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A Travel Blog from India: December 2014

Monday, 29 December 2014

Thank you for journeying with us in 2014!

As 2014 draws close, a big thank you to all our readers/friends who have been with us all through the year. Your encouragement and feedback has been overwhelming.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               It had been an eventful year for us. The year started on the roads in Bihar in north India on a foggy morning when we were driving back to Bangalore from Sikkim. The picture of sun rising in the eastern horizon on the Grand trunk Road on new year day is still etched in our memories.

We were sitting on the terrace of our home sipping a hot cup of filter coffee and recollecting our trips done in this year. From a trek in Himalayas to scuba diving in Arabian sea to monsoon Drives in Western Ghats.......

We have been lucky to have travelled to Badrinath before the monsoon. Ladakh again was a trip to remember. While the drive to Tso Kar - the white lake was spectacular, the trek in Markha valley tested our endurance, made us get out of our comfort zones. Dive in the waters of Netrani in Arabian sea brought us close to the colourful marine life. The drives in Western ghats in monsoon were magnificent. We could relive our earlier drive in Amboli ghat and the drive in Uttara Kannada was splendid. The icing on the cake was Monsoon drive to Munnar. What a spectacle it was!

If these were memorable, our regular haunts in Malnad and coastal Karnataka were spectacular too..... like our dash to see Jog falls in monsoon and carpet of Kurinji flowers which flowers in western ghats once in 12 years. Yes, we haven't done any trips abroad this year. But there is so much to explore in this lovely country!

Travel Twosome
A year that was!
This was also the year wherein we made a conscious effort to religiously write about our travels. A year, when we encouraged many reluctant drivers to hit the road and enjoy the road trips! Inspired some of our friends to open a blog and write their own travel experiences. Made people get out of comfort zones to try new things. We also shared stories of many fellow travellers in this blog. Of course, an year when we read some outstanding travel books and shared those details here.

In next few days, we step into the new year. Our journeys will continue. We also have a surprise for you all. In the new year, we are moving into our new website which will be more colourful and friendly. We have named the website "Traveltwosome". Hope you like it. Give us your feedback. We continue our endeavour of sharing our journeys as well as travel stories of others. Our idea is to share. Sharing of our own experiences plus others. Our idea is to make travel a wholesome experience. We hope you will be with us in this journey.

Thank you once again and wish you all a very happy new year. Keep travelling!

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Saturday, 27 December 2014

Skywatch Friday - Ladakh from Sky!

Which is the best picture for this season to showcase on Skywatch? It has to be something with snow. Being the season of Yuletide, it fits the bill. Last year, we were in Sikkim during this time and the spectacular drive to Nathula was a picture postcard made for the season. We only missed Santa!

The best views of Himalayas if you are not a mountaineer is from the plane. Though Ladakh does not have a helicopter/Plane safari of Himalayas like you have in Nepal, you will still get to see magnificent views of the mountains when you are landing or taking off from Leh. You have to make sure that you have a window seat. We were lucky to experience it five years ago which we shared it here. Ladakh Diaries 7 - Himalayas from sky!

We were in Ladakh again in August this year. Unlike five years ago, it was an incredibly sunny month which had melted most of the snow. In fact, we did not see snow in Khardung La! When we took off from Leh, back to Bengaluru, we ensured that we get a seat near the window. Poorna was ready with his zoom to capture the magical views. We were not disappointed. Though the snow was less, the contrast of snow and black granite was mind-blowing. 

Check out these pictures. Click on them to see them in larger size.

For ten minutes, we were treated with magnificent vistas of Ladakh ranges. Now you know what to do do when you fly next time to Leh. Make sure you have a window seat and keep your camera and binoculars ready.

If you want to read more about our journeys in Ladakh, please check this link.

Ladakh Diaries

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Thursday, 25 December 2014

Best New year's eve destinations in the world - A List

The world now awaits the arrival of new year. 2015.

As a curious traveller, we were looking at cities where the new year's eve is celebrated in grand and unique manner. We found some interesting places like Reykjavik, Iceland which have now become apart of our bucket list.

