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Two days of being shrouded by the Huangshan mist was enough to dampen my sprits. The lure of hot running water and central heating was too tempting to pass. On reaching Huangshan city, i went straight to the railway station to book my return tickets to Beijing for the next day. "No" she said.. There were no sleeper tickets to Beijing for tomorrow's train.  "Min Tien Min Tien ??" I asked..  ('min tien' being the chinese word for tomorrow.. my question loosely (i use that term liberally) translates to "how about the day after tomorrow??" :) Nope.. the tickets weren't available on that train either. 
I usually like to claim that i do not plan any of my trips, but infact usually the opposite is true. When i came to China this time, i had decided that if i stayed here till april then i'd visit the Shanghai GP, till august then its off to the Litang Horse festival and to top it all, if i stay here till oct/nov my plan is to go to Bayan Olgi, Mongolia for the annual eagle hunting festival. Fingers crossed.. i'll be writing about that trip sometime in the near future. I had first been to Shanghai in 2004, that time to see the first ever Chinese grandprix. I missed the next one in 2005, the year where some of my friends went on to watch the race from the expensive K and H stands at throw away ticket prices (paying 300RMB for a 2500RMB ticket). I've been kicking myself ever since and i was n
It usually happens with me.. especially with my car. When i drive it after someone else has driven it, i can always feel the difference. The engine would feel a bit weaker, a little strained and the accleration sluggish. The feeling usually wears off in a day or two and the car starts feeling normal again. I was never able to figure out if it is psychological (maybe i dont like loaning our my cars to others).. or if its really different. With the car, maybe the different driving styles of people (especially the ones who like to rev the engine a bit too much) may affect the feel of the car.. but with my cycle there was no such explanation.
There has been a lot written in the media about the grandprix in China and most of it negative. The sport has very little following among the local population here and year after year the turnout at the races keep steadily decreasing. Why bring a sport to a country where there is very little interest for it. I guess its all about marketing.. multinational corporations want more visibility in china which means more sponsorship deals and more money for Bernie, the teams and the FIA chimps. China inturn wants to project itself as a modern vibrant economy and looks to be on the world stage at every opportunity and they pay a lot of money (reportedly some 50m dollars a year!!) to get the rights to host the races. Which in turn means more money for F1 association. So its a win win for everyone,
Ever since i joined the "Travel China Beijing" group on facebook, i've always wanted to go on one of the 'wild' great wall treks organized by Davis. Usually the prospect of waking up early in the morning (6am!!) would put me off from joining the trip but this time during the 3-day dragon boat festival weekend (between 28'th to 30'th May) i decided to stop being lazy for a change and join the trip. As per Davis, this section of the wall was one of the best spots for photography. The following is in his own words.. "If you look carefully at the recent published Great Wall photo albums, you will quickly find that many of the pictures are taken at Jiankou Great Wall. Due to its unique style, steep mountains and beautiful scenery, Jiankou Great Wall has become a photographic hot
Growing up, I had never given eclipses much thought. I remember a few happen around Chennai when i was growing up. The Surya Grahanam was not an auspicious sign and we were usually told to stay indoors when it happened. You were not allowed to take a bath or eat anything during the eclipse. And once it was over, the family would do a small prayer, offer food to the gods and the crows and only then you can get back to your regular routine. Superstition or a ritual with some practical meaning behind it.. I'm not so sure. Anyway, that was then. Now, i didn't have any such misgivings and the moment i heard about the eclipse from one my friends i made up my mind to go see it.
My general policy with people is to trust until that trust is broken. But as i was sitting in the van, i started wondering what his game could be. "nobody's that nice", i thought. Especially since he was tout for a hotel and has nothing to gain by giving me this free ride. With my suspicions gradually growing, i suddenly jumped out of the van, grabbed my backpack and went back to the pre-paid taxi counter.    I got a taxi and as i was entering it i realized that i did not have my camera bag with me!!. Calmly, I thought i must've dropped it at the taxi counter but it wasn't there. Then the realization dawned on me that i must've left it in the hotel van that i abruptly jumped out of. PANIC !!, the prospect of losing my camera and lens collection was a little too much for me to d
So, it was my last weekend in Beijing before my short trip to India. I was having drinks with a friend and i remarked to her about how i had always wanted to go see the flag hoisting ceremony at Tian'anmen square but never did. She hadn't see it herself but then she proceeded to tell me about all these people who make it their pilgrimage to come to the capital, witness the flag hoisting ceremony and then go pay respects to chairman Mao's memorial. Thousands, she told... thousands of them can be found waiting out the night, out on the streets around Tian'anmen square. I was amazed, not surprised, but just amazed and impressed with the nationalistic zeal the government here has imbibed into its people. Piety has been substituted by nationalism and i'am not sure if that is such a bad thing.
