A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: wattslee

"Street Shooting In Delhi.!!"

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7......12th.Aug.’16..
Mega Mayhem Of Modern Madness…That’s my welcome to Delhi every time I arrive here.!!..Ranked now as the second most populated city worldwide at around 25 million inhabitants, it can be challenging & overwhelming for both the visiter & the resident… Having visited most of the major sights in the city, my six day stopover was all I required to catch up with family & friends before catching my flight back to Manchester on the 12th of August..
The Bed&Chai guesthouse in Greater Kailash is centrally located to almost everything in Delhi and has a handful of very friendly & helpful staff should you need any travel advice or arrange bookings for your onward journey within India..They are part of the international Hostel World group & I found them to be very clean, comfortable & an ideal choice for the budget conscious traveller…Greater Kailash or GK as it’s often referred to, is considered quite an affluent neighbourhood with some of the most popular markets in Delhi and home to a wide range of big name retail stores, restaurants and coffee shops…A popular snack & always a favourite of mine has been Dahi Vada’s..A chaat style street food made with balls of flour soaked in thick fresh yogurt & garnished with coriander,chaat masala, cumin & chilli powder..As tempting as it may be, I avoided the street food carts & opted for lunch in the comfort and safety of a Haldirams restaurant..Originating in Rajasthan & part of a large chain, they tend to specialise in indian snacks & sweets & namkeens (savoury snacks) .. Finished with the traditional Kulfi (pistachio flavoured ice cream) I was a happy chappy for the rest of the day..!!!
Though fairly inexpensive, the Delhi metro can still be a bit of a challenge at times, especially at peak times..so it’s all about patience & vigilance, so sometimes the option to jump on an auto rickshaw or book a uber taxi for the slightly higher fare is a far better trade off for a little comfort..
India is a travel/street photographer’s paradise and Delhi in particular can offer you endless opportunities as long as you are prepared to accept the crowds, traffic, noise and pollution..I found the early mornings to be an ideal time too, as it also avoided the intense heat of the day…
My flight out to Manchester was scheduled for 21:50hrs. on the 12th.August & fortunately I decided on booking a taxi for 14:00hrs..Being a Friday & with a long weekend due for Independence Day a half hour drive normally, turned out to take just over two hours with another two hours to clear customs & security at the airport..Needless to say it was a relief to be sitting and waiting in the Emirates departure lounge..

Posted by wattslee 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

"It's Always Tea Time In Darjeeling"

