How much should you tip in India?

India has always been fond of “Baksheesh” or as it is otherwise called “Tip.”

Obviously you shouldn’t be shocked to see people all around you urging to carry your bags in return of some money, and the best way would be to avoid them if you feel you can carry your own luggage while getting out of the airports or railway stations. A small tip is a gesture of showing your gratitude, a small tip is all that it takes to ensure a better service later. Starting from your cab driver to your hotel bell boy, everyone would smile and serve good in return for some bucks. Now since tipping is just a gesture and not any ruled recommendation, thus there are no such guidelines to it but obviously travelling stands upon the pillars of money and service so there are some things to know about tipping in India.

At Restaurants

Quite usually there would be a separate column in your bill as Service Charge that is not be confused with that of Service Tax. Service Tax is government mandated while Service Charge is basically a forced imposition. But still you can never be sure if the service charge you’re paying will actually go into the hands of the waiters, so to take care of that it is recommended to leave a small tip on the table for the waiter, for instance if the bill states your service charge to be 10 percent it is good to leave a tip of 6-7 percent.

At Hotels

You would obviously find someone running up to your car offering you to carry your bags just after you check in to a hotel. The bell boy or even the room service staff will always be good to you; even they do it in return for some tip. A change of 10-20 rupees is fairly good for every time any hotel staff comes to your service. This not only shows your gratitude but also ensures a better service for you from the next time. You can even do with a 100 rupees at the end of your stay. Though it is not mandatory for you to tip the person concerned for even the charges for the service are included quite responsibly in your bill, in that case all you can do is say a thank you with a smile on your face and simply walk away.

And some other places too

It’s always wiser to keep some change bills in your side pocket as that would spare you of the work of digging into your wads of cash in front of everyone. Tipping in India is omnipresent and is good to be a part of till the time you overdo it. Tipping is no bad but make sure you don’t create a bustle out of it for remember locales never tip.

A bill of hundred or two will be fairly good at the end of the day for the cab driver.

If you are staying at friends place where it’s the servant doing all the chores for you then it would be justified for you to part off with a hundred or two and tip the person with the money; even your friend will know the right amount. Just be careful for you’ll be in trouble if your tip is mistaken as bribe.

As there are no strict guidelines as how much to tip or even to tip or not, so tip as per the gravity of the service and your limits. Again it’s your call if you don’t want to tip, well in that case just say a simple thank you and continue your journey…

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Top Indian Travel Boggers

Travelling alone is not just it but gathering experience, discovering places, knowing people and learning. Once we are out of the safe boundaries of our home, it’s all mishappenings, adventures, hindrances and mistakes that surround us. A traveler is the one who lives the adventures, conquers the hindrances and learns from the mistakes to reach his/her destination for the air of satisfaction that is not given by the destination but the exploration. There are many bloggers from India who have made travelling their passion and writing about them an integral part of it. Let’s take a glimpse at some of them, their life, and their journey.

Ankita Sinha

Blog Name : anki ON THE MOVE

Blog Link : ankionthemove.com

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She is as free as a bird and as keen as a hunter. She is the stylish, she is a traveler. Ankita Sinha is actually one of the most stylish travelers India has ever witnessed. Adding names to the travel list is way too mainstream what she believes in is exploring and discovering places in the globe, and this hunger of hers has taken her to 7 countries including 12 international destinations. One of the most amazing facts about this young traveller is that she has covered all this in a span of just 2 years and since then formal invitations have poured in from Visit Britain, Visit Scotland, Canada Tourism, Thailand Tourism and several others.

Her blog anki ON THE MOVE shares experiences from her own travels and tours that spans across places like Tamara, Jobel Shams, Muscat, Oman and Dubai. She is a nature lover too and that’s evident from what she writes in her blog posts. She is even a hardcore trekker and her post about her trip to Nizwa, Oman describes that beautifully.

Anuradha Goyal

Blog Name : Anuradha Goyal

Blog Link :  anuradhagoyal.blogspot.in

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“Translating her fervour into her life work, Anuradha Goyal motivates others with her book and travel writing.”

She also loves citywalking and has been the organiser of various walks to places beholding important historical significance. An innovation Consultant by profession, writer and reader by passion, this traveller woman has lived in many countries and has been into blogging since the last 8 years. Her blog was rated as one of the “50 best travel blogs” around the world.

Her blog Anuradha Goyal mainly consists of motivational and life changing posts from the vibrant author along with posts on business solutions etc. But what mainly occupies the panel are the write ups on travel and places that she has encountered and explored.

