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MAGAZINE | INDIA

LIVING LIFE OFF COURSE MARCH 2016 | 100

USA DIARIES 10 cities in 60 days. A portrait of the traveler as a young man who journeys from Bangalore to the USA ZEN AND THE ART OF BICYCLE MAINTENANCE The 21-yearold who cycled across 6 nations

SHE LIKES TO GO PLACES

Celebrating the NEW Indian woman traveler. Free-spirited, risktaking, crossing borders, breaking her shackles to see the world

UNCHARTED WATERS The hidden beaches of Odisha


Events & Entertainment

Team Building Programmes

Birthdays

Weddings

Photo Shoots

Corporate Team Outings

Surprises

Contact: 9738213984/ 9886150056 Email: cocktail.ene@gmail.com cocktailene


-and it became a nation, too.


CASTAWAY | March 2016


STREET SMART NOT ALL THOSE WHO WANDER ARE LOST The adventure of travel begins first in the mind. In earlier times, stories of travel written in books fired up adventurers. For instance, my mind was captivated by Gulliver’s Travels, Robinson Crusoe and the travails of Edmond Dantes, the Count of Monte Cristo. As a child living in Bombay, I remember looking forward to the yearly pilgrimage by train, pulled along by coal-fired steam engines, to Tiruvalla station and then down a mud road by jeep to my grandfather’s home and the five or six acres around in which I could roam. Later, when I was just ten, I was happy I could travel from Trivandrum to Ooty to my school and back every year for eight years and my various treks around the Niligiris. Wanderlust had infected me as a child and took me across several countries. Some of the happiest encounters on my travels were with women who had also taken to travelling. Some of these women were Indian and plucky enough to assert their rights to be independent and take the risk of travelling alone. That is the focus of this issue of the travel magazine CASTAWAY. Women travellers and the challenges they face. May their tribe increase. This issue looks at several aspects of travel. There’s an entire section dedicated to women travellers and another on a journey through the United States. The hidden beaches of Odisha are revealed and the travails of an intrepid bicyclist. There’s something on food and lavish photographic spreads. I congratulate Raghav, Melita and Arshiya who have put together an entire magazine for those who enjoy travel stories. I wish them and you, our readers, all success in your life journey but, more especially, surprises in the places you end up visiting when the travel bug bites you. A.V. Varghese, Editor

THE SQUAD

Arshiya Hussain

Melita Anjali Monis

Raghavan Kumar

She’s the sanest one in the Squad. She’s an organiser and makes things work. She’s interested in many things, from religion to politics. Proclaimed to be a teacher, she is the most looked for person on campus during exams.

She’s a hyper multi-tasking whirlwind consisting of cheesy jokes, Bollywood songs, and dramatic dialogues. If she’s not watching Kanan Gill and a host of other comedians, she’s blogging away, working towards a career as a travel writer. Born bitten by the travel bug, her life as an army kid has put globe-trotting on top of her to-do list.

He’s your simple Bengalurean boy. A solo trip to the U.S. has left him with a lifelong travel itch. Armed with his camera and laptop, he now feels at home anywhere in the world. His determination knows no bounds when trying to shoot that ‘perfect’ picture.


CONTENTS HOMEFRONT From Parks to Resorts!

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WATERFRONT The hidden beaches of Odisha COCKPIT Flying into the doldrums

ADVENTURE Zen and the art of bicycle maintenance

US DIARIES Biting into the Big Apple Seeing Seattle 41 Bays and Beaches 42 Las Vegas by night 44 Snapping up D.C. 48

@raghavan.kumar

PHOTOGRAPHERS SHAKTHI NANDA @ar_shakti_nanda DEEPAK KUMAR @deepakslayer REEVAN VISHWAS REGO @rev_rego ANANTH MONNAPPA @ananth_monnappa

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WILDLIFE Trace the tiger trails of Ranthambore

RAGHAVAN KUMAR

Contributors

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THE ROAD LESS TAKEN The new Indian woman traveler All the Right Apps 26 Celebrating the feminine 28

PHOTO EDITOR LAYOUT & DESIGN ILLUSTRATIONS PHOTOGRAPHS

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SPECIAL CONTRIBUTORS SANDESH GURU @sandy4u.guru AKANKSHA OHRI @akankshaohri

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HOT PLATE Going beyond green curry

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EXPLORATIONS The secret life of Ladakh

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Disclaimer : All the content in the magazine is original and has not been published earlier. Due credit has been given for all contributions and pictures. The magazine is the final project for the course of MS Communication in St. Joseph’s PG and Research Centre. All prices, flight and other transport details, contact details and other information have been provided by the respective corporations and/or verified travel operators and are correct at the time of going to print. travellogue.2016@gmail.com

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The Hand in Hand Charitable Trust ‘Where Hope Comes Alive’ Hand in Hand Charitable Trust works with the Grave-Diggers community in Bangalore who have, over the years, been socially and economically deprived, secluded and marginalised. We believe that in order to empower them, it is essential for them to be healthy, well-educated and skilled, both vocationally and professionally. This is what we strive to do by building networks and increasing access and availability to some very basic services which have hitherto been beyond their reach. As our first step, we have established an After-School Program for the children where our volunteers augment their academic learning through experiential methods of facilitation, premised specifically on making learning fun and interactive. We have also initiated a Creativity Based Program which is a weekend and summer-camp exercise that nurtures and hones children’s creative pursuits in encouraging and engaging ways. Our Healthcare Support Program engages actively with the community’s health needs and concerns and strives diligently in addressing every single one of them. It is our vision and mission therefore, to aid and facilitate the attainment of their highest potential as equal and not disadvantaged members of society, where they can employ their agency, their voices and their choices in affecting positive change, in everything that they undertake to do.

Volunteer with us in the evenings! Monday to Friday 5 - 7 p.m | Saturdays 3 - 5 p.m

+91 8971811413/ +91 95 38 191781

handinhand.gk@gmail.com


Reflections of nature. Vaderahalli Lake, Bangalore

PHOTOGRAPH | REEVAN VISHWAS REGO


Photograph | Terre-des-iles

HOMEFRONT

From Parks to Resorts! MELITA ANJALI MONIS

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emember the times when many of us decked up on a Sunday, with hats and shoes on, to go to the park and have fun? It was a classic way of celebrating the favourite day of the week! Indeed, for many of us, those moments in the park were most cherished. Bangalore! The Garden City. It had its heyday of parks. The possibility of enjoying the parks was always there, if the weather is pleasant then the park becomes a one-day picnic destinations. The parks included the Bannerghatta

National Park, Cubbon Park, Lalbagh, Vidhan Soudha, Fun World, and Jawaharlal Nehru planetarium. There are also smaller ones like Coles Park, Bugle Rock, Cariappa Memorial Park and Jayamahal Park where one could go and spend an entire day having fun amidst nature. Parks enthralled us as children. The whole idea of a picnic meant having a get together by going out, taking along various items for games, like cricket kit, badminton set, tennis kit and cards playing antakshari on the way to the picnic spot and spreading a home-made feast out to gorge on. We all had that

one picnic mat, didn’t we? This sums up how, probably, many of the 80s and 90s kids experienced Bangalore. But now, carrying the tag of the IT capital of the country, Bangalore is different from what most of us witnessed during our childhood. From what probably most of us witnessed it during our childhood. Born a Bangalorean, I have watched the city grow and along with it the concept of picnics in the park has changed. People follow a Monday to Friday cycle in Bangalore. And, perhaps, the favourite day for most has switched from Sunday to Saturday.