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6th. August'16..
Another airport & another departure lounge..Left an overcast Darjeeling at 6am this morning with a reserved taxi at the cost of 1700 rupees, which I thought was a good deal for a three hour ride to Bagdogra Airport..Thanks to my new found friends at the hotel, who would normally arrange the transport with a slight commission for themselves..Thanks guys & hope you enjoyed the Premium Blend ... And I'm not talking tea..!!!. In the peak season this fare can be around the Rs.2500-3000, depending on how hard you bargain & whether they are able to pick up business on the way back to Darjeeling.. A little early though, as my flight to Delhi is not scheduled for departure till 12:40pm, but I guess it's always best to play safe..
The monsoon weather has played havoc on some roads in the hills of this region with landslides & floods and though I was restricted to the city & it's surrounds due to the weather, it has been a very relaxing & enjoyable stay in Darjeeling over the last ten days..Met some wonderful people, made a few new friends, eaten some delicious local food ( not forgetting the Momos at Penang Restaurant."Yummo".) and visited a number of the highlights around town... Unexpectedly, I even managed a photoshoot for the popular Nuthmalls local tea room & restaurant in town.. All to mainly update their Website/Facebook page and new menus.. Looking forward to seeing the end results of my work...Thanks for the opportunity guys.!!!
Not one for visiting zoos due to the captivity of wild animals, I went against my better judgement & spent a few hours in the Darjeeling Zoological Park. Set on around 67 acres & at an elevation of 2,134m. it's considered as the largest high altitude zoo in India.. Opened in 1958 it's a short twenty minute walk out of town and worth the visit as it specialises in breeding programs for animals specific to the region's alpine conditions, including the endangered Snow Leopard, Himalayan Wolf, Goral (Mountain Goat), Siberian Tiger & the Red Panda..
Being a starting point for trekking & mountaineering their are some good retailers with famous brand names at less than half the price you'd pay at home and although shopping was not really on the list of things to do on this trip, obviously temptation got the better of me.!!
Another tick off to the bucket list and highlight has been the ride on the world famous Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, probably better known as the “Darjeeling Toy Train”..
Built as a 2ft. narrow gauge railway in 1879, it runs for 78kms.from a height of about 100metres at New Jalpaiguri to 2,200 at Darjeeling and had been declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999..The railroad was originally built & used during British colonial rule & the tea plantation owners, who flocked to the hills of Darjeeling for their summer holidays & escape the heat of the plains..
A must for any train buff or enthusiast, it’s an enjoyable round trip,taking in awesome views of the surrounding countryside & tea estates as it trundles through some quaint old villages & towns.. Prepare the need for a shower though, to wash away the ash & coal if you opt for the steam train ride. All part of the fun & excitement I guess..!!..
Costs are minimal too..at around Rs.700 (Diesel) & Rs.1100 (Steam)..and the one advantage of low season as I found..”No crowds & families with screaming children”..I had a compartment all to myself with the full attention of the guard & his tips & ideas from where to be with the camera..A real bonus..!!!
The Grace Inn, my hotel for the ten days in Darjeeling was clean & comfortable with a good bunch of young Nepali staff and being situated at a slightly higher level to the city it did offer some outstanding views towards Sikkim, Bhutan & the Himalayas .. Being the quiet season, for the first few days I did have the hotel all to myself, so the odd early evening was spent watching an Indian movie with the guys over a cup of chai, including, Yes.!!. an old black & white silent Charlie Chaplin film.. Watching laughter & giggles from the guys was probably the more hilarious part of the evening than the movie.!!
Surprisingly, english is widely spoken & understood in this area & with far better grammar & pronunciation than I have heard in other parts of India..Schools abound in and around the city..mainly private.!!..and it's been fun & interesting watching the schools at morning practice on the main square in town, in preparationP8010429.jpgP8040090.jpgP8040076.jpgP8031609.jpgP8031600.jpgP8031590.jpgP8030485.jpgP8030482.jpgP8030476.jpgP8030458.jpgP8030451.jpgP8011581.jpgP8011513.jpgP8011484.jpgP8010436.jpgP7310370.jpgP7301438.jpgP7300362.jpgP7300338.jpgP7300332.jpgP7300296.jpgP7281406.jpg22271166BEF6061089F78BEF76F7E89F.jpg for Independence Day celebrations on the 14th. of August..
With just over a week to go before I'm back in England, I thought a freshen up should be on the to do list, so the local street barber was my first appointment.. Never a disappointment in India..these guys do an amazing job..Haircut, shampoo & a head massage for Rs.60... Rs.100 & a cup of chai with him while he worked on his next customer made his day & me feeling a lot smarter & tidier.!!.. Another friend established.!!!!
Check in call for IndiGo flight 6E-472 to Delhi has now been called, so here goes, for the next & final stage of my stay in India...On this trip..!!
Weather aside, Darjeeling has been one of the highlights on this trip through the north of India..Perhaps because it’s a newly ventured region for me with so much more to see & explore.
So no doubt I look forward to being back again soon.!!

Posted by wattslee 17:00 Archived in India Comments (0)

"Darjeeling's Beauty .. Between Showers..!!"

