Lost Paradise

June 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Attractions, magazine, News

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Dive back into nature and uncover the beauty in the small little things that create your personal paradise. It’s time to get lost in amazing Asia.

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In this issue
+ Leh Ladakh
+ New Zealand
+ Yunnan
+ Puerto Princesa, the Island Life
+ Hong Kong – More than Shopping
+ Singapore Shopping Hotspots
+ Kuta Beach Getaway
+ Unusual Festivals
+ Ride Like a Khan
+ A Sense of Touch

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The Remote Himalayan Valley of Zanskar

September 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Mythical Himalayas, Nature

High altitude wilderness has its own uniquely self-eluding charm, one that held me in awe. This was the reason why I chose to start the year 2009 with a visit to Zanskar Valley. The Himalayan valley is one of the remotest in India, and can be reached by road only during the summer. I’ve always thought of planning a road trip to the barren yet beautiful landscape of Leh, but not this time – I flew down instead from New Delhi to Leh to save time.

Photo credits - t3rmin4t0r

Photo credits - t3rmin4t0r

Most people prefer to fly to Leh to reach Zanskar because of the altitude and the scenic vistas and not to mention the fact that you will get to fly over the Himalayan Ranges. If not for the comfort and ease of transportation, I was more than willing to fork out the extra money for the stunning views from above the sky.

As I walked out of the plane at an altitude of 11,500 feet above sea level, the first thing that caught my eye was the seemingly endless horizon filled with blinding whiteness. It started to drizzle a bit as I made my way towards the visitor centre, where I was greeted by a Tibetan with deep wrinkles and a large smile. He introduced himself as Chawang, and he was to be my guide for the trip to Zanskar Valley.

If you don’t have a guide for your trip then it might be a problem because to reach Zanskar, you need to cross over from Ladakh to Kashmir and back to Ladakh. There are several military checkpoints en-route which can be quite a headache. Another thing to note is that foreigners need a proper permit while traveling to some of the areas in Leh and Jammu and Kashmir – your guide can easily take care of that.

Photo credits - alles-schlumpf

Photo credits - alles-schlumpf

Leh is a small town surrounded by the Ladakh Range on one side and the Zanskar Range on the other. Except for the Leh Palace, there are no attractions in the city. You can take a walk through the city, relax, and acclimatize. If you plan to stay in Leh for longer duration then you can pay a visit to some of the further attractions from Leh, such as the Thikse Monastery, Pangong Tso, Tso Moriri Lake, and Khardung La Pass.

Early in the morning the next day, we made our way towards Zanskar Valley. To get to the valley the plan was to drive 234 kilometers through deep gorges, snow capped peaks and landslide zones towards Kargil, a halfway stop where we will spend the night and rest up. The next morning, we’ll drive the next 220km through from Kargil via Rangdum and Penzi La Pass towards Zangla.

In the morning light, the picture perfect scenery was simply unforgettable. A beautiful river snaked along snow capped mountains, with the imposing structure of Rangdum monastery bringing color into the barren landscape at the valley floors. The Rangdum Gompa, located some 7km from the Rangdum Valley, is perched on a hill offering a spectacular views of the nearby mountains and glaciers. This stunning monastery was established in the early 18th century and is home to around 40 monks.

Next morning, we started off early with a 27km ascent to Pensi La Pass and were greeted by two huge glaciers that feed the Suru River and two charismatic high altitude lakes. A perfect picnic spot! After a small photo session, we moved ahead and closer to the famous Drang Drung glacier, which is the largest in Ladakh region. It is a long winding river of snow and ice with the Z3 peak in the background. The Glacier is the source of the Stod River, which joins the Tsarap River in Padum to form the mighty Zanskar River. From this point, we descended more into the Zanskar valley to Sani.

We crossed Padun by mid-day, and after a brief lunch hurried on to Zangla before sunset. After approximately 3-hour drive from Padum, we finally reached the Zanskar Valley, where I plan to stay for a good few days to enjoy the relaxing wilderness. The Zanskar Valley trip is not an easy one because of the terrain, altitude, and weather. It is a good 10-day trip from Leh and back. If you have plenty of time and are looking for more adventures then some of the places you can visit include the Nubra Valley, Suru Valley, The Hemis National Park, Lamayuru Monastery, and the Markha Valley in the Ladakh Region.