For me it’s not about holidaying, it’s about experiencing and creating memories 10

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People have moved on from the old school picnic style to the new resort culture. Resorts are shared spaces where for a day or two, customers are treated to, for a price of course, sightseeing, games and other activities, luscious food and rejuvenating experiences. Here people get to explore activities that are different from regular parks. Most of the resorts in Bangalore today have packaged activities like paint ball, rope courses, kayaking, zorbing, boating, rain dance and team building activities. From the employees of big corporations to nuclear three or four member families, large numbers of people are delving into the resort culture. Resorts are the new weekend abodes for picnics or a family get together. “Every generation has its favourite thing. One cannot impose their interest on the other. But if you ask me personally, what was nice was to go as a family, play, cook and eat in the parks. For me it’s not about holidaying, it’s about experiencing and creating memories,” says Upendra Prabhu, 55, an Indian Airforce ex-serviceman. Since Mr Prabhu has explored both park picnics and resort outings he is of the opinion that resort culture is more corporate and makes people utilise the day to the fullest. But what he claims to be fun is to do nothing but laze around on the grass at Lalbagh. At resorts, they say one has the opportunity to explore and indulge in activities that are not only exciting but also unavailable in parks. These activities can range from something as

They may not have travelled a lot but if they feel that they have holidayed to the fullest then we have achieved our goal simple and clichéd as a bonfire to zorbing, kayaking, zip lining, boating, ropewalking and rafting, depending on the location of the resort. It’s often a whole package. You get to do quite a lot in the little time you have, depending on your interests. Harini Suvarna, 51, a homemaker, says, “Earlier, it was me going to Cubbon Park with my kids for a Sunday picnic and now it’s me going with my grandchildren to these fancy resorts in and around Bangalore. Both are fun. But with parks you get bored whereas in the resorts there is so much to do that you are sometimes left with no time to finish their activities.” A lot of the resorts from in and around Bangalore operate with a culture that will take people through a fun trip instantly. Resorts like Eagleton, Mango Mist, Guhantara, The Golden Palms and many more offer luxury services and comfort people. At the same time there are other exotic camping resorts like Bheemeshwari Jungle Lodges, Urban Valley Resort, Jaladhama Resort, Nature Adventure Camp, Kanakapura and Jungle Lodges

Galibore that help people indulge in gritty activities like rafting, trekking, jungle camping and so on. It certainly depends on each place as to how expensive it is but considering the above resorts in two categories i.e. luxury and exotic, the latter are cheaper in comparison to the former. One of the biggest disadvantage that I see with resorts is that they come with bare minimum benefits for the most basic price. If your intention is to experience better things, then surely extra expense is coming your way. “The main aim of resorts is to offer a holiday experience to people. They may not have travelled a lot but if they feel that they have holidayed to the fullest then we have achieved our goal,” says Manoj, Manager at Eagleton Resort, Bangalore. He further adds that since the inception of the IT sector, people are looking forward to weekends and “that is of maximum benefit to us.” “It is indeed the case that corporate crowd turns up more towards resorts but when it comes to long weekends and holidays, we see quite some crowd from families as well,” explained Manoj. It is an inherent fact that periodically everything changes and hence we today witness a vibrant resort culture. It may be a good way to holiday but at the end of the day many will continue to reminiscence about their childhood days in the park and say “I still remember my first picnic from school; as a class we went to Cubbon Park.”

Photograph | Tahir Hashmi

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oogle “the best beach destinations in India” and what comes up is the expected - Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andaman Islands. Give it another shot and type, “Virgin beaches in India.” The destinations would change and a few places you have never heard of might come up. A part of the Indian coastline is almost invisible to Google. For instance, the Odisha coastline. It is strange that what already qualified as a beach destination was left hardly explored by tourists because nothing much is written or spoken about it. If you research Odisha, you might come across a photo essay by one AR Shakti Nanda, a naturalist and photographer from Odisha. That work might inspire you to explore those Odisha beaches. 3.

1.

Paradip

Situated at the confluence of the river Mahanadi and the Bay of Bengal, Paradip beach is a scenic treat. It is also a major sea port surrounded by temples and a sanctuary that attracts tourist from across and outside India.

1 2. Astaranga

Chandipur

Experience nature’s magic as you witness the sea sink up to five kilometres during low tide. Chandipur Beach provides the rare view of the shore play of the sea.

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Known for its colourful sunsets, Astaranga Beach is one of the many fishermen’s cradles in Odisha. A famous shrine of Pir Jahania is located alongside the coastline of Astaranga where both Hindu and Muslim devotees come to offer chadars and take blessings.


4.

Puri

Most popular because of the Lord Jagannath temple and its Rath Yatra, Puri Beach also hosts an annual beach festival that Indian and foreign tourists block dates for!

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The hidden BEACHES of ODISHA TEXT | MELITA ANJALI MONIS

PHOTOGRAPHS | SHAKTI NANDA


5. Rushikulya It’s a seashore for turtles! Rushikulya is a virgin beach which from November to January plays host to one of the smallest marine turtles, the Olive Ridley turtles.

6.

Satapada

Sunrises, sunsets, and the pristine beauty of nature mark Satapada beach. These waters here are home to Irrawaddy dolphins.

6 7.

Beleshwar

On the shores of Beleshwar Beach is situated a Siva temple. The beach and the temple are renowned for accommodating newlyweds. Taking blessings from the temple, these couples start their married life at this nature’s nest.

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9. Gopalpur The waters here are ideal to sail and surf in. Known for the beach festival, Gopalpur-on-Sea is blend of a varied activities like scuba diving, paddle boat riding and water scooter rides.

8 8.

Balighai

A blend of serene nature with the turbulent sea, Balighai Beach is home for the merging view of River Nuanai into the Bay of Bengal. Olive Ridley turtles are another speciality of Balighai.

10.

Changrabhaga

Surrounded by various heritage sites, Chandrabhaga beach is valued for its historic importance. The beach hosts the Chandrabhaga Mela for seven days in honour of Lord Shiva.

11. Bhitarkanika Surrounded by the canopy of mangroves, Bhitarkanika beach is right next to the wildlife sanctuary. It is a two-in-one experience as tourists can visit the beach or the Bhitarkanika National Park.


Flying into the doldrums Comfort at a cost ARSHIYA HUSSAIN

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hen I was four, way back in 1996, flying was an enchanted expedition. The experience never ceased to amaze me, year after year, when my parents would bundle up the family of seven to fly home to Bengaluru from Yanbu, a small city in Saudi Arabia. For over ten years now, I have experienced, in my parent’s case, endured, this yearly back and forth pilgrimage. As a child, neither I nor my four siblings, were aware of our parents getting the luggage weighed, checking the tickets, keeping us occupied during layovers or ensuring that no one 16

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threw up. We only saw the giant shiny airplanes and the chocolate dessert on our trays. We waited eagerly for the kid’s snack box, which included a juice, chips, TWO toys, puzzles and a coloring book. The air hostess always greeted us with a warm smile and one could leverage one’s adorableness to win a visit to the cockpit. Sometimes, a giant backpack was thrown in free! Bliss! For a middle class Indian child, flying seemed like a hell of a party! I remember, my mother would carry a giant carry bag to fit in the five complimentary backpacks handed out. But as the years passed by, the size of the carry bag decreased. At some point, there was no need for the carry bag. The airlines ended the practice of giving them out as compliments.

Just like those backpacks, many other perks that made flying a joy, slowly disappeared into thin air. In the mid 90s and early 2000s everyone realised that the airlines industry was being hit hard by the surge in oil prices. It was gloom and doom as airlines such as Saudi Arabia’s Al Wafeer Air, Kayala Airline, Sama Airlines; UAE’s Gulf Falcon, Gulf Traveller, Silver Air; and Lebanon’s Air Liban, Berytos Airlines, Globe Jet, and many others shut shop in the Middle East. The U.S. was hit harder as Air Midwest, Aloha Airlines, Arrow Air, Cal Jet Air, Delta Express, and more than 20 other airlines became defunct. While in India, Kingfisher Airlines, Air Deccan, and Deccan 360 threw in the towel. CASTAWAY


Well, even as a bunch of airlines died, along came others guns blazing Air Asia, Air Arabia, Spice Jet, GoAir, JetLite, and IndiGo – with the allure of lower fares, faster bookings, discounts, and on-time flights! The new catch phrase was: ‘budget airlines’. It seemed like some prayers were answered but the ‘catch’ lies in that other line – ‘conditions apply’. It didn’t take one long to realize that ‘it’s all in the fine print’. What did it mean? Cramped seats, less leg room, NO FOOD, no blankets! Seats become narrower to pack in more passengers to ride over revenue losses generated by the hike in oil prices. But the narrower seats remain a permanent feature, even after the prices of oil have crashed. Narrow seats = increased profit margin! What’s worse, a sliding price mechanism was introduced. Passengers could decide their cost of travel by giving up (sacrificing) certain services, such as food or baggage weight. Also, pricing moved up and down, not just according to seasons, but also according to the hours of the day and the density of traffic on routes. From the days of providing passengers with a comfortable and joyful ride, the airlines have pared travel down to a skeletal service of simply providing a seat. In the New Yorker an article titled, Why Airlines Want to Make You Suffer written in 2014, by Tim Wu said, “But the fee model comes with systematic costs that are not immediately obvious. Here’s the thing: in order for fees to CASTAWAY

