Munsiari: A model for inclusive rural responsible tourism

“Take me to Kamla Pandey’s house” I tell my driver as we enter Sarmoli village in Munsiari. This is not a surprising thing for us who live in the cities but a woman’s name being known in a village is a symbol of her empowerment who otherwise is addressed as so and so’s wife, mother or daughter. Kamla lives with her husband and son and like many other women in the village has participated in the Homestay program.

Munsiari

Sarmoli is a village in Munsiari which is a hill station in Kumaon region of Uttrakhand. The Panchachuli peaks of the Himalayas welcome you here and present before you a spectacular landscape. Sarmoli tells the story of transformation of lives of women in particular and community as a whole with the help of tourism. Apart from giving the community a source of livelihood; the model is also helping to preserve the environment and biodiversity of this fragile ecosystem.

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Andaman being a place of pristine beaches, rich coral ecosystems, and among the best dive sites had always attracted me. It was a dream to witness immense beauty of these islands which finally took shape this year in November.

Eleven days, four girls, seven islands of the Andaman archipelago; it was truly a trip of a lifetime and an amazing ‘girls only’ vacation. We set out first to explore the more popular among the tourists, the South Andaman and then bidding goodbye to two fellow travellers, two of us set out to explore the less travelled Middle and North Andaman.

South Andaman

The rendezvous started with Chidiya Tapu, which is around 30 kms from Port Blair. It is a small beach famous for its scenic sunsets among tourists and as the name suggests it has a good variety of indigenous birds.

Chidiya Tapu

Chidiya Tapu

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The Andaman Islands

Travel and Me

When I was young my parents used to take me to Tirupati; a famous shrine in the south belonging to Lord Vishnu popularly known as Lord Venkateshwara. I used to like going to that place as we used to stay in Dehradun and that was the only opportunity to venture out from my lovely town and see the world outside.

At that time we didn’t have much money to spend extravagantly and we used to cut our costs everywhere. We used to travel in sleeper class in railway, take an ordinary bus, eat from local vendors and take cheap accommodations. We even slept at railways stations, bus stands and roadside at Tirupati and Tirumala hills to save on money.

Those things taught me to be adjusting to every kind of situation. We used to walk upto the hill and have darshan of the Lord and wait for long hours in a queue before we had our turn to see the Lord. This taught me patience to wait and gave me stamina to walk. When I travel, I can sleep anytime anywhere be it bus, train or roadside in scorching heat when other people need a comfortable mattress.

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When Planning for Leh-Ladakh

Alchi village

With temperatures rising day by day, many of you would be trying to make a vacation plan to the higher altitudes. Leh-Ladakh is becoming a popular summer destination because of the unique landscape it offers to the travelers.

I have been getting lot of queries regarding planning a trip to Leh-Ladakh and thought I would put this useful piece of information on net. First I thought of writing it in a form of article but I thought I would rather improve on a recent conversation on facebook with a friend. I think the reader can get a clear grasp from the conversation and get idea for planning a trip to Leh-Ladakh. The conversation goes as follows:

A: Hey hi; how are you?

impreeti: hi, i am good

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My Rendezvous with Leh-Ladakh

The pristine waters flowing in the rivers and streams, the large expanses of emptiness surrounded by mighty bare mountains and the mystic blue sky above; all blend perfectly together and form a heaven called Leh – Ladakh!

Om Mani Padme Hum, the Buddhist mantra adrift with the flow of the wind, the aura surrounding you all over Leh. Asking around what the meaning is of the sloka would be in vain for it is inexplicable. Besides the colorful panel of rectangular prayer flags representing five elements to the enchanted prayer wheels, engraved rocks, this mantra keeps following you, or should I say travel along with you.

The place is full of chortens and large prayer wheels at every corner which gives the feel of the rich Buddhist culture and its glorious tradition carried through the ages. All these, in the midst of the magnificent Himalayas appear and give a sense of a portrayal of a great painter’s imagination on his imaginary canvas.

A Chorten in Ladakh…A Chorten in Ladakh

After being in such heart capturing scenic beauty, the language spoken by the natives of the place soothes your ear. For a while I stood still to realize whether it is because of the place from where I had come. The conversation which lands in your ear, intentionally or unintentionally, adds as nectar to the whole thing. The greetings of the natives with the word julley, wearing a smile comforts you to the core.

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