Love Sushi and Dimsums? Head to Yum Yum Tree!

You either love sushi or you don’t. There are no grey areas here. And the ones, who do, literally salivate by the mere mention. Count us in this category. After trying many places, we finally managed to locate Yum Yum Tree, which offers an assortment of Sushi’s at a very economical price.  But that’s not all; the pan Asian restaurant also serves contemporary Chinese, dim sums, Japanese rolls and fragrant Thai.
 
 
While the À la carte has a wide variety of dishes to chose from, being sushi fans, we have particularly relished their buffet service. The buffet is priced at INR 1299++ with unlimited alcoholic beverages like mojitos, martini or beer and INR 1199++ with non-alcoholic beverages like fresh lime soda, jasmine team or choice of soft drinks. These options are available only during lunch hours from Monday to Saturday and during dining hours on Tuesday and Thursday. The opening hours of the restaurant are from 12 noon to 3:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 12 midnight through the week. Now you must be wondering if the buffet option is available on Sunday or not? Don’t be disheartened, the Sunday brunch (12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.) offers the same buffet at INR 1999++ with alcohol and INR 1699++ without alcohol. If you would want to club the buffet with unlimited Chandon Sparkling Wine, then the package sets you back by INR 2199++.
 
 
 We have been to the place over a weekday, as well as weekend and have noticed the place getting packed by 1:30 p.m. Hence it is advisable to book a seat in advance if you are planning to visit. Spread over 10,000 sq. ft. on a single floor, the restaurant has a dining area, a grill room and a bar. It is located at the Community Centre, NewFriends Colony near Surya Hotel. The surrounding location is not the finest and gives you a feel of a street market. Parking is available outside the community centre. The entrance is at the ground floor and a flight of stairs take you to the restaurant on the first floor. There are no elevators, in case you are going there with elder members in the family. The entrance on the first floor is the meeting point of the three key areas – Dining Area on the right, The Grill on the left with a conveyor belt and The Bar. The ambience is pleasant with modern baroque patterning.
 
From Left: Tokyo Spicy Tuna Roll, California Roll, Salmon Uramaki with Cream Cheese, Prawn Tempura Roll
Once you have taken a seat, the menu option will be available for you to mark your choices spread between vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The variety is really excellent. From the buffet, you can select soup in starters, followed by 6 varieties of dim sums and sushi including 3 veg and 3 non-veg options for each. In main course you can select a noodle / rice bowl with your choice of gravy and pick a desert from a variety of 4 options listen in the menu. Beverage option depends on your choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic buffet.
 
 
If you are a sushi fan, you must consider taking a table in the grill area where you have the option of a conveyor belt. Not only does the belt save the time and but also saves you from the trouble of repeating the order again. But you must remember that the conveyor belt only serves the Sushi and for dim sums and other dishes, you will have to rely on the waiter. Our favourite is the Prawn Tempura Roll followed by the traditional California Roll. The Tokyo Spicy Tuna Roll comes a close 3rdfollowed by Salmon Uramaki with Cream Cheese. The dim sums are one of the finest we have had so far and are served steaming hot in the traditional box made from bamboo. You must try Crystal Duck dumplings, Prawn Har Gao and Chicken dumplings
 
From Left: Prawn Har Gao, Crystal Duck Dumpling
The drink options are good for accompanying the meal and we generally relish the unlimited Mojitos and Summertime Martinis from the menu. Last but not the least – the desserts. You must try the Crème Brûlée and the Belgian Chocolate Cheesecake. You only wish that this part of your meal was also unlimited, but you will be able to control your calrie count as the portions are small but sufficient to tantalise your palates as you end your lazy afternoon meal.
Creme Brulee and Rocky Road Ice-cream
The service is pretty decent; the staff very courteous and friendly. This is a place you can only enjoy if you are in a mood to sit back and relish your favourite cuisine on a lazy afternoon. We have never been to this restaurant during dinner hours. Before calling for the bill, do cheque if they have offers on specific credit cards. We had an on-going offer on Citibank credit card where we got 15% off on the total bill. Yum Yum Tree is one of the only places where we walk in with our eyes closed and have never been disappointed.
 