Anuradha Shankar

Blog Name : Wandering Mind

Blog Link : anushankarn.blogspot.in

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A traveller by passion, this lady holds interest in the culture and tradition of India and that further found increase in the knowledge in her visit to Kashi which made her realise the heart and identity of Indian culture. Her blogging found a way while she thought to write about Kashi and thus Kashi Yatra came to the fore.  She is a housewife, a mother, a bookworm and an aspiring freelance writer.

Her blog ‘Wandering Mind’ is filled up with her shares of experiences from her travels and few other things. She is a path deviated scientist but now her wholesome interest lies into travelling and writing.

Lakshmi Sharath

Blog Link : lakshmisharath.com

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Going to a place directed by the map is something done by all; Lakshmi prefers to live her a bit off the edge by discovering hidden temples and villages which are not found on any map. After giving an end to her 12 year old corporate life, she has now taken travelling and writing as her passion. Lakshmi Sharath had also been nominated for the Indian Blogger awards. She can roam about the world but her heart lies in the small villages and hidden temples of India. She writes in a way that is insightful and helpful.

“A travel blog of an Indian backpacker  – journeys around India, travels around the world, people and places.” Her blog says so. Her write ups in her blog span across Bali, Kerala, Angkor Thom etc. She writes about what she encounters during her journey, her experiences from the travels and so on. Her writings alongside being informative are also interesting.

Mridula Dwiwedi

Blog Name : GoNOMAD

Blog Link : blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/

“Travel Tales from India” is known by her face. Mridula Dwiwedi is a traveller by passion and also contributes to writing travel blogs. Her blog has been claimed as the ‘Best Travel India Blog’ at the India Weblog Awards 2009. Her appreciation also came from the BBC and also The Gurdian. Mridula along with travelling and writing is an Assistant Professor of Human Resource Management at Gurgaon.

She contributes to the blog “GoNOMAD”. She brings out the beauty of nature from the places she visits and that is quite evident from her blogs.

Neelima Vallangi

Blog Name : The Wandering Soul’s Wander Tales

Blog Link : travelwithneelima.com

An off the edge traveller and an adventure enthusiast, Neelima doesn’t like travelling to the usual destinations but wishes to explore the places yet unknown or less known. Trekking and cycling in the mountains have always enthralled her. Neelima has trekked widely in the Himalayas and her cycling expeditions include places like the Western Ghats. The fall of 2008 took her to Ladakh and that trip turned her into an irreversible travel addict. She loves writing about her experiences of unravelling unexplored places and she also includes in her blogs a whole lot of photo-essays.

“The wandering soul’s wander tales…” talks about her journeys from Madras to Ladakh to Dandeli and to a hell lot of other places. Her first adventure expedition to Ladakh, her experience of walking on a frozen river and her Wild Expedition at Dandeli all are beautifully told in her blog. Her blogs exhibit her love for the mountains and for the ghats.

Shivya Nath

Blog Name : Shooting Star

Blog Link : the-shooting-star.com

She is young, she is smart, she is tough and she loves discovering places no one else knows about. Shivya Nath is a new age travel enthusiast. She inspires women to be independent and be able to go on lone-trips to places unknown. Leaving her corporate life behind this lady takes on travelling as her passion as well as her profession. Been to more than 20 countries across 4 continents, Shivya Nath also writes for a number of online and offline publications.

“Shooting Star” speaks about her take on life as an independent women and a lone traveller and also inspires other women who want such a life but fear. Her nature of being carefree and living life offbeat is quite visible from her blog.

Aarti KrishnaKumar

Blog Name : Wandering Soul

Blog Link : travellerspeaks.blogspot.in

 

This lady had been a trained software professional then a soft skills trainer and ultimately she found her bliss in writing. “I quit my 9 years of corporate life to do my own thing!” she says.

Her blog “Wandering Soul” traces her journey from Jaipur to Sri Lanka, from Madurai to Amritsar and from places innumerable to places innumerable. Her blogs are enough to let the people know that she is a travel freak. She loves animals and nature.

Snigdha Jain

Blog Name : Get Set and Go

Blog Link : getsetandgo.wordpress.com

“I (along with my sister) have backpacked across numerous cities in the hidden Jewels of Europe – Czech Republic, Slovakia, Solvenia and Hungary”, says the lady traveller.

An avid traveller, an amateurish photographer and a travel blogger based in Mumbai, Snigdha Jain is no spoilsport. She manages her Job carries the burden of loans to pay and sets to unravel the culture, tradition and identity of places with her camera and a backpack. Visiting rural and eco destinations have always been on the top of her travel list. She feels it’s the local culture, the local food and the local people that beautify a place and thus places should be judged solely on these parameters because these parameters are the one which give identity to a place.

