Kong Thong: A Tribal Village Where They Have Tunes Instead of Names

Who are we? How was the first society? Which was the first language? Aren’t words and languages made out of random noises.
Why do our names make sense? What if they were just random tunes? What if your name was a beautiful song?

Haha then what? Any point thinking about it when it can’t be true?

Welcome to Kong Thong. The land of fantasies.

What is Kong Thong?

Even though it sounds like a South East Asian city or maybe Hong Kong, the mystic Kong Thong is tucked in the interiors of plateau of Meghalaya.
And what’s mystic about this village is this age old tradition where they call each other not by names but by tunes.
But we weren’t sure about any of this. We only found a little paragraph on this information in a book, rest no assurance if any of this was true.
As nothing much on the place over the internet, and the locals too were clueless, we were wondering if the village even exists.

WHERE IS IT??? HOW TO REACH?

55 km south from Shillong, on the way to Cherrapunjee, a detour takes you to Khatarshnong district of Khasi tribe.
There are 36 villages in this district, and one of them is Kong Thong.
Having no sign board, tucked in deep in the valley it took us 5 hours to reach.
It is a beautiful drive that takes you through landscapes, meadows, jungles and clouds.

Since it becomes dark by 4-5 pm in Shillong, make sure you leave for Kong Thong from Shillong early in the morning.
Especially since the fact that the villagers haven’t seen much of outsiders here, they, out of insecurity, hide inside their houses when they see some strangers in their place in the night.
There is no bus service, but some shared Tata Sumos do go to Kong Thong usually 9-10 in the morning and return to Shillong at 5-6 in the evening.

The nearest railhead is in Guwahati, 120 km from Shillong. And it takes about 27 hours by train from New Delhi.
The nearest airport too is in Guwahati.

Kongthong Map

 

TELL ME MORE

Kong Thong has a population of 350 residents, with over 120 households settled in different parts of the valley.
It is a self sustained village. The only major occupation here is agriculture, and the main produce is yams, broom-grass and honey.
In case you ever wondered, broom-grass is what house brooms are made of. They grow in abundance in Meghalaya. One begins to feel like the culture of cleanliness must have started from here, since the cleanest village in Asia Mawlynnong is also here next door.
Mostly people here wear slippers because shoes are available only in Shillong, a trip to where is an entire day process.
Schools are here till 8th standard, and among languages they teach only Khasi and English. But since they don’t practice it much nobody really speaks English well in the village, and are too hesitant to even try.

There are 36 villages in the district, and 12 headmen who have some 3-4 villages under their supervision. The headman of Kong Thong however, is responsible solely for Kong Thong.
All the 36 villages are connected by road and by trek with each other.
There’s so much more that we’ll get to, but let me take you straight the 3 points that makes Kong Thong absolutely special and incomparable.

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DISCLAIMER: The picture doesn’t encourage smoking at all. Self conscious decision making is expected.

 

The 3 Uncommon Things About Kong Thong

1. Songs Instead of Names

Lost really long in time, Kong Thong has this age old tradition of calling each other by tunes instead of names.

Like you know, in some world of fantasy. If I have to call you, I swing across the ropes and yell “kukukukooooooooo”!
And then you respond with a specific confirmative sound. That’s what is here, without the swinging around though. Getting just a little bit realistic.

Each person has his own distinct tune given to him by his mother when he was born.
They call this tune Jingrwai Lawbei.

As the child is born, the mother feels a lot of love and emotions.
To express her love she hums a tune, which is inspired by the love for her child.
The composition of the song starts from scratch and takes anywhere from a week to months to complete. She also seeks beautiful sounds from the nature, the waterfall, the birds and wherever she possibly can for inspiration.
While composing it is compared with other tunes and it is kept in mind that no two people have the same tune.
After composition, the song is gifted to the child, and the title of the song becomes his name. The child too responds to the tune and learns to resonate faster than words.

Apart from this they have usual “verbal” names like us too to have written names and a document-able life like us.

So when they have to converse with each other, when they have to talk about each other. When they have to write their name somewhere they have Khasi names like Jipson, Barailang, Rothell.

But when they have to call somebody at distance.
When the mother has to call her child who’s gone out to play. When a brother has to call his brother who is lost in the jungle they use Jinwei Lewbei.
Legend says that the villagers would make use of JL to find out each other’s location while hunting, without letting the prey getting to know.

This tune is an integral part of their childhood and their life. Consequently if there are 300 people in the village, there are 300 unique tunes. Names can be the same, but the tunes will always be unique.

Like any other song, there can be little variations to the tune according to the mood and sure it sees a lot of them in the lifetime.
But still the song remains the same. And when the man dies the song dies.

There is no written records for these tunes. So to make things easier, today’s generation keeps each other’s tune recorded and uses it as a ringtone for the person calling.
And more so because of this the tradition is getting a little left behind.

 

2. Living Root Bridge

As the urban is turning into a man vs nature fight, Meghalaya shows us the finest example of coexistence with nature. The only way of survival mankind has known.
Making very smart use of nature, they make natural living root bridges to cross the river.
A Living root bridge is made by joining the roots of two rubber trees together and letting them grow in that manner.
Years of patience and maintenance results in a masterpiece like this.
And the way the this is even more effective is that unlike other bridges, living root bridges grow stronger with time. And a 50 year old bridge can hold as many as 70 people at a time.
They can be as old as 200 years, and they start getting reliable by the age of 20.
There are hundreds of such bridges found in Meghalaya, and the age old technique to grow them is passed on from generation to generation.

It wouldn’t be wrong to call this the biggest natural heritage of India.
These natural living bridges are found only in Meghalaya in the entire world.