 
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to mail us at info.nameplaceanimalthing@gmail.com

Eat, Pray, Love! A weekend getaway to Amritsar

What is the first thing you do when you get your holiday calendar at the beginning of the year? Look for the long weekends which give you an opportunity to plan a quick trip without taking too many days off at work. Exactly the reason why we thought 2nd October weekend would be an ideal bet to explore the city of Amritsar.
Home to Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple), Amritsar is considered as the spiritual centre for the Sikh religion. The distance between Delhi and Amritsar via road is around 462 kms and there are couple of route options that you can explore for the journey:
  1. New Delhi – Rohtak – Sangrur – Moga – Amritsar – approx. 461 km (7.5 hrs)
  2. New Delhi – Sonepat – Panipat – Ambala – Ludhiana – Phagwara – Jalandhar – Amritsar – approx. 464 kms (8.25 hrs)
  3. New Delhi – Sonepat – Ambala – Chandigarh – Ludhiana – Jalandhar – Amritsar – approx. 500 kms (9 hrs)
The real time on road would be much longer than the indicated time above keeping into account the traffic, number of breaks etc. Planning a road trip would have meant that we spend considerable time driving and maybe add another day to the trip if we decide to make a pit stop. Hence we chose the option of taking the train instead. While there are couple of trains plying between the two points, the most convenient is New Delhi Amritsar Swarna Shatabdi (12029) which departs from New Delhi Railway Station (Platform No.1) at 7:20 a.m. and reaches Amritsar at 1:40 p.m. the same day. The tickets cost approx. INR 785 / person inclusive of service charge. Personally we found the seating chair arrangement for a 6 hour journey early morning not that comfortable. Considering that you would be waking up much earlier to make it to the station on time, you would want to catch up on your sleep during the journey to start afresh after reaching Amritsar around lunch time. But the train no doubt offers good service and the staff is courteous. Morning team along with bottled water and breakfast are complimentary. You will have the choice to select from veg and non-veg options.

We decided to pick a hotel on Queen’s Road which was 5 minutes from the station and also made most of destinations on our list accessible. Most of the places we wanted to visit were within the radius of max 5kms. We checked into the hotel, dumped our luggage, took a shower and headed out for lunch. Hailing a tuk tuk for a ride is quite convenient and since the distance of most destinations was within the 5 km radius, we ended up shelling INR 100 for most of our rides. We had been saving our appetite for a wholesome lunch and decided to head straight to Makhan Fish and Chicken Corner on Majitha Road. Renowned for its Amritsari Fish and Keema Nan, the restaurant has an air conditioned seating area on the first level we treated our taste buds to exactly what Makhan is famous for. Less than 200 mtrs ahead is another restaurant Beera Chicken Corner which at one point was considered as the hot spot but recently has been losing out on its fan following. We also learnt that within a certain radius of Golden Temple, you will not find any outlet which serves non vegetarian food. Respecting this religious sentiment, even McDonald’sopened its first ever only vegetarian restaurant next to Golden Temple.

 

While listing down the things to do in Amritsar, we learnt about a Amritsar Heritage Walk supported by Punjab Heritage and Tourism Promotion Board. We couldn’t think of a better way to discover the holy city than learning about its rich heritage. The walk is organised once daily (From March to November) and twice a day (December to February) for 6 days a week except on Saturday. Since we were in the city only for Friday and Saturday, we decided to schedule this on Friday. We had called up the tour guide, Mr. Davinder Singh a day prior to book our slot. The walks are organised free of cost and it is upto your individual consideration on the amount you would like to offer him towards the end based on your experience.
The Heritage Walk begins from Town Hall and the meeting point is Bade Bhai ka Brother’s Dhaba. This restaurant is also known for its Vegetarian Punjabi Thali. I must admit that Mr. Davinder is quite a humble gentleman and is quite passionate about this initiative. The entire route is approx. 1.5 – 2 kms and takes anywhere between 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on how much time you would like to spend at every stage. The entire trail covers 11 key spots while there are additional 3 spots which are optional. Our walk that day comprised only of two groups including us with a total of 6 people. We began our walk from Gurudwara Santokhsar at 5:00 p.m. where we spent considerable time getting a download on the history of Amritsar and also the inception of Sikhism. Walking through narrow lanes, the tour gives transcends you back into the era when every intricate carving and design meant something significant. Since each one of us in the group had done our part of reading about the history before walking in, we had enough set of curious questions and this made the entire experience more interactive. For anyone who would like to go beyond the tourist spots and eating joints, absolutely must sign up for this Heritage Walk. We ended the walk at Golden Temple at around 7:30 p.m. over a cup of tea at a local stall.

