Mcleodganj – Dharamsala

horizonvillaMcleodganj

Where we stayed for 4 whole days

Nature never ceases to amaze the hell out of you. Same mountains, same sky, same old trees, same sun, same moon – but a slight drop in temperature and its staggering how your visual perspective is influenced. I love winters or any temperature that sounds cool.I avoid getting a heatstroke like most of you guys. It kills my vibe.I am revisiting this trip and while writing my journey ,I realized it’s special because I needed a break from being physically and mentally unfit.Overthinking and getting overwhelmed by life in general. This was a welcome change indeed. I won’t even try to explain .Just go and experience this place when you get a chance. You cannot comprehend why some places make you happier than others.Maybe it was the mountains or the mist.

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Highlight of the trip: 2nd day mist

 

We visited Himachal Pradesh in September and were welcomed with drizzles on more than one morning. So dripping in romantic nostalgia we stayed in half a day. Pushed aside all plans and stretched our feet and talked about life and also about people who were passing by below this balcony rail. Trying to figure out their life through our perspective. Rains were the perfect alibi to the numerous cups of tea/coffee/hot chocolate and hot piping fried dumplings we devoured. I chose not to travel during the peak season aka Indian summer because everyone is headed to the Northern states of India. A great girlfriend vacation with two of my awesome girlfriends. We were out for almost a week’s time and our itinerary included the following Chandigarh-Dharamsala-Mcleodganj- Amritsar- Chandigargh.

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Spring of Life @Norbulingka Institute Of Arts & Culture

We visited my cousin who was posted then at the YOL army camp in Dharamsala. Perks of knowing people who stay in the town you visit – scrumptious homemade food. Karak chai refreshed us after a long conversations and catching up. We left for the Norbulingka Institute of Tibetian Arts & Culture. Now being in Dharamsala is a cordial occurrence by itself and then you enter this paradise. This place brought such tranquil to my soul and left me wanting for more even when I had just stepped in minutes ago. My whole being filled with serenity. We were taken for a quick tour by the in-house guide.I was familiar with Tibetian prayer flags and the colour palette from my visit to Ladakh. The more I stayed the quieter I felt. Like my soul was gaining composure, the deafening silence filling an abyss inside this agonized little head of mine. Then we sat near the Spring of life and felt all the anguish drifting away.I read more about the layout of the temple after a few days and found out that it was infact, designed to give this very impact.

The whole Tibetian way of life is to give rise to a compassionate community and harmonious living.I came here twice as the first time wasn’t enough and we reached just an hour before they close. I wanted to see the artisans at work.So we came back after 2 days and spent a good 3 hours here.The artisans at work were a delight to watch, their steady hands working on masterpieces, which are shipped to different parts of the world. You are not allowed to click the marvellous paintings they were creating. Watched them work meticulously on massive canvas and talk to me simultaneously. They have 9 workshops for Thangka painting, statue making, thangka applique,tailoring,weaving,screen painting,applique, wood carving and weaving. Artists come and reside there for months to train for these Tibetian cultural skills.

More pictures below also include the famous Dharamsala stadium, hosts IPL matches against the scenic Dhauladhar mountain range.

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Getting wonderfully lost in Dharamkot

Next stop Triund and then Dharamkot. We only started the trek at Triund and stopped within minutes. Instead we decided to go explore the cute town nestled just below the hill , where we parked our car.We were wonderfully lost in this magical place. There is a massage parlour you can visit for a foot massage, named Body Temple, heard great reviews from the locals. A famous tattoo studio, named Body Piercing. Small alleys , quaint houses, funky graffiti sprawled across as far as we could see .Tiny shrubs too.Its a beautifully secluded place. Out of nowhere I hear a yelp, see a pinkish child running towards me at what seemed like 60 km/hr. I hasten to aim my camera, sit down and click him in action. He was too quick though and came and leaned on me with his soiled tiny hands as I was kneeling down to click. I almost fell as I trying to save my lens on one hand and catch his tiny  being on the other.He wanted to play with the camera. I reluctantly told him its not for kids, just because you are cute you can’t get your way.He had golden brown hair and a fruit in one hand, also nails were painted.As I write I remember smelling the mustard oil in his hair. Cute little being.He refused to let go of me.As if he found some long lost acquaintance.I let him push some random keys on my tablet while I asked my friend to click us. It was a hilarious event and we left smiling from that place.

