Ganga aarti prayer
I had mentioned this before when I first visited Varanasi. Varanasi can only be described in one word – magical.   I stayed near Meer Ghat in a dingy guesthouse, paying about 150 rupees for a room that smelled so much of Marijuana, that I could have sworn it was owned by the Cali cartel. But, I enjoyed the vibe. Of the room, of the hippies who were my neighbours, and of Varanasi.   Varanasi is pretty much the centre of the hindu ideology in india, especially due to its relationship with death. But what made it even more exotic was […]

In Pictures: The Ganga Aarti at Varanasi

Restaurants of san marino
The mist had still not cleared fully within the walls of the San Marino Citta, but I decided to brave it. After all, I had to see the main attraction of this tiny little European country.   If you have seen the national flag of San Marino, you cannot miss out on the 3 towers that grace its middle. Also depicted on their coat of arms, these are a group of 3 towers located on the peaks of Monte Titano, on which the city of San Marino is built.   The Guaita, Cesta and the Montale. And if there is […]

The 3 Towers of San Marino. And a Piadina.

Baku pink taxi
After landing in Baku’s Heydar Aliyev International Airport (Thank you Azerbaijan for introducing the Evisa!), I headed to my hotel.   Usually, I am all about budget travelling and accommodation. But since I had left Dubai with a heavy flu, I wanted to stay in a nice hotel which allowed me to rest for the first couple of days. So, I ended up staying at the Baku Palace hotel.   No, no. The ‘Palace’ is only in the name, as it was a mid-range hotel and frequented mostly by Arab tourists who came to Azerbaijan to fulfil certain vices. It […]

Icheri Seher: Photos and Legends from Baku’s Old City

Timor leste photography
This is part of a series called ‘A sonnet to the world’, which I have been working on. You can read about the project here. The idea is to write a 14-line Shakespearean Sonnet for every country I visit (and hopefully and eventually, the whole world). And this one is for Timor Leste (East Timor). Beyond the banana pancake trail, a new nation I found. Formed by wave after wave of the ever-migrating mortal. Veddas, Melanesians, Malays and Portuguese ran aground. Each of them built new hegemony, and the previous one fell.   Despite the occupations and the massacre, Timor […]

A Sonnet to Timor Leste (East Timor)

baku azerbaijan 2
Ever so quietly – like it does everything else – even Azerbaijan started offering Electronic visas for Indian passport holders. Further Reading: Azerbaijan is not the only one. There are more than 20 countries in this list, that offer electronic visas to Indian citizens.   I mean, it was expected. Georgia and Armenia, 2 countries bordering Azerbaijan in the Caucasus region, were already providing e-visas to Indians. So it didn’t make sense for Azerbaijan to miss out on the tourist revenues. Especially given the fact that Azerbaijan was really close to the middle-east, where most of the Indians were the […]

Electronic Visa for Indians in Azerbaijan: My Experience

boy and motorbike graffiti penang 1
Before I took a flight from Singapore to Penang, I knew only 2 things about Penang: the food and the art. I know. I am such a cliched traveller sometimes.   The street food of Penang, infused with elements of Chinese, Peranakan, Malay, Indian, Thai and European cuisines, needs no introduction. If anything, I was confused with choices here. But the art scene in Penang is completely something else. I knew about the street art of Penang, but I was about to learn about it in much more detail here. Further Reading: Looking for other offbeat adventures in Malaysia? Explore […]

The Many Facets of Street Art in Georgetown, Penang

Rengma dress nagaland 2
Anyone who knows me also knows that I have an insatiable urge to chase festivals. I love large gatherings, especially if they are cultural festivals – and I never let an opportunity go past me to visit another one where large group of people flock together. “More people. Give me more people!!”, I sometimes cry in my sleep. Not really. That’s just melodrama, but you get the point.   But then, there are some festivals that I never heard of before, and never planned to visit. And when they magically fall out of a calendar right onto my lap, ahhh, […]

The Other Festival of Kohima: Ngada Festival of the Rengmas

Pha that luang vientiane laos
To me, Vientiane is one of the most interesting capital cities of South East Asia. On one hand, I could feel a deep sense of history, as this was once the administrative capital of the Kingdom of Lan Sang and was subjected to the Siamese occupation. On the other hand, there were traces everywhere of the French occupation that followed, with street names in French, and Baguettes with tuna or chicken being sold on every street or by the side of the mighty river Mekong.   Hmm… Baguettes. Ok, I digress. Let’s put the Baguettes away and focus on how […]