Growing up, i had a strong connection to Russia. I remember all the book fairs in my school where most of the books would be from Russia. Stories about Tzars, valiant peasants, princes and princesses they were similar to any other fairy tales i guess, but i loved reading them and all the illustrations that came with the books. My grandfather in chennai also had a strong bond with Russia, he knew a little Russian and kept lots of Russian novels and magazines.  So that was then, long back before we got MTV and Discovery channel. Russia slowly faded away and replaced by a new found obsession with everything american. Not that anything is wrong with that, just that i know very little about russia now.
  Usually on short ~2 week trips, i never feel the need to take my laptop along. A pen, a pad and a couple of decent sized memory cards should take care of all my computing needs. Which is to keep a record of my travels through words and through pictures.   For anything longer than two weeks, i would really feel the need to carry some sort of computing device. For exactly the same reasons quoted above. The memory cards would eventually run out and your own memories wouldn't fare much better either. And also there is this added burden of pouring through thousands of pictures after your return. Editing, cataloguing, putting a name to the faces & places etc. It all can get quite a bit overwhelming and if you are like me, you'll just put it off for later and later until ev
  The question: How to pack everything above (laptop + tent + sleeping bag + sleeping pad + stove + utensils + tripod + camera + 3 lenses + accessories + bike tools + winter clothes + summer clothes + toiletries) into two medium sized camera bags, a stuff sack and a small handlebar bag for my bike. Its important that i figure out the answer for my question now itself before its too late.
Ladakh was the reason why i decided to take my bicycle with me to the Himalayas. The lure of cycling in the mountains with its crisp blue skies and snow capped peaks was too enticing to ignore. I had traveled Ladakh by motorcycle back in 2008, but this time i decided that a bicycle would be a better option. Going by cycle meant going slowly.. a 200km trip from, say, Leh to Pangong lake which can be done in a single day on a motor cycle would take 3 to 4 days on a bicycle. Which means stops in the smaller villages, seeing more sunrises & sunsets, more photo opportunities and more interaction with the local people. I had the one thing which i did not have in my other trips, the luxury of time.   Then i thought that if i was going to be cycling in Ladakh then i might as well cycle
Things did not start smoothly for my Manali Leh ride. After traveling around Himachal by bus it was finally time for me to start cycling. I went to Palampur to collect my bike (I had left it at the home of a railway employee who had generously offered to store my bike at his place when i was away). My plan was to start riding from Palampur to Manali, spend a few days in Manali and then kick onwards towards Leh. But a sudden burst of laziness prompted me to take a bus from Palampur to Mandi with my bike stashed on the roof. I'am not sure if this qualifies as bad karma but i arrived at Mandi to find out that a couple of chain ring nuts had fallen off my bike. I had already damaged one of my chain rings in Uttarakand and now the loss of the nuts meant that the remaining chain rings we
This is THE dream... To travel, to be free, to be Rich on Time and not on Money !!   Dont you agree ??
It was a late October day. Cold cloudy and overcast. A dramatic change from the pleasent sunny weather just a day before.  I was cycling back from the Pangong lake to the Tangste village. It is normally a pleasent ride, mostly flat and downhill (from 4400m to 3950m over the course of 25 odd kms). In the mountains, downhill rides such as these are to be savoured but today i was'nt enjoying the ride all that much. When its cold and nippy i'd rather be riding uphill than down. Anyway, as i was entering Tangtse i see before me the most incredible sight. A motorcycle stacked with all kinds of camping gear imaginable was pulling in. It was as if one of the nomads of the high altitude plains was breaking camp and moving to a new location on his Enflied. We introduced ourselves and his nam