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Ao Nang – Why Do I Keep Coming Back?

What is it about this place that makes me return again and again and again? One could easily explain my decision by stating the usual reasons such as beaches, mountains, jungles, a fascinating culture and history, a delicious cuisine and so forth. Those are the things that appear on every “must-see” and “to-do” list. However to me, that merely covers the reasons why one should come here, but it doesn’t answer the question of why one should stay here. Thailand is not the only country that ticks off all the items on this list; there are plenty of others with perhaps even more pristine beaches or higher mountains. So, what is it then? Continue reading “Ao Nang – Why Do I Keep Coming Back?”

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My New Life As An Explorer: A Declaration

I had the most profound revelation during a long train ride from Goa up to Mumbai. It was late in the evening and all six berths in our section – three on each side – were already folded out and occupied by tired passengers. I, however, could not sleep as I was lying in the bottom bunk with my flashlight still on and the pages of Charles Allen’s book ‘A Mountain in Tibet’ still open. It’s a book that chronicles the exploration of the revered Mount Kailas and the discovery of the sources of the four great rivers – the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the Sutlej. Every person depicted in this book had their own reasons for venturing into these uncharted and dangerous areas. It was either for the sake of spiritual enlightenment, geographical exploration, and discovery or for more selfish reasons such as fame, admiration, and recognition. Whatever it was, in the end, they all had one thing in common: they possessed the heart of an explorer. And on that fateful train ride to Mumbai, I realized that I, too, was in possession of it. Clear as day, then and there it dawned on me just as sudden, that I now had a purpose. Continue reading “My New Life As An Explorer: A Declaration”

Tales from Nepal #1: The Prayers of Kathmandu and The Veiled Mountains in the Distance

Prayer flags, much like humans, are not meant to remain still. They need to fly and flutter freely through the air and space spreading peace, compassion, and goodwill as the wind lets them dance in every direction and the colors – red, white, green, blue, yellow – fade in the sunlight. From pole to pole, house to house, the ground to the top of a stupa, I would go so far as to say that no other country is more closely associated with flags than Nepal. Continue reading “Tales from Nepal #1: The Prayers of Kathmandu and The Veiled Mountains in the Distance”

Tales from India #4: The Last Sunny Days in Goa

At last, the monsoon season was upon us as thick layers of grey clouds covered the sky and rain began to pour down relentlessly. It started of imperceptible with small showers during the evening, but it culminated in a thunderous storm, that left the entire town without electricity for the greater part of the night and the next day. It was the official announcement that “the times they are a-changin’”. Continue reading “Tales from India #4: The Last Sunny Days in Goa”

Tales from India #3: The Subtle Art of Making Chapatis

Recently, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the big question of what art is. Was there a universal answer to this question? Was there one undeniable truth? Some say that art is not about truth, it’s about expression and beauty. To others, it’s a “source of calm in a chaotic world“. There is no shortage of elaborate opinion pieces written by highly educated people. However, many seem to come to the same conclusion that art should evoke an emotional response.  Continue reading “Tales from India #3: The Subtle Art of Making Chapatis”

Tales from India #2: Food Poisoning in Kochi

The Indians on the beach in Goa didn’t care who was helping them as long as the person in question was capable of helping. Their motto, most likely, was “all hands on deck” as they asked me if I could help them push their tour boat safely on shore. A moment later my hands were gripped against one of the outriggers and with the rise and fall of the Arabian Sea, and the “Push!” signal by the captain we steadily gained inch by inch. It appears that I walked along the beach just at the right time, for the same thing happened twice more. Continue reading “Tales from India #2: Food Poisoning in Kochi”

Tales from India #1: Through The Western Ghats Towards Munnar

We were passing through the Western Ghats in a slow pace. The engine of our public bus has its limitations, which none of the passengers particularly minded. This part of the mountainous region was completely covered in lush trees, and cattle were grazing on a field at the foot of the mountain. Banana plantations were the only things that gave this area some structure, which ironically made them appear out of place.

Due, or thanks, to the slow uphill battle for the bus, we had enough time to observe the wide-ranging mountains and, for the time being, we were blessed with a blue sky interspersed with some light clouds. Mountains are what cause my heart to sing and dance with joy. This is my natural habitat and I would trade the clearest and calmest ocean anytime in favor of it. The province of Tamil Nadu says farewell with a view you can’t beat as we were inching our way closer to God’s Own Country, Kerala. There wasn’t a lot of traffic, but our bus still came to a few near standstills in hairpin curves. The air began to become cooler as well, which was a most welcome change after the oppressing heat and humidity of Madurai.

Despite all the twists and turns, I never once feared for my life, for the roads are surprisingly well maintained. Perhaps the fact that we were driving on the left side of the road away from the precipice, gave me the necessary confidence. I’m not sure if the flora changed to some extent as well or if this was simply the first time that I saw the colorful blooming flowers up close. The trees and bushes were bearing flowers of purple, red, white, pink and orange color. We didn’t encounter any cattle anymore; instead, we passed by some mountain goats standing idly on the side of the road.

As soon as we left Tamil Nadu behind and entered the region of Kerala, the road started to go downhill as the rain began to pour down on us. Our luck with the weather didn’t last that long after all, but the mist surrounding the mountains and the grey clouds above us were the heralds of the upcoming monsoon season. Generally speaking, I don’t mind the rain, on the contrary, I love seeing forests in a different light and the fresh smell of trees and earth is even more intense. My only predicament was that I was sitting slightly behind a door with no upper half. Meaning that I had to endure some of nature’s force and wrap my backpack into its rain cover as to prevent it from getting soaking wet. Fortunately, we arrived in Munnar in little than an hour later and by then the rain stopped and sunlight slowly pierced through the dispersing clouds again. I checked into a hotel room, which was recommended to me by one of the locals. After three weeks of sleeping in dorm rooms and semi-sleeper busses, I granted myself this luxury.

However, I only spent the minimum amount of time inside my room, since I couldn’t wait to go outside and walk among the forests and tea plantations. The smell reminded me of home. Even on a subcontinent such as India, utterly unique as it is, some things in this world are the same no matter where you go. They are things that connect every part of the world, regardless of how small or big these parts may be.

It might be a smell, a sound or a sight that gives you this feeling that you are not alone; that there is something or someone out in this world who is there for you and can comfort you in times of need.  Regardless of how curious we might be to explore the new, we deeply require the familiar from time to time. It sends a signal through our leaves, our branches, our stem, all the way down to our deepest roots and works as a reminder of where we come from.

It saves me from loneliness, yet I can’t deny a slightly aching heart.