The fee model… a strategy that can be described as calculated misery work, there needs be something worth paying to avoid. That necessitates, at some level, a strategy that can be described as “calculated misery.” Basic service, without fees, must be sufficiently degraded in order to make people want to pay to escape it. And that’s where the suffering begins.” Anything else you needed would have to be paid for through the nose. Even drinking water comes at a price and one is made to feel like a beggar or criminal when asking for a complimentary glass of water! I may be frowning and fretting over the joys of flying that I could indulge in my childhood but which have disappeared for good. But for more recent flyers, especially from middle class families, the changes in the airline industry which I perceive as terrible have actually been conducive. More and more middle class people are taking to the air daily. They are quite comfortable and have come to terms with what the present-day airlines have to offer. In

fact, they even seem quite happy with the basic services these airlines have to offer. The facts seem to prove it. According to a report by the Incredible India campaign 18.33 million Indians traveled internationally and, more astoundingly, 1282 million traveled domestically in 2014. While I concede that millions of people, who either never had the chance or would have to have saved up for a long time to fly, now have an opportunity to visit their family or go on vacations due to the cost effective budget airlines, it would be naive to accept this “calculated misery” sitting down. Perhaps it’s time we channel our crankiness and irritation that builds with each unhappy flight towards a collective criticism of the industry. A service that began with the traditional ideals of hospitality, warmth, and comfort, has in more ways than one thrown the rules out the window, quite clearly at the passenger’s expense.

“The roomiest economy seats you can book on the nation’s four largest airlines are narrower than the tightest economy seats offered in the 1990s.” Bill McGee, Editor Consumer Reports March 2016

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SHE LIKES TO GO PLACES PHOTOGRAPH | RAGHAVAN KUMAR


Celebrating

The NEW Indian woman traveller MELITA ANJALI MONIS

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or a very long time, women have been told that the world is a scary place, and the idea of travelling alone or even as a group is madness! Thankfully, with the help of technology, the booming tourism industry, more safety measures and, perhaps, a more open minded society, the woman traveller is becoming a force to be reckoned with. According to GutsyTraveler.com, 75% of those who take cultural,

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adventure or nature trips are women. This trend has been noticed by tourism companies, and savvy businesspeople have taken to creating custom-made tour packages for women travellers. Tour operators such as The Wander Girls, Incredible Indian Tours, Veena World, and Indus Exceptional Experiences, offer tour packages for women who might be hardcore trekkers, the tranquillity seekers, or the girl gang explorers. What makes it difficult for a woman

to travel alone? There are the societal constraints imposed on women - “it’s not safe”, “women should remain at home”, “and it’s a waste of both time and money” - and so on. The debate on whether a women can or should travel has never been focused on exploring the benefits of travelling. As the population of women travellers increases, here are a few voices that tell us that more women travelling around India and the globe is a good thing!

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Betta. It took much time to convince my friends’ parents. It was not the first time for me but it was something new for them and it made them nervous. I loved that they were so excited and we all had a great time. Mriganka Bhakay, 20, Pune

Varsha Shastry, 22, Bangalore “Traveling is like a surprise. It never fails to disappoint me!” As a child, I started traveling with my parents. The culture of bag packing, meeting new people, doing things on my own was taught to me by my folks. I must say I was lucky and I wish the same kind of exposure and support is given to every women in this country. Travelling to me is a learning with no teacher. It broadens my perspective and makes me susceptible to new thoughts. In India we don’t see many women travelling, and even if they do then the number of solo travellers is quite disappointing. Safety is an issue no matter what gender you belong to. If we keep thinking about that, then we as women are going nowhere. As a 22-year-old, solo travelling has helped me develop myself as a person. Kumara Parvatha and Thandiandamol were two of my best-ever treks. I’ve visited Leh, Ladakh, and parts of Assam and Arunachal too. Once, a bunch of girlfriends and I planned to go on a night trek to Kunti

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“India is definitely an unsafe country for a woman solo traveller, but I am still going to try it!” At 20 if you tell me that I cannot travel, then there is no point. We are all bound to certain commitments in life, but doing the thing that you love will cost you nothing but happiness. Traveling alone is an adventure for me and most of my friends go bungee jumping and sky diving. Having ticked off destinations in Andamans, Kerala, Karnataka, Manali, Ladakh and Delhi, I have gained confidence and I am sure that I can travel anywhere alone. From my personal experience, what I feel is that the south of India is much safer than the north. But it’s again up to us women to be careful and enjoy the experience. Ladakh and Manali are some of my favourites places in India. As a 20-year-old naïve women traveller, safety kits and travel hacks like having liquid cash, keeping them in different pockets, having researched the place well, learning a bit of local language, etc., have helped me a lot while traveling. Neeraja Venu, 25, Trivandrum “Traveling broadens ones horizon more than anything.” Being a woman, traveling helps one develop a sense of independence, since

travelling alone often means overcoming a lot of challenges. It makes people aware of the different ways of life, and different views. One begins to develop a sense of tolerance and lone travellers are often the most patient lot around. I don’t think India is ready yet to embrace the idea of a women travelling alone. Especially in rural and semiurban parts of India, a woman out on the roads after dark is looked down upon and chauvinistic attitudes prevail. Women have the additional ‘burden’ of safety in their hands, even though groups like ‘Wanderlust’ have always dismissed this and have promoted the idea of women travelling alone. The issue of hygiene is also pertinent to traveling women. I have visited a lot of places primarily in the south and towards the east, which include Andamans and Nicobar, Gokarna,Wayanad, Munnar, Kodaikanal, Mysore, Goa, Puri, Chikmaglur, and Coorg. My biggest take away from travel is how varied people and their tastes are, even within the geographical boundaries of a state. When you are young and travel, you get an insight about how differently your travel companions or family,view a situation or a scenario. There was this one time I was stuck at Mudgaon railway station in Goa for 10 hours. It was interesting to see what India actually consists of, people from a lot of different states. The walls were covered with reproductions or lookalikes of Mario Miranda’s caricatures, and the waiting room seemed to have come alive right out of those paintings. It surely was exasperating,

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but in retrospect, I’m almost glad that happened for some strange reason. Stuti Gupta, 22, Goa “Being a woman, I think traveling makes one bold, assertive and resilient to situations.” I still remember once when I was in Varkala, my friend and I woke up early morning, hired a bike and left to wander about in our last night’s bikini clothes. We ended up in a small coastal village where we were stared at and we sort of amused everyone with our looks and clothing. Luckily, having stayed in Kerala, we managed to speak bits of Malayalam leaving the tea stall lady awed. I realised how easily people let

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you in, if you accept yourself and are confident. This is what travelling has taught me. In India nothing is really safe. Having said that, I strongly feel that you need to be a smart traveller to be safe. Safety of course matters to me but I like taking risks. Interact and mingle because Google maps surely is not the best way to explore, it’s the people who live there who can guide better and make you feel safe. But then again, it’s not like I haven’t made mistakes. I missed my destination station once and then got down at the next one and went all the way back! That was an experience too! Men can easily manage to spend a night at a random station, but a woman will have to think twice about it (not saying women cannot.) At a deeper level, travelling for each person, be it a man or a woman differs in their own odd ways. I am not denying that there are

certain limitations to a women but it can be overlooked if you are a victim of wanderlust. Sumedha Dasary, 24, Dehradun “A man can take a solo trip in India but a woman cannot.” My last trip was to Dharamshala and McLeod Ganj during Diwali, I was quite surprised to see how Tibetan refugees and Iranians live in India. These pockets have people that belong to other culture and it’s wonderful to meet and interact with them. Since my last trip every time I hear stories about Israelis and Tibetan refugees my mind automatically goes back in time to reminisce about the trip. Personally, I don’t think I will ever