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24th-28th July..
Boarded the 7pm bus from Mcloudganj for my overnight journey back to the heat & humidity of Delhi..The ISBT bus station is always a hub of excitement no matter what time of day or night & unfortunately after an eleven hour road trip & with minimum sleep, the last thing you'd feel like practicing are your bargaining skills with taxi & auto drivers..My initial thoughts were to catch the Metro, which meant two changes to my destination & fighting the morning work rush.. So at 6am, decision made.. a Rs.150 fare agreed & I was on my way for a few hours of R&R at Bed & Chai Hostel in Greater Kailash..
As a budget traveller on your own or as a couple, Bed&Chai fits the bill ideally.. Being part of the worldwide Hostelworld.com group they are in a good location for most of your shopping, sightseeing and public transport needs within New Delhi .. I opted for a private room with ensuite rather than the dorms, and at the cost of $44 incl. breakfast it suited my needs, even though I paid the rate of a double .. a small range of in house meals can be arranged & prepared by Bibesh or Moses & there is also a variety of menus from local restaurants/pizza/take aways at reception should your tastebuds feel the need to be a little more adventurous...Coraline fits the attributes as manager to the hostel perfectly..always attentive to your needs & willing to be of assistance to your requirements whenever needed..
Private taxi Uber are extremely popular & reliable in Delhi, plus they have their own version called Ola, though not as popular.. I'd consider Uber second best to the metro, although the metro is the cheapest way to get around most of Delhi, on occasions it can be overcrowded & inconvenient, especially after a long & tiring journey..
My 2pm departure from Delhi to Bhagdogra was with popular domestic airline Indigo with an arrival time of around 4pm... The road trip from the airport to Darjeeling is normally about a three hour journey, though that also depends on how you choose to make the trip .. I opted for the cheapest alternative with a shared taxi from Siliguri, a 20min. drive from the airport & where the majority of taxis leave from, for Darjeeling..At Rs.150 compared to a reserved taxi for Rs.2000 I thought the saving was good, not realising I had to hang around for another two hours for them to have a sufficient load to make their trip worthwhile thus turning a normally three hour journey to almost six ... Lesson learnt, so the return trip to the airport is a reserved car, especially seeing as I have a plane to catch back to Delhi on the 6th.August..
Being my first trip to Darjeeling I was excited & looking forward to my ten days here... Unfortunately, the monsoon season & rainfall may dampen (pardon the pun) the spirits a for treks & trips around the region, so lets hope I get a few breaks of sunshine while I'm here to catch a glimpse of the surrounding mountains, including the third highest in the Himalayas, Mt. Kanchenjunga.. Darjeeling itself is quite a beautiful & old english colonial hill station, with plenty of buildings/landmarks & traces of the British Raj scattered around town.. So my first day was spent just checking out the city & it's main points of interest, markets & restaurants and thinking of alternative & creative ideas with my photography due to the overcast weather...The main mall & central square is the place to be for all the local activity & chances of practicing your street & candid photography skills..With a large TV screen set up on an open stage, it's where you'll find most people from in & around town, including tourists watching indian music videos & the odd documentary... Wifi is unfortunately an issue at the hotel, though it's difficult to understand how they can blame the weather & isolation, when every cafe in town that offers free wifi don't seem to suffer the same issues.. Ah well..every more the reason for another cup of famous Darjeeling tea & nepalese patience..
Brave the showers for another five minute walk into town & another cuppa, me thinks.!!..Free wifi..upload this blog & catch up on emails & facebook ....
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Posted by wattslee 01:23 Archived in India Comments (0)

Tibet In Exile..!!..Mcloud Ganj (Himachal Pradesh)

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View Wattsup&Whereto.!! on wattslee's travel map.

17th-21st. July...
After an awesome week with Naveen & Neera at Darang Tea Estates and a 45min. drive, with many thanks to Naveen for the lift and farewell lunch at the Dhauladar Hotel in Dharamsala.. I've now been in Bhagsunag, about a 30min. walk north of McLoud Ganj now since Sunday..
I had stayed with Bhavinder & family here at Jagatram Niwas Homestay back in March 2011 with SongHi, & absolutely loved the spot.. A semi rural property overlooking the village of Bhagsu with amazing views through the valley to the sprawling city of Dharamsala .... Mainly notable for it's popular temple, the main steep & narrow street through the village is now lined with shops, cafes, homestays & hotels..If you are on the lookout for traditional medicines & Ayurvedic herbs, I'm quite sure you will find what you are looking for here too...
About a 20min. walk out of the village there is even a waterfall, frequented by pilgrims & tourists alike and in the monsoon season, as is now, it's quite a sight..
As expected, there are plenty of walking trails & trekking opportunities to choose from within the area, with the major day one being a steep 3-3.5 hour climb through Rakar village & the surrounding deodar (Himalayan Cedar) forests to the plateau of Triund at 2827m, which provides you with stunning views of the Dhauladar mountains...Not this day though, as they were covered in constant cloud.!!. There's a handful of chai shops at the top to refresh & rehydrate from the climb with even the chance of overnite camping or the luxury of a forest guesthouse should you want to stay a little longer, though probably not a good idea in the monsoons as I found on the way back down..The weather can be quite unpredictable and change almost instantly up here in the rainy season & if it wasn't for a timely stop at a small chai stop & having a small amount of wet weather gear, my time getting back down to Bhagsu would have taken much longer than expected...More keen on protecting the precious camera gear than myself, as you would..!!!..
A half an hour's walk from the homestay in Bhagsu brings you into Mcloud Ganj, home to the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyataso) & the Tibetan Government in exile, following an escape from Chinese occupied Tibet in 1959.. Gangchen Kyishong, his home is located just below the town on Temple Road, and he was relocated here in 1968 from Dharamsala...Not built to the lavish Tibetan style of old, the building is a plain & simple concrete building, with an aim to depict & respect the refugee community's limited means and status..
Adjacent to the complex is the Namgyal Monastery amongst whose monks are some of the Dalai Lama's chosen few personal attendants and there is even an old peoples home nearby for retired members of the Tibetan administration...Having spent a few hours here on two occasions this week I have soaked up the peace & spiritual tranquility of the place ... Also watched an afternoon of a monk's debate, when they debate & seal points and topics for discussion with great enthusiasm & excitement (some it seems do get quite heated) to end with a decisive clap of hands ... Interesting viewing.!!
Lunch at Moon Peak cafe/restaurant is a must for a traditional Himachal thali or my choice,the special of the day, Coriander Chicken & rice, washed down with a mango smoothie..Yum..!!.There are also plenty of traditional tibetan tea shops & restaurants in the village where it's hard to resist the taste of Momos.. A typical tibetan/nepalese steamed bun made with a white flour dough and a choice of fillings plus a side dish of dipping sauces/chutneys or pickles...
I don't think I'd go hungry here in India.!!..A couple of bucks and you get a decent snack with a drink or five dollars and it's a feast to last you almost the day, & the variety of dishes are endless.. A vegetarians paradise..!!..or non vegetarian for that matter.!!..OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Posted by wattslee 03:14 Archived in India Tagged landscapes waterfalls mountains buildings people trees markets history traditional india valley monks forest trip buddhist lama spices tibetan dalai Comments (0)