Taking a leisure swim in the crystal clear and absolutely peaceful blue Phylad river flowing under the root bridge holds you still in the world of magic.
The private natural pool in the middle of the jungle rids you off all your worries for the moment.
The whistlings and callings of the villagers mixed with the sounds of the birds, the river and nature is all you could and want to hear.

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3. Breaking Patriarchy? Matriarchal Society

While the rest of the country is trying to break the norms of patriarchy. While there are feminists who fight for their right, there are others fight against it just because they have a problem with the label “feminist”.
It’s been a long and gradual process but gradually things are changing.
But behold! Here in Kong Thong they have a matriarchal society where the woman is the head of the family.
The youngest daughter of the family inherits the most of the property, and the eldest woman of the family has the last say in important family decisions.
The husband moves to the wive’s house after marriage, and the children carry the mother’s surname.
It was a very refreshing change.
Women were mostly heading the shops, working happily in the fields with the child tugging on to them.
Though shy, they still were more open to talk to.

It was a really free and serene environment to be in. Carefree-ness and a feeling of satisfaction prevails here.
There’s a feeling of respect for women, and men equally.
Brings attention to the fact that the point behind feminism or patriarchy isn’t/shouldn’t be to put the other sex down but to build a social structure where there’s respect for everybody alike.

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#Keyfact: The “Kong” in Kong Thong means elder sister.

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The beautiful Krabi plateau of Meghalaya

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Staying at one place, living a specific kind of life shows you things that only one specific part of the huge world can.
But traveling to other places shows you a variety of situations, circumstances and ways the people handle them that you didn’t even think of thinking before.
And when we develop an understanding, empathise with others that’s when create a better environment to live in.
We absolutely love to travel to different and such extreme places which broaden horizon to another possibility.
Traveling in the absolutely beautiful Meghalaya, and reaching the mystic Kong Thong and getting the sense of all that was in the fantasy was real felt like a dream.
And then capturing it in our passion, making a documentary out of it is what I live for. That’s what lets me breathe.

The Magic That Is Sangla Valley (Kinnaur)

Unfound/not so famous but amazing places are not found by hounding the net.
They are found when you do not tie yourself in an itinerary, and let the roads and the locals of the villages take you over.
Now that you’re here let yourself loose, let yourself run free on the roads of Baspa Valley, also known as Sangla Valley.

T.H. says: The Sangla Valley is completely inaccessible in most of the winter, but even in summer one unseasonal snowfall can trap you here for months.
Proceed on your own thrill. 😀

Sangla

Pashmina and I reached Sangla bearing all the rain and cold at 11 in the night. (Later that night I found that the road to Sangla was shown as one of world’s most dangerous roads in the world in Ledge documentary by Discovery)

But it was all eerily silent now. And cold. And windy.

We were dying inside our skins, and freezing with every slow step. Walking about the empty market, we finally found one dhaba that was open.

There were 3 old men in the dhaba, one being the dhaba owner. Warm smiles welcomed us. That was all that we needed on that cold night.
But thankfully, we were also given hot water to wash hands with and delicious, piping hot food that I remember even today.
We ate like we had a chance at food after months.

We got in conversation with the other two uncles. It turned out that they were driver and co driver with HRTC, and they had a bundle of knowledge and experience to share with us.
Apart from that they also shared their “emergency nuts” with me, which are dry fruits in case they get trapped here because of snow 😀
With their help, we took the PWD Guest House, which was right across the road.
And I realised in the morning, what amazing decision it was.

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My Bike Has Never Been Parked In An Establishment More Beautiful Than This!

It was only in the morning we saw how beautiful the guest house looked. And that we had a lush green lawn in front of us, and snow clad peaks right behind us!
In fact, we were surrounded by snow clad peaks from all sides which were all seeming to be too close to us.

We started walking towards Kumru Fort, which was at a 2km walk from the guest house.
Kumru is a tiny but a very strategically located fort, which saw the reign of 128 Kings.
Standing at 2680 meter, the fort houses a Budhhist temple, a temple with an idol of Kamakhya Devi from Assam and a Badrinath temple from Garwal.
The premises still serves as a venue for the fair held once in three years.

 

 

We hardly saw anybody at all on the way up. But on our way down, we were greeted with a warm smile by a senior of the village.
Of course, he was the coolest ever and had a lot of stories to tell.

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When I asked him if I could take his picture, he took his glasses off and posed saying “make me look good.”

What Is Raksham?

As told by a local, in the local language “rak” means rocks and “sham” means a bridge.

So the village Raksham that comes after Sangla, gets it name from the huge boulders which also act as bridges over the Baspa river.

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A Boulder Alongside The Bridge, An Essence Of The Village
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The Big Boulders Over Baspa River

Raksham is the second last village of India in the state of Himachal on the Tibetan side.
All the houses here are traditionally made of wood.
Sadly though, this village has burnt down completely twice in the past. The last time being in the year 2002.
The govt “helped” them in rebuilding the village by donating them 4 oak trees each.
And so the “Modern Village Raksham” was established in the year 2010.

The main occupation of this village is agriculture, and this village produces export quantity and quality of apples, potatoes, apricots and walnuts.

Where To Stay?

There is a really nice guest house right on the road – Rupin River View. The tariff for the cheapest room was INR 1500. The manager there offered me a really tempting deal, but I was not only on a budget, but was also looking for a more local experience.

People here have two houses – one below the road, next to the river. They spend the winter in this house, as “it is less cold near the river”. Mmh.
And their other house would be above the road, on the mountains. They spend the summer here.

It was only 8 at night when Pashmina and I were trying to find a Home Stay in the upper village. It was completely dark, and we couldn’t see a single soul. (And by then we weren’t aware that there is another habitation below the road.)
Fortunately we found a temple guard here, who helped us and took us to a homestay there.