Get Set and Go speaks about her journeys and also tells about her funda of travelling “always travel budget, yet comfortable and there’s no place that cannot be visited for it’s too expensive.” She has managed to travel keeping this motto of hers uplifted. Her blog spans across India and 15other countries across Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Ruchika Vyas

Blog Name : Traveller Stories of India

Blog Link : travellerstories.com

“The thing about travel is that it changes you, it sets you free.” – Ruchika Vyas

Ruchika Vyas works as a travel columnist with iDiva. A traveller by passion this lady is also an avid traveller and her travel list spans across the world. In her early writing career she freelanced for publications like Mumbai mirror, Jetwings (Jet Airways in-flight magazine) and Flylite (Jetlite’s in-flight magazine). She is also one of the co-authors of Outlook Travellers Getaways Book – Driving Holidays in India.

She contributes to her blog “Traveller Stories of India” sharing her experiences and adventures from the numerous trips she has undertaken to places such as Ladakh, Mcleodganj, Fort Kochi, Ooty, Coorg, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Pushkar, Shimla, Binsar, Kanatal, Mussorie, the tribal circuit of Sarahan-Sangla-Recong Peo-Kalpa-Chitkul in HP. Taking her travel list further we find Maldives, Bankok, Hong Kong, Dubai and lot many other destinations travelled by her. She also loves trying her hand at photography while on the move.

Tanu Anand

Blog Link : tanuanand.com

“Having born to parents with itchy feet and a love for travel, I started travelling at an age of 4 and caught on the travel bug pretty early in life.” Tanu Anand admits.

By the fall of her adulthood, she had all the experience in her bag and she started spending her days daydreaming about destinations and started working on travel itineraries. She admits that making itineraries is her favourite part of the travel. Having travelled extensively across the country and abroad she loves being a travel planner.

Her blog is all stuffed with her everyday adventures from her expeditions. She has travelled extensively around the nation and also left her footprints in some parts of Europe and South-East Asia. She has now shifted her focus point to London. She loves good food and also mentions them in her blogs. She considers herself as the travel guru for weekend getaways in Bangalore as she has lived there for 5 long years. Goa serves as her all-time favourite run-away. The beaches have some kind of unique eclectic vibes about them, she writes.

Arnab Maity

Blog Name : Arnab Maity – Travels | Photography

Blog Link : arnabmaity.com

It started with a motorcycle trip to Bhutan which served as a life altering experience for the young man Arnab Maity. His friendship with the camera dates back to the time when he was 9. He thinks that the wanderer in him might have been born from his love for the nature. He has been a photographer to many NGOs and photo agencies but then he feels that to become a full-fledged photographer he has miles waiting to be tread.

“Life is too short, live it, get out of your couch and see the world”, his message to all the travel enthusiasts. A glimpse into his blogs and it’s all evident – his love to explore, his love to travel and see the world from point blank. By profession he is a photographer, a freelance writer and a personalized travel planner. He was featured by Lonely Planet as a travel blogger for 3 years and his photograph made its way to the World Wildlife Fund( WWF ).

Avni Iyer

Blog Name : Memory Maker

Blog Link : memorymaker.in

The founder of Memory Maker, Avni Iyer is a travel enthusiast in a true sense. She also works as finance professional. Her tours have intensively been to India and abroad including various places that are not in the regular itineraries. Her shared trips include Leh : Ladakh, Rajasthan, Coorg, Dubai and lot many places.  She says, “To escape being connected from the world through any electronic gadgets for 24hours and enjoying the echo’s on the tip of snow clad mountains living in tents and enjoying the bon-fire at a temperature of sub 10 degree Celsius is my memory maker.”

And her blog “Memory Maker” is also filled with some insights to the experiences of her own travel life.

Dianne Sharma Winter

Blog Link : diannesharmawinter.tumblr.com

Her obsession with India has always kept her on the roads in various places spanning the circumference of the world. Dianne Sharma Winter works on a life that allows her to travel, boosts her energy and creativity and compels her to be in a sporadic contact with her family. She longs for the path that reaches straight to the heart of her grandchildren who she thinks are growing at a very fast rate and scares her. She says, “we all take on a shape with which to experience life and I happen to believe that we get to experience life and I happen to believe that we get to experience as many shapes and forms  and experiences as it takes for the souk to realize that we all are a part of the Universal Oneness which is the dream of the great creator.” It’s this belief of hers that has always kept her close to roaming. Her belief in action has become her life now and travel an indispensible part of it. She loves leading her life meandering through the scenic route instead of alongside the highway.

Her contributions at diannesharmawinter.tumblr.com explains in a more precise way the part of her as a traveller that has seen innumerable places spanning all over the globe.

