Madhu Latha
Incredible India ; A diverse India ; Versatile India ; Enigmatic India ; Intoxicating India ; Spiritual India

India has been called many names by those who see it. India appears as such to each as those who see it that way. Come take a look at my India through my eyes...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

SHIMLA - the Emerald Town.

The town of Shimla lies at an elevation of 2205m from sea level. Once just a sleepy forest glade known as Shyamala, named after the Godess Kali who is the destroyer of evil, has earned its 'premier summer resort of India' status when Charles Kennedy built a summer resort in 1822. From then on the British, and every one who is who in the Indian subcontinent rushed to Shimla for the summers. Kalki - Shimla was constructed in 1903 making this hill station more accessable. Today many prestigious schools are established where students from all over the country attend.

The city was also once the capital of Punjab. Though now the town has overgrowm and threatens to spill into the valley the city center still holds its old world charm with its English era buildings and churches. The official center of the city is still the Scandal Point. Down in Cart rd is where we find the Railway station, Intercity Bus Terminal (ISBT) and taxi stands.

Best time to visit:
A jagged line of snow-covered peaks is visible from April to June & in October & November coinciding with the main tourist season.  Honey mooners can come to frolic in the snow in December and January.

Himachal Pradesh State Museum and Library
Viceregal Lodge & Botanical Garden
Christ Church


Jakhu Temple
Shiva Mandir
Kali Bari Mandir
Ram Mandir
Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara


Town Hall
Post Office
Offices of Accountant General
Rothney Castle

Excursions around Shimla:
1. For wonderful sceneries at Prospect Hill 4km west of Shimla
2. Pleasant summber Hill -5km west on Shimla-Kalka Railway Line
3. Pretty Chadwick falls(67m high) 2km furtherwest
4. Village of Sanjauti 3 km east of Lakkar Bazar there is a Durga Temple & small Buddhist Monastery.
5. Mashobra is about 12 km north of Shimla and has an old colonial church and a few pleasant walks among the tall and majestic looking deodar trees.
6. Naldehra is famous chiefly for the Naldehra Golf Course.
Hotel Golf Glade (0177/2747739)

Trekking, Adventure tours, Motorcycle tours, Golfing

Walking tours :- From the Scandal Point 4 km. NorthWest is 'the Glen' which was the  playground for scottish generals as the landscape is similar to the scottish meadows, from here the road passes through the Annandale.

Tourist Information :
HPTDC TOURIST OFFICE - 0177/2652561 ;; Scandal Point
1. By HPTDC: Daily sightseeing bus tours around Shimla.  Leaving time from Rivoli Bus stand: 10.30 am
2. By Taxi Unions: One-day sightseeing to Kufri, Naldehra, Fagu & Mashobra

Great Escape Route - 0177/5533037 ;; Jakha


1. HOTEL BULMARG: 0177-2653168;
2. HOTEL CLASSIC: 0177-2653078
3. HOTEL DALZIEL: 0177-2652691;
4. YMCA         : 0177-2650021;
5. HOTEL WHITE  : 0177-2656136;
6. HOTEL AMBER  : 0177-2654774
7. HOTEL DREAMLAND: 0177-2806897
8. HOTEL DOEGAR : 0177-2811927 ;
9. LeRoyale     : 0177-2651002 ;
10. OBEROI CECIL: 0177-2804848 ;
11. CHAPSLEE    : 0177-2802542 ;

Good News for book lovers:
Assa Book House
Maria Brothers - 0177-2565388
Minerva Bookshop - 0177-2803078
For any emergency during the travel:
Indira Gandhi Medical College - 0177-2803073
Tourist Police - 0177-2812344

Financial requirements for the trip:
Tourist Guide:
1. HPTDC TOURIST OFFICE: 0177-2652561 (
2. Great Escape routes 0177-5533037 (

1. GAIETY THEATRE - 0177-2805639;the Mall
2. RITZ CINEPLEX  - 0177-2652413;christ church
3. FOOTLOOSE DISCO - 01772652413

1. Himachal Emporium - 0177-2011234;the Mall
2. Tibetan Handloom Shop - 0177-2808163;the Mall

Mode of transportations to the place of Mountains:AIR ROUTE:
Jubbarhatti Airport, 23km south of Shimla
1. Kingfisher Airlines - 18002093030;
2. Jagson Airlines - 0177-2625177;

Contact HPTDC-0177-2656326

Kalka-Shimla Taxi Union:0177-2658225
Vishal Himachal Taxi operators Union: 0177-2805164

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Around Leh

Indus Valley villages form green oases amid dun-coloured semi-deserts backed by a craggy dry mountains. Several superb medieval monastries make interesting day trips by hired motorcycles, jeep or public bus.