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mcleodganjsky

Third day here we wake up to an amazing misty morning. We were staying right behind the Dalai Lama temple. We were fortunate enough to be there when ‘The Dalai Lama ‘ visited Mcleodganj. We couldn’t make it to the preaching but we definitely did hear his voice on the microphone in our hotel room. Today only two of us headed out. Our friend decided she wanted to take a day off wandering and enjoy the view. So we set out for the Naddi trek.We had maggi and tea for breakfast. Felt it was the best thing to brighten the morning.Once we set out to explore the mountains, within minutes we were wonderfully lost as we took a wrong road.We were relishing the breathtaking sights. Scarcely populated with zero pollution. We came across a few local villagers too. Some ladies who were doing their usual chores. Some kids who were out on their lunch break, running up to the one tap to wash the plates they used to eat. I saw such humbling smiles. We had some conversations about their daily struggles, which put us to shame for groundless excuses we dole out for our shortcomings. We also visited the Dal Lake. In the crux of that moment it dawned upon me what they mean when they say ‘Travel is the only thing you buy which makes you richer’

dallake

Tourists don’t know where they have been, travellers don’t know where they are going,

On the way back to the hotel we visited ‘The Church of St.John In The Wilderness’ Built in 1852.Its premises are worth the visit for about 30minutes not more.

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Why are you all so cute?

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We pretty much found a lot of cute cafes and there was no end to the menu on this trip. Hot favourite is Moonlit Cafe at Dharamkot. Amazing cinnamon tea and mushroom soup and grilled chicken salad.You can sit on their 1st floor of the café, which gives you the most amazing view of the grand mountains, they feel like giants staring at you from miles away.I went there twice to enjoy their food.We had wood fired pizzas to melt in your mouth momos. Fried dumplings to pastries. Cinammon tea with Ceasars salad was a great choice while I read a compelling novel at a cafe in Dharamkot.The Chocolate Leaf is a small make-shift cakeshop on the way upto NADDI. It has only 2 to 3 types of pastries and cakes but they are awesome I gobbled 2 right there and packed 2 more for on the way back. Its run by a sweet lady called  Rima ,just come down to settle her daughter in one of the boarding school.The Chocolate Dog featured on a program on NDTV : Highway on my plate – did live upto my expectations.They also have 2 cottages to rent out and a wine shop which has Ginger Wines  for about 5dollars. Must try.Foodies have a lot to gain ,I literally mean it. There is Jimmys Breakfast, Tibetian Kitchen, McLoo. Maggi at Naddi. Maggi at Bhagsu waterfalls. Maggi everywhere.Food with bewitching trail of trees and sunset hues.Below is some of the documented evidence.

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Blazing sky against green silhouettes

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Change the way you see things and the things you see will change.

 

 

Mcleodganj is a place which will leave you with a nice warm feeling of belonging. You must wander around aimlessly through the town without an agenda.Discover what lonely planet doesnt highlight.Get your own version of this place. Street shopping is fun ,just walk around the lanes -winding streets,uphill ,downhill -lovely jewellery, vibrant local costumes. Items made from Tibetian fabrics is a must have. I have a bright green cloth bag as a souvenir.

Travelling with like minded people has truckloads of perks. They are flexible. They are open to make impromptou changes on the itinerary.They give you solutions to unlikely problems which arise during a trip and not the other way round. They don’t force the other to tag along. They explore on their own. You can have me-time even when in a group. They don’t invade your privacy. I was lucky to be accompanied by two individuals who are bitten by the wanderbug. You get to explore the place and can connect deeply to your travel. Cheers to such free spirited individuals. Certainly travel is more than the seeing of sights,its a change that goes on deep and permanent in the ideas of living.

Travel Beyond Trails.

Untouristy

 

 

 

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Somewhere in Munich

How long has it been since someone touched a part of you other than your body?

I am walking engulfed in thoughts , some from yesterday , some coming to me unwarranted from a decade ago. Getting ready to conquer another day exploring South Germany.I come across a piano and see the pianist getting ready to play and I almost walk past him then decide to turn back, wait for him to start playing. He starts moving his hands on the keys synchronising with the chords inside him. The next instance he is serenading my senses. A certain sharp pain. Every corner inside my chest is crammed. I am trying to grasp,is it a good pain, maybe. Like the tune is deliberately chasing an unexplained territory inside me.Literally caught me off guard. Then the music transcends me into an inexplicable emotional state.Its flowing through me now. Illuminated . I start enjoying and I stop fighting this feeling and let the music take over the reigns. That moment arrives when everything else fades away and only the music stays. Takes away all your pain in those fleeting moments. The best 15minutes I spent that day. I remember every bit. Sometimes music finds pieces of me which I never knew existed. 

 

MUSIC MUST BE WHAT FEELINGS SOUND LIKE.

 LETS DO UNTOURISTY THINGS WHEN WE TRAVEL – Stop and soak in the local vibe.