 

*This blog by originally published on Padhaaro.com written by Soham Biswas.*

In Conversation with Parth Upadhyay – more than just a tale of Dream Chasing

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I am more than a buff when it comes to Social Media, I am online 24 hours a day. I guess I read status updates even in my sleep. Being a Travel geek myself, I have a lot of people cluttering my feed with #Mountaindiaries, #storiesfromthehimalayas, #stargazing, #tigerwatching and so on and so forth. I genuinely fall in love with some stories and photographs while to show a spontaneous aversion to some I unfollow or block them instantly. The reason behind admitting all this is to give a back-story as to how I came across Parth Upadhyay. Not every day I come across updates from someone who treks Stok Kangri this week and Friendship Peak the next; when he isn’t trailing the Himalays he’s watching a sunset atop somewhere in the Western Ghats, the most un-adventurous thing he ever does is maybe sitting in Mumbai and researching and/or planning new treks. In times when everybody is so stuck with Higher Education, Jobs and deadlines this guy lives and earns from exactly what he loves to do. Though this isn’t anything unique but quite rare, really! So I went into a conversation with him to know a few things I, personally was curious about but as and how the conversation proceeded I was left with more than just an Inspiring tale of dream chasing.

Parth Upadhyay is just 21 years old, currently living in Mumbai and working as a Trek Leader in an adventure company named Darkgreen Adventures. He organizes and leads treks around Maharashtra, backpacking trips in the Himalayas, Bhutan and in the south. Having led 50 treks as of now and been on 150 treks spanning terrains like the Sahyadri, South India, Deserts (Rajasthan) and a few Himalayan Passes, his dream expedition is something to know about.

So here is the Q/A type conversation I had the chance of having with him while he was still in the plains (something he very rarely does) –

Q – What did you do your higher education in?

Parth – I have completed my graduation in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering from Ahmadabad. I graduated in June 2016.

Q – So basically you are trained to fly? Didn’t your parents object you choosing to climb Mountains instead of an Airline job?

Parth – Obviously there was a lot of resistance when I first revealed my desire to take up trekking and travelling as my profession. Before the end of my last semester, I had good paying job offers from 3 major airlines of India but I rejected them all without even discussing it with my parents. When they got to know about it, they weren’t very happy. Their major concern was how climbing mountains will earn me money, which is a very genuine concern. But I was very clear about my ideas and was very persistent with my actions and work. I used to travel to Mumbai on weekends from Ahmadabad just for 2 days trek. They saw my dedication and passion for it. Eventually when I started organizing treks, they saw that I am earning enough to at least fend for myself which gave them a little assurance.

Q – To take up Mountaineering as a profession, did you do any specialized courses or training procedures?

Parth – I have not done any ‘specialized full time course’ per say but I have had many mentors who have given me one on one training in the mountains over the years and I believe one on one training by an experienced person is much more effective than being part of a course with 120 students. I have done around 150 treks in the past 6 years. That surely was a course by itself. Mountaineering is a sport like any other which demands very high level of physical fitness. My training regime consists of running, a lot of cardio and muscle strengthening and endurance based exercises. I train for around 4 hours a day.

Q – Was dedicating yourself to the mountains a decision that suddenly strike you or a decision made over prolonged visits to the mountains? (What old were you at the time of making the decision?)

Parth – It all happened after my 10th board exam. It was the vacation time and my dad was watching the news. He called me in to see the news of a 16 year old boy from Noida who had climbed Mt. Everest. Knowing that, made me surprisingly restless, a spark was ignited in me and I felt even I should try trekking. The very next day I was browsing online and found about a group who had organized a trek to Kalsubai in Maharashtra the coming weekend. I signed up for it and went for the first trek which changed my life and got my soul hooked to trekking.

Q – What all are your fields of action/knowledge?

Parth – As of now, I specialize in trekking, mountaineering and backpacking though I would love to expand my horizons when time comes.

Q – The one most memorable moment for you in all the treks till date?

Parth – My first ever trek was on Mt. Kalsubai after I saw the news about Arjun Vajpai, one of the biggest mountaineers from India. 6 years later I was able to invite Arjun Vajpai for an 8 day long trek in the Sahyadri’s. I made sure that we begin the trek with Kalsubai. Standing on the summit of Kalsubai with the only person responsible for getting me hooked to mountains, was priceless. A very important circle had ended for me. I got to tell him this story on the summit and I will remember that moment for the rest of my life

Q – I actually got to know you through your updates from The Stok Kangri trek and the Friendship Peak Expedition. Tell me a little about your experiences from those two of the most ‘awaited expeditions’ as you say.