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be comfortable travelling alone in India. My parents don’t support the fact that I want to travel alone, but I don’t mind travelling with a group of people I don’t personally know. I think women in India lack the luxury of being comfortable on a solo trip. My favourite places are Tosh, Kasaul, Dharamshala, and McLeod Ganj. Apart from these, I have enjoyed my trips to Rishikesh, Mussoorie, and Chakrata. One experience that made me think a lot was a trip to Chakrata. We were coming back from Chakrata and the roads were really bad and we were travelling by bikes. A strange guy on a bike realized there were girls there and we didn’t know what his intentions were, but he took out a knife. Before anything bad could happen we overtook a truck and sped off. Despite this, growing up in India makes us learn that bad experiences are a way of learning and we can’t let that deter us from having a wonderful time. I’d advise all women travellers to simply be aware while travelling, also don’t let a lack of money stop you from travelling. Regardless of where you are in life, whether you’re married or not, or unemployed, choose to travel. Roshni Sharma, 28, New Delhi “When I told my parents and my friends about doing a solo trip on my bike, they told me I’m crazy!” I have gone for many trekking, cycling, motor biking expeditions before the big K2K (Kashmir to Kanyakumari) adventure. It was my best friend who inspired me to travel from Kanyakumari to Leh, I decided this is would be a unique experience, especially since no woman has done this before. I decided I must go for it. People believe that planning the route and logistics is a very difficult and time consuming but actually the main hurdle is simply to decide and get out there. For me the biggest

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problem was convincing my parents’ when I told my parents that I want to do a solo trip on a motorcycle they told me this is unimaginable in India. My good friend, a 75 year old rider who is a well-known face in the Indian biking community, was able to convince my parents. It took even more effort to convince them since unlike travelling by car or train, a motorcycle may break down, and there is always more of a chance of things going wrong. My parents felt a little bit more at ease since I had a GPS system in my bike to ensure they knew my exact location at all times. My first solo trip was from Bangalore to Pune, an 850 km trip which I completed in 14 hours. I rode from the afternoon to early morning next day, an experience I’ll never forget. I know it wasn’t the smartest of ideas, but I wouldn’t take it back if I could either. Apart from the K2K, I have travelled solo from Bangalore to Pune, Bangalore to Chennai in 13 hours on a Bullet, and a Kerala trip covering 2000 km. Women are always told we aren’t safe outside, at night, or anywhere for that matter. There’s no point worrying about that. Instead I believe women should be aware of their surroundings and prepare themselves for the worst. I personally carry pepper spray, a knife, and I’ve learnt the basics of martial arts.

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All the Right Apps ARSHIYA HUSSAIN Apps are today an essential part of travel. There are hundreds of travel apps available, so how do you wrap your head around which ones are best? For all you women travelers out there, here is a list that should take care of all your travel needs. These include apps to help ease your family’s anxiety. As a woman traveler it’s imperative that you feel safe and sure of yourself when exploring a new country or a new city, only then can you truly throw caution to the wind and have yourself an adventure! Apps make that possible.

TRY THESE NIFTY INNOVATIONS SitorSquat This one takes the wonder of apps to another level! What is more awkward than having to ask strangers, who may not understand you, where the bathroom is? Thanks to SitorSquat you don’t need to go through the ordeal ever again. Over 95,000 bathrooms across the world are ‘registered’ on the app, making it easy to locate the nearest rest room. And you can rate the bathroom’s cleanliness as well so others know.

Size Me Woman Is a size 6 in UK the US size 8? Indian size 40, a U.S. Medium? Oh, the stress of looking for the right size, all you shopaholics well understand this torment. Size Me Woman is an app with which can almost visualize a confident customer whipping out her phone to have a quick and easy decoding of all clothing sizes across the world.

MAKE NEW FRIENDS? One of the adventures and joys of travelling is meeting people from different backgrounds, cultures and places. Of course, it’s not always an easy process. If you’re feeling a little hesitant, here’s a nudge in the right direction. WanderMates, HeyLets, and Outbound helps you plan activities and meet other travelers who share your interests, or you can simple ask for advice as well. If you’re feeling more of the lone wolf vibe, then tune into an audio tour guide of any place across the globe with the help of Audiocompass.

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Safe and Sound Travel Safe Pro

Travel Safe Pro gives you all the emergency contact information you’ll ever need - the nearest police station, to medical aid, embassy contact information. What’s more, you don’t need an internet connection for the app to assist you. A potential life saver, the app also has a panic button widget, and other features like a tip calculator and currency exchange calculator.

SafetiPin

We are all familiar with the uneasy feeling when entering an area we’re not sure is safe. With SafetiPin you won’t have to rely on your sixth sense, the app gives a safety score to a locality or an area and marks any unsafe place in red. You can enter any area you wish to visit and the app will give you some useful tips, a safety score, and alerts on any precautions you should keep in mind.

Scream Alarm

Here’s your straight forward scream from hell. Yup, it’s as it sounds, an externally loud scream will burst through your phone if you feel like you’re in any danger or need to get the attention of those around you.

Companion

Similar to Life360, a family member or a friend, a companion, can keep an eye on you as you travel. The app with the tagline, ‘never walk home alone’ was designed for college students but can work well for general safety purposes. With an easy ‘I’m feeling nervous’ or ‘call the police’ option, the app can alert your local safety authorities instantly.

Raksha

This Indian app, like other distress signal safety apps, alerts your family or friends and this one does not require an internet connection. An added benefit is that you don’t need to unlock your phone to use it, simply press the volume button down for three seconds.

Life360 Family Locator

Now if your family is extra anxious or the extremely worried type, this app might assuage their fears. Life360 allows your family and friends to check your location at any given time; thankfully you can decide which of your contacts to add into the ‘circle’. And you can disable the app if you think you are being snooped upon by family when actually enjoying yourself in some offbeat location!

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Celebrating the feminine 7 festivals for women ARSHIYA HUSSAIN Around the world there are cultures that joyously celebrate the diversity, strength, and accomplishments of women. It may be in a remote village in Karnataka, on the high fashion streets of Los Angeles, or the shores of a Greek island. Everything from the scared freedom struggle of slave girls, to something as amusing as a wife carrying competition, these festivals cover historical milestones, ancient traditions, and even modern merriment, all with a good helping of music, dance, and exotic food. India’s cultural diversity knows no bounds, each village has generations of folklore, history, and legacies passed down. To list a few festivals, 28

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in a country with such an abundance of celebrations, seems almost unjust. Therefore this must be seen as simply a minute view into the world of festivals celebrating women.

INDIA SHE Festival Delhi turns up in crowds to attend the SHE festival, even though this is just the third year of its inception. A gathering of women from various fields, through song, dance, skits, performances, and fashion shows, the festival brings women’s issues to the forefront. Innovative workshops like, ‘A man is not a financial plan’, ‘Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest

of them all’, as well as self-defence workshops are held. From body shaming and stereotypes to rape, the gathering throws light on the struggles of women across India. This year the festival was held on February 26 and 27. Founded by the NGO, Self Help Enterprise (SHE), the festival last year focused on women’s safety post the Nirbhaya rape case. IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival Each year women film makers, TV producers, journalists, media analysts, and radio practitioners come together to organize a film festival to celebrate women. The IAWRT Asian Women’s Film Festival was launched in 2005 CASTAWAY


in India by the late Jai Chandiram, one of the first women broadcasters in India, she served as the first Asian President of IAWRT. The 12th IAWRT Film Festival is being held in the India International Centre in New Delhi from March 3 to 5. The festival holds an awards night to appreciate the work of Asian women film makers. Films can be submitted under the categories of animation, documentary, experimental, short fiction and feature fiction. Any director of an Asian origin can submit their film, the festival follows the general themes of, ‘Our bodies, our rights’, ‘Whose culture is it anyway?’, ‘Forced marriage and compulsory heteronormativity’, ‘Who else faces gender discrimination?’ and many more. The festival has a special segment called, ‘Films from Palestine’.

Sammakka Saralamma Jatara Also called Medaram, the festival is a spectacle of tribal tradition and folklore as opposed to mainstream Hindusim, over 10 million people across India gather in the Warangal district of Telangana to pay homage to the goddess Sammakka. The festival honors the contributions of Sammakka as a mother, a daughter, a tribal chief, and a warrior. The four-day festival is second only to the Kumbh Mela in terms of devotees, and it is held on February 17.

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Eressos Women’s Festival

Women’s Director International Film Festival

Hartalika Teej

www.teejfestival.org/hartalika-teej.html

www.visiteastdenmark.com

www.medaram.org

iawrtindia.blogspot.in/

Hundreds of women dressed in vivid red sarees, adorned in jewelary, dance away, without a care in the world, for three days during the monsoon festival called Teej. All the married women come together to commemorate the union of the goddess Parvati and her paramour Shiva, the married women fast to continue their happy married life the unmarried girls fast in hopes of receiving a good husband. Once the fast is broken the women gather to eat the festivals specialty, rice patholi, (steamed rice rolls stuffed with coconut and jaggery).They receive gifts from their parents and in-laws. It’s celebrated with great pomp and show in the northern states of India, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and is some parts of Maharashtra.

this camp holds various events and workshops. Interestingly the camp is erected each year, with large tents, and then folded up after the nine weeks. The real crowd pullers are the Body and Soul Week and the International Women’s Week, and a Debate Week.

