Tag Archives: travel stories

Homes away from home.

Home is where stories begin.

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Home is where we start dreaming. Home is where we are at peace. Home is where one can have warm food. Home is where one can laugh out loud. Home is where you can poop at ease.! definitely yes!

So when it comes to traveling, there is nothing better than finding home away from your own home. It sounds counter intuitive if you think. If you had to find a home somewhere far from your own, why would you want leave the one you already have? Adventure, my dear adventure. One cannot span the mountains and the oceans without an anchor ground, a place that makes you at ease with your surroundings. A place that gives you resting space, rejuvenates and charges you up so that you can carry on with your wanderlust. Such is a home away from home.

Enough romanticizing. What I want to talk about is the difference between staying at a hotel and a home stay.

I recently discovered the wonders of home stays and thought I would share it with everyone here.

For the uninitiated, home stays are places where you share your living space with a local person or a family instead of booking a hotel room. You may have to pay, may not have to pay. You might have to help the family with their chores in return of accommodation and meals.

What to expect from home stays?

They generally have  a local person or a family already living in that space. More often than not they entertain guests because they like it rather then the need for money. What it means is that one should be courteous and well mannered to your host. Stay away from communal and racist arguments. Avoid drunken house parties and brawl, unless the host is part of it, or at least okay with it.

Respect their privacy. Respect their property.

As opposed to staying at a hotel, where one can  pay for damages, here you might be damaging some ones house. House is a more sentimental possession to your host than a soulless hotel room to the company. So, not everything you break can be compensated with money. Take care of that.

Why I always try  to find a home stay before hotels wherever I go now?

Hotel rooms are like lifeless boxes. If you’re a solo traveler out to experience a place to its fullest, nothing can replace the warmth and expertise of a local host. Once you check in to a hotel room, no matter how plush, very soon you are left alone with the four walls and a ceiling to stare at. The clock ticks in silence and you can hear your heart beat to boredom.

Cut to a home stay. There will generally be a warm host waiting to welcome you. As soon you check in, you can meet your new local friend and start planning your day. Since the person has generally being staying there for long, he knows the secret nooks and crannies of the town that can add the local flavor to your stay .

You have the option of sharing a local home made meal with your host, which is impossible staying in a hotel room. We all know hotel menus and tastes always fail to replace home cooked food.

It’s a pleasure to see the town with a local. Your host may take pride in showing you his locality and with a smile would introduce you to his circle of people from the locality. Many a times it opens doors that are otherwise shut to everyday tourists.

There can be mutual exchange of knowledge, skills and culture. Like you can help your host setup a Facebook page. Or examine his sick relative. Or fix a little plumbing job for him, if you have the skills. At the same time you can tell stories of your folks from home and enjoy the stories of lives from your host’s place.

As opposed to surfing channels and internet in your hotel room, this is a much better trade off I say.

It is fun to stay in touch with them once you are back home. Unlike a hotel stay which is easily forgotten. You meet your home stay friends when they come to your city or you go there again.

Now, where to find hosts?

What I have tried is AirBnb.com and the app. Its the first name when it comes to booking a home stay. From a room in a house to a complete house to yourself, everything is listed. AirBnB is always paid and at times little expensive than budget hotel.

Next is Couchsurfing.com and the app. Staying for free is the norm here. It works on Facebook referrals and background checks. It works in your favor if you have also hosted some guests in the past, or at least have a verifiable Facebook account.

So, do check them out next time you are hitting the road. Cheers..!

 

 

 

Be like Apong.

We all see the world differently. A foodie remembers places based on how excited his tongue felt there. A history buff remembers places depending on its importance in the scheme of politics and civilization in the past. A visual artist remembers the colors of the streets, sun rise, sun sets, patterns and textures peculiar to a place.

Then there are beer lovers. They hardly remember anything, if at all. Their memory is patchy, filled with missing hours and events. Those missing events are generally way too embarrassing to be enquired about. They get excited by availability of cheap beer.

Just like each country has its own flag. Each region has its own cuisine. There is beer, which also defines the existence of a particular community.

Ziro, in Arunachal pradesh, India, is no different.

Their answer to the world of local beer is called, lo and behold, “Apong”

Apong is beer made from rice. It has short shelf life. It is made in almost every home. It is available as cheap Rs. 20 for one liter. It’s the drink of the masses.

Apong comes in various forms, depending on its  distillation and taste. The more expensive it gets, the more refined it is, and begins to look clearer, like wine and tastes sweeter.

Rice beer is not only a drink but an integral part of north eastern tribe culture. It is made by women mostly, and acts as an accepted ice breaker between men and women of the community. It is also a part of the marriage customs. Some also believe it to have medicinal properties.

Here is a quick run through on the process of Apong making.

  1. You need a starter ‘cake’. It is a collection of rice or other grains which is fermented to produce beer.
  2. Grains are ground with little water and then dried to make the cake.
  3. Then they are kept in an earthen pot.
  4. Then the ‘secret medicine’ or yeast is added to initiate fermentation and the earthen pot is closed.
  5. After 5 days water is filtered through the fermented cake, and what we get below is pure ‘Apong’
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Apaptani household woman preparing Apong.

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Apong collects in the white vessel underneath.

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Apong is traditionally served in bamboo glasses. Pic from google search.

