Onwards to Bhutan

As we settled ourselves into the airplane the first leg of our journey to Bhutan I recollected the TED talk given by the President of Bhutan about what they as a country hope to achieve over the next few years. He spoke about concepts like Gross National Happiness, being carbon negative and several other things. It was a coincidence that I happened to come across the video just a week before my planned trip to Bhutan. I guess all I could say was I would get to experience all this first hand. In the overly cynical world of today, we need to see with our own eyes before we believe.

While I took the tourists route for my trip to Bhutan, the crowds were very bearable and I actually ended up having a very pleasant and relaxed time. From it’s amazing culture to it’s raw natural beauty it’s a place that will take your breath away.

Getting into Bhutan

We began our journey from Pune and a couple of flights later ended up at Bagdogra in the state of West Bengal. From there it’s a 4 hour drive to get to Phuentsholing which was the first town on our journey into Bhutan. The drive was quite nice for the most part which also takes you through some tea plantations but also some chaotic areas. One of the strangest things I noticed here was crossing several bridges that looked like they were over vast expanses of water. When we got close though, what looked like water turned out actually be vast stretches of silt or sand. Whether things have always been this way or it’s a result of the current rainfall situation was hard to say.


Jaigaon was the last town in India before you cross over into Phuentsholing in Bhutan. The border between the two is just a simple gate with no security check of any sort. You can simply pass through between the 2 cities by driving across the gate. The most striking thing about it is the utter contrast between the two cities as soon as you drive through the gate. It’s almost complete chaos versus calmness. The difference is striking considering that both the towns are literally a stone’s throw away from each other.


Phuentsholing is the town where you need to secure a permit to be allowed to travel further into Bhutan. So we stayed overnight at the lovely Park hotel. One of the things my tour guy had mentioned and that I noticed from the very first hotel to the last was that most of the hotel staff comprises of women. It wasn’t just cooking or housekeeping that they took care of. They were also the ones to carry your bags up to the room. Which as a gentleman can be a slightly embarassing revelation.

After that overnight halt we spent almost 3 -4 hrs of the next day in getting our travel permits. This despite a local travel agent helping us out. In retrospect it was probably the most stressful part of the entire trip. Though we spent most of our time in the office just waiting our turn it was a tiny room with too many people and a general feeling of chaos.


To Thimpu

Once we were on our way to our first destination Thimpu is when Bhutan’s beauty really opened up to us. It’s a 6 hour journey through stunning mountains and valleys but it’s all winding roads and those prone to motion sickness might have a tough time. The temperatures dropped drastically and even we who aren’t usually prone to motion sickness struggled a bit.

We stopped for lunch at Hotel Dam view a much needed pitstop. It was the only restaurant on the way to our destination but it offered a wonderful view and great food. It’s where we tried both dosa and Keva Datsi which is a traditional Bhutanese dish. Both were amazing and we highly recommend this restaurant to any of you who pass this way. To cope with the motion sickness the restaurant owner also recommended something called butter tea which I loved despite not being a tea drinker.

After lunch we felt a lot better and could really begin to appreciate the scenic beauty of the country. The traditional buddhist prayer flags also started appearing at several points along the way.

Th roads weren’t crowded and it was incredibly peaceful. This bridge that we crossed along the way felt like an antidote to all the chaos of India we had left behind and we had to stop for a few moments to let it sink in.


More about the next part of our trip to Bhutan will come in a series of subsequent posts.




The Journey of the Olive Ridley

Every year Olive Ridley turtles make the journey to beaches around the world to nest. I had the opportunity to witness what happens after the little ones are born.
Countless times on nature channels I had watched footage of Olive Ridley turtles emerging from their nest and making their way to the sea. This was a long time ago and somehow I assumed that this occurred in a country other India. So when a friend called me and mentioned that there was a weekend excursion to watch this very phenomenon I signed up for it with little deliberation. I needed to get a break from the city life in any case.

A midnight departure and a bus journey of around 6 hrs was supposed to to get us in time to watch the morning session for the hatch lings. Unfortunately the bus took a wrong turn somewhere and recovering from that mistake costs us enough time to miss the morning session. We did spend some time at the Velas beach before returning to our home-stay for breakfast and a little rest. The nice thing about the beach is that it is explicitly allowed only for turtle watching. No other water activities occur there and the waves are not recommended for wading into. This is why the beach continues to remain clean and beautiful.