New year's eve destinations
Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro
New year's eve destinations
New year's eve destinations
New York
New year's eve destinations
There many fabulous places which colourful on the New year's eve. We prepared a list we would like to share with everyone. These lists are from well known media houses. Click on these links for more details

So where is the party? Where are you planning to go? Wherever you are, enjoy the party to ring in 2015!

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Sunday, 21 December 2014

Sydney dazzles in Christmas lights!

Being the season of Yuletide, we were browsing the net to check out celebrations of Christmas around the world. We were looking for the markets, Christmas Lights and the best cities to experience the fervour of the festival.

When it came to Australia, the first choice was Sydney. The largest and most vibrant city of the country, what we saw just blew us away. Poorna has been to Sydney but not in this season. We never knew that Sydney is spectacularly beautiful during Christmas. The Christmas lights in the the city are mind blowing. 

We are grateful to Nguyễn Ngọc Tuấn who has captured Christmas lights for the last few years and it is stunning. The public buildings like Town Hall, St Mary's Cathedral, Opera House, Customs house have light and sound show everyday until Christmas. The 75 metre facade of cathedral appears like the one we see in fairy tales with colours changing with the help of digital imagery techniques. A series of colourful moving light projections light up the heritage buildings every night.

Check out these pictures.  Click on them to see them in original size.

Changing colours of St Mary's cathedral 

Kaleidoscopic colours of Town Hall
Opera House in colours!
To see more lovely pictures of Stunning Sydney shot by Nguyễn Ngọc Tuấn during Christmas, click on these links below.

Lights of Christmas - 2014

Lights of Christmas - 2013

Check out this video on the changing colours of Town Hall.

Light show @ Town Hall

For a lovely video of the the Light and Sound show at St Mary's Cathedral, please click here

Lights of Christmas - St Mary's cathedral, Sydney

Here are some more  to make this Christmas colourful.

12 best places to spend Christmas by CNN

10 Best Cities for Your Shot at a White Christmas

Top 10 places to see Christmas lights by Nat Geo

For more posts on Christmas in this blog, please click here.


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Friday, 19 December 2014

Skywatch Friday - Holy Cross on a colourful hill in Goa!

This was the surprise element of the Monsoon Drive to Goa we did in June this year. 

After reaching Goa in a convoy, H V Kumar, the legendary road tripper of India had a lovely surprise for us. We reached Anjuna police station and took right. As we drove, we could see a lovely hillock on the left and few bungalows on the right. We all parked our cars at the foothills of this hillock.

The hill was strewn with many boulders. Someone with colourful imagination had painted these boulders in different colours there by giving a surreal look to the whole landscape. And this Kumar had noticed during his reconnaissance trip and wanted to give us a surprise! Thanks to him and we were able to see this lovely place. It is a small hill with pathways leading to the top. We climbed the hillock for a beautiful view of Vagator beach from the top. 

As we were walking around enjoying the rain, breeze and lovely vistas, a small installation of holy cross caught our eye. We walked up to the spot. We could see small cross fixed to a ground with a small ceramic cup at the base of the cross to help light a candle. 

The setting was uplifting. A small cross on a lovely hill overlooking a mighty ocean! A place of tranquillity worthy of a place for meditation.

When you go to Goa next time do visit this lovely place. We do not know the name of this hillock. But it is very close to the New Anjuna police station.

As we enter the Yuletide season, we wish you all all  "A Merry Christmas". May all your wishes be fulfilled and dreams come true!

You may also be interested to look at the following posts on Christmas in this blog

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Mini Kumbh Mela in Banavara!

Banavara. Have you heard of it? Probably not.

A small little town in the state of Karnataka, the place is not known outside the state. Even within the state of Karnataka, it known for being drought prone area.

This October, the town was painted saffron. Hundreds of sadhus had arrived for a week long religious retreat organised by local mutt - Sadguru Dattatreya Vishwas Mandali. The cynosure of the meet were Naga Sadhus who had come from Kashi, Hrishikesh, Haridwar and other places for a Naga Sadhu meet.

The place looked resembled "Mini Kumbh Mela" for a week.

We missed it. Dr Pramukh, our friend was there to click some candid portraits which are interesting. Please take a look. Click on pictures to see them in enlarged version.