 

You can download the route map below for reference:

 

The tour schedule as of October 2014 is as follows:

 March to November – Morning 8:00 a.m. (Mon, Wed, Thur, Fri), Evening 5:00 p.m. (Tues, Sun)
December to February – Morning 9:00 a.m., Evening 4:00 p.m.
You can reach out to Mr. Davinderat 9988503458 or email him at davinderguide.phtpb@hotmail.com. You can also visit their website www.heritagewalk.webs.com for more details.
 Now that the sun had set, the temperature had come down and we were looking forward to our first visit together to Golden Temple. We entered the temple from Chourasti Atari and found this less crowded compared to Chowk Ghanta Ghar Side. There is a shoe storeright at the entrance which is manned by volunteers. You are given a token against the footwear you deposit. There are saffron coloured scarves kept alongside as one needs to cover their head as a sign of respect while entering the holy temple premise. You can pick one (not chargeable) if you are not carrying a handkerchief and return it on your way back. There is a washroom and hand washing station next to the shoe store as well. On entering, we could see Sri Akal Takht Sahib in front and there was a long queue on our left leading to Sri Harimandir Sahib. Photography is permitted inside the premise but not inside the temple. Keep an eye on the instructions at appropriate points. It took us more than an hour in the queue before we could pay our tribute to Sri Guru Granth Sahib. There are rugs laid outside the main premise and you can sit there for some time while the prayers are ongoing. The beauty of the holy temple and the soothing Gurgbani Kirtan playing in the backdrop is very soothing and makes the entire experience very divine.

We spent some time sitting on the white marble surface surrounding the sarovar (pond). The reflection of Sri Haramnid Sahib in the pond was serene and batches of dark scaled fishes often surfaced up to gasp some fresh air.

By the time we stepped out from Golden Temple Road, most of the local Dhabas had shut down. But we were lucky enough to relish some Kulfi at a local stall just before Jalianwalla Bagh. Since even the a 2.5 hour heritage walk could not help us in digesting the loaded lunch at Makhan, we decided to grab a snack and head back to the hotel for calling it day.
 The next morning, we decided to visit Golden Temple again as we wanted to witness the beauty during the day time as well. But prior to that, we decided to take a detour and relish some Kesar Lassi for breakfast at Ahuja Milk Bhandar, Dhab Khaitan, Near Hindu Mahasabha College. The joint was not very crowded and the empty stomach loved every bit of the thick lassi till the glass was completely empty. But I could do this successfully only after removing the layer of butter on the top. For someone who can finish the creamy lassi in Sakora (Jumbo Clay Cup) back in Jaipur, this was a cake walk … burrp!

By the time we reached Golden Temple Road, we were appalled by the rush on the road and it looked nothing less than a kumbh mela. With the temperatures soaring high, no place to walk, honking vehicles and impatient people the entire experience turned into a nightmare more than a vacation. Probably this was a flipside of visiting a destination like Amritsar over a long weekend. Some of the locals we spoke shared the same sentiments. Jallianwala Bagh is just 400 meters before Golden Temple and we decided to explore it before proceeding ahead. This memorial commemorates hundreds of unarmed and defenceless Indians who were on the receiving end of the open fire ordered by General O’Dyerwithout prior warning on April 13, 1919. The day which otherwise is celebrated as Baisakhi, one of Punjab’s biggest religious festivals. While some of them were shot dead, others rushed and jumped into the only well in the premise which is now marked as Martyr’s well. The bullet marks on one end of the park wall are still visible and have been preserved. The park was extremely crowded and apparently was restored in a way that it completely took away the raw which existed look some years back and gave you a more realistic picture of how it would have been when the incident took place.

 

 