Other than the hyacinth the beach is thankfully free of trash. One of the other reasons for keeping humans off the beach during the nesting season is the nature of the mother Olive Ridley. Once she digs a nest, lays her eggs and covers it up her responsibility as a mother ends. So she does the best to lay her eggs on the beach she perceives as the safest and gives her babies the best possible chances of survival. These facts we learnt on short visit to the local forest official’s house where we were shown a very interesting documentary on the turtles. He was an earnest guy who we could see was genuinely motivated and wanted to make people understand the importance of conservation.


The Olive Ridleys have many threats both natural and man made. This has made it necessary for conservationists to build an enclosure on thehe beach that you can see above. The sticks placed in the sands indicate the location of a nest. The ones with a cane tokri and jute sack cover indicate eggs which are almost at the end of their nesting period.

Since we missed the morning session we would have to wait until the evening for a chance to spot the turtles again. So we killed time by walking up to a small fort nearby called Bankot. It offered up some gorgeous views of the ocean and since it wasn’t too crowded with tourists also made sitting there a relaxing peaceful experience. The interesting thing about the fort is that a lot of it’s actual history is shrouded in mystery. So even though it was discovered in the 1700s it’s actual date of origin continues to remain undetermined.

One of the nicest things about getting away from the city and visiting a village are the variety of rustic houses that you get to see. Sloping roofs are the most common aspect of the houses and are a real treat to the eyes

When we went back to Velas Beach for the evening session uncovering the nests showed us no hatchlings had emerged. So we just spent some time enjoying the sunset and the beautiful sand.

When we went back to the beach the next morning we got lucky as 3 baby turtles had emerged from the sand. The thing to understand was that for some people who had come there expecting hundreds of baby turtles emerging from their nests and making their way to the sea it would turn out to be a disappointment. It was sad to hear some people muttering that since only 3 turtles were seen it wasn’t their money’s worth. It was a sad line of thinking that really annoyed me. It is important to understand that this wasn’t some kind of a show or spectacle that you paid an entry ticket to. The presence of only 3 turtles actually indicated a very sad state of affairs and truly showed how much the turtle population had gone down over the years. That aside the watching these tiny creatures flip and flap their way towards the sea is a wonderful sight. When one them finally makes their way into the waters there it evokes several emotions in the mind. The feeling of triumph knowing that the baby turtle has completed it’s first and most important journey of it’s life. The fact that only 1 in a 1000 baby turtles makes it’s way to adulthood makes one wonder, pray and hope that the baby has a bright future in store.



The Price of Travel

Puno was the last part of my trip to Peru and was the perhaps the place where I had my longest conversations with people. It’s was an hour or so long boat ride to the island and I overheard someone saying that the group of people on that boat ride were from 11 different nationalities which was pretty cool.

On the walk up to the island I got talking to 2 British girls who I noticed had brought their own packed lunch even when food was offered as part of the tour. I got to know that one of them was lactose and gluten intolerant and her friend was just keeping her company. It also turned out that were actually students who had taken a year off so that they could go on a super long vacation of 3 -4 months to several places over the world. They were planning to go to to New Zealand and other places quite a distance away after they were done here. I asked them how they were managing things planning wise and financially.

Turned out they worked jobs full time for a few months before this vacation to be able to pay for everything with no financial help from their parents. One, I was instantly jealous that they were going to be on such a long vacation and secondly it was both fascinating and and a revelation that at their age, just working for a few months could earn them enough money to go on such a long a vacation. I was on vacation for just 8 days in a single country and it took a sizable chunk of my savings. I probably would not have been able to extend my stay any longer due to financial reasons. It really gave me perspective of how the economics of life are so different in countries.

San Francisco August 2015 Trip

I visited San Francisco again this year for a conference called Casual Connect. It was a 10 day trip that began with a flight from Pune to Delhi and from there to Hong Kong. The thing that struck me as the flight was landing into Hong Kong airport was, how beautiful it was because the landing strip is right beside water. The airport itself seems surrounded by mountains from one side.

Honk Kong Airport

Once the novelty had worn off I quickly remembered that I had an 18 hour layover here and would have to find every possible way to kill so much time. I am not the kind of person who can sleep anywhere, anytime and falling asleep at any place that doesn’t have a bed is tough.