Celebrating the modern woman film maker, the WDIFF is a three-day event which showcases international film and art created by women from around the world. The event hopes to increase the number of women directors in the industry to be more than the present 7%. The film festival also hosts an awards night. The WDIFF is held in New Delhi, December 18-26. www.wdiff.org/

Held in the quaint Skala Eressos village on Lesvos Island in Greece, the two week festival is organized by an NGO called Sappho Women in September 3 to 17. The festival celebrates and supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning women. . The festival, through art exhibitions installations, lives performances, seminars, workshops, fashion show and sports, advances women’s causes. Participants can go for yoga or belly dancing class, compete in the Triathlon, watch a film screening, or watch the alternative fashion show, with the beautiful shoreline of Lesvos in the backdrop. www.womensfestival.eu/

INTERNATIONAL Women’s Camp at Femo

Demark holds a long tradition of celebrating womanhood, dating back to 1971. What began as a platform for women rights groups to gather is now a celebration and a vacation spot. On the island of Femo, for nine weeks,

Wise Woman Weekend for Women Similar to Eressos, each year, in Ireland, through fun and games women and girls of all ages learn the historical struggles of women and current issues at hand. The festival, WWW, gives importance to the spiritual and creative aspects of growth. This year’s theme, ‘Open to Abundance - Open to Joy’ will have events centered on art, meditation, and personal reflection. Women can attend a circle dance, a creative writing workshop, a laughter yoga class and much more. The festival will be held on August 5 -7 in Gormanston Park, Co Meath. www.wisewomanweekend.ie/

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Swaying through the enchanting backwaters of Alleppey, Kerala

PHOTOGRAPH | DEEPAK KUMAR


I understand now travelling is really the best education you can possibly have. I realise that I am just a tiny part of a very big world, and if more people came to understand that, I think the world would be a much better place

ADVENTURE

Zen and the art of bicycle maintenance

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AKANKSHA OHRI hirag Singal has taken the road less travelled. At 21, he graduated and then decided to devote his time, not to the pursuit of a job or a higher degree, but to travel. Chirag has already covered over 20,000 km within India on his bicycle over the past two years, juggling his passion for cycling with a busy college schedule. He began with rides within the city, then took on longer rides to Nandi Hills and Mysore. He then trained to ride from Bangalore, all the way to his home town of Jaipur- a journey he completed in just 11 days. His previous journey took him from Jaipur to northeast India and onward to six countries across South Asia Bhutan, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. What’s more, he’s done it on a shoestring budget!

How did your family react to your decision to travel alone, and on a bicycle? My home resembled a scene out of a Hindi TV serial when I first broached the subject. To think of your own son taking this path is almost CASTAWAY

unbelievable to most Indian parents, and mine were strongly opposed to the idea at first. They, too, wondered why I could not “settle down” and do something “normal”. But I had earned enough money in college to support myself on this trip. I decided to do it on a shoestring budget of around Rs one lakh for the eight months. I have learned more on this trip than I did in all my years of schooling, and I really wish our society would be more open to such ideas because it would lead to a more well-rounded youth. What motivated you to test your boundaries and travel across countries? While I was studying Literature, one of my professors asked the class what we would do if we had a thousand kilometres. This was in connection with a Walt Whitman poem, and it really got me thinking. Then, as my interest in cycling grew, it made me realise that we don’t really “know” what a thousand kilometres- or any distance, for that matter- really is. We just think of land in terms of price, size of buildings, acres of farms, etc. This is what got me to cycle around South India and from Bangalore to Jaipur, my hometown.

Throughout the trip, you spent very little money. This involved staying with locals and in tents? I realised one thing during this trip people are nicer and more trustworthy than we think. Especially in smaller towns and villages, people would just stop me on the road and start talking to me. Where I couldn’t find local homes, I stayed in military checkposts and police stations. When faced with people telling you to find something “better” to do with your life - get a job, get a degree, get married, etc. What do you tell them? I’ve been asked this question by almost everyone I met who was more than 10 years older than me. To me, this is a very important step in my life and career, it is not just a convenient option that I chose because I did not have any fixed plans for my future. Obviously, like any traveller, I understand now travelling is really the best education you can possibly have. I realise that I am just a tiny part of a very big world, and if more people came to understand that, I think the world would be a much better place. March 2016

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Moment of Tranquility Munnar, Kerela PHOTOGRAPH | REEVAN VISHWAS REGO


WILDLIFE

The tiger trails of Ranthambore SANDESH GURU

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inally, it was graduation day. One of my friends popped a venomous Indian cobra out of his backpack. Most of us jumped up, gasping for breath. He laughed and explained how he and his friends were volunteering to rescue wildlife and rehabilitate animals. The incident helped me rethink my priorities in my life and career. A new found love for animals and, specifically, for tigers strengthened my decision to move from Bangalore to Ranthambhore to pursue a career as a naturalist. Ranthambhore tiger reserve accounts for only 1400 sq.kms of land, but provides a substantial natural habitat for almost 60 tigers, one of the biggest in India. Tigers are highly territorial and known to require about 60 to 80 sq.kms per tiger depending on the prey-base. But Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve stands as a living example of the tolerance, coexistence and evolution of tigers. Working as a naturalist with Oberoi Vanyavilas, it is enthralling to observe the behavior of various flora and fauna of the park. The terrain is hilly and is situated between the Aravalli and Vindhya mountain ranges. The park is populated abundantly by a species of tall ‘Dhonk’ trees and less of shrubs which enhances one’s chances of CASTAWAY

spotting a tiger. Usually, tigers in parks like Bandipur or BRT Tiger Reserve hide in the bushes when they see humans approaching, but tigers in Ranthambhore walk freely in the woods which makes sighting a tiger beyond common. In Ranthambhore, tigers cannot find hide-outs easily as the wilderness simply doesn’t support it. This difference in the behaviour of tigers in various provinces helps me infer that wide open spaces in forests have an impact on the behavioral traits of tigers making for change. My first drive was during the month of September, considered off-season, when the park is closed because of monsoons. My first encounter of a tiger numbered T-8 with her 18 months old cub at Ranthambhore left me speechless. The tigers are generally numbered for identification purposes as different tigers are spotted in different zones. I admired the family with amazement. A couple of others and I sat in the Gypsy watching the majestic tigress stroll around us. It was a breathtaking experience. I had never seen a tiger in such close proximity before in my life. She walked and played in the water along with the cub for almost about half an hour, carelessly ignoring us humans as we tried to stalk her. Soon we watched her disappear into the open grassland ignoring the cub.

After driving for a while, to our dismay, T-8 dragged a Nilgai (blue bull) fawn in her mouth right in front of us at about a distance of 5 meters. I was absolutely psyched out. As a naturalist, to watch such a mighty beast hunt her prey was one of my dreams come true. Ranthambhore provides the perfect ground for studies and research about the behaviour of the tigers and has an edge over any other park in India because the chances of spotting a tiger at this national park is 60 per cent. In other words, one can spot a tiger at least once in 2 drives through the forest which helps in observing the tigers closely. This means the onlookers almost never go back disappointed. These days, I spend most of my time studying these beasts which have become a part of my life. I also enjoy sharing knowledge with people who are genuinely interested in understanding the lifestyle of animals. Also, I found some knowledge of photography and videography is helpful in supporting my role as a naturalist. Along with a few friends, I help people to discover new places for treks, nature walks in the forests and also develop a skill-set in wildlife photography. I was able to find my passion during my college days and turn it into a career. Any other career choice could never be as fulfilling as this. March 2016

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PHOTOGRAPH | RAGHAVAN KUMAR


US Diaries

TEXT & PHOTOGRAPHS | RAGHAVAN KUMAR

Seattle

Niagara Falls

Portland New York City

Philadelphia

San Francisco

by Air Washington D.C.