Looking at the crowd we decided to skip our plans to visit the temple in the maddening rush. We ended up meeting one of our friends who had made an attempt to visit Wagah Border the previous evening. To our surprise, despite the fact that they had left early to ensure a good spot for a perfect view of the ceremony, they had to take a u-turn after witnessing the massive turnout. The lowering of flags ceremony, also known as The Beating Retreat, is a military practice followed by India’s Border Security Force and Pakistan Rangers since 1959. The true worth of this ceremony can only be relished if you have a seat at the right spot where the ceremony is clearly visible and not towards the far end. Keeping all of it into account, we recalibrated our plans and preferred spending the evening at Golden Temple and explore places around instead of rushing to Wagah. The journey to Wagah is approx. an hour long and costs anywhere between INR 800 – 1000 in tuk tuk. But you would rather book yourself a more comfortable cab keeping into account the harsh heat and distance to be covered. You will find a lot of cab drivers on Golden Temple Road trying to get passengers for the ride, but if you are hiring a cab it is advisable to do so from a trusted source. You can leave for the destination at around 1:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. and can be back in the city around 7:30 p.m.
We decided to have the famous Chola Kulcha for lunch at Kulwant Singh Kulche Wale, a local dhabba outside Golden Temple. This place was completely packed it took us almost 40 mins to get our order of sumptuous Paneer Kulcha’s with cholley. While none of these local joints will look very appealing and organised, you can be assured that the food they serve will completely knock you down.
In the evening, we headed back to Golden Temple at around 5 p.m. and this time to explore the entire Temple premise in daylight. Before stepping into the premise, we gave our taste buds another round of Kulfi outside the premise on Golden Temple Road. The light was also perfect for capturing the holy temple on camera. Visiting Golden Temple and not visiting the Guru ka Langar was not something we intended to do. The tradition of serving langar was initiated by Guru Nanak Dev Ji and later established by the 3rd Guru Sri Guru Amar Dass Ji. The kitchen on an average feeds 75,000 devotees daily irrespective of the cast or creed and this number doubles on special occasions. Each week individuals and families volunteer to prepare and provide langar. Right from cooking to washing is done by volunteers termed as Sewadars. The meal is very simple and during our turn comprised of Dal, Roti and Kheer. I found the drinking water machine quite interesting. All one had to was roll is along the queue and place the nozzle above the water bowl. It was overwhelming to see the scale of operations and also the generosity of volunteers to keep this running 24×7.
Before heading out for dinner, we decided to go back to one of the points from the heritage walks the previous evening. Jalebiwala Chowk is where we saw people in large numbers queuing outside the local shop Gurdas Ram Jalebi Wale. This time we were lucky to skip the rush to enjoy the crispy and sweet jalebis in this part of the old city.
Ending our tryst with Amritsar, we headed to Beera Chicken Corner for our dinner. Honestly the ambience of this place was not that great at all. However, we saw that they were building up a better facility on first level. However the Amritsari Fish here was good, but the stuffed naan was nowhere close to what we had at Makhan.
We had planned our return journey by Amritsar Kochuveli Superfast Express (12484). It departs from platform no. 2 at 5:55 a.m. and reaches New Delhi Railway Station on platform no.3 at 1:20 p.m. We paid INR 755 / person for 3rd A/C coach and this time around were able to comfortable cover up for our sleep through the journey.
TIPS:
  • To relish every bit of the city, it is ideal to plan a trip during winters. End of November to end of January, unless you are ok with the heat and sweat
  • You can time your visit to Golden Temple to witness some of the key ceremonies. To know more about the schedule across the year, click here
  • Avoid long weekends as there are higher chances of the city and key tourist destinations getting over crowded
  • Try to book the train journey’s in advance to ensure a confirmed booking
  • For the Amritsar Heritage Tour, ensure that you confirm and book your spot in advance. You can also get some guidance on shopping destinations and eating joints from Mr. Davinder
  • Ensure you follow the dress code – avoid Bermudas, Short Skirts/Short Pants. In short, keep yourself covered from shoulders to knees and also cover your head with a scarf or handkerchief.
We had left from Delhi on Friday morning and returned by Sunday noon – in short a 54 hour trip. In our next post we will list down the places to eat which you can explore across the city. Keeping the amount of time we had, we still have a few places unchecked on our list. There are additional places which can be covered during a weekend trip which we shall include in the post as well.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to mail us at info.nameplaceanimalthing@gmail.com