Cathay Pacific Lounge

Luckily my boss had access to the Cathay Pacific Lounge and I was able to get some rest, shower and eat. The shower temple in the lounge was without doubt, the most luxurious one I have ever used in my life.

Casual Connect

The conference was held at The Hilton, Union Square. This was the view from the room window.

This was our table at the conference

One of the event sponsors had organized a party at City Hall. I had not been to this place on my last trip and I was quite impressed with this structure. It was a magnificent and imposing and entering the building made me feel like I was entering the kind of place that would host art shows or opera performances or something like that. In short anything but a party, that too a casino themed party.

A short visit to Google

Nasscom a governing body in India had organized a short visit to the Google Campus for all the Indian delegates. While I wasn’t sure which part of Google we would be visiting I was hoping to get a glimpse of the crazy awesome Google office that you have seen on the internet. Well it wasn’t quite that part but we did have lunch at one of their famous cafeterias.

This looked like one of their cars which does the Google Street Views

Inside the visitors building where we were issued our guest badges

A dino in the campus

One of the cafeterias where we had a nice lunch

Walking around the streets

On one of the days my boss was off for a meeting and I had some time to kill. So I spent my time walking around the streets of San Francisco with no general target in mind. While I was initially interested in visiting MOMA, it turned out that the museum is undergoing some major renovation and was months away from opening up to the public again.

I came across this church and didn’t plan on going in initially. When I went up to the entrance I thought it was closed because I didn’t see a single person go in or out for almost 5 mins. I finally decided to try the door and seeing it open I went in. There were only 2 -3 people inside and the moment I stepped inside the calm that enveloped me was instant. All the hustle and bustle of the street outside was gone. It was so quiet inside that when I switched on my camera to take a pic the sound made as the camera starts up also seemed way too loud.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to visit MOMA so I made up my to go visit something else after having come so far. The Contemporary Jewish Museum was right next to the church and looked inviting enough from the outside.

While I wasn’t able to take any pictures of the main museum sections there was an art installation on the ground floor, where photography was allowed.

California’s Great America

One of the things that I miss back home in India is good amusement parks. I had a Sunday free so I looked out for the nearest and least expensive amusement park that I could go to. Though I would have preferred to go to Six Flags I eventually decided against it as it was too far from where I was staying.

This was a performance they had put up celebrating I think 40 years of the park’s existence

The good thing about going there alone was sometimes there was a much shorter wait for single riders

The water section of the park that I mostly avoided because I didn’t have any extra clothes

I hadn’t heard of this stadium before but I assume it’s famous and could be seen just outside the park

Overall it was a good day spent at the park. It had some great rides and it wasn’t so big and crowded that I spent too much time waiting in lines. I also got to ride the ones I really liked multiple times.


After I left Great America I went to Mountainview where I was supposed to meetup with my boss to have dinner before we headed back home. I took the VTA light train to get there.

The station itself was rather neat and after all the chaos and excitement of the park it felt quite relaxing there.

The train felt rather nice as compared to the bigger more crowded Caltrain ones. They even had free Wifi on board the train.

I spent a little time lounging around in a garden that was just behind the City Hall.

You can understand how creative I had to get to kill time from this beauty shot of my phone

Our Airbnb in Redwood City

While we stayed at Hilton Hotel itself during the conference we stayed at this lovely home booked via Airbnb for the remainder of our stay. It was quite beautiful and compared to our hotel felt completely relaxing and almost like home.

The dining area with a nice view of the backyard

The backyard complete with a barbeque

The Driveway

I could easily settle down in a house like this

Other random sightings


AT&T Park

Towards Machu Picchu

The road upto Machu Picchu from the town below happens on a fairly dangerous looking bus ride that always made me feel like a driver error would send me plummeting downwards. I got talking to an old lady in the seat next to me and it turned out it was her 8th time to Machu Picchu. While she initially visited as a tourist she now brought groups of people there. I was lucky enough to make it just once.

I went up to Machu Picchu a couple of times and on the first day I was part of a guided tour. While I took the train to the town below Machu Pichu some people prefer to take the 4 day Inca trail. I got talking to a guy in the group who was supposed to do the trail but ended up missing the trek group when they set off.