Mini Kumbh Mela in Banavara!

Mini Kumbh Mela in Banavara!

Mini Kumbh Mela in Banavara!

Mini Kumbh Mela in Banavara!

We happened to see another set of lovely pictures of the same event. Check them out here

Sadhus @ Banavara by R K Bhat

Postscript - The next Kumbh Mela will be held in Nashik, Maharashtra on the banks of Godavari river in 2015. Will you be there?

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Monday, 15 December 2014

Road Trips from Bangalore 7 - God's Own Country aka Kerala & more....

This is an another comfortable road trip from Bangalore. Being road-trippers, we love the freedom road trips provide to stop, look and explore.

We have been sharing details about lovely road trips one can do from Bangalore in this blog exploring heritage, western ghats, wild life, beaches etc....... These drives, cover not more than 300 KMs in a day on an average. The plan is to cover for a week extendable for another two days.

This is the seventh in the series. Inspiring you to explore Kerala, this road trip covers the lovely hills of Munnar, serene backwaters of Alleppey/Kumarakkom, pristine beaches at Varkala, the sights of Fort Kochi and temples in Kanyakumari and Madurai. 

Take a look, plan and go!

We are back with one more lovely road trip. This time to "God's own country" aka Kerala and a bit of Southern Tamil Nadu. We have been to this small little, lovely state many times and it continues to mesmerise us. We thought of making it easier for you to explore with this comfortable itinerary. Since this is a road trip, we strongly suggest that you should keep at least 5 days at your disposal to do justice. Though we have planned this road trip to cover ten days, you can always tweak it and plan to your needs.

Kerala or God's own country. Winter is the best season to be here. It is time explore exotic Kerala! ( Please click on the pictures to see them in original size )

The Circuit

Bangalore - Munnar - Kochi - Kumarakkom/Alleppey - Varkala/Kollam - Trivandrum - Kanyakumari - Madurai - Bangalore

For detailed Google map Link, please click on this.

Here is the itinerary.

Day 1 - Bangalore - Munnar

Distance - 539 KMs
Road condition - Excellent except for few patches on the Ghat road
Route - Bangalore - Salem - Karur - Dindigul - Theni - Bodinayakkannur - Munnar

Route   - http://tinyurl.com/k86t4gj

Road Trip Bangalore to Kerala
Beautiful vistas on the Ghat section from Bodinayakannur

Leave early say 6 AM. This will help you to overcome traffic snarls at Hosur. You can have breakfast either in Salem city or in Adyar Anand Bhavan after Toppur on the right side of the road. After Dindigul, the road becomes two lane. At Dindigul, you can pack the famous Biryani of Thalappakatti and eat it on the road side on the ghat section enjoying lovely scenery. After Bodinayakannur, you will climb the ghat. Not many hairpin bends. Easily manageable. Stop and enjoy Chinnakanal waterfalls on the way. You should reach Munnar by 4 PM after photo sessions! Check out these posts on this blog

Rest and relax in your hotel/resort for the night.

Day 2 - Explore Munnar - Two Lakes and Top Station

Distance - 140 KMs ( Return journey)
Road Condition - Excellent

Road Trip Bangalore to Kerala
Kundala Lake, Munnar
After breakfast, drive towards top Station. It is a lovely drive. Click pictures for keeps sake at "Photo Point", visit the floriculture centre, Echo point and Indo-Swiss dairy on the way. Enjoy boating in Mattupatty and Kundala lakes. Get mesmerised at the beauty of Top Station. You can either carry your packed lunch or have Maggi/egg in Top Station. On the way back stop over at Kannan Devan Tea Store in town to buy tea and spices. For more details check out this post on this blog.

Day 3 - Explore Munnar - Eravikulam National Park, Marayoor sandal wood farm and Chinar Wild Life Sanctuary

Distance - 100 KMs (Return journey)
Road Condition - Excellent

Road Trip Bangalore to Kerala
A Stream on the way to Eravikulam 

We would recommend you to leave early after an early breakfast to be there when the park opens at 8 AM. Else, one can also come back and have breakfast depending on how far is your hotel from the park. Go for the guided tour of the park. If you are keen on trekking, there are different trails in the park and need to contact the park authorities. After park, drive towards Marayoor and Chinar Wild life sanctuary. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery on the way. Visit the lovely tea museum run by Kannan Devan Plantations and also Chinar wild Life sanctuary.