Leh in July-August. Things you must know

Trip to Leh can be planned best by deciding the number of days you have at hand. It will be crucial to determine whether you have an option of a road trip or not.
Anything below 10 days will make your road trip experience quite hectic. The two routes that bikers generally take for the road trip to Leh are either via Manali (490 kms) or via Srinagar (440 kms).
Via Manali
June to mid-October is the time when the highway between Manali and Leh is open and advisable for commuting. The distance in Himachal Pradesh between Manali and Sarchu is 230 km and the distance in Leh region from Sarchu to Leh is 260 km. The journey will take two days and the first timers can take a pit stop at Keylong. On the journey to Leh, you will cross Rohtang Pass, Jispa, Baralacha La, Lachulung La and Karu.
Manali to Leh
Via Srinagar (National Highway 1D)
While talking to our driver in Leh, he told us about a bridge on the Manali route getting damaged. As a result of which, riders and other commuters were stuck for more than 2 days while the army came in to rescue and restored the route. He also advised that one should also consider the road trip from Srinagar as the road is much better.
The route is generally open for commuting between May and late October (depending on the weather). It’s a 2 day journey with a pit stop at Kargil, where there are enough and more hotels and guest houses to stay. Petrol availability on the Srinagar – Leh highway is way better than on the Manali – Leh highway. On the journey to Leh, you will cross Sonmarg, Drass, Kargil and Lamayuru.
Srinagar to Leh – ignore the estimated time for the journey in the image above
Petrol availability on the Srinagar – Leh highway is much better compared to Manali – Leh highway. However, advisable to keep a backup and carry enough petrol for the road. Mobile network on the highways is not that great. The reception would be better around Srinagar and Manali, but will seldom be weak on other spots, but some of the places will have pay phone available. Before embarking on the journey, if you are riding your motorbike, ensure you check on the availability of mechanics in case of a breakdown.
If you are taking a flight to Leh, ensure that you book early to get a good deal. The only operators flying to Leh as of now are Jet Airways, Jet Konnect, Go Air and Air India. Be it a direct or hop-over, you will land at Kushok Bakula Rimpochhe Airport in Leh before lunchtime. Ensure you are carrying your passport ID with you. No flights ply to and from the airport in Leh post lunchtime.
The areal view of the snow clad peaks is mesmerizing and you can get a good view if you have pre-booked a window seat or if you want to take your chances, reach the Airport early for check in. If your window seat is between 10 and 22, you might have to make some adjustments to exclude the wings from your frame. Once your flight is about to land, you will not be permitted to take any pictures owing to security reasons (it is an army base). The airport has a pre-paid taxi counter from where you can take a ride to your hotel. It would cost you anywhere between INR 250 to INR 350 if you are living near the Leh market.
Arial View of the Mountain ranges
Leh has a cold desert climate with long and harsh winters from October to early March. Average temperate in Leh:
JUNE – 27 to 30 degrees
JULY – 30 to 33 degrees
AUG – 33 to 28 degrees
SEP – around 28 degree towards the beginning, but starts dropping to single digits by end of the month
We traveled to Leh between August 11th to 19th and based on the temperatures then, you can pretty much pack for a summer destination and throw in a sweatshirt for the evenings / night. The only time we required something really warm was Khardunga La pass for few minutes and then at Pangong Lake (you definitely need a warm jacket here). Carry some sunscreen and a cream to moisturize your skin if it is sensitive.
You would be moving to an altitude over 10,000 feet (Leh is at 11,562 feet) within a span of few hours and if this is your first trip to a high altitude, you do not know how your body will react to the lack of oxygen. AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is common at high altitudes over 10,000 feet as Oxygen in the air reduces by roughly 40% at such heights. Some of the early symptoms of AMS are headache, breathlessness and you will feel dizzy.
Hence it is strictly advised that you do not exert your body on the day you land in Leh and rest through the day. It is also good to consumer enough water to stay hydrated and liquor is an absolute no.
As we gain elevation we may not initially realize that we have less oxygen around us, but our bodies do. Source: www.yourhikeguide.com