I talked to him quite a bit about it during the tour. When the guided tour ended we all went our separate ways. As part of my tour package I had a coupon to have lunch at a restaurant at the top itself. So I went and sat myself down to lunch there. A little while later the same guy came up to my table and shook hands with me and said goodbye. Turned out he was about to leave Machu Picchu and he happened to spot me in the restaurant while passing by and thought he should just shake to our travel friendship before he left.

On my 2nd day in Machu Picchu I just didn’t wish to get away from it. I spent almost 3 hrs at a vantage point from where I could look down below upon that magnificent city. While sitting there, I noticed a Japanese girl who was also sitting nearby for a very long time. At that moment I could only imagine that as a traveler she must have been experiencing the very same thing that I felt there at that moment. Machu Picchu overwhelms you in that way. She didn’t speak English but she was very eager to get a picture of herself and it was only after me clicking 3 -4 times and being satisfied with it that she finally let it go. Since we were the only 2 people sitting there I got her to click a few pics for me too and in my opinion it I got one of the best pictures from my trip.

Sharukh Khan at Aguas Calientes

When I had gone to visit Machu Pichu I stayed at the base town of Aguas Calientes for a day. One night I was walking around trying to settle on which restaurant I wanted to go have dinner at. Most restaurants usually seemed to have a guy standing at the entrance trying to convince tourists to come eat at their place. One of them recognizing that I was Indian tried to lure me into eating at his place by telling me that Sharukh Khan ate there. For any non-indians who may happen to read this he is one of India’s most famous film actors. I found it rather amusing that he would try this approach given that in today’s times his popularity with the younger generation is quite debatable. Or I’m probably not representative of this generation at all.

Interestingly there was another restaurant bearing the name of another Bollywood actor called Govinda. Unfortunately it was shut.


On my way to Kolhapur I stopped at the Kamat restaurant to grab a quick bite before heading on. It’s was an open structured place and I was awed by the sight of this beautiful field behind it


Inca Cola

On my first day in Cusco we had a small museum tour of the city. I got to talking to a British lady for a bit who was in same tour group. After the tour we were dropped off to spend the rest of the day ourselves. They had informed us that there was a traditional prayer ceremony that took place in the evening and we could go and watch if we were so inclined. While I started walking away by myself towards the city center I dropped into local shop to exchange dollars for some local currency. When I came out I saw the same lady outside waiting for me with her daughter. She said I saw that you were alone and we thought we’d give you company if you were on your way to see the prayer ceremony. It was a very sweet and totally unexpected gesture.

I asked her about her family back home. Turned out she had 2 other kids but they couldn’t come together because it would have been too expensive for everyone to make it. Another question that I frequently encountered not just from her but several people I would come to meet was just how come I could speak English so well. It was quite surprising because I always imagined that Indians were pretty much everywhere in the world by now. Come dinner time, they invited me to join them but I politely declined and said my goodbye. I can’t remember her name but I think it was Penny.

While I had stopped at a local marketplace an old gentleman and his wife told me to try a local dish Papas a la huanciana that I tried and enjoyed on my last day in Peru.

On the way to a visit our tour group had stopped at this very lovely restaurant. I happened to share my table with a British guy who ordered a locally branded drink called Inca Cola. When I asked him about it he described it as something unique with a bubble gum kind of flavour to it. He kindly offered me a taste and I was addicted to it instantly. It was my go to drink on every single day thereafter I spent in Peru. It was perfectly fitting that the last drink I ended up having as I was leaving Peru at the airport was Inca Cola

Weekend in Bangalore

Last month took me to Bangalore after almost 8 years. Last time I stayed there for a couple of days and I don’t remember much about the city besides visiting a mall called Garuda. This was a time when malls were something mighty impressive and Pune wasn’t quite inundated with malls as it is today. This time I was here for 4 days for a gaming conference. While the initial 2 days were mostly spent at the conference we managed to spend some leisure time in the evenings.

Weather, Food and People

Though it’s currently the peak of the summer season Bangalore seems to have a different way of dealing with the heat. Though it was quite hot in the day time. It rained quite heavily in the nights 2 days in a row. This really cooled things down and morning were actually quite pleasant. I had often heard of how bad traffic in Bangalore could be like and mostly it was. Compared to Pune, I actually thought it was actually more disciplined even though the volume of traffic there was so much more. The roads in general also seem to be much better maintained than ours. On the whole I quite liked the city. It seemed vibrant and alive with a lot of young people from different parts of the country.