Our host was lovely, very mother like and cooked amazing food. The house was beautiful, and absolutely neat and clean.
Her brother in law told us a lot of interesting stories from the village.
As from what I learnt, there are 50 registered home stays in the entire Kinnaur region, and there is a standard rate of INR 500 for each.
This homestay was called Aditya Niwas, but they didn’t put a board because they don’t want guests more than they could serve in the best manner.

 

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The Passage To The Entrance Of The House

 

 

Apart from this, there is Apple Pie Resort 1.5 km before Raksham, with beautiful cherry blossom trees in view, starting from INR 1,000. (The rooms, not the trees 😛 )
They have one more resort by the same name in Kalpa.

 

What To Eat?

This place doesn’t have a line up of hotels or dhabas. So apart from the Rupin River View Restaurant and Guest House, the only other option was to eat at a local’s house – which I absolutely loved!

Our host at the homestay cooked such tasty dal and ogla/phaphra which is chapati made from ragi. It was so tasty that I could have eaten it without any other dish too.

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Our Lovely Host Aunty
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The Super Hungry Guest. 😀
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The Ogla, Yellow Dal And Green Leafy Vegetables

Apart from this, since almost every household here has cows, you will get to know what tea with pure milk tastes like.
And needless to say, if you come here and make friends then you will go back with both your hands filled with very yummy and crunchy apples for free! 😀

 

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View From The Temple Premises
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The Temple Guard Who Helped Us Find A Home-stay In The Night

 

 

Chitkul

Chitkul is India’s last village on the Tibetan side.

The village speaks of peace and serenity, but you will feel the wind and the river screaming in your ears. I almost froze even during daytime.

There were some home-stays and also some guest houses with sign boards in Bengali 😀
There was a school exactly by the river, which looked to be in perfect order. It had beautiful thoughts on the wall, attendance sheet on the display board, and list of students promoted to the next class.

Interestingly, there was a basketball court too in the village. Most definitely the one with the most beautiful backdrop.

 

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But Chitkul is definitely some other terrain. Already quite high itself, Chitkul is only 44km away from the world’s roof – Tibet.

The place has beautiful mountains, Baspa river, beautiful sunrise and sunset and eery silence for the most part. But for the remoteness, Chitkul also has a very well organised school and a basketball court.

Lets see how much it can grow before losing its charm.

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Treks:

 

  1. Batseri TrekSangla – Batseri – Rakchham (6  + 8 km)It is a lovely, peaceful trek running along the Baspa river.Some attractions on the way are Saffron farm, Fishing encatchment, ogla fields and apple, apricot, walnut trees.
  2. Borasu Pass trekChitkul – Borasu – Har ki Doon (20 + 40 km)This trek connects Himachal and Uttarakhand with the high Borasu pass. The beautiful valley takes you across the 60 km in 6 days.The pass is open only for a few months before monsoons and then for a month or two before the winter sets in . The trek sees a lot of ups and downs, river streams and narrow valleys of flowers.
  3. Lamkhaga Pass TrekChitkul – Lamkhaga – Harsil (45 + 25 km)This trek, almost like an expedition will change your world. It is very high up on serious trekkers’ list, and connects two legendary villages of the two gorgeous HImalayan states.It is a snow trek for the most part, and is completed in 6-9 days, with Lamkhaga pass being the highest point.

 

When To Visit?

The region Sangla valley onward stays inaccessible due to snow from November to March.

Sure, this place is accessible from April to November, but since it will be apple season July onward, you will find yourself in heavy truck traffic from July to October.

Anyhow, this place is not a weekend getaway.
Little far away from the rest of the world, you can come here when you really want some peace and happiness, and have time in hand. The whole Kinnaur valley makes you want to explore, or at least spend some more time here.
And as said before, one off season snowfall can trap you here for months. So come to this place when you can take a couple of months off, just in case 😀

How To Reach?

Delhi – Simla – Rampur – Sangla:  340 + 130 + 120 km

Sangla – Raksham  : 14 km

Raksham – Chitkul : 14 km

The roads are painful and completely broken for some good 40 km. But ride/drive slow and enjoy the scenery, it’ll all be very enjoyable. 🙂

If by public transport, there are regular buses from Rampur, Sarahan, Rekong Peo and Sangla.
There are state transport buses from Sangla to Chitkul on regular intervals.
Those buses take a 30 minute halt at Chitkul and then return to Sangla.
Last bus to Sangla is around 3:30 pm . (But I also saw one bus heading towards Chitkul at 5.30 pm.)

I started from Sangla in mid afternoon and the scenery only kept getting more and more beautiful from here.
Raksham, with its beauty won my heart so much that on reaching Chitkul, we canceled our as planned stay in Chitkul and returned to Raksham.

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: Travelling Solo vs Travelling with a Partner

 

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Travelling solo is definitely not for everybody. However, travelling together is not for every couple. Truth be told, there are pros and cons for each of these options. There’s no universal answer to this issue that would satisfy everyone. The best option is to check the good and bad sides of both and pick what seems the most appropriate for yourself.

Travelling Solo Builds Character

Everybody who ever traveled alone knows how challenging that is. You can get lonely and even scared. Therefore, it’s an experience that either breaks you or makes you stronger. That’s something that cannot be done if you’re travelling with someone. Becoming more self-aware will also allow you to be a better person, and consequently, a better partner.

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Travelling Solo Boosts Individuality

Every solo trip is also a soul-searching trip. You learn a lot about your needs and true desires and you test your limits. Also, you meet new people and get to figure out how to act outside your comfort zone. Solo trips will teach you a lot about yourself and they will boost your individuality. Knowing your limits, wishes and needs means that it will be easier to communicate with your partner. That will definitely fortify your relationship.