There are some medicines which we are listing down, based on the various health issues our group experienced during the journey. And some of the medicines were prescribed by our doctor just in case we face any such issue. But of course, consult your doctor before carrying these along in case you have certain allergies.
  1. AMS – It is advisable to start taking the dose of Tab Diamox (1-1) for a week before you travel. It does not show the desired results if taken after you start showing symptoms of AMS. If you haven’t consumed Diamox and have an acute case of AMS, you might be required to take an injection of Dexamethasone 3 amp
  2. For loose motions – Tab Dependal M. If this does not help, you can take Cap. Imodium 2mg
  3. Asthama attack owing to acute cold – Inhaler Levolin
  4. For acidity or nausea – Cap. Razo D
  5. For allergy / reactions – Tab. Allegra 180 mg
  6. For motion sickness – Have a tab of Avomin 45-60 mins before you begin your journey
  7. For food poisoning – Tab. Norflox TZ. Some people are allergic to it and you can look at Tab. Norflox 400 as an alternate
  8. Carry some good old orange candies that you picked from the local kirana store as a kid. These really help in fighting the weird taste in your mouth when you feel like throwing up during the road trips
  9. Carry a bottle of Dettol sanitiser and few band aids
Flavoured candies that you can pick from a local kirana store
Leh was earlier the capital of the Himalayan Kingdom of Ladakh and now is a district of Jammu and Kashmir. With an area of 45,110 sqkm, Leh is the second largest district in India after Kutch in Gujarat.  In the ancient times, Leh was an important stopover on trade routes along the Indus Valley between Tibet to the east, Kashmir to the west and also between India and China for centuries. The main goods carried were salt, grain, pashm or cashmere wool, charas or cannabis resin from the Tarim Basin, indigo, silk yarn and Banaras brocade.
View from the room
Leh is an extremely safe place for tourists, especially women. The residents in general are warm, honest and helpful. You will have stay options ranging from dormitories to hotels and guest houses, depending on your budget. Throughout our stay in Leh we stayed at Oriental Hotel, which is right next to Shanti Stupa and merely 15-20 mins walk from the market. Operating since 1987, it is now run by the second generation of the family. Their hotel is divided into three blocks based on the category of rooms and tariff. Building “A” has economic accommodations with shared bathrooms for budget travellers. For medium price-range budget, you have Building “B” with private bathrooms. Finally there recently constructed Building “C” has deluxe accommodations, in which each room has its own en-suite bathroom with shower and toilet. They have a small garden where they grow fresh vegetables, also used for cooking and serving at their dining area. They have tables set-up even in the garden for people who prefer outdoors. The menu here is vegetarian but they also serve egg in breakfast. You can choose your meal from Ladhaki, Chinese, Western and Indian cuisines – right from baked beans and chole bhature to Ladakhi roti. Heating and water are run by our eco-friendly solar systems in the premise.
Each room is provided with heater, except block C, where heating is centralised.  Laundry service and landline STD/ISD calling facility is also available. They also have a small library next to the reception and offer paid access to wi-fi at a very nominal price of only INR 20 (valid for 24hrs). The location is extremely peaceful, staff very warm and helpful and our friends have always preferred to stay here on their previous 5 trips to Leh.
Dining Area
Outdoor seating
The hotel also runs additional service, Oriental Treks and Tours, offering several tour trekking packages as well as custom treks, to places of scenic, cultural and natural beauty. They take care of permits and paperwork as well. Oriental Hotel is located 2 kms from the airport and roughly takes 10 mins on wheel. A 10-15 min walk will lead you to the market and give you access to café’s, restaurants, utility shops, travel agents, vehicle rentals etc.
One of the blocks of Oriental Hotel with Shanti Stupa in the backdrop
We ventured into the market late evening to explore the place and also figure out a few travel agents to organise our travel for the next few days. After a relaxed dinner around bon-fire, we retired to bed for the day.
To read more about our itinery for 8-9 days in Leh click HERE
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to mail us at info.nameplaceanimalthing@gmail.com 