Parth – Stok Kangri had been an obsession since 3 years. In June 2016 I finally got the opportunity to attempt it. This would be my first major expedition and I left with mixed feelings. I got the first glimpse of the massive peak after reaching Leh and the first thought that crept into my mind was ‘what did I let myself into? How on earth will I climb this?’ But at the same time the beauty of it gave me the much needed inspiration. The trek till the base camp was pretty simple but extremely scenic. As we gained altitude, I only felt stronger. Our summit push began at 21:30. We climbed all night in subzero temperatures, crossing glaciers, negotiating crevasses, climbing steep slopes, traversing sharp ridges. All night I kept speaking to myself that ‘This is what you wanted to do and this is where you wanted to be. You are one of those few people who get to live their dream. So don’t you dare give up; Just keep the one step after the other’. At 8:30am, I finally stepped onto the summit fulfilling my dream and an obsession of 3 years. I looked around and saw the view which I was longing to see for a long time. Tears rolled down my cheeks and I could feel my soul satisfied.

Mt. Friendship peak lies in the Pir Panjal range near Manali, Himachal Pradesh. After Stok Kangri, I was looking for a peak technically a bit more challenging to climb so that i can push my game upwards. A mountaineer friend recommended me to attempt Friendship peak in October. October, because it was the most difficult time due to its snow and ice condition. I always wanted to do an alpine styled expedition and this time I felt like I should give it a shot. I called up a friend in Manali and convinced him to tag along as my climbing partner. For the success of an alpine styled expedition, planning was the most crucial bit. Each an everything needed to be in ‘the perfect’ place; Ration, equipment’s and gears, stove and cylinder, utensils, medicines, clothes, tents and sleeping bags etc. So after reaching Manali, I did some last minute shopping. After doing the final packing, I weighed my bag and it came to a whopping 35 kg. I had no idea how will I be able to carry this much load on my back in an altitude where each step requires the energy of 10 steps. The first 3 days of the trek was relatively easy. We could see the terrain change from trees to grasslands and to lifeless lands of black rock and snow as we climbed higher. After 3 days of trekking, we reached the final camp called Lady leg. We camped the whole day as we were to do the summit push at 12am. I stepped out in the evening and I could see raging clouds over the summit. If the weather didn’t improve, we would have to wait for another day at least. I went into my sleeping bag to catch few hours of sleep and hoping the weather to clear up. My alarm rang at 11:30pm and I sprung out of the tent to see if the weather had cleared up. I saw the most spectacular sight. The sky had cleared and everything was so calm. The summit slope was reflecting an intense blue moonlight. It was heavenly. I felt the mountains calling me and I was charged with energy. We set out for summit wearing huge climbing boots and 5 layers of clothing with ice axe in my hand. My thermometer read -25 Celsius but I was sweating from inside due to the efforts I was putting in climbing up. Sudden chills would hit if we stopped even for 10 seconds so we had to keep walking slowly and steadily. We reached the glaciers starting point and put on our crampons. The glacier made continuous cracking sounds coming from different direction every time. It was so scary to think that the ice below my feet can open up anytime and swallow me right in leaving no trace of my existence. We tried to cross the glacier as quickly as possible. After crossing the glacier I decided to drink some water only to realize that the water in my bottle was just a frozen solid. The dry air up there was at its brutal best and we were rendered waterless, until sunrise. We reached the shoulder by sunrise. I was extremely tired and dehydrated. I needed a long break now that it was a bit warm. I drank some water that was now fortunately, water. I had some dry fruits and biscuits. The toughest bit of the climb lay ahead of us. There was a huge glacier with deep open crevasses, a climb on a smooth vertical rock and a steep walk up the summit slope. We started the final push. When we stepped onto the glacier, we saw a massive avalanche below us. It gushed down the slopes we were on only 30 minutes ago. Had we been in the way of the avalanche, we would have been churned and buried in the snow. The ice was getting less stable with the rising sun. It meant we had to hurry up. We reached the base of the red rock which we had to climb. It was one of the toughest climb I ever did so far. Now I could see the summit not very far. I started walking on the final steep slope before the summit and even before I could feel it, I had summited Friendship peak. It is a very small summit and is hard to stand on with both feet on it. I unfurled the national flag, devoured the view and breathed some life!

Q – I was so hooked all this while that I could feel each and every step that you took. Dude, thrilling would just be a word in-front of your experience. So two high altitude treks couldn’t have gone without any disaster, right?