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Travelling Solo Makes You Appreciate Your Partner More

Being away from your partner allows you to have a better perspective on your relationship. It gives you the time to think. Also, you get to notice all those little things they do for you because they are missing from your everyday life. Not to mention that missing them will make you appreciate them more. The same will happen to your partner while you are away.

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Travelling with Your Partner Brings You Closer

Your relationship problems will not magically disappear just because you have changed your location. However, it will make you to face new challenges together and solve potential problems. It will also give you the opportunity to enjoy gorgeous things hand in hand. This will add value to your relationship and allow you to grow as a couple.

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Travelling with Your Partner Creates Memories

In every batch of excellent relationship tips, you will find one telling you that you should go to a vacation together. Sharing those wonderful moments definitely makes you love each other more. You will create precious memories, entangling your lives together even more. It’s difficult to explain some memorable moments from your travels to somebody who wasn’t there. Experiencing them together will solve that.

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Travelling with Your Partner is Safer

This is not something you should underestimate. When you travel alone, you are more likely to be robbed or attacked. However, travelling as a couple gives you a certain amount of safety on your travels. Also, if you are cycling or hiking, you can get hurt or you may need some medical attention. It’s far easier to endure such things if your loved one is right there beside you to help you.

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There are many things to consider once you decide you want to travel. You need to figure out your destination, whether you want to travel by plane, car or even cycle there. Is it going to be a culture-vulture trip or a relaxing holiday with a very short itinerary? If you travel alone, you get to make all these choices on your own. However, if there is somebody else involved, prepare to make some compromises in the name of love. If you’re truly lucky, your choices will match up and that can take you to a journey of a lifetime.

Roxana Oliver.

 

Guest Post: Where do Locals Go for a Beach Day in Sydney?

Sydney is known by its many beaches to both tourists and locals. Still, Sydney residents usually prefer beaches that are quieter and not that crowded.
They are lucky to know some of the great sandy paradises that can provide as much fun as some other more famous beaches but with more possibility to relax and enjoy the free time.

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Shelly Beach

This beach is one of the favorite choices for locals, especially those who enjoy marine life and like to spend their time snorkeling or scuba diving. This is possible because the waters at this beach are clear and do not reach the depth over 12 meters.
Moreover, Shelly Beach offers great opportunity for some family fun with available kiosks, electric barbecues, showers, toilets and restaurants that are perfect for picnics and hanging out.

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Chinamans Beach

One of the greatest hidden treasures, this local’s favorite is just perfect for a relaxed swim, sunbathing and kids’ playtime because the waters are nice and calm with almost no waves.
It is also a great picnic spot for those who like to bring all the necessities with them.
Shell Cove bay is a popular place for pulling yachts and taking a dip.
More popular Balmolar Beach is only one kilometer walk to the south so anyone who wants a bit more excitement can casually visit both beaches in a short time.

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Red leaf Beach

This idyllic beach is another place that locals enjoy because it provides a lot of swimming space so there is never any unpleasant crowds and situations.
There is also a Murray Rose Pool that provides calm waters for swimmers.
A lovely pontoon offers possibility for some peaceful walks while cafes with view to Darling Point and Harbour Bridge will not only provide you with refreshing meals and drinks but breathtaking scenery as well.

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Milk Beach

Well-kept secret of Sydney, Milk Beach might be a bit more difficult to get to but it is well worth the effort, especially for those who decide to take a boat in order to reach it.
This isolated paradise is surrounded by Heritage listed Strickland House and the view of the city of Sydney is gorgeous.
There is plenty to do as well, from picnics and nature-engaging walks to fishing and snorkeling.

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Shark Beach

Another beach that locals like to enjoy on their own is Shark Beach that gets its name from the Shark Bay, not the sharks, so there is no reason to worry.
Anyway, shark nets are installed so there is absolutely no danger whatsoever.
Together with locals, you too can enjoy the nice view of passing yachts and ships, swimming, walking along the shore or simply relieving the stress by looking at incredible rocks that surround the end of the beach.

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Long Reef Beach

2 kilometers long, this beach is the best choice for locals who enjoy surfing and windsurfing, and there is even opportunity to learn more about these sports or try out a stand up paddleboard.
Plenty of grass makes this beach a great place for children and family picnics, together with free electric barbecues, kiosks and restaurants.
Moreover, Long Reef Beach offers the most beautiful waterfront wedding venues in Sydney as well as the incredible sight of marine wildlife.

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Coogee Beach

Coogee Beach might not be that big of a local secret but it is still a place where locals like to visit, especially with their families because there are great spots for picnics and children’s playground.
Swimming baths, promenades and electric barbecues all add to the charm of Coogee Beach.
What’s more, delightful cafes and restaurants will give you a chance to rest and reenergize with tasty meals and cool drinks.

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Visit some of these beaches and learn the secrets locals want to keep for themselves. And if you decide to go on some coastal bushwalks, you might stumble on a completely new mysterious and fascinating beach yourself.


If you have any more questions on the beaches or Sydney, feel free to ask in the comments or ask Roxana directly.
Roxana is a travel enthusiast and lifestyle consultant from Sydney and she loves to write about her adventures. She is all about the healthy lifestyle, loves to run with her husband and dogs and has fun cooking exotic meals for her family. Being a typical Aussie, she often hits the waves and loves beaches and sunshine!
You can find out more about her writing following her on Twitter.
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A Couple Of Questions On Traveling Abroad Answered

I am no scientist and/or don’t have any doctorate. I am a simple guy with some hopes and dreams.
I love to question. And love being questioned as much. As questions were being asked in the Nat Geo Traveler meetup, I too kept answering them inside my head. Cause I can. 😀

I love traveling. There are reasons to it, but we can talk about them later.
To be honest, I have not traveled much. When it comes to experience in traveling, if there’s a scale from 0 to  infinity , I am on two.
But since I have traveled solo in Russia, and have done long solo rides inside of India, I think I do have little idea here and there about the questions in question, and could try a hand at answering some of them for my friends 🙂
And so, here are my two scents. Because I smell so good.