Exploring Ladakh in 8-9 days

While growing up, there were numerous images that I came across of snow clad peaks as a reference point for mountains. But only when I got my hands on “Tintin in Tibet” that I grew fond of the Himalayas. Away from conventional villains and car chases, this adventure takes Tintin into the heart of Himalayas on a wild goose chase of his friend Chang. Characters like Sherpa, Monks and adaptations of the Buddhist culture through the Monasteries, Prayer Flags and Stupas added another degree of fascination.
Ever since I learnt about Royal Enfield groups heading to Ladakh on road trips, I became extremely excited to put this destination on my bucket list. However, there was no way that I could convince my folks back in school to let me do this. For the last 4 years, me and my wife have been planning a trip to Ladakh between June and August. But this year, thanks to our friends, we finally managed to make this trip. Since we dint have the liberty to take a longer break, we decided not to look at a road trip and rather take a flight straight to Leh. Leh was once a capital of kingdom of Ladakh, but now it is a district in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
One thing you must have heard from everyone is acclimatisation to higher altitude. Especially when you are taking a flight to Leh, within a span of few hours your system moves to an altitude of approx. 11,500 feet and is susceptible to altitude sickness; also known as acute mountain sickness (ams). You can refer to the list of medicines you must carry in your medical kit during a trip to Ladakh. Here is our itinerary panned out during the 9 day vacation and what I have covered is a basic overview of activities day-wise. More details about what you must bear in mind are covered in separate articles which will eventually be hyperlinked to relevant sections. Stay tuned for more
Ariel view of mountain peaks
Day 1 – Take an early morning flight to Leh. Ensure you pre-book a window seat to enjoy the view of the mountain peaks and valleys before the flight lands. Kushok Bakula Rimpochhe Airport is a pretty small airport and is just 10 mins away from Leh market. You can take a pre-paid taxi from a counter at the airport which is readily available. It costed us INR 250 for a ride to Oriental Hotel. Spend the day resting and avoid any physically stressful activity. There is a strong chance that you can easily get dehydrated and it is advisable to regularly have sufficient amount of water to stay hydrated. If you have plans of having a liquor party, please put it at bay for Day 1 and 2 atleast. In evening, you can take an easy walk down to the market to explore some of the eateries and also speak to a few travel agents for planning your trips ahead.
Lamayuru Monastery
Day 2 – You can look at planning an easy trip to places around Leh. We had headed out to visit Lamayuru Monastery in Kargil district at approx. the same altitude as Leh. The 11th century monastery is known to most for their annual masked dance festival. It takes approx. 3 hours to cover the distance of 74km. On the way, you can also stopover to view the sangam point of Indus and Zanskar river, moon land and also at the magnetic hill where you can witness your vehicle tread uphill without even stepping the accelerator. At the monastery, you can ideally spend 45 mins to an hour. On the way back you can also take a detour and visit Alchi Monastey, which is almost a century older than Lamayuru. You can add another 1.5 to 2 hours to your journey if you plan to visit Alchi.
Day 3 – We were extremely excited for this day as we had planned for a rafting trip in Zanskar. It is the same river, which forms the frozen base for the gruelling Chaddar Trek during winters. The tour operator picked us up at 8:00 am from our hotel and we began our 66 km trip to Chilling, the starting point of the rafting stretch. The stretch of 30 kms between Chilling and Nimu (meeting point of Indus and Zanskar) comprises of grade 3/4 rapids and takes almost 3 hours to complete. This leg of the adventure trip will surely require you to be attentive and dispel a lot of energy to cruise past through some tough rapids. On the way back, we visited Hall of Fame Museum at Leh which briefly gives you a view into the cultural heritage of Ladakh and largely pays a tribute to the brave soldiers who displayed true valour on duty.
Day 4 – This was the day we aimed to head to Nubra Valley. However, owing the food poisoning the previous night, we had to take a tough call. We couldn’t let the plan of the entire group dampen and we decided to stay back for medical help and recovering. Again, some medical advise helped in recovery and we were set to leave early morning the next day.
Nubra Valley
Day 5 – In order to beat the traffic and stay clear of the military convoy, we left early morning to cover the long journey to Nubra Valley. Almost 150 kms from Leh, Nubra is a high altitude desert at 10,000 ft. On the way, you cross the high mountain pass Khardung La which claims to be the world’s highest motorable pass at 18,379 feet. The way beyond the pass is beautiful but takes a lot of steep turns to get your motion sickness meter up. It took us 4.5 hours to reach Nubra. We decided to meet the group at Hundar for the Camel Safari, however, owing to silly confusion and zero network connectivity we missed each other by a whisker. There was a strong sand storm brewing up and we barely managed to get a camel ride with our eyes closed and consuming almost a few grams of sand. Diskit is the capital of Nubra and is also the home of the oldest and largest Buddhist Monastery. We skipped this, and headed straight to our camp Mystic Meadows in Sumur. On the way we also reunited with our group in the most unexpected locations. We had the option of going for the hot springs, which our friends had covered the previous evening, but after a long day we decided to spend the remaining time at ease over dinner, card games and conversations.
Day 6 – Today we head back to Leh and since we left early, we managed to beat the traffic. This time around as we were approaching Khardung La pass, we experienced snowfall for the first time in our lives. The view got prettier with every rising feet. This time around we stopped over for some mint tea before proceeding ahead. Checked in back into our hotel and then in the evening ventured out to explore the local market. Sealed the day with dinner at Il Forno on Zangsti road with some thin crust pizzas.
Spotting Marmots on the way to Pangon Tso Lake
Day 7 – Finally we are heading towards the last leg of our journey. Considering the number of beautiful pictures we had seen of Pangong Lake, we were super excited to finally see it for real. The first view of the deep blue water between the hills was breath-taking.  Pangong Tso is at an altitude of 14, 270 feet and around 170 kms from Leh. Extending upto 134 kms between India and China, 60% of the lake lies in Tibet. On the way we crossed Chang La pass, but decided not to stop over as we were stuck in a convoy of trucks. We stopped over at the point where Marmots are spotted. But with a lot of people around us who unnecessary stressed them out, the Marmots were not too comfortable staying out of their burrows for too long. After relishing the beauty of the lake and meeting the cute rodents, we headed over to our camp. There are quite a number of operators who have their camps adjacent to each other. The temperature here was definitely freezing and the cold winds made it more severe.
Panoramic View of Pangong Tso Lake
Day 8 – The plan was to wake up early morning to witness the sunrise. However, since the hills obstruct the view of the horizon, what we could witness was the changing colour of the peaks around Pangong Tso lake. After grabbing our breakfast, we headed back to Leh. This time we managed to spend some quality time with the Marmots as they also seemed to be in a relaxed state. Later in the journey, we decided to stop over at Chang La pass (17,590 feet) to pay a visit to the Changa La baba temple and relish some Maggie with mint tea. Though this was the 4th consecutive day we were traveling on road for atleast 4 hours, we also knew that this was the end of our journey to Ladakh. In the evening, we explored the market, grabbed our dinner and retired to bed.
Day 9 – With a heavy heart, we headed to the airport for our flight back to Delhi tucked in with memories to cherish for a lifetime. Until we return for more…