Noting down a small encounter I had with this soul stiirring pianist in Munchen/ Munich. People sprawling in the square, some hurrying home and walking with bits of ice cream melting on their hands from the crisp burnt waffle cones. A cyclist who is passing by stops on the corner of the road after hearing him. Watch their expressions relax after a few seconds of focussed listening. Experiencing moments like these make every penny you spend worth it. This town has something to offer to everyone. Hope you are fortunate enough to come across great talents like these in the journey of your life. Take time to stop and appreciate them. Be a traveller – be untouristy. A tourist sees what he has come to see . A traveller sees what he sees. 

 

 

 

DREAM DUBAI

Welcome to the Arab land of lavish living and high fashion. There is nothing more addictive than the feeling you get on arriving to a new place . This surreal city of skyscrapers and architectural marvels leaves you in awe at every street.Dubai terminal has an influx of the highest number of travellers. Since we have been living and breathing Dubai last few years we can show you around the city like a local. Don’t be a tourist. Indulge in the city vibe like a local, not the touristy rant sprewn in your face by every travel site.Let us now get a glimpse of the larger than life city, the city which holds the maximum number of world records – dreamtown Dubai. 

EYE CANDY PLACES

Burj Khalifa: Travel in one of the worlds fastest elevator, to the 124th floor of the tallest skyscraper in Dubai. You get a birds eyeview of the enigma thats Dubai. Alternatively make a reservation at the Atmosphere cafe for the evening , have high tea or dinner, stay for a longer time until dusk sets in on the city.Soak in the city peaks. Breathe in the soul of the city.
BURJ KHALIFA TOPVIEW

View from top BURJ KHALIFA

waterfountains Dubai Mall

Musical Fountains

 MUSICAL FOUNTAINS : You will be thrilled everytime you watch the fountains dance on different tunes. The music which ranges from Arabic to Jazz to Bollywood. This location makes an interesting angle to indulge in selfies with the Burj Khalifa.We have handful of places where the dancing fountains look even more interesting while you soak in a culinary journey. Ask us.
SKI DUBAI : Largest indoor ski resort in the world. A full fledged skiing slope where you take lessons alongwith your friends and family. The rides can keep you entertained for hours together. When you feel frozen, you can down a delicious cup of hot chocolate at their little wooden cafe. You feel like you in a snow clad town. If famished later,catch a yummy meal at The Cheesecake Factory 
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Ski Dubai view from The Cheesecake factory

 

The SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE :Abu Dhabi , the richest of the seven emirates. The mosque is an amalgamation of Ottoman, Fatimid and Memeluke styles and also hints of Indian artisans  influences seen in the grand achitectural marvel. You have to spend a few hours here, preferably in the evening. Watch the domes gleam in the moonlight, almost a magical transition.You will find extreme peace and tranquil in the time you spend exploring the grandeur. Visit Ferrari World in the same town for the first half of the day. If you adventurous enough, do try the Formula Rossa, the fastest roller coaster ride on the planet. Marvel at the swanky cars displayed at The Ferrari World.
GRAND MOSQUE - ABU DHABI

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque- Abu Dhabi

GLOBAL VILLAGE: Enjoy the electric atmosphere here. The fun fair is not limited to kids. You can enjoy a few rides here too. The pavillians consists for more than 35countries, sell products originating from their homeland and showcasing their culture.You can buy saffron and spices from Iran. Chea butter, Argan oil from the African pavilion. Handmade musical instruments and wooden home decor products from Tunisia. You can dress up in traditional vintage costumes and take some potrait pictures to remember by at Global Village. You can shop for western and ethnic ensembles. Indulge in cuisines from various parts of the world. Here is an aerial view of the magical land.
GLOBAL VILLAGE DUBAI

Global Village aerial view

                                                           CITY OF MALLS

Dubai a city of malls. Visit malls with an expert so you can browse around quickly and get to the right stores without wasting your international “Time Out”. There are gigantic malls in this city and exploring them can be exhausting and time consuming. We let you in on stores which have the best deals .Get ready to get a wardrobe makeover. Even if shopping is not your main priority there is ample to see in the massive malls. The Mall of Emirates is a smaller mall and holds most of the well known brands. The interiors here are different and quite a site for the keen eyes.The artistic interiors with an old world charm at Ibn Batuta Mall will draw your attention at its themed courts. 
IBN BATUTA DUBAI

Ibn Battuta Mall – China Court

 

The Dubai Mall can’t be avoided.There is nothing humble about it. The 10 million litre aquarium is overwhelming.A selfie here is a must . Experience a breathtaking view of the deep, the underwater zoo for kids and adults is equally enlightening. The high end fashion stores and food outlets keep you completely engaged. Its huge and you need to carry a map to avoid getting lost in this one.
shoedistrict Dubai Mall