I visited some nice restaurants while I was there. We had our anniversary dinner at a lovely place called Smoke House Deli. The décor was very unique and interesting and the food was incredible. Maybe the fact that it was my anniversary made it more special but in my mind it was the best pasta I ever had trumping even my favourite in Pune Dario’s. As an added bonus there happened to be a Lamborghini showroom very close to the place.

Smoke House Deli on Lavelle Road

The only thing that can distract a guy from his wife on a romantic night out

Rickshaws and Ola

In Pune I have very rarely used auto rickshaws and usually travel by the meter. In Bangalore the majority of the regular rickshaws refuse to ply by meter and quote exorbitant fares at any time. Some friends suggested that we use Ola cabs. I never used them in Pune before but they were the best and safest travel options for someone who might not know the city. On a particularly rainy night we needed to get back to the hotel and the rickshaws were asking us for Rs 200 per rickshaw to get us there. There were 9 of us and it would have taken 3 ricks and Rs 600 to get there. We called for 2 Ola cabs and all of us got there for half the price.

Cubbon Park

When I asked some of my colleagues when we got back to Pune about what they thought of Bangalore they felt that it was much greener on the whole as compared to Pune. When I think about it now this actually seems to ring true. I also visited the massive Cubbon park. I have no idea if I walked across even half of it that day.

Bangalore Bandh and Banergatta

After the conference we had a flight back to Pune only on Sunday evening so we had sat and most of Sunday free to ourselves. Unfortunately Saturday was declared as a bandh in the state and we were out of options to do pretty much anything. Transport was off the roads and almost everything else was shuttered anyway. Some people had mentioned the Banerghatta zoo to us and I thought to call and find out if they were open. Turned out they were open but the next part would be to find transport. After calling pretty much every cab service in the city and almost giving up we found an Ola cab after a lot of waiting. Since the streets were empty we got there in record time and also got to appreciate how well maintained the roads were.

While the zoo itself was ok, the 45 min safari was a lot of fun. Other than the driver trying to coax us into parting with some extra cash for the privilege of sitting in the front and getting some extra photos for us, it was great to see these incredible creatures up close.

Vidhan Souda

On my last trip to Bangalore I had seen the Vidhan Souda building but the only thing I really remembered about it was that it was really grand and I had been impressed by it. So I thought I would go have look before leaving the city. It’s still grand and impressive and made me wish we had more such buildings in my own city.

Bangalore Palace

After spending some time with friends one whom I met after almost 10 years we had some time to kill. We decided to visit Bangalore Palace which wasn’t very far from our hotel. I was expecting a small entry fee as is the norm in most such places. The only option they had was an audio tour where they give you a device which plays short audio clips corresponding the sections that you visit in the palace. I initially wondered if it was worth it, but my wife convinced me that we never knew when we would visit the city again so we went ahead with it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the audio production was of a very high quality with great narration and music accompanying it. It really evoked a sense of another time and place while walking around the palace.

Overall it was a nice little trip and I would be glad to visit the city again.

The People We Meet

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend. – Robert Louis Stevenson

Why do we travel? Of course it’s about the places we wish to see, the experiences we always dreamed of having, the food we taste and the cultures we try to understand. In this connected age we already learn a great deal about a place before we make our plans to travel. In some regards, you can almost predict some of the experiences you might have on your journey. Sometimes we are underwhelmed. Sometimes the real thing can exceed our wildest expectations. As immense as our world is, even with the earth constantly spinning, the places we all flock to remain where they are on the map. They are shaped by forces of nature and the people that pass through them. When we set out on a journey we can chose from a million places, but we can never predict whom we encounter from among a billion faces.

There are no strangers in this world, just friends we’ve never met

I will never forget the moment when I visited Machu Pichu, stood above it and looked down below upon of civilisations most spectacular structures. Just thinking about it gives me a rush. What always brings a smile to my face though, is also the people I met and spoke to on my trip, from all walks of life, from all over the world. I don’t have the best memory and I never took pictures with most of the people I conversed with. All I recollect is bits and pieces of our conversations and going through the photos of the places where I came across them usually sparks a memory.

More location specific posts related to this coming soon.