The moment I see a long weekend break in the calendar it is on my holiday list! And my first thought is – where can I drive to for a quick break? I love road trips for many reasons but most importantly for its flexibility. I don’t have to book and adhere to any flight or train schedules, I can stop wherever I want and actually explore some of those hidden parts of the country that don’t make it to any tourist maps or lists.
Yes, you read the title correctly! And no, I don’t mean the many small replicas of the Taj Mahal being sold as souvenirs in shops. During my recent visit to Agra, my awesome local host and sister, Chikirsha, took me around the city and I saw some of the lesser known versions of the Taj. Each of these versions were unique and beautiful in their own way and I thought of sharing this with all of you.
Ahmedabad – A bustling city and the financial capital of Gujarat. It’s famous for many things but never really known as a tourist destination. On my recent weekend visit to this vibrant city, I was quite surprised to see that the Ahmedabad has a lot of places to visit and many unique things to offer to any type of traveler. It has an interesting mix of heritage sites, a piece of the freedom movement, beautiful temples and mosques, good food, amazing hospitality and a unique culture. It is well connected with other cities in the country and all major airlines and trains have travel services to Ahmedabad. All this makes it a good choice for a long weekend trip from any part of India.
I started my travel reading project with the first country on the list – Afghanistan. An initial research online yielded quite a few interesting book suggestions, but only two Afghan authors – Khaled Hosseini and Atiq Rahimi. I had read all of Khaled Hosseini’s books so I decided to add Atiq Rahimi to my shortlist. Additional research yielded books that I would have liked to read but they were all by foreign (i.e. non Afghan) authors and were based on their journey and impressions of this country. This kind of diluted the purpose of what I want to achieve, which is to read more local authors of every country to understand the local customs, mannerisms and lives. I didn’t want to read a foreigners’ observations of this country.
Continuing the stories of my Konkan journey here is the next chapter – Konkan Diaries 2.
Our second day in Konkan is my favorite with some unusual activities and unexpected surprises. We had decided to visit Malvan and see Shivaji’s famous fort of Sindhudurg that we all had read so much about in our school history textbooks. In ancient times, Malvan was known as ‘Mahalavan’ meaning a region rich in salt (“Maha” means salt and “lavan” means plantation of salt). Per Wikipedia another possibility is that it’s a phonetic derivative of the word “Mad” meaning “coconut” and “Ban” meaning “gardens” for the large number of coconut trees in this area. And if I was to decide between the two based on the current scenario, I would go with the latter.
We started the day with a quick visit to the local village’s small weekly bazaar and post that left for Malvan.
Continuing my experiences from Konkani Diaries 1.
After an adventurous overnight journey we finally reached Kudaal (the nearest bus station for Parule) early morning and got off at the bus stop on the highway. Here we met with Bapat Bhaiya – our host, guide and driver for the entire Konkan trip. Bapat Bhaiya loaded all our stuff in the car and gave us a quick introduction to the area during the car journey. We drove through the town of Kudaal that looked like any tier-two town in India with random concrete buildings everywhere and a big market. But once we were out of Kudaal the scenery changed dramatically. Sitting in the back of the car I had my ears tuned to Bapat Bhaiya’s stories but my eyes were trying to soak in all the elements of the world outside my window. This entire area was extremely scenic with a very Kerala and Goa like look and feel. It was green everywhere with small red brick houses and sloping roofs, long winding roads, mango, palm, coconut and cashew tress all around creating nice canopies, lush green fields (majorly paddy) and red soil, characteristic of this region, making a nice contrast with all the green. In many places the road was at a height and the village cozily nestled amongst palm and coconut trees below.
I have driven a fair bit in India and seen quite a bit of the Indian countryside, the life of farmers, their ways of life etc. And when we drove through the Chinese countryside I was amazed at how many of these images resembled those back home. There were a few differences too and I had a happy time comparing the two. Sharing my own impressions on the rural Chinese landscape via a short photo essay below :).