Parth – Of course not, I had my share of accidents. On the summit day on Friendship peak, at around 5:30 in the morning we were about to reach the shoulder when I suddenly took a wrong step and fell into a 40 feet deep crevasse. I was able to somehow slow my fall down using my legs and back on either side of the wall but I had hurt my ankle badly. After reaching the bottom of the crevasse, I tried to climb up using my ice axe and crampons but the walls were just so hard and slippery. It was impossible to find grip. It was like a soapy glass wall. Soon all the stories which I had read about people dying in crevasses started to flood my mind and I gave up trying. I could hear the ice cracking around me and was filled with sudden fear. The crevasse was so claustrophobic, dark and wet, it felt like death. I heard my friend shouting from above and he got me out of the trance I was in. He had anchored two ropes on the top and passed it in. One rope was attached to my harness on which he would pull me with and on other rope; I attached a jumaar (ascender) to help me climb out. After a lot of trying, hard work and combined effort of the both of us, I was out. We both lay on the floor silent for a while. I was unable to move my sore hands. He told me that we should go back. I looked at him and said my hands and my legs are working and we are much ahead of time so I am not going back until I give it one more shot and so we continued onwards. Not many people get out of crevasse alive and I count my blessings and I don’t take it for granted.

Q – Do you have your lucky charms when completely alone out there in the cold wild?

Parth – I’ve never believed in the concept of God that I see around me but I do believe in a Supreme Power. I had gotten a prayer flag from a Lama in the form of good wishes and luck in Leh before my Stok Kangri expedition. I always keep it tied to my bag before going to any trek. When I had fallen into the crevasse, I touched the flag and asked for strength to get out of here. It gives me a strange sense of protectiveness.

Q – What is the next big step you are looking forward to?

Parth – I have set my eyes on Mt. Elbrus, the highest peak in Europe and have started training hard for it. Mt. Elbrus has been a dream for a long time and now I feel confident enough to attempt it. The expedition is scheduled to take place in July. With each drop of sweat I pour during training, I’m getting closer to it

Q – What is the Everest of your career plan? (The ultimate place where you see yourself)

Parth – Ultimate goal of my life is to climb all of the 14 peaks which rise above the altitude of 8000 meters or at least die trying.

Q – How would you distinguish between group and solo treks? Or would you prefer distinguishing at all?

Parth – Being someone who has done both group treks and solo treks, I would say solo trekking is much better if you know what you are doing. In solo treks, you have the company of nature and even better, company of yourself. I got to know myself so much better in the solo treks when I got to spend uninterrupted time with myself. In group treks one is always busy interacting with each other that we miss out on the amazing connection nature has to offer. One is bound by rules made by humans when trekking with a group but that’s not the case when you are alone. You make your rules. But trekking solo can be very dangerous when things go wrong so one has to be prepared for all the possible outcomes.

Q – Something you would like to say to us who wish to make it in trekking and travelling but are held back by thoughts like money and stability?

Parth – I am no one to be giving advice, I am just 21. But speaking from my experience, following passion is simple but chasing only money is a little tough. Unfortunately in this world, money is important and it is good to have big houses and fancy cars so why not create a way instead for us to earn money by doing what we love. There will be obstacles on every step but one has to be very strong mentally. You have to love your dream and your love will be tested every day by people do not believe in you. It is your dream and you have to protect it. If I could do it, anybody can. Find the Everest of your life and dare to climb it, make your dreams worth their while.

Connect with Parth on Facebook and Instagram

No copyrights for the Photographs intended and have been submitted by Parth Upadhyay

This a 31 minute documentary of The Stok Kangri Expedition made by Parth Upadhyay.

The day of firsts – Shillong

Shillong happened just like any other trip, with a purpose awaiting an experience.

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Till now I’ve had experienced the New Year’s eve in every cosy way that my parents could make possible for me, but this time it was my demand to make it different, like our generation says, “My plans, my rules.” So anyway I tagged along with a friend of mine, both with literally very limited cash to spend but in sheer need of escape from the city and on those accounts Shillong proved to be a great host.

We reached Shillong at around 7 in the evening of 30 th December after missing a train at Howrah, travelling in General for about 20 hours and not being able to reach the phone of the friend who was supposed to take us to a budget hotel, but all that exhaustion was soon going to be relieved; as it happened after shivering in the bone chilling breeze, gulping down litres of steaming hot tea that we finally could make a contact with that angel of a friend. He took us to the hotel; it was small but a very nice one. At the reception we were greeted by a happy to serve bell boy who would later become our man friday; he took us to our room which was again a very cosy one and welcomed us with a heater and a bathroom fitted with geyser, seriously that was indeed a bonus considering the very moderate tariff we were paying. A hot water bath and a joint got our tired and cramped asses on power mode again and we were ready to explore the capital city of Meghalaya, which the friend said will already be half asleep; wait, it was only 08:30 in the evening but the friend who was a resident of that place knew his home well, and surely we didn’t get booze or anything much except some mind bogglingly delicious pork momos and a Vodafone recharge card.

