing that make you feel all Yay! about your holiday?
Which is why I never understood how people travel to India.

I remember listening to the Boney M song By the rivers of Babylon while growing up and thinking Babylon sounds like such a cool name for a city. I thought someday I will go there. And then I googled it and found that it's in Iraq.
So, maybe not.

I just realised how every place on my wishlist is not in India.
But, that's only because I've seen so much of India already. I went on all the camps in school and went to all corners of India. I actually am not even sure of how many places I've visited.
I've been white water rafting in Manali.
Pretended to see tigers in Bandhavgarh.
Seen the Taj Mahal in Agra and wondered why it was so yellow and how in the photo it's so white.
Been to colourful Rajasthan 2 or 3 times. But, didn't get the 'Oh my God! look at the colours' feeling that most foriegners do.
Visited Khajuraho when I was 12 and thought sex was a funny thing.
Sailed to Lakshdweep on a ship called Tipu Sultan where I had to shower in a 2x2 feet prison-like cubicle. And visited different islands everyday where we were greeted with coconut water and saw colourful fish swimming around us in the clear blue sea.
And so many more places.

I love my parents even more for letting me experience all this.
there was...
  • The traveling and sleeping in a 3 bunk non-AC train in my blue sleeping bag while hoping to not fall off my bunk which was also randomly fun.
  • Just like the spoonfull of brandy that was given to us at night to keep us warm in the colder cities which was like our teenage bar night. Wohoo!
  • And those childish camp crushes which lasted for 10 days.
That was the life!

I pretty much saw most of India this way.
And having covered so many places there was nothing left on my places to see wishlist except Baroda.
Now, you may think 'Why Baroda?'
Well, when I was little, I thought Baroda was Abroad.
I think my mind was just set in Anagram mode for a while.
And around that time my sister even got me to believe that Kannada was the national language of Canada.
Way back when I was innocent (and stupid).
Luckily things have changed.

It's not that I don't like traveling in India. I love the motherland. I just wish we as Indians could maintain everything we have (which is a lot) and make it worth seeing.
I remember going to Ajanta - Ellora caves when I was 10 and I just couldn't understand why my school had taken us there. Was it to see I love Tinku, Bunty, Pinky and the rest of the Indian family carved out onto the paintings?

And then to add to that, the pollution makes holiday photos look so saturated. Unless you cheat and adjust levels on photoshop. Or actually do something about it.
But, when you travel away from the cities, I love how the colours just pop in the pictures.

by Muji (via Swissmiss)
When I think of my travels outside of India, I somehow always associate it with food + drink.
Oolong, Pu'er and Lychee Tea in China.
Apple tea, dolmas, white cheese and goat's milk icecream in Turkey.
Gelato, gelato and gelato in Italy.
Sangria and Tapas in Spain.
Dessert and cheese in France.
Shawerma in Dubai.
In Nepal I only had a cup of regular milky tea. Since I crossed the border and was there for just an hour.
Chocolate in Switzerland.
Everything in London.
And Amsterdam was all about Strawberries. I was 5.
But there were exceptions.
Bangkok was about wearing my Leonardo DiCaprio T-shirt. I was 12.
And America was all about the shopping and underage gambling.

I love holidays. Maybe not planning them.
I love going far away. But not the jet lag.
I love taking photos. Not practising using manual features.
I love dressing up on holiday. Not packing it all in.

And most of all I enjoy turning into currency converter and time difference calculator.
It brings out the travel geek in me.

Cushions by My bearded pigeon.
Here are my tips for planning a great holiday:
  • Bring out the Kalnirnay to plan holiday dates. I check for good and bad days to keep my mother happy.
  • Don't drive down anywhere. I don't enjoy drives that last more than an hour. I'd rather just start enjoying my holiday asap. My friend actually drugged me once so I wouldn't complain while driving from Bombay to Goa (with what I thought was an anti-throwing up pill). Thanks Mallika.
  • Book the cheapest and quickest flight. I hate flying. I'm lean and mean but no flying machine.
  • Check hotel reviews on tripadvisor.
  • Or book hostels on They're as good as hotels.
  • Get full itineraries made by someone who was kind enough to write and post them online.
  • Use Google a lot. Don't worry, it won't feel violated.
  • Pack light. Don't carry extra shoes. You can buy flip-flops even in a supermarket.
  • And take lots of photos and capture every moment. Because your mind may explode trying to hold in all that beauty.
  • And when photography is not allowed, buy postcards. Or be shady and take photos when noone's looking.
So much to see. So little time.
But, what a time to be alive!

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