Enjoy the evening in your hotel/resort.

Day 4 - Munnar - Athirapally falls - Kochi 

Distance - 209 KMs (One way)
Road Condition - Excellent. Few KMs inside forest after Kalady is patchy.
Route http://tinyurl.com/lrc5sav

Road Trip Bangalore to Kerala
Cheeyapara falls
Check out after breakfast and drive to Kochi. This is a beautiful drive. Especially during or immediately after monsoon. You will find numerous water falls on the way. Enjoy the lovely vistas of Cheeyyapara, Vallara waterfalls. The road is winding and need to drive safely. On the way visit Kalady, the birthplace of Adi Shankaracharya which has a lovely temple on the banks of Pampa. reach Athirapally falls by afternoon. Have lunch at many restaurants around the falls and visit falls after lunch.

Road Trip Bangalore to Kerala
Athirapally Falls
The place is very well maintained and plastic free zone. Enjoy the beauty of falls and drive to your hotel/resort in Kochi. If possible reach Kochi before sunset and enjoy the excellent sunset with Chinese fishing nests in foreground. In the evening, if you are not tired, explore mouth watering sea food in fort area.

Enjoy the evening in your hotel/resort.

Day 5 - Kochi - Kumarakkom/Alleppey 

Distance - 58 KMs to Alleppey / 53 Kms to Kumarakkom ( One Way)
Road Condition - Excellent.

Road Trip Bangalore to Kerala
Sunset and Chinese fishing nets, Kochi
If you haven't been able to catch the sunset on the previous day, then get up and drive to the fort area. park your car and go for a morning walk. Enjoy the lovely vistas of Chinese fishing nets against the backdrop of sea. Comeback, have your breakfast or have breakfast in numerous little cafes in fort area. Walk around and visit the Synagogue and explore the antique stores. Visit the restored palace and depart for Kumarakom/Alleppey.

Reach Kumarakkom/Alleppey by lunch. After lunch go for a Cruise on house boat. You need to arrange this in advance by talking to your hotel. Enjoy the sunset cruise.

Enjoy the evening in your hotel/resort.

Day 6 - Explore Kumarakkom/Alleppey

Distance - Minimal
Road Condition - Not applicable
Route - Not Applicable

Road Trip Bangalore to Kerala
Houseboat on Vembanad lake, Kumarakkom
If staying in Kumarakkom, go for bird watching early in the morning. After breakfast go for a cruise on Vembanad lake.

If staying in alleppey, enjoy the beach in the morning and go for a cruise after breakfast.

Enjoy the evening in your hotel/resort.

Day 7 - Kumarakkom/Alleppey to Varkala 

Distance - 132 KMs from Kumarakkom / 118 KMs from Alleppey ( One Way)
Road Condition - Excellent.

Road Trip Bangalore to Kerala
Varkala beach
A lovely drive after breakfast will bring you to Varkala. Enjoy the beach. Just chill and relax. Enjoy the gorgeous sunset.

Enjoy the evening in your hotel/resort.

Day 8 - Varkala - Trivandrum - Kanyakumari 

Distance - 136 KMs (One way)
Road Condition - Excellent.

Road Trip Bangalore to Kerala
Vivekananda rock memorial
Leave early and reach Trivandrum. Have breakfast in any of the restaurants in city and head straight to Padmanabhaswamy temple. Make sure you carry a Dhoti along. Change into Dhoti and visit the temple. After spending an hour in the temple, drive towards Kanyakumari. On the way, visit marvellous wooden palace at Padmanabhapuram. Reach Kanayakumari by afternoon. Check into your hotel, have a bite in any of the restaurants in town and straight away head to Vivekananda Rock memorial. Spend an hour on the island and when you return back visit the temple of Knayakumari. Go to the beach in the evening near Gandhi Manatap and enjoy the sunset.

Enjoy the evening in your hotel/resort. Or walk around the streets for shopping of local handicrafts.