A photowalk through the National Symbol of Laos: Pha That Luang, Vientiane

Tibetan monastery tindolong tezu 2
It was the lure of Kibithoo that made me visit Tezu.   Many who do pan-India motorcycle rides in the North-East region of India, end up coming to Tezu. Because it is considered to be the Easternmost motorable point of India. It is not, but before I can write about Kibithoo or Kahoo, I have to write about Tezu first. Further Reading: Why was I riding towards Kibithoo? To start the epic solo K2K2K ride, from Kibithoo to Kanyakumari to Koteshwar. From Northeast, to the Extreme Northeast After my time in Nagaland, enjoying my time camping at the hornbill festival, I made […]

The Tibetans of Tindolong: Riding to Tezu, Arunachal Pradesh

Seychelles backpacking 7
“The most interesting stories are found between the pages of one’s passport”   Well, I am being repetitive, because I said that already. In this previous post about the 5 most interesting visas on my passport.   But in the same post, I had also mentioned that visas are different from entry/exit stamps. A visa is what you need to enter a country, and it may be obtained in advance, upon arrival, or as an Electronic visa. On the other hand, an entry/exit stamp is what the immigration officer gives you, to mark the date that you entered/left the country. […]

5 Interesting Entry and Exit stamps: On my Indian passport

Oriental bay wellington new zealand. 4
This is part of a series called ‘A sonnet to the world’, which I have been working on. You can read about the project here. The idea is to write a 14-line Shakespearean Sonnet for every country I visit (and hopefully and eventually, the whole world). And this one is for New Zealand. In Auckland, the cold winds pierced my skin, And the night lights swayed my senses high. And while the city slept with a breezy grin, The forlorn needle pierced the forgotten sky.   In Taupo, the lake stretched out in miles Or maybe it was the decline […]

A Sonnet to New Zealand

Cristo rei dili timor leste 2
There is a common saying among the youth in Brazil, especially when it comes to matters of football. “The pope may be Argentinian. But god is definitely Brazilian”   Of course, this is a reference to the fact that the current pope is Argentinian, while Rio de Janeiro has the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking the city and showering its blessings. But come to think of it. There was another place in the world, which had both the pope and the Christ.   Dili, in Timor Leste. Further Reading: The Pope may be Argentinian, but his Italian was one of […]

The Other Christ Statue. Cristo Rei in Dili, Timor Leste

Mutrah souq entrance oman 2
I had grown up in Oman. But had left the country back in 1996. And after 20 years, I often felt the urge to visit it again.   I came everywhere around Oman in the GCC region. First UAE relaxed its visa policy, then Qatar did. And even Bahrain followed suit. But visiting Oman was turning out to be difficult – simply because of the Visa policy. Oman had a policy of issuing ‘Sponsored visas’ for Indians even if they wanted to visit the country for touristy purposes. A ‘Sponsored Visa’ meant that I had to find a local sponsor, […]

Electronic Visa for Indians in Oman: My Experience

Alexander statue helsinki
Helsinki invited me with quite a bit of a dilemma. And two-thirds of it, was my own creation.   I only had 3 days here, and I had not planned to see anything. My plan was to land in Helsinki, start walking around on my own and figure out things. And I spent almost 1 entire day out of these 3 by meeting some friends and treating myself to the essential Finnish Sauna experience at a local favourite Sauna, which was named Loyly and pronounced ‘Lovely’. And I spent a second day visiting the island of Suomenlinna (will write another post about […]

A One-day Walking Guide for Helsinki

I love tunis tunisia 2
I got hooked on to the idea of visiting Tunisia because of a Hungarian girl I met during my time in Budapest.   It was a tinder date in Budapest, and we got talking about each other’s travel interests. I was on a 1-year long backpacking trip and project 365 back then, and she took her 4 scheduled vacations every year diligently. Of course, we both loved travelling. But it was our styles that were different.   While I was backpacking on a shoe-string budget to the corners of Eastern Europe, her vacations were all package tours. She would always […]