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Beautiful Apatani house., where I learned about Apong.

cheers..!

 

 

 

Wandermates #3 – Happy encounter.

” A journey is measured in friends rather than miles” – Tim Cahill

This is an attempt to share all the interesting stories of people I’ve come across while on the road .

One at a time.

We often bump into  a lot of people everyday. Some interesting, some outright rude. Some cunning and some sweet as honey. Nevertheless, for a brief moment,  two lives intersect each other.

Generally while traveling we’re more receptive to strangers.

I like to chat with the locals and hear the tales of their  childhood. The fables of the land. The beliefs built by that human being over a lifetime.

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India sounds more violent and criminal on news channels than it really is. While I traveled to North East states of India, I realized that they are like any other states of the country. The people speak Hindi, are proud to call themselves Indians and expect a lot of positive support from the government.

As I met these army men, conversation invariably leads to actual situation of violence in the region. In Ziro, the army man said ” there is nothing more than mosquitoes to kill here at Ziro”. “Please when you go back to your metros, do spread the word that we in north east feel as much Indian as anyone of you and love our country proudly, the media be damned.”

That was quiet a revelation for me. And at such moments I feel the importance of leaving the confines of the news channel smothering you with sensational news for the advertisers and venture into the reality to see the world with your own eyes.

Mental note : 1. People from North East feel Indian and proudly so. 2. They are well aware of the current affairs in rest of the country. 3. They want more people to visit and discover North east India and realize that a violent and forgotten, backward and unsafe vision of north east is only a myth. 4. They love Bollywood.

 

Living root bridges.

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The living root bridges are one of its kind, wonders of nature. Found in the Indian state of Meghalya at many places. They are essentially rubber trees on both sides of a river or stream. The roots of trees on both the sides entangle among each other over the water and make a sketchy bridge over the river. Thats when the Khasi tribe folks come in. They tighten the structure and make them into usable bridges. These bridges can last for hundreds of years.

All said and done, they are a work of art created by man and nature. For city dwellers who are used to concrete jungle, this comes as a surprise. Its also astonishing to know that tree roots can be so strong and long lasting.

Their sight reminded me of scenes from Avatar the movie. The creatures of Pandora live amongst the trees and sleep on hammocks swinging between branches.

Of the many bridges scattered all over the jungles of the state, there’s one in particular deep in the heart of Sohra or Cherpunji. Its unique because there are two bridges one above the other, over crossing the stream. Aptly, the bridge is called a ‘Double Decker”living root  bridge.

The walk to the Double Decker root bridge is long and patience-testing. But to make it all worth wile, I would strongly suggest anyone to stay a night at the homestays in village near the bridge. Living deep in the jungle is a rejuvenating experience not to be missed. The homestays are neat and clean. Pocket friendly. Food is basic but tasty. There’s elcetricity most of the time. Also one gets a chance to interact with the locals.

There is also a wonderful waterfall further from the Double Decker root bridges that must not be missed. Just pray for clear sunlight and the Rainbow waterfalls will certainly be a memory of a lifetime.

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Mawlynnong root bridge.

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Way to the bridge, Mawlynnong.

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Mawlynnong, Asias cleanest village.

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Reward after the walk.!

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Way to Double Decker root bridge.

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Khasi tribe woman.

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Cheers, from the bonfire night, Byron’s homestay, Double root bridges, Sohra.

 

“kutte fail ho gaye”

August 21, 2016 73302 PM GMT+0530

You pick up strange words and phrases as you travel from one place to the other. Asia, and India in specific has abundance of languages, dialects and words.

Here is one such phrase I learnt while traveling up north and it got stuck with me:

“Kutte fail ho gaye”. I laughed my guts out hearing that for the first time.

before you roll your eyes or laugh, it is a real phrase. I’m not making this up. It means to loose senses beyond ones control. For example getting drunk, or being overly excited and happy, ecstatic, over joyous.

like : ” aaj toh bahu daaru pe li bhai ne, aaj toh kutte fail ho gaye”

The phrase literally refers to bicycle brakes failing. Bicycle brakes make this screeching sound, hence sometimes referred to as “kutte” or dogs.

So now you know a new word. Go out, let your dogs fail you, ha ha .

 

Wandermates #1 – Steve Young.

” A journey is measured in friends rather than miles” – Tim Cahill

This is an attempt to share all the interesting stories of people I’ve come across while on the road .

One at a time.

We often bump into  a lot of people everyday. Some interesting, some outright rude. Some cunning and some sweet as honey. Nevertheless, for a brief moment,  two lives intersect each other.

Generally while traveling we’re more receptive to strangers.

I like to chat with the locals and hear the tales of their  childhood. The fables of the land. The beliefs built by that human being over a lifetime.

Meet Steve Young. This gentleman from New Zealand was traveling bare feet.! I was flabbergasted as a layman and intrigued as a doctor. Upon enquiry he told he’s a farmer and has been living bare feet since many years. Except winters when it’s impossible to do so. His philosophy is that he likes to feel one with the earth. He wants to feel the vibrations and wants the magnetic field of earth to pass through him. Shoes act as an insulation.
His feet were calloused with years of exposure. I forgot to click his feet. Besides, I have no way to send him this picture. Hope the world wide web comes to the rescue.

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