Los Angeles

by Road

Las Vegas

Miami

J

ourneys are usually a small part of one’s life but in a few cases they can be a life changer. That’s what happened to me. Ever since I was a kid I was fascinated by a few movies shot in the United States. They always evoked a desire in me to visit the country. Finally the dream came true. I travelled all the way alone from one corner of the world to another. Hardly knowing anyone living in that part of the world and being the first in the family to visit the States, I was a little nervous and scared to do things as I had never lived on my own. Loneliness was one of the difficult things I battled initially but later I was successful in defeating it. CASTAWAY

Infographic | Raghavan Kumar

As a lone traveller, there were a million things that this journey taught me. It changed me as an individual and I learnt to live life on my own. Actually, I became completely independent, started cooking by myself, my skills of decision making were enhanced, I learnt to manage my funds. I had no one to guide me except for Google searches, but more than anything else I learned the art of budgeting and ways of saving money by travelling on my own. It gave me the confidence to do anything. It was a journey that changed my life and made me confident that I could survive anywhere on this planet. I had discovered myself. March 2016

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Biting into the Big Apple New York City

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ew York City has always been a dream destination since my childhood. I was in NYC for an internship and to have lived in this city for two months was the best thing to have happened. I stayed in an apartment north of Central Park, one of the most beautiful residential localities of NYC. One of the best things about NYC is its efficient and reliable public transportation, the MTA, which has the best connectivity in the world. The Metro is connected to all parts of the city and you need not even think about other modes of transportation. Get an unlimited weekly pass ($31) or a monthly pass ($116.50). That’s a reasonable price. Every single day I waited to finish my work at the office to get out and explore the city because NYC has a plenty to offer for everyone. The busy life of people, diverse cultures, a number of chains of restaurants, street food, beautiful 38

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parks, skyscrapers, the home for the latest fashions, the business capital of the world – none of it is adequate to describe the Big Apple. The people in this city are always in a fast world, they are coffee freaks and they hardly talk to one another. After spending almost a week in the city, the first place I visited was Times Square often termed as the cross-section of the world. I had heard a lot about the place but experiencing it was indescribable. It feels like you are on a completely different planet. The massive and countless digital displays, colours everywhere, the crowds, , endless rows of stores and huge structures, this place is far beyond what one sees in movies and photographs. The first weekend in NYC was a very special because I started off my day at the Brooklyn Bridge and visited random places across an entire day. A trip to NYC is not complete without taking a walk across Brooklyn Bridge. This huge structure built in stone stands distinct against the entire skyline of Manhattan in the background. I then

visited the New York City Hall and the City Hall Park, where I did nothing except click a few pictures. While I was looking for a good restaurant to have lunch, I noticed a buzz on the streets and discovered the on-going Tribeca Festival. The entire street was filled with colour and people in fancy attires; street food and activities for kids. I just grabbed a burger from Subway and went to the South Ferry. A ferry from this station takes you across the Statue of Liberty to Staten Islands from Manhattan for free. The evening was well spent watching the beautiful sunset and the Statue of Liberty from Battery Park. I then went midtown to catch up with some of my friends at a resto bar called the Rogue, ending my day with almost 20kms of walking. Coney Islands is another great option to make your weekend worthwhile. An amusement park located along the Atlantic Ocean, it has a lot of restaurants. The amusement park has many fun rides. I went around the park watching people do some crazy CASTAWAY


things and took a roller coaster for $12. A lobster burger priced about $13 at Nathans was an absolute delight. I spent some time at the beach, constantly falling in love with sea food, grabbed a seafood meal for $20 which had shrimps, fish chips and squid. I discovered a wide collection of artefacts like paintings, sculptures, books, art works and multimedia at the Museum of Modern Art where entry is priced at about $25. The American Museum of Natural History, one of the largest museums in the world is another great place where you can see a collection of humans, fossils, cultural artefacts and minerals. This place was so good I actually forgot about the other plans that I had made for the day. The place does not have a fixed entry fee but requires a donation which can be of any amount. Ascending to the top of the Empire State Building is a must and it is a visual treat. The ticket is priced at about $32 for the 86th floor and the night view from the top is unbelievable. I attended a night party at the roof top restaurant called the 230-fifth. It was in the open air and it was great to have a drink and savour the glowing colours of the gigantic Empire State building. Getting to the historic and most iconic site of the United States, Statue CASTAWAY

of Liberty and is not that easy. It requires an online reservation way in advance depending on the time of the year. In certain cases, one must book at least a month in advance. I booked my tickets paying a fee of $18. There are tight security checks much like at the airports. I felt a great sense of accomplishment standing on the tall lady. As a part of my internship, on one of the weekends I also got to attend a meeting at a Hindu temple in Queens, where a huge community of Indians gather every Sunday. It made me feel proud that Indians sought to preserve their culture in an alien land. The community seems to be doing well too. They were all dressed traditionally. I felt like I was somewhere in the North of India. Their warm hospitality moved me. Attending a baseball match played between the Mets and Brewers at the Citi field was a completely different experience. Even though I wasn’t a big fan of baseball, being in the massive crowd and was a wonderful feel to be amongst a completely different culture of fanatics. The ticket was priced $22 and I got a free t-shirt. Visiting the Grand Central, a hundred-year-old train station, is a must. It was a stunning experience to standing still amongst the fast moving

crowds and take in the magnificent architecture of the station. This was a train station that looked like a palace! Visiting Jackson Heights gave me the feeling that I was back in India. If you are missing Indian food or if you want to shop for Indian products, Jackson Heights is the best place to be. Shopping on 34th Street is another must. I found the best of brands here and picked up some fashion apparel for a reasonable price. A trip to NYC isn’t complete without visiting Central Park and Washington Square Park. Central Park is massive and getting around the park by walk is impossible. Spending a few evenings in Central Park was a truly memorable experience when I look back. This place is gorgeous and has beautiful greenery everywhere. When you are here, hire a bicycle or get on to the carts to get around the park. I loved NYC and found my experiences there to be completely different compared to the other cities in US.

NEXT TIME

One World Observatory Bronx Zoo Water’s Edge Restaurant Top of the Rockefeller Centre March 2016

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Please go chasing waterfalls! Niagara Falls

D

o not miss Niagara Falls. It is truly nature’s wonder. It was a 7-hour drive from NYC to Niagara. When we reached the place, I rushed towards the falls as I couldn’t wait to see it. That instance when I first witnessed the magnificent falls, my heart skipped a beat. I was stunned by the beauty and magnitude of the falls. For a little while, I just stood still as I couldn’t believe I was living that moment. One thing that surprised me about the place was that the sun starts setting only after 8.30 p.m. I paid about $80 and checked in to a hotel, located on the banks of the Niagara River and a little away from the Niagara Falls. Of all the pictures that I have clicked in my entire life, there was an instance that I will never forget, when I struggled to click just one picture. I woke up at around 5. 30 a.m. and I was ready with my camera on the balcony to capture the sunrise. As the sun rose, I could see a man on a boat rafting in the river. I was waiting to get the right composition. It was a freezing morning and the temperature as low as 1 degree Celsius. The temperature got was such that I couldn’t feel my

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own finger and I was not able to press the shutter button of the camera. The effects of the extreme weather on my body numbed my hands and I couldn’t even stand because my legs had started hurting severely. Finally at the right moment I was able to click the picture using both hands to press the shutter button. I visited the Niagara Falls again that day and got onto a ferry that took us close to the water fall. Taking a ferry is a must when you visit the falls. When you get closer to the falls, the view is priceless. The water falls from all sides and the view was such that I felt like I was in heaven.

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Seeing SEATTLE, shopping in Portland

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Part of my exciting adventures in the land of milk and honey for Indians, aka the USA, was a road trip from Seattle to Portland. My friend from Seattle facilitated it. The drive took three hours and covered 180 miles of beautiful landscape.

Portland

3

It was a very short stay in the city and I visited it just for the shopping. Portland is the best place to shop in, especially for electronic goods, because it is a tax free haven. I did a lot of walking here and hit the city’s famous food carts that served a variety of cuisines from across the world. We tried Egyptian food; I can’t remember what it was called. It tasted like sour dosa with chilly powder curry, I thought to myself, perhaps Egyptian food is not for me.

1 2 3 4

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Anti-clockwise: Majestic Mount Hood of the Cascade Mountain Range, Portland Pike Place Market, one of the oldest public farmers markets, Seattle Elliot Bay from the iconic Seattle Space Needle observation tower Parks, bridges, and eco-friendliness, Portland


Bays and Beaches San Francisco

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s a lone traveler, and on a budget, I found San Francisco one of the best and most beautiful cities in the United States. Yes, this city is very expensive especially for a young Indian working on a low budget. The hotels, I discovered, are pricy and was over 100$. I finally ended up in a simple hotel with no elevators, carrying my heavy luggage myself to my room on the third floor and paying out about $70 for a night. The city has a good public transportation system that combines buses, metros and cable cars. Just get a daily unlimited pass for 13$ and it is easy to commute around the city. Still, a proper look around will require a lot of walking. And beyond that, you better know both the timings of transport and fare systems or else, as I learnt, you could face some hardship!