Visa on Arrival for Indians in Tunisia: My Experience

bahrain fort arches 2
After I was done with the experience of the amazing Eid-morning drive from Manama, my days in Bahrain just got a loooooottt more better!   My friend – the same guy who almost drove me to Saudi Arabia and then to a camel farm – was free now, and was raring to show me more sights around Bahrain. I could get a hint of expat pride in him for the country. “Bahrain is much more than the camels and the liberal culture”, he kept saying. And I did believe him. So, in the span of one day, he took it […]

A Fort and a Mosque: Exploring Manama, Bahrain

Sigatoka broken bridge fiji
This is part of a series called ‘A sonnet to the world’, which I have been working on. You can read about the project here. The idea is to write a 14-line Shakespearean Sonnet for every country I visit (and hopefully and eventually, the whole world). And this one is for Fiji. In Lautoka, the soft sand cuddled her toes, And the cool wind kissed her cheek. As the ocean lay bare beyond her, she arose, “Follow me?”. But no answer did she seek.   Tikka overwhelmed my nostrils, and Rafi sang his tone. In Nadi, a little bit of […]

A Sonnet to Fiji

Kids in liquica 2
After spending some time in the heart of Dili – mostly visiting the Pope, and walking around the beach – I decided to go a little west of it. Towards the province of Liquica.   I tried to book the motorcycle again, the same one that I had used to ride to Aileu. But turns out it was already booked out today by someone else. So, I had to hire a taxi/guide that would take me and a couple of friends at the hostel towards the province of Liquica. At 50 dollars for the whole day, we were excited to […]

Towards the Sad West of Dili: Liquica and Maubara, Timor Leste

Goodbye camels
Over the years, it has almost become a yearly tradition for me to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan in a Muslim country. I am not a Muslim – hell, I am not even religious –  but hailing from the secular, South-Indian state of Kerala has made me a keen observer of other religions, and perhaps even appreciate them much better. And if I have to learn about the culture and nuances of Islam, what better time to do that then during Ramadan, and in a Muslim country, right?   This quirk of mine has taken me in the past […]

An Eid Morning Drive for Causeways and Camels: Manama, Bahrain

Jordan culture 2
“The most interesting stories are found between the pages of your passport”   I can’t remember who said that, or where I read it. But I do remember when it got etched into my mind. It was in one of my weekend trips from Singapore to Malaysia. I was travelling with an Italian friend to check out the Putrajaya region of Malaysia. At the immigration, she just showed her passport and walked through – because Italians do not require a visa to enter Malaysia. I showed my passport, with a brightly coloured Malaysian visa. The immigration official checked the visa […]

The Unexpected Benefits of an Indian passport: 5 Interesting Visa Stories

Vanuatu sunset
This is part of a series called ‘A sonnet to the world’, which I have been working on. You can read about the project here. The idea is to write a 14-line Shakespearean Sonnet for every country I visit (and hopefully and eventually, the whole world). And this one is for Vanuatu. Through Efate’s open windows, and creaking doors, They stared at me, like a naked leprechaun who fell from the sky. Eyes like uncut diamonds, piercing into my pores, They seemed to ask, “Man blong India, why yu come by?”   At the Kava bar, the blade dangled like a third […]

A Sonnet to Vanuatu

bhuli bhatiyari mahal park
If Bangkok has Khaosan road, and Kathmandu has Thamel, Paharganj is probably the most suitable equivalent for New Delhi. It was not my first time in Paharganj, Over the last 2 visits here, I have been awestruck by how the organised – and sometimes bafflingly disorganised – chaos of Paharganj attracts backpackers and travellers of all kinds. Paharganj literally means ‘hilly neighbourhood’, but there are no hills around this central Delhi neighbourhood. What it does have instead, are plenty of cheap hotels, lodges, street food, bars and the backpacking firangs who sport long hippie hairstyles and wear those elephant pants. […]

The Ghosts of Paharganj: New Delhi, India

LGBT pride flag
Amsterdam in August is one the best places to be for experiencing the subdued Dutch Summers. It’s mildly hot, the sun paints brilliant canvases on the blue skies and exuberant reflections on the canals below, and there are the occasional bouts of rain whenever you feel that the heat is creeping up on you.   And it is also the month of love and pride. Further Reading: The time that I saw a Fokker at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. No windmills. But plenty of canals. Before visiting Amsterdam, I had harboured images of a city full of windmills. Because that is […]

Celebrating love on a Canal: Amsterdam, Netherlands