Q: What do vegetarians eat in other countries?

Food. Vegetarians eat food. 😀

I have been in Russia. And we all know how much Russia is big on meat, and how little number of vegetables grow there.
Some people make such a big deal out of vegetarianism. And it probably should be.
Killing to eat, in my opinion is not appropriate. But then Fundamental Right #76 – Right to Freedom to Eating Whatever Animal!
But I’m no one to say. Because though I’m a vegetarian, I ate all the animals possible for 3 years of my life.
But I didn’t in Russia. As the saying goes – When in Rome, do as you normally would.
This was Rome with some spelling mistakes.

Even though it is true, still it never used to run across my mind that it is very difficult to find vegetarian food in Russia.
It’s certainly not like that I get tempted when I see non veg food, or I get disgusted on seeing it. It’s just nothing of my interest.
When my Russian friends used to eat food, it used to be mostly non veg. But watching them eat never made me feel like I would lose the battle against temptation or hunger. I would patiently wait for when I could find food.
But of course, all we vegetarians at some point have resorted to the old tricks of ordering the side dish or ordering a non veg burger but eating it without the patty.

I mostly used to visit schools, colleges, government houses in Russia where there used to be canteens which used to have Veg options. For example plain boiled macaroni, or porridge.
If I go out to eat in the malls, there’s a good 70% that I won’t find anything (veg) to eat.

The answer:

  1. At a Local’s Place
    The most where I had veg food, and amazingly delicious veg food was when I would get invited over by locals.
    If you want to have the most delicious of food in a new place, just don’t miss out on the opportunity of eating at a local’s.
    Even if they don’t eat much veg food otherwise, they’ll make something amazing for you straight out of their creativity.
    And of course if they do so much for you, they like you enough. And food tastes best when cooked and eaten with love. 🙂
  2. Hunt the Supermarket
    Don’t be lazy! Or too demanding!
    You know that you can always rely on supermarkets for sasta and tikau and often interesting alternatives.
    Take bread, interesting bread-spreads, puffs, cakes, read to eat stuff. I know you get the drift.

[And about drinking, a post about local drinks in Local Drinks in Russia  :D]

As a traveler, you have to learn to be less fussy and be more of a problem solver. If you are unable to find a solution, then just learn to accept the situation.

Q: How to mingle with the locals if there is a language barrier?

First step: Take your phone.

Second step: Go to Google Translate

Third Step: Click Uninstall.

That’s correct.
There are two things which can make any task in the world so much simpler – confidence and humour.

If there are two foreigners who you ask a simple question – “how are you?”
The first one smiles and says – “I’m fine, thank you.”
The other one smiles and says – “Badass.”
Now imagine they both gave the said answers in your native language.

Try to catch their phrases, and cultures.
If someone sneezes, then saying “god bless you” in their language will always work in your favour.
Try to catch funny things, traditions or something rhyming in their language. Always be eager to learn.
The key is that – if the locals see you trying to learn their language and culture, then they will appreciate your effort and respect you more for respecting their culture.
They will for sure try to teach you more fun things, and isn’t this what it’s all about? Respecting, loving and growing with each other? 🙂

Q: While traveling you faced some threatening situations. Are you not scared of death/Does traveling make you not fear death so much?

(I didn’t hear this question properly, but I’ll answer as to what I heard 😀 )

I already rode 1500 km in 21 hours. It was being a great rann  run. And then – the accident.
I was thrown in the air.
Even though I probably was thrown in the air for some 20 meters in 3 seconds, but still the feeling was like I flew for some kilometers in some minutes.
Full Story – Talking Helmet

Flying, eating air at the spend of 120 km per hour. It was an amazing feeling. I could see the flashback of my whole life beautifully in slow mo like a quick movie.
It felt trippy as hell. Or heaven. Debatable.
And then it stopped. I was thrown into the ground. I couldn’t move. I thought I died. It was all over. For some seconds.
Then I got up and saw my right arm was completely twisted. I used my right arm to untwist it back to its normal, and then checked if everything else was alright. Funnily, later on a fracture was found on my left hand.

I have been so close to death. It was not scary. It was painful little. And trippy. But not bad.
But that’s when it all will have to end. When you die, you become a memory, and stop being a person.
I’m not scared, but for now I have to make more stories before I become a memory.


Looks like, I put in more than just 2 cents there. But who would’t like an extra cent?

I would love yours too in return.
If you want to express your answers on these questions, or if you want to fire more questions at me, just shoot in the comments and I’m in the grid 🙂

 

Diu Beats

Diu.
One of the most serene beach places I saw in the longest time.
Wait, longest time? It was my first time at a beach? And the coolest one, yay 😀

This place is so chill that when you step out of the airport, you might find no cab or auto or bus at all outside the airport.

So what do you do? Just start walking that beautiful road along the sea line.

After getting out of the airport, a ten minute walk to the right will take you to the city, and a twenty minutes to the right will take you to Nagoa beach.
If you want cheap accommodation then it makes more sense to head to the city and bury your luggage first.
The distance between Diu city and Nagoa is 5 km.
Psst, I went to the beach directly, and spent the night there. And I didn’t even have much money.

 

What Am I Recommended By Everybody In Diu To Visit?