The Golden Gate Bridge was the first place to visit in my list. I was blown by its magnificent gigantic structure and beauty standing tall on the sea. This place was more beautiful than what I thought. It was very cold and the sight of the bridge half covered by fog was spectacular. The long walk across the bridge was my most memorable experience. I was disappointed though by the lack of public transportation. The bridge is about 1.7 miles long, but the nearest stopover junction called Vista Point is about 0.6 miles off the bridge. The nearest bus stop is another 0.6 miles from Vista Point. Google Maps wasn’t accurate enough for me, so I had to wait near the intersection of two roads. All I could see was the surrounding array of beautiful hills, a bench and a sign

Pier 39, one of the popular piers in San Francisco


board, apparently was the bus stop, with literally nobody around. I waited for 45 minutes, then called the toll free bus service information desk and found out that there were no services after 6.30 p.m. I was in one of the most developed cities on the planet and there was no public transportation beyond a certain time! I was left with two options; one was either taking a taxi or walking all the way back to my starting point. Since taxi fares keep increasing, depending on the time of day, I had to walk back. Again, no transportation from the main junction to the city! I took a taxi for a short distance and then hopped onto a bus. Lombard Street is known as the world’s most crooked street. It’s another must visit. To get there, one has to walk over a mile uphill from the nearest bus stop and the roads in San Francisco are very steep. The structure of the street is

very unique and curvy, the beauty of the street is the colourful flowers and the houses lined on the sides. Alcatraz is a 150 year old prison and a historical site, located 1.5 miles of the shore of the city and you can get there by a cruise. I had to miss visiting Alcatraz because the ticket was about 31$ and felt it was not worth the expense. San Francisco has some great piers and eateries located near them. Don’t miss out on Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. You can spend a whole day in one of the street side cafes with a few drinks and amazing sea food. The Aquarium of the Bay located in Pier 39 has an underwater aquarium with beautiful water species like the rare Sevengill shark, varied jelly fishes and huge sting rays. I heard that there was a statue of Gandhiji and trekked around the city hoping to find it. I finally sighted it at the main port of San Francisco. It was a great feeling and a sense of pride to see

the statue of Gandhi miles away from home and in a foreign land. The Palace of Fine Arts Theatre is an iconic structure in San Francisco with stunning architecture located alongside the pond with lots of swans, ducks, turtles and geese. It is a vast space, scenically beautiful environment and a great place to relax in. I took a nap alongside the pond. Union Square is one of the best places to shop in and indulge your palate. In my view, it is mandatory to try out the popular Mexican grill food chain ‘Chipotle’, and the popular dish that fell in love with is the Burito bowl which is available for 7.65$. I topped off my San Francisco experience with a ride in the cable car from the Union Square to The Cable car store for 2.25$. The sound of the bell in these cars when it passes by pedestrian crossings still echoes in my ears.

NEXT TIME Yosemite National Park The Cable Car Museum Baker beach Golden Gate Bridge Park City Hall Dolores Park Walt Disney Family Museum

A view of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge


Homing in on Hollywood Los Angeles

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os Angeles, known as the entertainment capital of the world, was one city I couldn’t wait for and I checked in to a decent hotel in Downtown LA for a good price of $70 per night. Other hotels were priced above $ 100 a night. The neighbourhood was safe and had many pubs and eat outs nearby. LA is known for its elite lifestyle and culture. I got to see a lot of good looking people and luxury cars. Tired of travelling, I spent that evening just walking on the streets within a mile around the hotel, checking some fashion apparel, especially clothing and shoes. I ended up buying nothing. The complementary breakfasts in hotels are a good way to save a few dollars, so I was up early the next morning, quickly finished my breakfast and left for Venice Beach. The public transportation in LA is not that frequent but still it makes sense to get an unlimited day pass worth $7. The journey was about an hour. Venice Beach is a popular destination for surfers and has an open skate park for visitors and locals to skate. I was into neither I so I just spent some time in the water and clicked pictures. Santa Monica was the next destination, a great place to hang out in if you are in a group. There are many restaurants and street side cafes. I went to one of the restaurants called The Lobster relaxed with grilled American lobster. Later, I decided to go the Hollywood Sign to be followed by Griffith Observatory. It took quite a bit of travel to get to the Hollywood Sign; I had to change three buses and do some walking. At every bus junction I had to wait for the next bus as they were not frequent or timely. The bus stops do not have a shelter and you feel worse when it’s a sunny day. I somehow managed to change two buses but then had to wait for nearly 45 minutes in the Hollywood Junction to get my last bus to the Hollywood Sign. Fed up, I took a taxi. The taxi driver was a friendly guy and we developed a conversation but my eye was constantly on the fare meter. We were almost half way to the hills of the Hollywood Sign. The taxi driver stopped at a place that was the best for clicking pictures. The fare was close to $45 then and I decided to get off at that place despite his advice about the unavailability of taxis to go further. I clicked a few pictures, walked a few miles up the hill quite close to the sign, enjoyed the moment and was very excited that I had made it to this iconic historical site. Then I asked one of the locals about the nearest bus stop to get to my next destination. They casually replied that it was just a few miles down the hill. I had no other 44

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NEXT TIME •Disneyland priced at about $99 •The Walt Disney concert hall •The famous Rodeo Drive that houses the stores for the world’s most expensive brands • A 21- mile drive off the Pacific Coast Highway, the Malibu Beaches.

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option and had to walk all the way. Though it was a hard time, at the end of the day it was memorable experience. I enjoyed walking and looking at the splendid luxurious houses and cars on the hill. It felt like I was a part of some classic Hollywood movie. It was very quiet and there were no humans on the road. I had nothing to drink and was dehydrating. Finally I met a good looking couple on the road and enquired about the bus stop. They were very modest and said that it was close to two miles to get off the hill and some more walking from there to get to the bus stop. I continued walking. I finally found a store to get some liquid to recharge my energy. The area I was walking through was becoming more scenic. I found a place to rest. I clicked some pictures. When I was almost near the base of the hill, I approached a truck driver for the directions. He explained the route to me but also told me that the stop was some two miles away. He was kind enough to offer me a drop in his truck even without me asking for it. That drop in the truck is a memory I will keep forever. I was lucky enough later to get a bus to the Griffith Observatory. I spent my evening relaxing and enjoying the beautiful sunset and observing the planets Jupiter and Mars. I then took a bus and returned to the hotel. I learned from this experience that obtaining prior knowledge about how to get to destinations was vital for a traveller and it was not enough to just depend on Google. Universal Studios is a must visit when you are in LA. It requires at least one full day. There is good public transportation to this place. The basic entry to the park is about $95, a bit expensive but definitely worth the money. The rides in this park are unique like the Shrek, Mummy Ride, Transformers and so on. Experience every single ride and if you love it you can get on it any number of times. If you want to buy souvenirs in LA, this is the best place. I could not buy one though, but there is always a second time. The Hollywood Walk of Fame is another popular destination. Located on the Hollywood Boulevard, it is simply a street where you can find some of the big names of Hollywood. I just spent less than an hour here since there was nothing much to see and quickly moved on to Beverly Hills. One of the most luxurious localities in the world, all I saw was beautiful residences, expensive brand outlets and exotic cars. Then I took a bus to the La Brea Tar Pits Museum, a world famous museum that housed Ice Age fossils. Then I got to see a big collection of fossil remains of animals from the Ice Age. Finally, I randomly picked a place, the Avenue of Stars, and went there for no reason. I found some huge buildings, walked around and found a place to sit. I spent my time blissfully doing nothing. March 2016

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Night time is the right time! Las Vegas

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he most happening city in the entire country, Las Vegas is all about money, luxury and casinos. Right from the airport to hotels, there are casinos everywhere. I checked into a luxury hotel, making the most of an online offer and my luxury suite cost just $100 per night. The joy of staying in this place felt like no other. Right from the reception by the hotel staff to the room, everything was designed to make me feel like a celebrity. I had a luxurious, massive room that was just like a private building. I was surprised by huge 80” LED TV, which when turned on, displayed my name with a welcome note. I found myself getting out of the hotel as late as 7 p.m. and loafing around the city to return only at 4 a.m. Indeed, that was all I did in the city. The Las Vegas strip is the best when you visit at night. The hotels are lined and lit with countless lights and colours. The city is choc a bloc with hotels with casinos and parties. The first place that I went was the Grand MGM. You can

easily get lost in this hotel; it’s so big! Every hotel here competes with every other hotel in terms of luxury and concepts. I went to an Indian restaurant for lunch and the buffet with a variety of dishes was available for just $15. The feel in every other hotel was the same except for the themes that differed. t is just casinos, casinos, casinos everywhere. The hotels that I visited were Stratosphere, Paris-Paris, New York-New York, Monte Carlo, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Riviera and West Gate. I used to spend the whole day at hotel just relaxing, doing nothing and got out only during the nights. I lost myself watching people play poker and other games. Being in a huge room with close to thirty TVs, playing thirty different things was a heady experience especially with a drink or two down the belt. I never believed in spending money on casinos, but I’d rather wanted to experience the feel of being in a midst of those indulging in a lavish life and to see if the hype about Vegas was true. Yes, it’s not just hype, it’s a different kind of reality.