Day 9 - Kanyakumari - Madurai 

Distance - 244 KMs (One way)
Road Condition - Excellent.

Road Trip Bangalore to Kerala
Meenakshi temple, Madurai
Get up early to enjoy the gorgeous sunrise. Have breakfast and drive to Madurai. Reach Madurai by lunch. After lunch and rest visit the mammoth temple of Goddess Meenakshi. If you still have time visit the palace of Tirumala Nayaka. In the evening, go around and enjoy the delicacies of Madurai. Check out details here.

Day 10 - Madurai - Bangalore

Distance - 435 KMs (One way)
Road Condition - Excellent.

Leave Madurai around 7 AM. Have breakfast and lunch on the way and reach Bangalore by 4 PM.

Stay Options

You will be spoilt by the choices in all the places. You have some gorgeous places to stay and also options suiting all budgets. You can check these options on on line through Cleartrip or Agoda or Bookings.com

Travel Tips

a) There are many extensions possible on this trip if you have more days to spare. Here are few

i) Extension to Thekkady from Munnar and then onwards to Kumarakkom
ii) Extension to Vagamon and then onwards to Kochi
iii) Extension to Kodaikanal from Madurai and then onwards to Bangalore.

b) The first day drive is little longer. But excellent road till Dindigul helps. If you feel the distance is long, then drive to Dindigul on day 1. Stay in any of the lovely homes stays on outskirts of Dindigul and then proceed to Munnar the next day.

c) If you can spare an additional day in Munnar, you will be able to drive up to Kollakkumalai tea Estate - the highest tea estate in the world.

d) If you are a trekker, keep few days for trekking in Eravikulam National park. Vagamon also has lovely trekking trails.

e) If you are a birder, then you should take some time out to visit lovely bird sanctuary at Tattekad. This is on the way to Kochi from Munnar.

f) Choose either Kumarakkom or Alleppey as both are known for backwater cruises.

g) There are options for staying overnight in your houseboat or just do a day trip.

h) We intentionally left out Kovalam which gets crowded. If you want to enjoy the beach at Kovalam, then skip Varkala.

i) If you are not a beach person then opt to stay on Ashtamudi lake near Kollam. You can enjoy serene landscape and also go for boat cruise on the lake.

i) Expect heavy crowds on holidays/long weekends.

j) If interested in exploring the history of Kochi, join Kochi heritage walk. For more details check this website.

k) Kochi has some nice antique shops. But you have to bargain hard.

Aren't you interested in looking at other six road trips from Bangalore? Please click on the link below

Useful Links

a) Eravikulam National Park - http://eravikulam.org/eco-tourism/

b) Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, Traivandrum - http://sreepadmanabhaswamytemple.org/

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Friday, 12 December 2014

Skywatch Friday - A French Chateau in Himalayan foot hills!

This structure is stunning.

A great example of aesthetics of our erstwhile Maharajahs. 

Imagine a river flanked by mighty mountains on one side and a small hillock on the other.

A French Chateau is built at a place where there is a bend in the river!

This offers lovely views of the river flowing below and the Himalayas in the distant horizon! 

This is "Amar Mahal Palace" in Jammu in the Himalayan sate of Jammu and Kashmir in India. The French chateau in Himalayan Foot hills! We were here in August last year.

Designed by a French architect, the palace built in red sandstone with red bricks is in a picturesque environment on a hillock overlooking the Tawi river valley. Built in the European Castle style, the palace has sloping roofs with turrets and tall towers.

The imposing building has long passages on three sides, which are covered by sloping corrugated tin roofs. The passages are supported on columns with wooden framework. The first floor of the palace building has French windows with connected balcony. The top floor has a bay window. The windows also depict triangular projections in classical Greek Architectural style, which are fitted over ornate false columns

The Palace is now a lovely museum and a centre of artistic excellence in Jammu. Take a look at these pictures. (Photos enlarge when clicked)

We clicked this picture in the twilight of the evening.

If you pass by Jammu, make sure you pay a visit to this lovely place. The palace is located in the sprawling royal estate which also houses the lovely heritage hotel "Hari Niwas Palace".

For other interesting posts in Skywatch Friday series, please click here.