While returning to our hotel in the deep night chill, with our hoodies on, our mouth shut and our eyes open, I saw something which would accompany me for a very long time to come. The streets of shillong are exactly like the ones we would imagine while reading Enid Blyton’s The Mystery Series again or the Famous Five, whirling and twirling in all its delight, at times it’s just some bleak and old stone stairs that would take you to the other end of the town, that night I was walking the one that leads up to Rilbong, after walking all the way up to the junction I once turned back and instantly fell in love with the far away lights of the peak in front in the cold dark; it enunciated a romanticism of its own. I knew it was just the beginning of the strong concord I was about to develop with this place in these 2 nights and 1 day that I had planned my stay to be; yes, just planned. I was yet to witness Shillong in the day light. With that suspense and what already had unmasked, I must say I had the deepest sleep after a long time.

I am not usually an early riser but the next morning I woke up, very fresh and energised, at 5:30 sharp. The sun hadn’t risen yet but was about to in very less time. I could see fresh, virgin streaks of mildew sun light playing across the curtains, making patters on the bed. It was a 31 st December morning; winter was at its merciless best. It was an ordeal indeed to pull down the blanket and get out of the warmth, but the anticipation of what was outside was more than tempting. I saw Shoumik, my trip companion, sleeping soundly. I removed the curtains and was a little disappointed as the window offered no view; I cursed my budget for that. View or no view, what I could see from the window was enough for me to understand that I still had almost 15 minutes in my hand to prepare myself for the sunrise. I made tea in the electric kettle; the sound it made almost woke Shoumik up. Even before the tea was made, I had a perfectly rolled joint and more 7-8 minutes in hand. I decided to do something against my usual nature as I thought, it was, anyway going to be a day of firsts. I went to the washroom and took a cold water bath, the water almost went down freezing every cell and bone of my body but I was prepared, with a towel wrapped around by waist, bare-bodied with a cup of tea and a joint to welcome with open and shivering arms, The Sun. I walked all across the balcony until I found a suitable position to place my cup, light the joint and witness the sunrise from the back of the total panoramic East Khasi hills. The sun came out beaming bright and gold, its strong but warm rays touching and kissing all my body, the cold water was just a bye gone, the chill only a boon. Such mornings are one of the many reasons for my mountain cravings. I stood there still admiring every bit of everything within my range of sight. The bright flares played boyishly between the tree branches, the tinted tombs of a far away sanctum gleaming gold, the birds chirping, the smell of the wind, the people getting ready for their daily chores, our man friday washing his clothes downstairs in the open, the sound of maruti 800’s, the smoke of the little chimneys, everything about that morning was so abundantly country-side’ish, so immensely John Denver’ish.

With the sun completely out, the tea finished, the joint stubbed, I was hungry.

Shillong is swag in its own sense; I almost envied everyone for their boots and jackets. The cars? Well they would put the most expensive Indian DC Avanti to shame; simple Maruti 800’s customised with rugged tires that outsized the provided wheelbase, headlights replaced by miniature flood lights and what colours, reds, greens, yellows, and blues. Everyone had a sense of self-respect and an aura of authenticity about themselves, their love for mountains shone bright in their eyes, their voice, a genuine blend of polite and pride. If you are a non-vegetarian, Shillong has absolutely every reason to be on your wish list, from chicken stews to grilled pork, mutton kebabs to beef bhuna, you get all. Though, as tourism does everywhere, you even get specific thalis, but would help if you ask the locales than go hunting on your own.

The nearest places to go sightseeing would be cherrapunjee, Mawlynlong, Umiam and the Daiko Lake, but our budget was shorter than our duration of stay so we instead went for walks. We took a silent stroll down the Cantonment Area, trekked up a different way to the point we started from, had tea and samosas and Temul here and there; the chun (lime powder) of the temul almost burned my tongue. After the lunch, we took a cab (again some less customised Maruti 800’s) to the Golf Course, which I still talk about to everyone referring to as the open green eternity.

In cities, these days the number of children playing in the park has reduced, as tuition attendance has increased. Here, under such vast open blue, with the vast open green at their disposal, kids were playing, rolling, running while elders without any apparent worries rejoiced an evening of freedom. I really wished I could be a kid again, run to the far end of the field, lie down, curl up and roll down as and along the slopes and curves of the Golf course. I remember, even buying a gas balloon for myself while coming out, I have always loved letting them go and watch till they go out of sight.

Police Bazaar, the Amsterdam of Shillong

It was 6:30 P.M. by the time we reached Police Bazaar, which is the capital of the capital. We had no happening plans such as a terrace barbeque or a house party but something better than these. We had a few friends coming over from Guwahati, so to kill the wait while they come, Dragon bar became our rendezvous. The small and stone walled bar attracted me at the very first sight of it. It was run by a sturdy Tibetan lady, or I think she’s Tibetan as the bar had posters all over that read – Save Tibet. The expressionless (but very beautiful, I noticed) lady came up to us and said, “Only rum and pork.” We were extremely content at the offering and settled on a bottle of rum and Chilli Pork. The bottle was down and the alcohol lover in me pushed me for another bottle but Shoumik suggested otherwise, saying “Puri sham baki hai bhai, we’ll drink more. Let them come.” I [of course] didn’t tell him that I was so engrossed in the ambience and the drink that I almost forgot about the friends we had to receive. For a guy like me, it’s a New Year’s gift to know that booze is so inexpensive; hence, I bought more than I could drink.