Stok Ladakh's former royal family now live a comparitively modest life, dividing their time between a private mansion in Manali and the stately Stok Palace.
Stok Palace
Stok Palace Museum
Stok Abagon
Stok Gompa
EventsTse-Chu festival in feb/mar
trek king point
Where you can stay
Hotel Kangri ph:01982-201009
Kalden Guesthouse ph:01982-242057
Hotel Highland ph:01982-242005
Hotel Skittsal ph:01982-242051;

Matho Sakya-Buddhist Matho Gompa is a colourfully stratified ridge above Matho Village.
During the monastry's famous Matho Nagrang festival blindfolded monks perform acrobatics, engage a ritual acts of self-mutilation and make predictions for the coming year.
Spituk, Phey & Zingchen
Skodong Lakhang shrine
Chikang hosts a yellow hatted statue of Tsongkhapa who inspired Gelukpa Buddhism.
Palden Lama temple
For treks Zingchen makes a better starting point than Spituk village


Phyang is a emerand splash of green-hemmed barley fields layered for miles up a side valley. There are stupendous views back towards the snow-topped pyramid of Skot Kangri. The white and ochre Phyang Gompa Photogenically dominates the village center despite some earthquake damage. Behind, dzos graze on idyllic meadowland and a beautiful lane follows a rock escarpment past traditional homes.

Phyang's only accomodation Hidden North Guesthouse ph:01982-226007;

Chiling For a feast of colourful geology take the dramatic riverside ledge road up the deep Zanskar canyon from 400km. It was founded for the copper craftsmen who had originally arrived to build Shey Palace's big Buddha statue but never went home. Today Zanskar in a major trekking point between Lamayuru and the Markha Valley.

Basgo Capital of lower Ladakh until the Ladakhi kingdoms united in 1940, Basgo's ancient chortens whisper hints of its antiquity. Rising above the village on a surreal collection of eroded earthen pinnicles are remnant stubs of once great cithedel walls, along with a largely derelict mud-walled palace and two brilliant temples, recently stabilised with help from UNESCO. The Upper Chamba Gompa has a spectacularly restored mural work covering walls and ceilings around two-storey statue of Maitreya, whose expression embodies the spirit of detachment. Slightly downhill, behind the palace remnants, darker and even more atmospheric Sar-Zung Temple hosts another oversized statue of Maitreya and a library of wrapped scriptures.

Basgo's only accomodation, the pleasasnt two room ToGoGuesthouse ph: 01982-225104

Starting point for the Sham trek
Likir Gompa
Maitreya Statue

Old Likir Guesthouse ph: 01982-227505
Chhuma Guesthouse ph: 01982-
Norboo spon Guesthouse ph: 01982-227137
Hotel Lhukhil

A spectacular 30 minute detour from Likir winds threough a Nevada like scenery
Toro Guesthouse
Lungchay Guesthouse ph: 01982-240024


Friday, March 22, 2013

Leh - come fall in love with nature

A dagger of steep rocky ridge plunging towards the main bazaar is topped by a dramatic palace, fort and gompa. Very few places in India could capture your heart and make you fall in love like Leh does with its inviting green barley fields amidst mudbrick houses. As tranquil place to visit as it is friendly, Leh captures its tourists with its unpretentious beauty.