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About the Author. Parthajit. Parthajit is a nature & landscape photographer and trekker with travel experience in the Indian Himalayas (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh), Western Ghats (India), Thailand, New Zealand, and Japan.

10 Stunning Mountain Attractions in India

September 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Feature Highlights, Mythical Himalayas, Nature

India is a land of many wonders, blessed with a amazing geography and cultural diversity that is unmatched throughout the region. Naturally, one of its main attraction is the Himalayas in the North East. Travelers are able to trek through to the Deccan Plateau and the smaller hills and waterfalls of the South, passing by regions each clad with their own charm of Indian history and culture. Here’s my list of 10 stunning high-altitude destinations in India, ranging from the popular and famous to the unknown, tranquil and serene.

Photo credits – Shikhar Sethi

Photo credits – Shikhar Sethi

Auli

State: Uttarakhand / Region – Garwal Himalayas
This popular ski resort is approximately 492km from Delhi, nestled at an altitude of around 3km above sea level. To reach the snow clad slopes, you treat yourself to a 4km long gondola ride, the longest in Asia. Apart from skiing, Auli also offers other attractions such as the highest man-made lake in the world and a stunning 180 degree view of the Himalayan Peaks.

Munsiyari

State: Uttarakhand / Region – Kumaon Himalayas
Munsiyari offers breathtaking views of the Himalayas, trekking routes into a never ending horizon, high altitude glacier walks and the whispering of the wind in the God’s own natural amphitheater. Situated approximately 588km from Delhi, Munsiyari, meaning “place with snow”, stands at an altitude of 2,200m high. It gives you the chance to view some of the most beautiful snow-capped landscape in the region, with the road towards it filled with scintillating scenery.

Photo credits - thaddeus

Photo credits - thaddeus

Sangla

State: Himachal Pradesh
This is popularly considered as the most beautiful Himalayan valleys in India. Surrounded by breathtaking scenery, Sangla is situated on the historically famouse Hindustan-Tibet highway, a charming experience often dubbed, the Swiss Countryside of India. Visitors can enjoy a day out angling on the Baspa River, trekking to Kinner Kailash or pay a visit to the monastery at Rekong Peo.

Gangtok

State: Sikkim
Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim, is a popular haven for tourists, trekkers and mountaineers looking to explore the scenery of Sikkim. There is much to see within a day’s drive from Gangtok, such as the Tsomgo or Changu Lake, the famed Nathu La Pass which connects India to China’s Tibet autonomous region, as well as the valley of Yumthang. There are also numerous trekking routes starting from Gangtok, including the famed Mount Kanchenjunga (third highest in the world) trek and the Dzongri trek.

Photo credits - appaji

Photo credits - appaji

Tawang

State: Arunachal Pradesh
Located between the border of India and Bhutan, Tawang is yet another station boasting stunning views of the Eastern Himalayas. At the heart of this small hill station lies the Tawang Gompa, a Buddhist monastery home to not more than 40 monks. Nearby is the beautiful Sela Lake, pristine and untouched, while trekkers would enjoy a hike to the Sela Top Pass.

Igatpuri

State: Maharastra
Igatpuri is a small slepey town in the Western Ghats not far from Mumbai, approximately 138km. During the Monsoons, the landscape transforms into a riot of colors and waterfalls dot every nook and cranny of this valley. It is also home to the Vipasana center, where believers flock to meditate and renew their spirituality. The Tringalwadi Fort is a popular picturesque spot, offering one a wide angle view of the entire valley and the Talegaon Lake.

Photo credits - abeerarts

Photo credits - abeerarts

Araku Valley

State: Andhra Pradesh
For some of the coolest summer in Southern India, head straight to Araku Valley. Enjoy a picturesque train ride passing through numerous tunnels enroute, before finally reaching the rolling hills and waterfalls of the Araku Valley. The Borra Caves, 35km from Araku Valley, dates back to a million years back and are pure stalactite and stalagmite formations that tells a story from a different era.

Nagarhole National Park: Irpu Falls

State: Karnataka
Spread over 640 square km of virgin forests, streams and cascading waterfalls, the Nagarhole National Park is home to the mystical Irupu Falls (also known as Lakshmana Tirtha Falls). This stunning waterfall cascades down and takes a plunge of 170ft! The park is a haven of flora and fauna, and you can find wild elephants, leopards, spotted dear and Gaur, among others. It is also an excellent place for bird-watching.

