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I am back to regular writing after exactly a month-long hiatus. For people who have been checking this blog, you would know what I was upto : Link.
Foreword : This is a very long post. Actually, even longer. And heavily judgemental [:)].
As much as I am going to miss freaking out people by saying that I am going to visit Ladakh alone, I must add that the best way to travel is undoubtedly doing it alone ! If experiences, people and adventure is what you are looking for, there is no better way than doing it alone. And in that sense, I had a terrific trip.
The highlights of the trip : The winner, hands down, meeting people. Be it the senior citizen, a photographer, whom I met at a park in Jaipur to the Bulgarian mountain guide who was on his world trip to a person who is a professional ‘vote-buyer’ to the security guard at the airport who chatted for over an hour ! The runner-up, visiting villages in India. Put the above two together and you have an experience.
The trip started off with my landing in Delhi, where I was graciously hosted by a friend at his apartment. But not before 4 of us squeezed into an 800 with 3 suitcases of mine. I was home. The first evening was exactly what Rabbi meant when he wrote Dilli. The next day was a trip around Delhi. I was really happy to visit Rajghat (I have gone through the fan-of-Godse phase, but thankfully, I am back to wiser days). Next, Jama Masjid. In my humble opinion, before making any generic statement for/against the Muslims of India, please spend some time around Jama Masjid, and I really hope the Javed Akhtar’s and Shabana Azmi’s are listening. Connaught Place was good, but by then I had already judged the crowd, not very flattering I must add. It reinforced the popular notion that Delhi is a bit unsafe for women, and not just the adventurous kind.
The next day was my long awaited trip to Agra, Mathura and Fatehpur Sikri, with a group of friends and the above mentioned 800. Getting past a toll-naka without paying up courtesy a police sticker is a joy and experience only an amit_123 (Definition) would know about. The Taj Mahal was beautiful, but a tad disappointing to my expectations but atleast I have that legendary snap in front of the Taj. The Mathura temple had all the ingredients of a successful temple : Huge crowds, loud chants, even louder chatters and a 1-second darshan. The return back to Delhi and boarding of a bus to Jaipur happened that night; just the routine drill of visiting-all-sightseeing-places-in-a-day.
The next day was big. Having the Free Hugs Campaign with a friend of mine. Details here : Link.
For more about the Free Hugs Campaign, this might be a good view : Link
The next morning I was in Leh, the biggest city in Ladakh, which in case you didn’t know IS in fact in India. I gave acclimatising a day and a half, considering Leh is at over 11,000 ft and did some small hikes around Leh the next evening including the Shanti Stupa, Old Caslte and Leh Palace. This was when I met Aleksander, a Bulgarian mountain guide, on a world trip, and arguably one of the happiest people I have ever met ! Although his main concern was why foreigners had to pay up anything from 2 times to 40 times the entry fees for Indians at all places. To quote Aleksander : ‘All foreigners are not rich !!’.
Continue reading part 2 here.