Let go of your worries! Miami

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he blue beaches, the white sand, cool breeze, hot sun and a drink is just right to forget your worries and relieve your stress. Miami is one of the best places to get out of the concrete jungles and spend a relaxed holiday. I checked into one of the ocean front hotels in North Beach spending about $75 per night and it was definitely worth the money. The beaches here are quiet, peaceful and less crowded. Miami is a beautiful city with adequate infrastructure, scenic docks, attractive hotels, street side cafes and it is known for its nightlife. It is the best place for a group of friends to hang out and spend good times together. Miami has good public transportation; I commuted between the North and South beaches. One ride in a bus will cost you about $2.25. South Beach is the main attraction and the most happening spot in Miami. It has lots of pubs, restaurants and party places. I spent my entire stay in Miami on the splendid beaches doing nothing but just relaxing. I went to a restaurant bar called The Tavern and spent an evening with some great American cuisine. I also spent some time sitting on the docks drinking in

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the atmosphere and gazing at things. I took a walk around Lincoln Road on one of the evenings. It’s a great avenue for street shopping. One disappointing aspect about the Miami beaches is the sea plants, they keep scrabbling all over your body when you are in the waters and there is no escape. The best thing about the trip was that I did not loaf around but just sat on the beach doing nothing. One never feels like leaving these beaches. I did not visit any of the attractions in the city, but I was still happy and felt that the time spent was worth it on the beaches. Miami was the last stop before I left to New York to catch my flight back home. After all the hustling in the other cities, this was a great city in which to end my trip to the United States. One poignant memory I retain is of me running to the beach with just ten minutes left for my shuttle to arrive to head for the airport. I removed my shoes quickly and stepped into the water just to feel it for one last time. I returned back within ten minutes saying to myself ‘I will definitely come back, soon – very soon’.

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2

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Snapping up

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D.C. & Philladelphia Clockwise: Capitol Hill, overshadowed as Washington Memorial stands tall Smithsonian Air and Space Museum welcomes 8 million people in a year 3 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, better known as the White House 4&5 History comes alive, Independence Hall, where the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence were signed 1 2

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To me, it’s a surprise that something so delicious can be uncommon, but then again, how often do we eat tandoori chicken in a year?

Photograph | Thai House Group

Hot Plate

Going beyond green curry AKANKSHA OHRI “It really isn’t a household staple?” I ask, referring to the vibrant green, coconutty curry that has, till this moment, been a quintessential Thai dish in my mind. This is clearly a common misconception. I’m not the first misguided “Thai food lover” that Wimut Witoonchart has met. He’s a Thai national who runs the Bangalore-based restaurant Thai By Thai, and he explains how green curry is to Thailand what tandoori chicken is to India. “It’s very well-known worldwide and has a lot of Thai flavours, but it’s really not prepared or eaten that often in our everyday lives. It’s more a dish that you might eat when you go out, and definitely not something you can easily whip up at home from scratch,” he says. To me, it’s a surprise that something so delicious can be uncommon, but then again, how often do we eat tandoori chicken in a year? CASTAWAY

“Thai food is usually really spicy,” Wimut adds. “When it’s prepared abroad, the heat is pared back to a minimum, but authentic dishes usually have quite a sharp hit of spice. In fact, a traditional yellow curry that serves four or five is made with close to a hundred red and green chilies!” He further explains that a number of ingredients are added just for their fragrance, like kafir lime leaves and galangal. They don’t add much to the flavour, but it’s the fragrance that counts - the dish isn’t complete till it smells just right! Thailand also has an interesting breakfast culture. Breakfast is usually no different from lunch or dinner. Meat and spice are quite common first things in the morning - a concept quite foreign to most Indians. Stir fries, noodles, and fried chicken are some of the regular suspects. Wimut goes as far as to say that he’s never ever had a Thai meal that didn’t feature some form of non-vegetarian food, regardless of

the time of day. “What about insects, and frogs, and lizards?” I venture. “Is that a stereotype, or actually a regular part of the food culture?” “The food culture is very different all across Thailand,” he explains. “It’s a small country, so I suppose it’s easy to generalise. But insects are only common in the eastern provinces. I’m from the south, and I’ve never actually eaten any! Seafood and spice are popular in the south. The north is different in the sense that, unlike other parts of the country, they use very little coconut milk in their preparations, and the west is notable for what can be roughly translated as “forest cuisine”- bush meat, basically.” This was a series of revelations about Thai food, really. And a conversation that began with a puzzling unfamiliarity with one of my favourite cuisines, ended up revealing a whole new culinary world to explore.

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ADVERTORIAL

The idea is to make travellers interact with the daily life of Ladakh, visit unheard of destinations and take a sneak peek into the Ladakhi culture

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March 2016

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ADVERTORIAL

EXPLORATIONS

The secret life of Ladakh MELITA ANJALI MONIS Ladakh, popularly also known as the ‘land of high passes’ qualifies to be one of the most desirable tourist destinations in India. At first, Ladakh seems like the many other Himalayan destinations that will mesmerise one by its landscapes and snow-clad highs and lows. But that aside, Ladakh exhibits its rare cultural diversity to visitors which is more eye catching as compared to the landscape. Quite a change from what the regular India is, Ladakh is a blend of India and Tibet. This very scarcely populated region of Jammu and Kashmir, is home for some beautiful Tibetan Buddhist monasteries that speak of the place being much more than just landscapes. Unravelling the untold tales of a destination is more adventurous than exploring the unseen. Likewise, there always exists that one tourist guide that one takes along on any trip. ‘The Unexplored Ladakh” is one such tourist guide platform that will not just introduce you to this spectacular terrain at the foot of Himalayas but also take you through the lanes of the real Ladakh. Calling themselves the quintessential travel studio, the trio of founders of this sideways look at Ladakh Urgyan Skaldan, Tenzin Jampel and Thundup Gyatso - got together to organise customised trips that offer exclusive experiences to travellers. “The idea was to CASTAWAY

make travellers interact with the daily life of Ladakh, visit unheard of destinations and take a sneak peek into the culture,” said Mr Jampel. The extended idea was also to transform the outlook of Ladakhi tourism by creating an opportunity for user friendly iterations and packages, he confessed. Along with having mainstream road trips and sightseeing activities, “The Unexplored Ladakh” will also guide a tourist through special village visits, trekking, mountaineering, cycling, monastery visits and photography expeditions. It is all left to the traveller to explore the insides, and The Unexplored Ladakh comes in handy to create an itinerary that will not allow you to miss out on anything worthwhile in Ladakh. Started initially as a Facebook page in 2013, today the company in partnership of three friends stands as a mirror of Ladakhi tourism. What the founders intended to do is coming true as the adventure of riding through the unknown lanes and untying the knots of a reserved culture increases the fun quotient of a trip to Ladakh. The Unexplored Ladakh Tenzin Jampel - +91 96118 83823 theunexploredladakh @theunexploredladakh March 2016

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Brahmagiri

Rolling green hills of Coorg

PHOTOGRAPHS | ANANTH MONNAPPA

Raja Seat


Photograph | Raghavan

Photograph | Raghavan

Maryland, U.S.A

Taj Mahal, Agra, India

Photograph | Raghavan

Photograph | Raghavan

Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

Niagara River, New York, U.S.A


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March 2016 © CASTAWAY

March 2016 © CASTAWAY

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March 2016 © CASTAWAY

March 2016 © CASTAWAY


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