Photo credits - likenew

Photo credits - likenew

Lakkidi

State: Kerala
When you travel to the land of Gods, what would you expect? Naturally, stunning scenic beauty fit for the Gods, exactly the type Kerala offers. Lakkidi, often referred to as the Tarzan territory, is the highest point in the Wayanad region of Kerala. It’s a forest canopy so dense that you can barely see the sky, where you can truly walk through the wilderness. Here, you can experience treetop living and walking 100 feet above the ground to get from one tree to another.

Bellikal

State: Tamil Nadu
Bellikal is a picturesque village situated on the Nilgiri Montains, with the famed Mudumalai forest on one end and the Sigur Plateau on the other. It is a place of isolation and tranquility, 5,500 ft above sea level. A trekker’s paradise, there are various trails here leading to various attractions such as the Kalhatti Falls, as well as the Bison valley, where you can spy on these amazing beasts. The biggest attraction here however, is the Kurinji Bush, which blooms only once every 12 years!

Photo credit (front) Sirwatkyn

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About the Author. Parthajit. Parthajit is a nature & landscape photographer and trekker with travel experience in the Indian Himalayas (Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh), Western Ghats (India), Thailand, New Zealand, and Japan.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Everest

January 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Mythical Himalayas, Nature

What’s in a name?
Everest, previously known just as Peak XV, was confirmed to be the highest mountain in the world in 1856. It was named after Sir George Everest (a previous Surveyor General of India) due to the fact that Tibet and Nepal were sealed off at the time, and so the local names couldn’t be discovered. In Tibetan it is known as Chomolungma (mother goddess of the universe), while the Nepalese call the mountain Sagarmatha – goddess of the sky.

To put that in perspective…
The summit of Mount Everest stands at 8,848m – the equivalent of twenty Empire State Buildings, just below the cruising altitude of a jet. The Burj Dubai will be the tallest building on Earth once it is completed, but Everest will still be over twelve and a half times its height. Even Everest Base Camp (5,300m), the staging point for attempts on the summit, is higher than any of the Rocky Mountains.

Big, but not so tough
It may be the highest mountain in the world, but Everest is not the most dangerous. About 3000 people have made it to the top of Everest, and over 200 never made it back to the safety of Everest Base Camp – it is estimated that about 9 percent of Everest climbers do not survive their journey. This may sound like a daunting percentage, but compared to some other mountains, this is tame stuff – K2, known as the Savage Mountain, claims a quarter of its climbers, and Annapurna I has a staggering 40 percent mortality rate due to its frequent avalanches.

Rest in peace…
Anyone who is climbing from Everest Base Camp to Everest’s summit must prepare themselves for the gruesome sight of the climbers who never made it back. At the higher altitudes, the corpses do not decompose due to the cold, and removing them is too dangerous. It is believed that over 120 bodies remain on the mountain, many of which are visible from the standard summiting routes. Anyone on an Everest Base Camp trek needn’t worry – all the bodies are further up in the so called “Death Zone”.

The fastest way down…
There are plenty of speed records associated with Everest, but one of the most impressive is that of the fastest descent. In 1988, Jean Marc Boivin of France went off the summit in a paraglider, making his descent in just eleven minutes.

You may kiss the bride
Couples are always trying to find ways to make their wedding day memorable, but few would think of holding the ceremony at 29,000 feet. On May 30th 2005, the Nepalese couple Mono Mulepati and Pem Dorje Sherpa became the first people to tie the knot at the highest point on Earth. Presumably, they had to find a Buddhist priest who was also a master mountain climber to perform the ceremony!

You’re never too old…or too young
Keen mountain climbers who hope to one day go beyond Everest Base Camp and on to the summit itself may be embarrassed to discover the age of Everest’s youngest summiteer. Temba Tsheri made it to the top in 2001 aged just 15. Then again, it’s never too late to make it to the top – Min Bahadur Sherchan was 76 when he reached the summit.

About the Author. Jude Limburn.Jude Limburn Turner is the Marketing Manager for Mountain Kingdoms, an adventure tour company who have run Everest Base Camp treks for over 20 years.