Skywatch Friday

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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Road Trip Vignettes - Windmills on the Road!

Road trips are always like this. You suddenly notice something interesting and get down. It can be anything. A lovely landscape or a small water fall or life in rural india. It gives you the freedom to enjoy the journey at your own pace. Many a time, we have noticed that journeys are more interesting than the actual destination itself. 

We call these as "memorable moments" on the road. When these vignettes are captured on the lens, they remain cherished memories forever. 

When you drivel in South India, you will come across windmills at many places. Since these machines occupy vantage points, it is always a beautiful sight. We love them and so does everyone, especially the kids. In fact, we had posted a post earlier on the beautiful sight of Windmills in the morning on National highway 4 near Chitradurga.

This is an another post on windmills.

We were driving to Kanyakumari from Madurai. When we were approaching Nagarkoil, we were greeted by a huge wind farm. The backdrop of mountains made the setting even more charming. 

(Click on the pictures to see them in original size)

We drove on and we were stunned to see a windmill dot on the road from the distance. We stopped immediately to click this picture. Lean traffic on the highway made it easy for us. As we closed in, we realised that a bend in the road had given us that impression of windmill on the road. 

Check out this picture below.

It was definitely an interesting sight which is possible only on a road trip. If you are driving on this stretch of highway, stop for a minute to get stunned!

For other interesting vignettes captured on our road trips, please click on this link.

Road Trip Vignettes

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Friday, 5 December 2014

Skywatch Friday - Gorgeous Sunset @ Bekal!

Winters and spring are the best seasons to watch a sunset on the west coast in India. 

We were in Bekal in Spring few years back. The sunset was spectacular. This trip was immediately after the photography workshop we attended. Thus we played around with the camera. Some of the pictures we shot surprised us.

 Check out the pictures below. Click on them to see them in original size.






Which picture did you like?

Bekal is a small town in South India. In the state of Kerala. Known for its amazing seaside fort  - the song "Tuhire, Tuhire" of "Bombay" movie was shot here - built in 17th century by Tipu Sultan. It also has some gorgeous beaches. For more details, you may check out the following posts on this blog.

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Thursday, 4 December 2014

Ladakh Diaries 10 - Feeling Heavenly in Hunder!

We continue our journey in Ladakh. 

After first few days of exploring breathtaking Tso Kar ( Check this post for details - Ladakh diaries 8 - Tso Kar, white lake at 15,000 feet!) and driving through stunning Nubra Valley (Check out this post for more details Ladakh Diaries 9 - Stunning Nubra Valley!), our next stop was Diskit and Hunder. We turn left from the highway and are immediately greeted by a fantastic landscape. Similar to the one you see in Rajasthan. Miles and miles of sand dunes! With lovely mountains with snow covered peaks as backdrop, these dunes are prettier. Driving through the road bisecting the desert sands of Hunder in itself is a treat to behold.

We will take you through a a journey of heavenly Hunder......please click on the pictures to see them in original size.

Ladakh, Hunder, Diskit
The start of drive through dunes. Notice the sand dunes on either side of the road 
Ladakh, Hunder, Diskit
Can you please tell us where the road is?? It is all spectacular dunes around. The marks left by melting snow on the mountain gives it a weird look.
Ladakh, Hunder, Diskit
Few bushes add contrast....
Ladakh, Hunder, Diskit
Undulating pattern of dunes......
Ladakh, Hunder, Diskit
The road winds through the sandy landscape!
Ladakh, Hunder, Diskit
View of the road and landscape left behind as we climb to Diskit
A winding road ascending gradually brings us to the Diskit village which has one of largest monastery in Ladakh. We can see the silhouette of statue of Maitreya Buddha from distance. The first stop for any visitor to Diskit is the mighty statue of Maitreya Buddha. The installation of the statue on a small hillock overlooking the Shyok valley on one side and the mountains as the backdrop is picture perfect. This must be the tallest Maitreya statue in the world at 106 feet - imposing and beautiful. The future Buddha is in a seated posture. Seated on a colourful pedestal decorated with Buddhist motifs, the statue is well sculpted with excellent craftsmanship. Looking at the soft and benevolent face of Lord Maitreya is a reassuring experience. The small hillock on which the statue is installed gives us a panoramic view of the mountains and the Shyok valley. We spend sometime enjoying the vistas of the Shyok valley. 

