Around the monasteries in Ladakh, you often come across notices about and faded, worn pictures of a young child.
At first glance, we thought someone’s child was missing, but upon inquiring, we learnt that the boy is the Panchen Lama – in Tibetan belief, the monk in charge of finding the successor of the Dalai Lama and has been spirited away, along with his family, in 1995 by the Chinese when he was 6 years old.
The reason why the Chinese did this, is kind of obvious (China, you may want to cover your ears for this) – if they control the Panchen Lama, they control who becomes the next Dalai Lama. The topic is extremely sensitive for Tibetans and they have been raising their voices in futility for the last 20 years to ask for his freedom. China, meanwhile, has appointed a ‘faux’ Panchen Lama in place of the real one but the Tibetan people refuse to accept him, believing that the real Panchen Lama is still alive, even though they worry about his state and well-being.
Theirs has been a long and fruitless battle in trying to reclaim their lost country, lost independence and spending generations in exile. There’s a sort of determination, sometimes punctuated by desperation, in their voices – they want him to come back, they need him to come back.
One year ago, on this exact day, I was in Ladakh – a remote, arid and beautiful region in Indian Himalayas; and a place that I would happily go back to any day and recommend that anyone who can, visit now. You can read all about our adventures on the road in Ladakh here.
The absolute worst thing about a vacation getting over is that it’s over. And the next one is at least a few months away.
As I sit at my work desk with a sunburnt face and hundreds of unread work emails, my brain isn’t helping matters, conjuring up images of turquoise waters, painters’ palette sunsets and white sand beaches, every now and then. Maybe I should try these tips instead. Or cheer for every passed hour till it’s time to go home and dive into hundreds of holiday pictures. 🙂
Walls are often silent backgrounds or spectators to the action upfront.
But sometimes and in some places, they take on a personality of their own – at times a grim one, like the Berlin Wall that once separated East and West Germany; or at times a fun one, like the walls of the Comic Book route of Brussels or the ‘Love Wall’ of the supposed house of Shakespeare’s Juliet in Verona.
Juliet’s Wall, Verona – hastily written last-minute love letters (stuck with chewing gum, more often than not)
Asterix and Gang in a rush – Along the Comic Book route in Brussels (1)
Tintin & Captain Haddock trying to make their way down a flight of stairs – Along the Comic Book route in Brussels (2)
Lucky Luke – Along the Comic Book route in Brussels (3)
The engraved panels above the ‘Passion Facade’ entrance of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
One of the last standing sections of the Berlin Wall, only retained as a grim reminder of the past
The East Side Gallery, Berlin – a section of the wall full of murals ranging from the solemn…
This week’s WP photo challenge was a challenge, indeed for me. I’m hardly a photographer but I like going back to old photos and discovering new details or dusting off old memories.
After a fair bit of digging around this weekend, here are a couple of waterscapes from two corners of a continent – the Aegean Sea* of Fethiye, Turkey and the River Tagus of Lisbon, Portugal. The stars of the photos though, aren’t the water bodies themselves, but the petite Turkish tea (çay) glass and the turret of the Torre de Belem, which is anything but petite (can comfortably fit a handful of people inside it).
*technically, the Aegean region of Turkey lies in the Asian part, but it’s close enough to be called Europe!
(I wish I could’ve captured a lens blur in the second picture too, but I would’ve needed to know a bit more about cameras and photography at the time for that. 🙂 )
There are two reasons why I love Europe – Schengen visas and the trains. Both are key to traipsing with ease from country to country.
I’m also an overzealous planner, if there ever was one, when it comes stuffing my itineraries with places to see and things to do.
Put the two together and you have my itinerary for just over 2 weeks in Europe in the fall of 2014. This itinerary will give you an idea of how ground is possible to be covered and how; and if you’d like to take this pace or go a little slower. I’ll cover the places we saw and inter-city transport in this post (and how to book it). In the interest of brevity, why we chose these specific places and money matters will be addressed in dedicated posts.
Where we went:
Over 15 days of hectic travelling and lots of pounding over cobblestone streets, we saw / slept in all these places (more posts on these coming up soon!):
Biggest beer festival in the world
The spires of Tyn Cathedral
The view that everyone comes for
‘Salute to the Sun’ – a very cool art installation of hundreds of solar lights that come on after sunset
Plitvice Lakes on a cold, foggy day were still spectacular
Night lights, central town square
Bled is the stuff of fairy tales
The Campanile (bell tower) that collapsed unexplained a hundred years ago
The 2000-year old marvel that still stands and is actively used
The sunset that will make you fall for Florence
Hiking between Vernazza and Corniglia
Erm, well, since our day in Milan was eaten up by a 4-hour train delay
This is the third part of a multi-post series covering our trip this summer to Ladakh, a remote region high up in the Indian Himalayas. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Day 3, 27th July – Jispa (11000 ft) to Tso Moriri (15000 ft)
Acute Mountain Sickness or Altitude Sickness – sickness caused in humans by acute exposure to low oxygen levels at high altitudes.
