Category Archives: India

A Varanasi Funeral

Many Hindus visit Varanasi, the ancient holy city of India for their pilgrimage and a few come to die here, and many others come to be thrown into the rivers of the Ganges.

Varanasi funeral-2

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India finally lifts tourist permit for North East India

Finally the Indian government lifted the restricted access permit for North East states of Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. Getting to these places use to be such a pain as tourist permits to these places involve hideous red tapes or irritating tourist companies that charges you incredible amounts for the permit fee.  This is with the exception of Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh which they still consider as sensitive border areas to Bangladesh and China.

If you ever dream of visiting these elusive and mostly difficult places, I strongly suggest to abandon all your other travel plans and race yourself to these states before the other tourists erode the whole place or even much worse, the ever erratic Indian government decides change its mind.

The Indian govt previously permitted independent travellers to Arunachal Pradesh (2 to a group instead of 4) without a state approved guide and had changed it due to the politicking of the Arunachal tourist association.

To independent travellers : Rest assured this will happen to Nagaland, Mizoram and Manipur that erratic changes will be implemented, so visit these places as soon as possible.  In case you are visiting these places, be sure to print out all the various newspaper articles on the permits issues and be prepared to show them to the border guards as they would surely not be updated on such news. This comes from experience.

For more details, this info was taken from The Telegraph Calcutta

Land of the Naga – last of the headhunters

I dreamt about Nagaland after I saw it on the map one day. Obsessed about the place, it took me a few years before I finally visited this strip of land between Burma and NorthEast India.

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Leh, Ladakh Flood and Land slide Appeal Funds

Not many people know of my beloved places, Ladakh, India was deeply affected by the flash floods and landslides  early August 2010. This  has affected many villages in Leh, the major city of Ladakh. This area is not widely reported in world news compare to Pakistan and China. Please help these beautiful peaceful buddhist people who have been so kind to me while I was there.

Winter is coming soon, and here in Ladakh, winter comes harsh and punishingly cruel. The affected villagers need shelter, clothes and many basic equipment for winter. Please send cash directly, collecting clothes and others would be a logistical nightmare. So who should you send your donations to?

There are plenty of places are seeking your funds, but always make sure your donations really get to the people who needs it rather than filtered through various levels of the organisation. Needless to say it is your responsibility to ensure where your donations get received and what organisation really calls to you.

Please donate to :

Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre, Leh, Ladakh

Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre
Devachan, P.O. Box # 22, Leh – Ladakh 194101, INDIA
Ph: +91-1982-264372 Mobile: +91-9906902025, +91-9419178667
http://www.mahabodhi-ladakh.org

Name of the Bank: Citibank,NA,
Account No: 0-412501-004
Name: Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre,
Bank address: Jeevan Bharti Building, 124, Connought Circus,
New Delhi- 110 001.
Swift Code – CITIINBX
F.C.R.A. # 152710017

Donations within India
Name of account: Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre
Account No. 10942164077
Name of the bank: State Bank Of India
Bank address: State Bank of India,
P.O. Leh, Ladakh (J&K) 194 101
Branch code: 1365
RTGS Code: SBIN0001365
Swift code# : SBININBBA280

IN EUROPE
Buddha Haus Meditations-und Studienzentrum e.V.
Contact Person:
Helga Weinmann-Adam, Gerhard Adam
Ottacker 18 ,  D-87488 Sulzberg ,  GERMANY
Tel.: 08376-8498, Fax: 08376-976431, E-mail: AdamGerhard@t-online.de
http://www.buddha-haus.de

IN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Mahabodhi Metta Charitable Fund
Contact Persons: Ms. Carla Montagno & Dr. Tim Moore
31147 Blue Jay Court, Coarsegold, California 93614 USA
Tel: 001-559 683 2512, Fax:001-559 229 8642 , Email: drpins@sti.net
http://www.mahabodhimettausa.org

Dr. Noor V.Gillani, President
The PYAR Fondation
466 Sussex Drive, Huntsville, AL 35824, USA
(256) 658-1101, (256) 961-7755 (Fax), Email: gillani9999@gmail.com
http://pyarfoundation.org