 

Nagoa Beach

Nagoa beach is where you wanna be at in Diu, apart from all the other places. It’s the place to be if you want some happening scene.
There are resorts, restaurants, food, beach, water sports happening, everything happening here. (And this season onward Festa De Diu happening from December to February.)

Unlike other beaches, this beach doesn’t feel humid or warm at all and the weather feels pleasant throughout.
Also there’s a bar right at the beach from where you could take real cheap alcohol and drink right at the beach.
Oh and this brings me to the point that this is the only place in Gujarat where alcohol is available. So this place gives the feeling of respite and happiness.

Diu Fort

Since the entry to the fort is not regulated in any way, and is free – I think it’s safe to call it the ruins.
The fort has got to be one of the most beautiful ruins you’ll ever get to see.
Aging about 500 years, this gorgeous fort offers the best of views. I imagine those living in this fort must have never had stress problems.
Built by the Portuguese in 1535 as a part of the defense strategy, it is surrounded by the Arabian sea on three sides and has a valley on the fourth.

Absolutely dd, this fort will offer you the best of views. At least I got my most favourite pictures from here. I didn’t want to get out of this place.

Diu Museum

This amazing masterpiece built in 1598 was initially a Church, but a major part has been turned to a museum. It showcases antique statues, stone inscriptions of earlier rulers, wooden carvings and idols.
[But I’m not a museum person so I didn’t go inside :D]
The Saint Thomas Church museum looks absolutely goth during the day, and in the evening it is accompanied by colourful fountains and special lighting.

Jalandhar Beach/ INS Khukhri Memorial

Ah! Jalandhar beach is another of those peaceful places in Diu. As you climb the little sand hill to enjoy the view, you’ll also find a beautiful rock cut temple.
But this place is especially famous as the sunset point. See that red hot sun sink into the infinite sea in a matter of minutes.

Talking about sunset, next to Jalandhar place is INS Khukhri Memorial from where you can enjoy sunrise and sunset from the same place.
This memorial is in honour and remembrance of the martyr ship that went down in 1971 in a face off against a Pakistani submarine.


Naida Caves

I’ll quote the Diu Tourism  site here:
The Naida Caves are an explorer’s delight. Located outside the city wall of the Diu fort, these caves are a network of hewn hollows and steps which beg to be explored. The history of the caves suggests that the Portuguese hacked off building materials during their reign, which resulted in the formation of the caves. Plan a visit on a clear sunny day, and be assured that the cave’s natural openings will not disappoint with a spectacular display of light.

Umm. This cave has a guard, and also a portable toilet.
You’ll spend some good fifteen minutes in this strikingly beautiful cave, but there’s nothing much to explore here.

 

Other Cool Things?

Fudam Village

Are you in love with the ruins just like me? What if the ruins look absolutely fresh and modern? 😀
Diu was a Portuguese colony for a really long time, its influence could be still somehow be seen here. All citizens of Diu have dual nationality – Indian and Portuguese.

There are about 200 houses in this little Fudam village of Diu, out of which only 20 are still inhabited.
All the houses are freshly painted in bright colours like pink, yellow, blue, but are kept locked since long.
All the households have either moved out to either Portugal or the UK.
But they do pay their childhood house a visit time and again, or when they are to get married, and get maintain the upkeep of the house.

It took me a while to realise I’m standing in the middle of the ruins.

Gangeshwar Temple

I’m not a religious or temple person at all, so I avoid going inside religious places as much as I could. But many of those religious houses speak of amazing stories, architecture and locations.
Gangeshwar temple looked really hypnotic and like something I never saw before, and has an amazing story to it. The temple named after Lord Shiva, it is said that the five Pandavas used to worship the said Lord here during the time of their exile.

The place feels high in energy from inside, and also has a “snakey” feel to it.
It has a unique set of 5 shivlings, which get washed by the sea waves during high tide.

Khadd

So between Gangeshwar temple and a mosque in Fudam village is a small pond which is called “khadd” locally.
It is said that its water has medicinal powers and taking a dip in it heals all skin ailments.
However, since the locals have relocated from the village long ago the pond is not kept maintained. And since the place is too empty you couldn’t find encouragement in others following the routine.

So it’ll take a lot of courage to take a dip in the now dirty pond.
But hey, do you think the tap water you get in India otherwise is any cleaner? 😀


Cashews

Diu is also the land of cashews. I always wondered how cashews grow. And here I got to see cashew in its raw form, and ate them in a manner like never before.
They are inside this big red shell, which you either roast on a pan, or over coal or boil.
Then once the outer covering is broken open, you find about 1 – 7 cashews inside it.

Hoka Tree 

Apart from the architecture, this is the precious gift by the Portuguese that they left to us –  Hoka tree.
This tree is found only in this part of the country, and because of its numerous benefits the Forest Department of Diu has protected the species through various acts and rules.

The hoka seed is eaten like a fruit after peeling its outer skin.
The seeds are also used to make local liquor called Tadi.
The benefits of it are that it treats hypertension and also decreases chances of cardiovascular diseases.

 

Sosyo Drink 

Oh this Sosyo is a legend!
It’s productions started from Surat, Gujarat in 1927 as a part of the Swadeshi Movement. It is almost a century old, and needless to say – India’s oldest carbonated drink.

The flavour being called ‘mixed fruit‘ is a mix of grape and apple cider, is mostly an inseparable part of a Gujarati party.
The Indian brand is also exported to the UK, USA and New Zealand apart from some other countries, and it’s high time we embrace our very own brand with both arms open too.