"Chai Breaks".. at Darang Tea & Homestay

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View Wattsup&Whereto.!! on wattslee's travel map.

10th-17th July..
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P7151208.jpgP7151199.jpgThe idea on arriving in Palampur was to relax & take it easy with the odd early morning stroll through the tea gardens & surrounding region of Darang Tea Estates and maybe catch the local bus into Palampur once or twice .. Uniquely, Naveen & Neeru Bhandari who own the property, do run it as a homestay very successfully..So successful, that they have recently been voted No.1 homestay by Tripadviser in the Kangra region, and deservedly so..They both obviously enjoy what they do & this shines through as soon as you are welcomed into their home..With their length of experience & eye for detail, there is every guarantee that you will leave with lasting memories of your stay, and a promise to return, which is exactly what I've done on this trip & will most probably keep doing .. apart from the very fact that having Palampur (my birthplace) only a handful of kms. away from here, I am constantly drawn back to this incredible part of the world...
The tea picking season is in full swing at present & the 20 acres of tea bushes on this 70 acre estate, has a constant group of nimble fingered loyal pickers happily singing & working through sections of the farm..Apart from the various choices in fruit & vegetables that are in season too, life at Darang Tea Estates is mainly self sufficient, with even a small herd of cattle producing fresh milk, butter, paneer cheese & yogurt for the dining table on a daily basis.. Neeru is pretty talented in the kitchen too, and it's certainly shone through since I arrived & her regular cook of 45 years is away on holiday... Apart from catering for Naveen & myself with a daily change in menus for breakfast, lunch & dinner she seems to enjoy making her home made jams, pickles & chutneys with whatever is in season at the time..
A close friend & neighbour of the family is Mr. Shivpal, who was kind enough to invite me to a "Bhat".. A pre wedding lunch organised by & for the bride's side of the family & close friends at their home..It was an awesome afternoon & an experience I shall treasure always .. genuine local cuisine of rice & around 6-8 varieties of dal & vegetables served on plates of leaves & eaten only with your hands .. they say food tastes better eaten with your fingers & I think it's true .. Just try it & see.!!!!
On Friday Naveen & I decided to brave the monsoon rains & have the morning out for a visit to the Nagar Fort, a 20km. drive to Kangra which was once the capital and part of the powerful Chand dynasty.. The fort itself is said to be the oldest in the area & perhaps even all of India..Dating back to around 1009 and through the Mughal period of Jehangir's reign, it's certainly worth the visit, especially since the opening of the museum & installation of the personal audio guide system within the last few years.. After the British took possession of the fort & established a garrison there, it was sadly abandoned in ruins after the disastrous earthquake in 1905.. The ruins are perched high above the city of Kangra on a windswept ridge, overlooking where the Manjhi & Baner rivers meet... I've always had a keen interest in Mughal & India's past history, so this has got to have been a major highlight through my stay here..
Through the heat & humidity of the monsoons in these parts, probably the best times to take a stroll are late afternoons/early evenings or better still early mornings, before the heat of day sets in .. Photographically speaking too, these times tend to be ideal for taking pics in the natural light of day..!!!..
Well sadly, it's time to say bye to Palampur, especially Darang Tea & Homestay and move on to the next part of this travel stint in India .. Dharamsala and the home of the Dalai Lama..!!

Posted by wattslee 03:51 Archived in India Comments (0)

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