Suitcase-d

Well well well!

What a great ride last one month has been! Right from surreal Spiti Valley to absolutely magnificent United Kingdom, from sky-high mountains to soaring sky-scrapers, from the heart of nature to the magic of mankind! Wow, the contrast is just uncanny!

Rudyard Kipling famously quotes, “It is a world within a world, the place where Gods live.”, referring to Spiti Valley. I couldn’t agree more. Spiti valley is, by far, the most breath-taking place I have ever been to! Literally. The oxygen percentage was so less, that even the thought of doing a little work was tiring enough to make me pant! Phew. Hats off to people living there, sprinting from one point to other, one peak to other in no time! No wonder Kipling indicates it as a place where Gods reside, hinting the extremely difficult conditions for humans to live there!

Opened very recently to tourism, the place is not exploited, infested with tourists, honking cars and tons of garbage! They still could maintain the traditional way of their lifestyle, and are being able to balance the incoming tourist crowd, and their routine activities beautifully! Except for the bigger towns of Kaza and Tabo, all other towns have homestays, and even traditional pit-toilets, which, by the way, are way more hygienic than the clay tiles public toilets found in cities!

Staying with a local family, in the local clay houses, and getting a hand-on experience of their routine life, is one of the reasons why I opted for the volunteering program offered by Ecosphere- an organisation working for upbringing the life of these villages! And this experience of working in the farm, or making a drain (yeah, we did) while being surrounded by almost unreal, photoshop-ed view on all sides was the best thing ever! Just when I though I could never get enough of these mountains, the Spiti night-sky shows up! Oh my! It truly, indisputably was a blanket of stars! So many, just so many!

After my stint with these gorgeous mountains, biking through the twisted roads, alluring chandratal, glittering night-sky, serene monasteries, adventurous mountain roads, no network, hiking between villages, peaceful life, what more could I ask for? The immediately following trip to UK wasn’t so exciting as it should have been – only till I reached the airport!

And then gears shifted, excitement back, and I could really ask for more after-all! Contrasting to Spiti Valley, this was a very comfortable trip! Road-trip in Scotland, world cuisines to try, from highlands to beaches, an evening listening to ABBA while watching the super fun Broadway Mama Mia, chilling at Hyde-park, it couldn’t have gotten better! Get up – dress up – show up was the only mantra, so that we could click-click-click-click all through the day! Like they say, London is always a great idea!

This last one month has taught me to appreciate diverse contradicting situations! Everything has its own charm, if only we are in the frame of mind to accept it!

Besides, I am absolutely loving my life, living out of a suitcase!

Done Done London!

Well yeah, I know that it is a very off-the-wall phrase from the movie Jab Tak Hai Jaan, meaning “it’s a deal”. But I have used it as a very bad metaphor to have checked “Visit London” off my bucket list. I am not even sure if it qualifies as a metaphor actually!

Anyway, 2014 has been a great year! A very quick, not exactly last minute, but a sudden plan to travel around England turned out to be a brilliant one! Thank God for sisters who decide to do their masters abroad – you get to plan a I-will-go-get-her-back trip there, not to mention she is the one who actually gets you back! (Also, is it too soon for Can-I-accompany-her-for-graduation ceremony-next-year?) It was also a one-of-a-kind trip abroad, since it was only us three sisters travelling! (We really missed you Jiji!)

Well, of course anyone loves to explore any area “as the locals do”, but when you come to London, I think there is a charm in doing the clichéd touristy routine – at least once in your life – whether it is the mesmerizing view from the London eye, taking a typical picture with the red bus, booth or cab, walking over tower bridge, feeling patriotic looking at Sachin’s pictures at Lord’s, visiting Buckingham Palace, feeling a star at Madame Tussuads or paying to see our very own Kohinoor at the Tower of London.  And meeting old friends at far off land is incomparable! They are local guides to places no internet website will mention but are worth every penny! The best lunch I had there was a place Samidha hunt down for us vegetarians! :*

And London aakar agar koi musical nahi dekha toh kya khaak London aaye! It was one of the most beautiful visual treat at lyceum theatre, watching the gorgeously done Lion King. Oh my! It has been one alluring sight I have witnessed in the longest time.  While we are talking about sightly, I have to mention the day trip to breath-taking Stonehenge, splendid Roman Bath and the exquisite Windsor castle! *Note to self – Next time in UK, stay an extra day at Bath.

Inserted between was a brief trip to Manchester! Though I am not a die-hard football fan, there was no two way about visiting the plush Old Trafford stadium! One just cannot stop gawking once there! And then a visit to the delightful York was very pleasing! It is definitely a must-visit town in England, just for the sheer beauty of the countryside!

And when you are with Vinita, there has to be some adventure (read amusement park) added to the outline – so that she leaves you at peace with rest of the list! And that led to a day well spent at Alton Towers – one hell of a park! I haven’t been to any other park with this variety of roller coasters! While I am really a scaredy-cat, I did manage to ride quite a few of them! *beams with pride*

Phew! We did manage to pack quite a lot of things in the short week in England, but that place draws you to it. The swanky London architecture, unblemished streets, neat parks, swift and smooth underground, delicious cupcakes, lively city centres….Ah! I just need a reason to be back there, and I dare say – hopefully soon! And of course, Scotland is yet to be checked off the list, you know!