 

Clearly Diu has an incredible lot to offer. This is a very serene place and would not disappoint you in any way.
People here are very polite and friendly and we made good friends in a very little while.
One place I would like to come again to for a longer duration. 🙂

Rann Out: The Dangers Of/Tips On Long Distance Riding

Seeyouontheflipsyde.com

I used to consider a 600 km ride a long ride until now. I was quite happy with myself as I completed my 1500 km ride to Kutch within 21 hours. I slept for only 4 hours in 3 days, and again left to come back to Delhi.
I didn’t get what I expected in the Rann of Kutch, so the  trip became more about the journey for me. That, because of the interesting things that happened, and the mistakes I made.

The Setup

The evening next to Diwali I started my ride to Kutch. After a 21 hour ride I was in Kutch. Catching only 4 hours of sleep, I was on the road again.

I wanted to get a biking jacket mainly to be protected from the rain and the cold, and to look good.
It never hit me that I could get hit, so didn’t care too much about the protectors and armours on the jacket. Most of the good quality jackets available in India were going to be out of my budget, at about 15,000 rupees.
But then I heard of this super-amazing Ladakh 2.0 riding jacket by Biking Brotherhood Gears, which had all the important features like protection from cold, rain, had protective armours and looked extremely handsome, at less than even half the price.
The plan wasn’t so, but I also got to crash-test it real soon.

How It Started

The longest rides I did before this were of 330 and 560 kilometres. Those rides were really painful and tiring. I saw posts on Facebook of people doing 1200 km in 24 hours, and my jaw used to drop wondering how could they do it.

While my jaw was still dropped on the floor, I decided that I’m going to do the Rann of Kutch (from Delhi).
I braved the 1500 km to Kutch via Udaipur and Ahmedabad quite smoothly in 21 hours, took rest for 4 hours, and now (stupidly enough) I was on my way back home already.

The Accident

Himani who was still in Kutch, and Masha who I dropped at Ahmedabad insisted too much that I stay the night at Ahmedabad, but I felt too inspired.

Soon after leaving Ahmedabad, the sleep angels tried to lock my eye shutters down.
I found a bench outside a closed dhaba, and realised how desperately I needed to take some rest. I found respite in it for a full hour, and woke up when I heard some people walking around me. I feared if I keep sleeping, it wouldn’t take much longer before my stuff gets stolen.

I started again. It was still dark.
100 km from Ahmedabad, near Himmatnagar a car behind me started honking like a a maniac. I started tilting towards left to give him side, but looked like “ain’t nobody got time for that!”.
Yes, hurriedly he came from my left, and ticked my handle.
Like a rag-doll I went flying in the air. I tried holding on to the air as I flew, and then slid on the ground for a good 15-20 meters. It took a while for  the disoriented me to figure where I was.
I got up barely a step away from an iron pillar on the road divider. I realised how lucky I was to not hit any electrical pole, or the metal barrier or any stone or anything else.
It was completely dark, it took me a good amount of time to find my bike, camp and luggage.
The leg guards of my bike, fog lights, indicators and the silencer were broken. And about myself, just the right sleeve of my protective jacket was ripped.
I pulled myself together, and thanked my stars (which were the only source of light in that gloomy night), and started on the now very noisy and half functional bike.

Scene 2

My jittery bike was still doing the job just fine. But now sleep started to take the toll on me really bad. I stopped a couple of times and took some power naps on the way.
But then 25km before Udaipur sleep got too powerful on me to even allow me to park my bike.

The ‘SCRREEEECHHHH’ sound opened my eyes, and the next moment I was down on my all four.
And as I was falliing my thought in the milisecond was, “agh my second fall in 5 hours! This time probably its going to be game over for me. Or if I survive, my dad’s not going to let me travel again.”
Thankfully I wasn’t run over by one of the cars behind me after I fell. And also they did a good job avoiding running me over, and continuing to go like I were just a hurdle on the road.
I wanted to get up, but it felt like my bones had left my body, and stuck to the ground. By this time some passersby came and tried to help me up.
I saw my right arm had twisted completely. I slowly untwisted the arm with my left hand, while everybody looked on like I were performing a magic show.
I was then taken to the side of the road. It took 5-6 men to take me to the side. I thought I was going to faint. I asked them if they could get me some water. And an ambulance.

After taking some rest I started walking around. I felt much better, and good to go. I looked at my bike. I could see that the break wire and accelerator wire were broken, and the handle was completely twisted. Arghh!

I sat down with the new friends I made there in this little time. I joked around with them like I knew them since forever, while they managed to smile only sheepishly as they still couldn’t gulp the sight of the incident down.
They were very clear with the thought, “bhaiya waise aise accidents mein koi bachta nahi hai” – nobody really makes it out alive from such accidents.

But I have to admit that this high speed action also gave me the thrill of a lifetime.
It is stupidity. I could have died. I nearly died. I wouldn’t want to be in that place again.
But if I have to share the feeling from that time, it was scary and amazing to be thrown in the air at 120 km/hr.

*
Other Things

The ambulance arrived.
I was taken to a hospital, which again sent me to the bigger hospital – Maharaja Hospital.
This government hospital took me for a surprise. The hospital was packed with a mad amount of patients, with only one doctor in each department. I thought I’ll never be able to get my work done here.
But the doctors did their work with a smile, and so much focus and affection, and the patients calmly waited for their turns. It was lovely to see how systematic it all was. My turn came soon enough.

I spoke with a transport company which would have picked my bike from the accident spot, and delivered it to my mechanic in Delhi.
About myself getting home, being so tired and with a fresh fracture and torn clothes I was in no mood to travel by bus. And no cab driver wanted to drive so far to Delhi.
So I caught a cab to Jaipur the same night, and asked the driver to use his contacts to arrange for a cab to Delhi from there.