If you have any questions, dont hesitate to mail us at info.nameplaceanimalthing@gmail.com 

Railay Beach – A peaceful getaway from Krabi Town

Railay is a small peninsula located between the city of Krabi and Ao Nang with a beautiful beach, named as Railay Beach. There are high limestone cliffs which block the access from mainland; hence one has to take a ferry to this location. Railay is divided into East Railay, West Railay, Pranang and Tonsai. Tonsai section is the hub for climbers and attracts rock climbers from all over the world.
West Railay Beach (landing point for speedboats)

West Railay Beach (landing point for speedboats)

Living in Ao Nang gives you the options to explore numerous beautiful locations in the vicinity and Railay Beach is a must visit! Apart from rock climbing, Railay Beach also offers you the option to hire a kayak on an hourly basis. There are various spots for snorkeling as well. There are also some good restaurants to eat and resorts to stay in Railay – from bungalows and medium-priced resorts in East Railay to a collection of five-star resorts focused on West Railay.
Pranang Cave
To reach Railay Beach, you can take a speedboat from Noppharat Thara beach which ply at an hourly frequency. They will charge you a mere THB 100 per head for the 20-30 minute journey one side. But the operators only take off when they have around 8-10 customers, hence it is advisable to plan the journey in the morning to avoid waiting for a group to be formed. Also for your return, do check the timing for the last speedboat beforehand.
Quick Map
Promenade at West Railay
The speedboat drops you at West Railay, which has a short promenade with shops and restaurants. There are operators which can help you with Kayaking in West Railay and Rock climbing in East. We did not have prior experience of Rock climbing and also were there for a short period, hence decided to indulge into the familiar territory – Kayaking. You can hire one for THB 200 per hour and explore the rock and coastline nearby. They will offer you a space at their shop to keep your belongings, but it is advisable if you have your own water bag which you can carry along during Kayaking.
Kayaking around Railay
West Railay is quite crowded because it is also the point where ferries plying from Phuket to Ao Nang and the island tours stop by. If you want a quitter place, then you must head to Pranang. There is walking path from Railay Bay Resort which leads you towards east. From there you can walk along Rajavadee resort to reach Pranang caves and beach. It is an approximately 20 mins walk.
The sea bed on the beach has a steep decline. Within a few meters you will actually feel like swimming in nearly open water. If your returning back in the evening, owing to low tide your speedboat might have to half much before hitting the Noppharat Thara Beach. If you have around 4-5 hours during the day, you must plan this visit to Railay and probably after the swim and kayaking, your body will enjoy the massage back in Ao Nang before retiring for the day.
A Rock climber at Railay
And while you are at Krabi dont miss out a day trip on a 4 island Sunset BBQ trip
If you have any questions, dont hesitate to mail us at info.nameplaceanimalthing@gmail.com