SHOE DISTRICT DUBAI MALL

DUBAI SOUKH

Soukh Madinath Jumeirah

Soukh Madinath transports you into the Arabic heritage , visually and with the delicate aromas of oud floating in its vicinity. The rustic feel and its Arabic soukh style interiors are not to be missed. Traditional Arabic perfume shops are plenty. There is even a gold atm. Middle-eastern influenced handicrafts and clothes are available.Belly dance costumes and the alluring jewellery that goes with it too. Transports you back to the ages of Arabic culture as it must have been.Recommended on top piority by Beyond Trails.
MIRACLE GARDEN: Amidst the glittering skyscrapers comes this breath of fresh air. Its a wonderfully curated garden. Its like wonderland. You can go on exploring every nook and corner aimlessly, which is what we did the first time we visited. Amazing art work. Some great installations where a tiny beetle is upside down, a fountain at the backdrop and flamingos at the front. Adorable cycles with baskets. Flower windmills, Eiffel, horse-carriage all just mesmerising. Visit the butterfly garden too. Large beautiful precious creatures  with delicate wings come and rest on your palms if you lucky. Its makes one feel like you in Neverland. Fairytales adventures await you there.
mircle garden Dubai

Miracle Garden

Atlantis, The Palm : A huge water sports resort built on a Palm shaped island. Take a Limosine ride through the palms in a limousine. Its possible while in Dubai. Vegas style evening and Arabian nights.

DELICIOUS ESCAPADES

Since you in the Arab land of lavish living and high fashion- indulge. There is an overabundance in the choice of cuisines. Right from Michelin Star restaurants to the Food Trucks. You can check in the best eateries with a delightful view to go with your Sheesha and Kebabs. Beyond Trails will book places with the best views Dubai has to offer.
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Sheesha and Turkish Tea @Soukh Medinath Jumeirah

 

Burj AL ARAB

Jamies Italian overlooking Burj Al Arab

So from here to other swanky places for a romantic dinner overlooking the Burj al Arab. You find tempting options everywhere in Dubai. Juggling between High Tea or Street Food when in Dubai .Just wish for it and it appears, literally . Chaats and filter coffee from India, authentic Mexican in Dubai. Basically a fusion of world cuIsine at your service. Indulge in dinner with your group of travellers at a posh beach restaurant – where you can cool off watching the sunset into the sea. Plan an afternoon by yourself, go  for an amazing brunch served overlooking the blue waters and a live band crooning as a side dish.
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Pocco Locco @The Walk

 

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                                      LOCAL INDULGENCE

Indulge in a world cuisine buffet under an open to the sky cafe,in a huge skyscraper and if you lucky you can even catch short films being screened at the parks. High rises and glitz and glamour can sweep you off and the city can be quite exhilarating. Dubai Creek is one such place where the modest soul of Dubai still exists.  After you are exhausted  shopping you can soak yourself in the old world charm of Bastakia – the art galleries and the heritage side of Dubai. Old ruins and museums running in small alleys.Take an abra to the other side of Dubai Creek just for a mere 1dirham , reach in 2 odd minutes. Soak in the  aromas of the spice market. Shop trinklets and sovenirs .Pick mosaic lamps influenced by the middle eastern art.

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DUBAI CREEK

Dubai Creek

Parks and Events : Attend the local designers exhibits or spend an evening at one of the weekend flea markets. Get the best deals hands on information on latest trends. Interact with designers from all over the world. Munch on great food from the foodtrucks. Dubai has maximum number of expats so the choice of art work hails from as far as USA to Africa and more.You get a glimpse of the Burj Khalifa from different angles too.
Dhow Cruise: A visit to Marina Bay is recommended to see the new Dubai which is also going to host the Dubai Eye. Take a yatch ride or Dhow cruise from Marina and experience the spectacle of the Dubai skyline.
BURJKHALIFA LIGHTS

Burj Park

Desert Safari : The sand dunes and Arabic delicacies served will set you sailing into the world of Aladdin and his magic carpet. The sand dune bashing is a must in a 4*4. Watching a sun set on the golden Arabian desert. Enjoy the soulful music and belly dancing shows.
BELLY DANCING DESERT SAFARI

Desert Safari – Traditional Dance

There are emaculately curated gardens . Themed restaurants. Water parks and resorts.Gold festivals. Food festivals. Shopping festivals. Yoga and spiritual healing and art fests. If you have the time to spare you can soak your soul in a bit of all of the above offered by the enigma called Dubai. With Dubai you never know what surprises are in store for you. This city never fails to evolve. Welcome to larger than life entertainment 24/7. 
Travel Dubai with Beyond Trails