Bike Broken
My Knight Coming Out Of The Godown In Delhi, While The Handle Faces The Sky

 

What I Did Wrong 

1. Traveled without keeping myself hydrated

Drink water every 2-3 hours, you must! Keep yourself hydrated, also pop a little somethings to eat. Nuts if possible.
Stopping for water would have also allowed me to take little 2 minute breaks every 2 hours. I did that in the beginning, but later on got too carried away just riding.

2. Didn’t Get Enough sleep

I saw on news today how a car got totally destroyed and all the 4 passengers died on the spot, as the driver dozed off while driving. And I was on a bike.
I could have easily died. But nah, I’m not going to die so easy. I have stories to tell, and you have to learn how to not be a fool like me.
Many people don’t realise that it is a real problem in long distance driving. Please take a good full 8 hour sleep the night before the day you have to ride, and a power nap before you actually ride.
Don’t start a long ride the day you did trekking, or some other strenuous activity.

What I Did Right

  1. Didn’t Panic

    Even after I had that accident, I didn’t lose my cool. I untwisted my arm myself, asked them to call for an ambulance, asked them to bring my bike to the road side and to bring the key to me.
    When I entered the hospital, the doctor looked at me and shouted “oh my god, what happened to you? Come inside quickly!”
    I smiled and said, “don’t worry, it’s just a fracture on my left arm, probably a hairline fracture on my leg and some open wounds on my back.”

  2. Kept My Humour

    As we all got talking, waiting for the ambulance, somebody told me “bhaiya even as you fell down, your bike did’t fall, and kept going for some good 15-20 meters.”
    To which I said, “yes that’s how it is. The knight may die, but the horse wouldn’t give up!”
    *
    One of them asked me, “so where have you been tripping?”
    “Around the world in 20 minutes?” I said.

  3.  Wore Protective Gear

    Even when my father and my cousins back home made fun of me wearing the riding jacket, the knee guards and gloves, I kept reminding them and myself that it is for my safety. (They say I look like the Gladiator. And yes, I really become the center of attention on the road – in a good way.)
    And as it turned out, it is what saved my life. My jeans were completely torn, but only the sleeve of my jacket was ripped.
    I couldn’t stress on this enough how important safety is. Whoever at least rides without a helmet only appears like a fool to the rest of us, and never cool.
    And as the term goes in the riding world, ATGATT – All The Gear All The Time, cause accidents can happen anytime, to anyone. That’s why they’re called accidents.

    GOPR0225-1.JPG
    Well I Can Only Speak For Myself


    Ansar Ahmed
    , the owner of Biking Brotherhood Gears was busy saving lives in the Chennai flood when he got to know about my accident. Still he called to ask if everything was okay with me. He wished me speedy recovery, and promised to fix my jacket for free, yay! 😀
    More than anything else, its the gesture and concern, and great customer service that counts.
    In case you’re wondering, no, I haven’t been paid by them to write this for them.
    Their riding gears are cheap and reliable. So they’ve been a lifesaver because of their work, and kept me really happy as a customer, even after the transaction happened. And that’s all a customer can ask for.

    But does it make complete sense to invest in a 6k something rupees for a jacket? Yes, it pretty much does.
    Even if you go for a normal winter jacket, it’ll cost you a good 3-4 thousand rupees. But this one is more than just a jacket.
    This jacket has a mesh outermost layer, which allows air to pass, and gives a really nice look.
    Inside of it, there is a removable waterproof layer, which will allow you to ride or walk in the rain, without letting your clothes get wet. And if the weather is not gloomy, you can remove the layer and keep it aside.
    And then the third – thermal layer, which would keep you sweating even in the freezing weather of Ladakh. Thus the name, Ladakh 2.0.
    The jacket is heavy duty, without being heavy weight, and of course loaded with protective armours, which saved my life.
    I wear this jacket on my treks too because of its protective qualities, and also wouldn’t mind walking into my favourite bar with this, as it gives me a real badass look.

    IMG_20160104_034751_256
    Got Ripped Trying To Save me

My 2 Cents For Long Road Trips

  1. Break The Trip Down

    Yes, Gujarat is far away from Delhi. But I’ve already lost the battle if I let it bog me down.
    But we know the simple solution to solving any complex problem is in to breaking it down.
    Mark important places on the way, and take stops and give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the different places on the way and to talk with locals.
    I followed Delhi – Jaipur – Chittorgarh – Udaipur – Ahmedabad – Bhuj – White Rann of Kutch.
    Alternate, shorter route would be Delhi – Jaipur – Ajmer – Mt. Abu – Bhuj – White Rann of Kutch.

  2. Don’t Fight Your Sleep For Too Long

    One of my prime hobbies is sleeping. You too will feel sleepy in long rides. To keep it at bay, these two tips of mine work big time!
    A. Chew a gum. It works like you never imagined.Might not work so well at your study table though.
    B. Sing. I’m not such a good singer either. But nobody can hear you here. Practice all those notes. Scream. You can’t sleep when you’re screaming, right? 😉

    But then, resisting sleep is a battle that you will eventually lose.
    So when you keep forgetting that you have to sing, you know you don’t have any energy left, and then your best bet is to find respite in the nearest restaurant/dhaba that you find.
    Do NOT drive again if you’re still sleepy.
    Power Tip: Drink coffee, and take a power nap of 30 minutes. When you wake up, you’ll be re-energised like you were never tired.


The plaster was on for 3 months, and I couldn’t ride for 3 months.
But apart from this, I don’t mind the accident so much. It has been a lesson for me, the whole trip.
There’s a right way to do something, and there’s a wrong. I like to do both. After this incident I traveled to Gujarat again, while still with a plaster. By train and buses this time.

You too should not let anything stop you from exploring new horizons and testing your own limits.
If you agree or don’t agree with any of the mentioned things, or have any tips for long rides feel free to share it with us. Travel safe, and all the best 🙂