Guess what happens when you go from zero to 15000 ft (~ 4500 m) above sea level in less than 3 days? Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS, that’s what! We started our third day in the wee hours of the morning – no shower, no breakfast, wake up and pile into the cars. We had been warned by our drivers about how long Day 3 would be – 12 hours of driving – therefore, the early start, but the disaster that the day turned out to be for some of us, made the journey tumble into 14+ hours on the road (stunning views all along, though). We eventually got to Tso Moriri around 8 PM that night (‘Tso’ means ‘Lake’ in Ladakhi). Continue reading To Diamox or Not to Diamox – Day 3 of our Himalayan road trip, Jispa to Tso Moriri→
Travelling as a vegetarian around the world brings with it the familiar challenge – how do you eat well, for a good price and get a variety of choices? While my meat-eating friends can’t stop raving about wurst in Germany, babi guling in Bali and kebaps in Turkey, I’m usually scouring through Happycow before my trips to figure out how to keep myself well-fed. A hungry traveller is not a happy traveller.
Here’s a list of the best countries for vegetarians that I’ve been to:
India – Okay, this is no surprise. Nearly half the population of the country is vegetarian (In India, this usually means no eggs too) and in some regions like the West and the South, you might have a tough time finding a restaurant that’s not ‘Pure Veg’. Almost every regional cuisine in the country comes with vegetarian and meat-based options for almost every dish. Hell, even a popular chain of ‘Fried Chicken’ advertises itself as ‘So Veg, So Good’! Vegetarians might want to pack clothes a couple of sizes larger if they plan to stay here for a couple of weeks.
Italy – Of course. Italians, especially in smaller towns have a hard time wrapping their heads around the ‘vegetarian’ concept but ‘senza carne’ seems to get the message across. Other than the ubiquitous ‘vegetariano / margherita‘ pizza and cheese-tomato-lettuce panini (sandwich), you’ll find a number of options in antipasti and primi piatti (that’s appetizers and first course, respectively) – grilled vegetables, focaccia, ravioli, gnocchi, cannelloni and other pasta with vegetables. Vegetarian lasagna, alas, is not to be found on too many menus. Beware that a lot of Italians consider tuna to be vegetarian.
Turkey – Apparently, meat was prohibitively expensive at one point in the past in Turkey, so they’ve learnt to innovate with vegetables and lentils. Add to it the beautiful local produce – it’d be tough to go wrong with that. Turkish breakfasts are feasts for vegetarians – cheeses, olives, eggs, fresh bread, marmalade, cucumber and tomato slices, homemade yogurt and fresh fruit juice. Meat-lovers need not fret – the spread also includes sausages. Local lunch /dinner/snack options without meat include gozleme and borek (both pastries with different fillings), pide (closed pizza), lentil soup, stuffed grape leaves (these come in both vegetarian and meat options), kumpir (stuffed baked potatoes) and the very interesting vegetarian testi (pottery) kebab that comes in a pot that you can crack open.
UK – Umm, wondering if you read that right? The home of ‘fish & chips’ is also home to a sizeable number of vegetarians and a large international population. Therefore, vegetarian burgers, burritos, wraps, curries are easy to find, especially in tourist-frequented places like London, Bath etc.
Other places that I found to be easy for vegetarians –
Sri Lanka – curries, rice and roti; South Indian vegetarian food is available in Colombo too.
Thailand – It may have been because I stayed at resorts / hotels – these usually have large spreads for vegetarians too. Be careful about the generous use of fish sauce even in ‘vegetarian’ cooking.
Munich, Germany – In the heart of wurst-loving Bavaria, you ask? Germany actually has a rapidly growing vegetarian population and restaurants have a couple of vegetarian dishes to accommodate their preferences. Even the Oktoberfest menu now has two vegetarian dishes. And the Turkish Doner shops / stalls serving falafel are everywhere.
Ubud, Bali – Ubud is a popular meditation and yoga centre, therefore, has a number of restaurants with only vegetarian or vegan menus.
And the misses:
Spain and Portugal – only Spanish potato omelettes, patatas bravas and vegetarian paella (sometimes) in Spain.
Norway and Denmark – times when I’ve survived on cheese slice-and-mustard sandwiches; their neighbour, Sweden, is more pro-vegetarian, surprisingly.
Croatia – even with all that lovely local produce – your options are limited to vegetarian salad and spinach-and-cheese burek. Breaks my heart when people don’t know what to do with all those fresh vegetables. *sigh*
France – French cuisine does not acknowledge the existence of vegetarians – try the quiches, maybe.
Other expected challenges on my still-to-visit list – China, South America, Japan, Russia, Philippines, Africa, Iceland. I’d be very happy to know if I’m wrong about one or more of these places.
Share your recommendations, experiences and warnings for meat-free eating around the world – where have you feasted and where have you starved?