Our party started at 9, in our hotel rooms with every sort of unexplainable substance we would need. We were 5 people by then; the night was cold beyond thoughts. I suddenly got up and declared that I wanted to take a walk, if someone wanted they could come but everyone was beyond comfortable in the room so I thanked them, put on my jacket and went out. I checked the time; it was just some minutes to 12. I called up home, wished my parents and my sister, switched the phone off and lit the only cigarette I had brought along. I had four ways to go, I took the one that looked darker and narrower. The cold breeze stung me right in the face; the chill burnt my eyes that felt good. I am very bad at remembering ways so I was very conscious at every left and right I was taking, I suddenly found myself on a road that overlooked a pitch dark cliff, and just as I stubbed my cigarette and tilted my head up, I knew it was already a new year. The brilliant fireworks went up one by one, I knew they were shot very far away but the gorgeous explosions and my sight shared the same dark, oblivious sky. I suddenly heard a fading Rabindra Sangeet coming from somewhere, laughs of people, merry was in the very smell and void of the place. I stood unnerved, alone, totally content and silent, being a part of the same merry in my own little, futile world. I missed so many people I have never had the time to remember, suddenly all my hate list was replaced by the good memories I’ve ever had. I was happy at my very existence, I was suddenly so important to me. Standing there, overlooking a cliff totally invisible in the dark, being a guest to such majestic display of welcoming the new, sounds of celebrations, I cried like a kid, not out of pain or loss but an unexplainable joy. I made a resolution, not one that would guide me through the entire 2016 but the resolution was today, the present, the moment I am in because in all the past, the present and future, now is the only time I realised I am fully, completely a live part of, an active member of. With a very light head, a feather heart I decided to forget the way I had consciously remembered and find a new way home. This world, isn’t too large to be lost, neither is too small to not try to get lost. After a half an hour walk I did find my way. I suddenly heard someone calling me from behind, I turned, it was a group of 4 guys, and they had a bike and a car, and clear marks on their body to prove they were hooligans. I decided not to stop, but was there any point in running away? No. I went up to them, they wanted a lighter, and I had a matchbox with just one stick left. Knowing that I myself had no smokes on me, they rummaged through their pockets and found me the last biri they had, we all shared the flame.

The sturdiest guy among them started the talk, ‘Hey man! Are you alone? Let’s go for a drive, its new year’s man.”

“No, I got my friends up at the hotel; I was feeling a little tipsy so came out for a walk.”

“That’s real cool bro, then let’s go to your hotel and party, we got a car and booze.”

I suspected, they were shit drunk and it was 4 to one, it was clearly now way for me.

I pressed, “Actually it’s a small guest house and outsiders are not allowed so…”

“What about tomorrow morning?”

“No I am leaving tomorrow.” I don’t know why I acted such scared, or maybe I had every reason to be, or maybe none. They were equally perplexed at my withdrawal. I bid them a hurried goodbye, thanked them for the smoke [I genuinely needed one] and started walking a hurried pace. After I was clearly off, I stopped for a breath, the biri had gone off-flame midway, I had no light. I found a place to sit and spend some minutes there; when I got off I had already made 2 decisions. One – my parents always taught me to be careful of bad people whenever going out alone but I realised it’s even more difficult to trust people than to suspect them and since suspicion comes naturally I must learn to trust people, believe them. The second? Well, I checked on my accounts, decided to stretch them a little as I wanted to stay there for a couple of days more.

My roomies asked me when I was back, “Where did you get that biri from?” I noticed I was still holding it between my teeth. I gave it light, puffed deep and said, “Just made some new friends.”

-Happy New Year-

Important Information

Reach – The nearest railhead is Guwahati. The nearest airport is the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati.

From Guwahati Reserved and Shared Sumos and Cars are readily available.

Shared – INR 180, Reserved – INR 2200 (approx).

Stay – Accomodation isn’t a trouble, from luxurious tri-star hotels to budget guest houses are available. Tariffs vary from INR 8500 to INR 700.

Contacts – Meghalaya Tourism : http://www.megtourism.gov.in | (0364)2502166, 2500736

Note – All tariffs and rates are approximations and information collected during the period of December – January (2015-2016) and are subject to change anytime. Do confirm with the desired departments before booking.

None of the places mentioned or suggested have been advertised.