Ladakh, Hunder, Diskit
Maitreya Budhha
Ladakh, Hunder, Diskit
Seated on a colourful pedestal decorated by Tibetan motifs, the statue is beautiful example of artistic excellence
Ladakh, Hunder, Diskit
The lovely face of the Lord with decorative headgear
Ladakh, Hunder, Diskit
The panoramic view of shyok valley from the hillock
Ladakh, Hunder, Diskit
The three chortems with a beautiful backdrop of Shyok valley
Another vista of sand dunes
Finally, the panoramic view of the Shyok valley and beyond as seen from the statue
A quick drive brings us to Diskit monastery. One of the largest in Ladakh. The setting of this monastery is  stunning. When seen at dusk and dawn, monastery looks spectacular. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple has another beautiful statue of Buddha. A large hall of the temple accommodates monks during morning and evening prayers. The monastery runs many institutions in the village. Apart from regular features of gompas, the monastery has some excellent frescoes which are well preserved.

Panoramic view of Diskit Monastery as seen from the statue.
Entrance to the monastery. Notice the colourful windows....
The Buddha in the sanctum sanctorum of the monastery
Colourful murals in the Monastery
The most exciting part of the drive was to come now. We climb down from the monastery and start driving towards Hunder and its famed sand dunes. The drive is spectacular. On the one side you have mighty mountains and on the other you have beautiful sand dunes changing shape every few minutes. We reach Hunder village which seems to be bigger than Diskit. Apart from the presence of Indian Army - the base hospital taking care of Siachen is here - we see sign boards of many guest houses and home stays. We now reach the spot to go for a Camel ride. Parking the car at the parking area, we walk few meters crossing a lovely stream. We come to the place where you can hire the Bactrian or twin humped camel for a ride on the sand dunes. We had to wait for our turn as there is a heavy rush.

A lovely stream separates the parking area and the place where we took the camel ride. The Green tent seen in the picture is where one can enjoy a cultural show by locals.
We get our chance to ride a camel. Bactrian or twin humped camels are slightly smaller in size compared to normal camels. These camels must be one of the most docile animals we have seen. These twin humps are useful for the rider as the cushion is placed between the humps. Moving slowly, the camels bring us to the edge of the sand dune for a panoramic view of the Hunder dunes. And we turn back. The round trip is not more than 20 minutes. It is still worth the trouble. We get down, pay the handler and walk around the dunes. The evening is pleasant. The sun has vanished behind the mountains. The long dark shadow of the mountains has spread itself on the sands. 

This is the scene you see when you get down from your car and walk towards the boarding area. The scene looks spectacular.
One behind the other.......
We finish our ride.......our friend Sachin is in the middle
We captured this when another team started. The shadow play on the mountains can be seen here....
The changing contours of sand dunes.......
After few quick photo sessions, we walk back to the parking area where Nowang, our driver is waiting to take us to the Army officers' mess in Patarpur which is at distance of 10 KMs.

We are all charged up for the next day's drive to Siachen base camp. That should be an exciting drive to see the soldiers training for the highest battlefield in the world. More about it in next post.

Travel Tips @ Hunder

a) The drive to Diskit and Hunder from Leh will take full day. This means one has to stay in Hunder. There are many choices for stay here.

b) The charges for a ride on camels is Rs 100 per person. There is no proper system of queue for getting on the camel. You need to spot the handler and catch hold of him as soon as he arrives from the ride bringing back people.

c) If you are able to get up on a chilly morning, it is worth going for a camel safari from Hunder to Diskit. It is an amazing experience to travel on the camel early in the morning when there is no crowd and mountains glowing in early morning sun.

d) Hunder can be made as a base for a drive to Turtuk or Siachen base camp. For going to Saichen base camp, one has to obtain permission from Army authorities in Leh.

e) Hunder is also a place for walks. Go for your morning and evening walks. It is refreshing.

If you want to know more about our wanderings in Ladakh, please check out our other stories in Ladakh Diaries here.

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