Tourist Information

Tourist Office ph:01982-253482
Henk Thoma's Leh valley map could be really useful to navigate around the area.
Ladakh trekking maps

Sights to see

Palace Ridge
Leh Palace
Palace Gompas
Tsemo Fort
Old City
Chowkhang Gompa
Shanti Stupa
Women's Alliance
Sankar Gompa
Donkey Sanctuary
Hall of Fame

What you can do
Yoga and Meditation
Mahabodhi Center ph:01982-253689
Meditation Center ph:01982-264372
Open Ladakh ph:09419886135

Rafting and Kayaking
Trekking - Per-person fees ranging from US$50 to US$400 paid directly to IMF (

Volunteering - TELF teachers are in demand visit
- rubbish collecting trek

Organised Tours
Old Town Walking Tours
Jeep and car Tours
Trekking tours

Himalayan Journeys ph:01982-250591; Jeeps and Rafting
Lhasi Karpo Ecological Trek & Tours ph:01982-255644;; Old Town Walk Tours
Overland Escape ph:01982-250858;; multiskilled agency
Snow Leapord Trails ph:01982-252074;; Treks
Splash Adventures ph:01982-254870; Rafting Specialists
Wild East Adventure ph:01982-250505;; Trekking
World Adventure ph:01982-251910;
XploreLadakh ;
Yama Adventures ph:01982-250833;

Tibetian thangkas, Ladakhi hats turquoise jewellery, kashmiri shawls and various Nepali, Tibetan and Chinese knick-knacks
LeDEG ph:01982-253221;
Women's Alliance ph:01982-250293;
Handicrafts Industrial cooperative shop in Old Fort Rd
Wamda Wood Craving in Old Fort Road
Gol Market and Moti market

Getting there and away
Indian Airlines ph:01982-252076; Fort Rd
Jet Airways ph:01982-250999; Main Bazaar
Kingfisher Airlines
Buses are available from Manali, Srinagar, Kargil
Taxis and Jeeps are for hire, so are motorcycles to go around the place.

also see Around Leh

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Himachal Pradesh - The land of Celestial Beauty

Himachal Pradesh is famous for it's diversity and mind-blowing scenery.  It's a trecking lovers paradise with Dhauladhar, Pir Panjal and Western Himalayan ranges stretching far and wide quenching their thirst of trecking.  In central Himachal, manali and Kulu and Parvati valleys are a feast for the hippies, honey mooners & thrill seekers.  It also has many forts, temples & palaces.  Though time consuming, travel around HP is wonderful experience which every individual will desire to cherish.   

Useful Facts :

Capital : Shimla
Population : 55,673 sq km
Languages: Hindi, Pahari and Punjabi
When to go : May to June, September to early November

How to fulfull our dreams?
1. The Himachal's adventure-sport capital, Manali can be reached by skiing, treking, climbing, paragliding, rafting or zorbing.
2. Stay in Parvati Valley and trek to the mountain village of Malana.
3. Centuries old temples of Chamba and Bharmour add spirituality to the serene beauty of mountains
4. Marvelous mountains passes of Rohtang La & Kunzum La should be crossed to Tabo monastery & unimaginably remote spiti valley.
5. A summer retreat in the green glades of Shimla

Appropriate time to go:
The main seasons being May to July & September to early November.  Advanced reservation recommended. During monsoon the hills can be too chill & damp.  Snow closes from NOvember to April.  This is the peak skiing season at the modest resorts near Manali & Shimla.

Must for travel: PERMIT
Permit is a must for the travel in the sensitive border between India and Tibet.  Inner line permit to travel between Rekong Deo in Kinnaur & Tabo in Piti.  Permit can be obtained easily with two passport photographs & photocopies of identity in Shimla, Kaza & Rekong Deo.

How to reach here?
Main routs into Himachal are by bus but small airtrips near Shimla, Kullur & Dharamsala receive flights from Delhi with Kingfisher airlines( & Jagson Airlines (



