2016 was beauty. It gave me experiences of lifetime, memories for keeps and souvenirs to cherish. And I got to meet Mr Khan a couple of times, shake hands with him, and live the crazy fan-girl moment by not letting his hand go, extracting a dimpled smile and a look into my eyes. 2016, you’ve been a sweetheart and I’ll always remember you as the year that taught me that everything really is possible. That the universe does conspire to make things happen if you desire them enough.
I started the year with a new year resolution to work hard and
party travel harder . The agenda was at least 12 trips a year including one country and one Indian state I hadn’t seen before, without quitting a full time job that I like on most days. It’s an achievement that I managed all that travel along with deadlines, demos and deliveries. At the end of 2016, I am still giving away six leaves to charity because I cannot carry them forward to 2017. So, everyone who has been asking me how I manage to get leaves to travel so often can get their facts straight and tell me how many of their leaves are going to lapse this year. I am sure there won’t be many.
One doesn’t really have to choose between the corporate world and travelling the world. Having the best of both is not a dream but a real-life possibility and I hope 2017 will be kind enough to me so I can continue the adventure my heart is set out to experience. I will enter 2017 with some blueprints in my mind, hoping to convert them into experiences of a lifetime. Until travels of the coming year unravel themselves, here is the year summary of 2016, which I am very proud of and a landmark 400th post on the blog!
January – The year 2016 began on a happy note with a weekend trip to Kanatal , Uttarakhand with one of my favourite travel buddies. This one was all about experiencing the raw, unadulterated beauty of village-life which pleasantly surprised me. Himalayas are nothing but sheer love and this sleepy old town tucked between valleys provided the much needed peace and quiet.
February unfolded with an extended weekend trip to Corbett National Park. It’s a pity I haven’t yet written about how the forest made sure I fall in love with it. Even though I didn’t get to see any animals except a pack of deer, a few groups of monkeys and langurs and some pretty birds, but then I feel that was because Corbett was still opening up to me. I was anyway too mesmerized by it’s beautiful waterfalls, crisscrossing dusty paths, sounds of birds and enchanting rivers. This trip also marked the beginning of another first for me. My new car finally got out of Delhi and saw the real India as we lost ways a couple of times in the heartland of Uttar Pradesh to reach Corbett.
March brought along my first ever snowfall as I went for a trek in the Himalayas. A trek to Nag Tibba in winters was an experience I still cannot put in words effectively. We had just begun the trek when a power game between the sun and the rain began. By the time we were half-way to the base camp, the sun had lost by an innings and rain made sure our shoes were all wet and our cameras packed inside waterproof bags. But then Himalayas never fail to surprise you. Day-2 was a dream come true, and I experienced a magical snowfall that changed the landscape to a thousand shades of white, which of course, all looked similar.
April was reserved for friends who cribbed I travel too much but only to places that are not their hometowns 😛 So, a visit to Hyderabad where a few of my best friends reside was meticulously planned for the Good Friday holiday. Three days are not enough to explore the city of pearls but then and Hyderabad is anyway way too special for me because of the people it is home to. If you are ever in town, don’t miss the Taj Falaknuma Palace and the Chowmahalla Palace that not many guide books will tell you about.
May came and along with it, another trip brewed again. This time, off I went to Kangra area of Himachal Pradesh, my plan spanning through the towns of Palampur, Baijnath, Bir and Billing. While Palampur is home to tea gardens and Baijnath is famous for it’s ancient Shiva temple, the twin towns of Bir and Billing are the paragliding hub of India and also host a Tibetan settlement and hence have some beautiful monasteries. Needless to say, I would not have come back without trying on wings and it was an out-of-the-world thing to do!
June brought the summer vacations for kids and yet another Himalayan getaway for me. A trip to Lansdowne with my college buddies was a bit of everything I could have wished for. Picture perfect views, unending conversations and two little munchkins made this one a trip to remember forever. We were doing this after a long time, and an adventure was sure to happen. As luck may have it, we didn’t pre-book and couldn’t find a hotel when we reached Lansdowne. After a lot of pleading and praying, a budget hotel agreed to host us all in a room that could accommodate all of us together. A blessing in disguise, this was the best thing about the trip to otherwise avoidable Lansdowne. Avoid this one during holidays and weekends if you don’t like the crowds.
July and monsoons brought a halt to my monthly visit to the Himalayas. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t going anywhere. A farm-stay in Punjab was a great idea and I executed this one along with a dear friend. We spent a couple of days at a farm in a village called Rail Majra. Even though this was off-season, we enjoyed a lot amidst the greens and loved the organic food they served.We clubbed a visit to Anandpur Sahib and Bhakra Nangal Dam which was on my wishlist for a long time! At the end – worth it!
August’s long weekend was reserved for Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry. This was also my first Airbnb experience in India and I absolutely loved it. Pondicherry is much more than what meets the eye in the first glance. From it’s rich history involving the French and the Tamil settlements, to the first ever school for girls in India, to beautiful, serene beaches to famous temples, this town will charm you and make you fall in love with it. Add to that it’s vicinity to Auroville, and you have a perfect vacation.
September was scheduled to be a very busy month, work-wise. So I planned it’s travel in advance and visited a quiant little Himalayan town called Hathipaon during the last weekend of August. This one is located near Mussoorie, and was on my mind since a long time. But, I am glad I did not club it with my previous visit to the queen of hills. Hathipaon is much more than a chai-break in the hills. It is a piece of paradise, tucked away from the hustle bustle of Mussoorie and a perfect getaway for offbeat travel lovers.
October was time for something big and it turned out to be better than I had ever imagined. A trip to Thailand spanning ten days, multiple stopovers and a lot of fun with one of my bestest friends – what else could I have asked for? This was a trip of a lifetime, so much so that it was better a dream. Too good to be true, but we lived it. It’s another fact that I cannot begin to write about it because I keep on staring at the pictures which are too pretty to be shared!
October also marked a trip to Bombay and Lonavala beyond Tiger Point(Lohegad Fort and Karla/Bhaja Caves.) Of course, I visited Mannat. <3 Here’s a little something from Lohegad Fort for now.
November was reserved for a trip to Varanasi to cover the festival of Dev Diwali. But then life had other plans. Instead, I was on a plane to Jakarta with Air Asia hosting it’s International Blogger’s Community at Jakarta. So, two new countries this year 😀 Jakarta cannot be summed up in a few lines, I hope I’ll be writing about this great city soon.
November also brought with it, the world famous cattle fair of Pushkar. I had to miss it last year, but I got lucky this time. Once again, I have a lot to say about Pushkar, but for now I will let this picture talk.
December came way too early. Maybe because I was having a lot of fun travelling all around and for the first time, living up to a new year resolution. And instead of Christmas cheer and holiday fun, December got me working weekends and late nights at work. But, that’s okay because I already concluded my travel calendar for 2016 with a trip to Agra to witness the Taj Balloon Festival in all it’s glory, from a hot-air-balloon.
Apart from these, a visit to a farm at Alwar, a day trip to Khurja and a few others also happened along with a few visits to the hometown. 2017 should be set aside to explore more of Kanpur and nearby areas, unravel the stories of my hometown which played an important role in the mutiny of 1857.
2016, You’ve been kind and I am a tad bit sad that you’re going. I’ve loved you as I’ve lived you. You know that I am not good with goodbyes, and I hope you understand that an abrupt end is inevitable, just like you’ll leave me wishing for more, in a couple of days…
Happy New Year, May 2017 be a happy and prosperous one too!