1. Losar: (Jan/Feb); Lahual & spiti)
2. Shivaratri Festival ; (Feb/Mar);Temples of Mandi & Baijnath celebrate this festival as a tribute to Lord Shiva.
3. Suimata Mela : Apr;Four days of celebration to honour Sui Meta who sacrificed her life to save the people of Chamba.
4. Dhungri Mela : May;Manali
5. Himalayan Hang - Gliding Rally : May; Billing
7. Lahaul Festival : Jul; keylong - cultural and trade festival in Lahaul.
8. Minjar Festival : Jul/Aug;Harvest festival in Chamba.
9. Ladarcha Fair : Aug; Kaza ancient trade fair
10. Pauri Festival : Aug; triloknathtemple is lit with giant butter lamps in Honour of Lord Shiva.
11. Manimahesh Yatra : Aug/Sep;Near Bharmour.
12. Phulech Festival : Sep/Oct;villagers of Kinnaur fill temple courtyard with fragrant flowers and carry out sacrificies.
13. Dussehra or Durga Puja : Oct; Kullu
14. Lavi Fair : Nov;Rampur trade fair
15. Guktor Festival : Nov;Dhankar
16. Renuka Mela : Nov; six days festival culminatin the ritual immersion of idols of Parasurama(Vishnu).
17. Internal Himalayan Festival : 10-12 Dec; celebrate Dalai Lama's  Nobel Peace Prize  
18. McLeod Ganj: Dec/Jan; Tibetan New Year Celebrations

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ladakh - The cool place to hangout

Spectacularly jagged, arid mountains enfold this magical, Buddhist ex-kingdom. In summer hikers trek between archetypal gompas that dramatically crown rocky outcrops amid whitewashed stupas and meditational mani walls(Tibetian stone walls with sacred inscriptions). Colourful fluttering prayer flags send their spiritual messages metaphorically off into the mountain breeze. Prayer wheels spun clockwise release more merit-making mantras. Gompa interiors are colourfully awash with murals and statuary of numerous bodhisattvas.
Ladhak's extrem climate divides the region and its work routines in a short span of summer. Traditional mudbrick homesteads are large, comfortable and self-sufficient in fuel and food. The very limited cultivable land is used to its full extent by carefully channelling the glacier-melt mountain streams. Ladakh's remarkably well balanced traditional society has so much to teach the west in terms of ecological awareness. In summer people pile their flat roofs with alphalpha grass to feed the live stock through harsh winters. Winter in Ladakh is icey cold and few tourists dare venture here at this time of the year.
Ladakh is a high altitude desert famous for the inspirational purity of its crystal blue skies. With low percipitation and sunshine for an average 300 days a year. In winters temperature falls below -20C
Permits and Other Information
Whether or not permits is required, always carry your passport when travelling around Ladakh as checkpoints are fairly common. To visit Nubra Valley, Panggong Tso, DhaHanu, Tso Moriri or the upper Indus beyond Upshi, you need an inner line permit. This is usually easy to obtain within one working day through a Leh travel agent for Rs100. Make multiple photocopies of your passport and permit to give to police checkpoints enroute.

- Leh and eastren Ladakh don't suffer any of the violence of the Kashmir Valley.
- As most of Ladakh lies above 3000m flying in visitors invariable suffer some symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness.

What you can do:

Summer in Ladakh is an adventure playground for outdoor types cimbing, rafting and high altitude trekking.

Trekking in Ladakh

Zingchen-Rumbak-Stok : A 2 day trek with one 4900m pass, possible without equipment and guide.
Sham Trek : A 4 day trek with many homestays enroute.
Ascent of Stok Kangri : A 5 day trek from Stok, and climbs to 6120m. This trek requires a guide and mountain trekking equipment. Requires a IMF permit of US$50 per person.
Markha Valley Trek : a 6 to 7 day trek from Chiling to Hemis with a 5030m pass. We find seasonal parachute cafes or homestays on route but it is always suggested to bring in tent and supplies.
Lamayuru Treks 
Tso Kar-Tso Moriri : a 4 to 5 days (8 days if starting from Rumtse) lonely trek with no permanent settlements enroute. Prepare for subzero temperaatures and bring all the essential gear and a good guide. Four passes over 4700m.

Mountain Tool Kit
- Warming, insulating clothing (even in summer)
- hat, lip care, UV proof sunglasses and sunscreen
- a good quality torch
- plenty of paracetamol and antibiotics for Acute Mountain Sickness.
- campers need sleeping bags
- Photographers will find polarising filters useful to reduce glare.

Internet Resources
www.jk - Gives you the open/closed status of Srinagar and Manali.