IN MALAYSIA
Mahabodhi Desk Ladakh, Malaysia
Contact Persons:
Sis. Siew Hua
ngshua@hotmail.com
Tel: 012 260 8190

Bro. Charlie Chia
chialuimeng@gmail.com
Tel: 0122893887
email: mimc.malaysiadesk@gmail.com
http://www.mahabodhi-ladakh.blogspot.com

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More photos of the devasated Ladakh can be seen first hand here

Nagasena Thupstan Lundup’s album for Mahabohi Center

Drupa.org

Some Images of the Himalayas at tumblr

Created a photo album via tumblr for some of my images of Ladakh, Himalayan India.

After going through about 8gb of images, managed to edit it down to a few. I love tumblr for its micro-blogging platform and its rather creative editable html type. It does help me to present these lovely images without going through the painstaking coding design like most other platforms

Here’s a short collection from my 1tb worth of travel images yet to be edited!

http://travellust.tumblr.com/

Dressing up for the High Lama, Korzok Village Ladakh

Korzok Village, Ladakh, Himalayan India.

The lady of my guesthouse was dressing up for the High Lama’s visit to Korzok Village.

When I was just about to leave the house in the morning for a walkabout. I spotted her from the half open room while she was just about to finish dressing up.   Had unbashingly invited myself into her bedroom and she welcomed me quite openly although she was a little amused on how excited I was seeing her dressing up.

I photographed her dressing and helped her with her coat and jewellery. Her head gear lined with precious turquoise was incredibly heavy and it was amazing how she could wear that for the whole day. The whole setup was heavy and it probably  took quite awhile to dress.

You could tell how precious every gear and every jewellery were to her as she unwrapped them after taking them out from a wooden chest. Obviously these were her only possessions from her dowry as often females were only given these, passed down from their mothers as their only financial property.

We couldn’t really communicate as I couldn’t speak Ladakhi and know only little Hindi, and she, spoke only little Hindi and no English and all Ladakhi.

In between my hand signals and non-existent hindi, I came to know that she was one of the village representatives to receive the High Lama who was coming for the blessings and she motioned that she was also going to dance for the festival.

Really did wish I could speak Ladakhi, I could have communicated with her and perhaps asked her more about her life in this remote little village.

Korzok Village Ladakh

Korzok Village Ladakh

Korzok Village Ladakh

Korzok Village Ladakh

Korzok Village Ladakh

Permit Info : Getting to Arunachal Pradesh, North East India

I visited Arunachal Pradesh in April 2008 for 30 days. It is a pain to get a permit to get there.

After googling all the official travel websites of  Arunachal Pradesh and followed their crappy  advice, calling my indian embassy, going to the foreign registration office in Kolkata, emailing and calling other departments,  it was such a time waster, that I am now publishing my own way of getting it done… finally, through paying us$20 to a Travel Agent just to apply that us$50 Restricted Travel Permit (RAP) for  Arunachal Pradesh.

You would probably gotten the same details on google,

Here’s what the official travel websites say about getting a Arunachal Pradesh Restricted Travel Permit (RAP), they tend to repeat the same crap without actually verifying that it works. All the departments do not know what the hell is going on. and answers vary like the wind changes directions (yea I am still kinda pissed about it)

“Copy and Pasted From all those crappy official Arunachal Pradesh websites”

The foreign tourists can obtain the Protected Area Permit from:

All India Missions abroad – Don’t EVEN BOTHER, Your India mission (in Singapore and London) don’t even know crap about it. They would just retort  paranoid questions to you instead. Time Waster!

All Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRROs) at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata – Best chance of  success is at New Delhi, Forget the rest, they would just send your application direct to Delhi anyways, unless you have plenty of time to sit around and wait for approval while they take their own sweet time.

Chief Immigration Officers, Chennai – Huh?

Home Ministry, Govt. of India – Double Huh?

Home Commissioner, Govt. of Arunachal Pradesh, Itanagar – By now should you even bother to contact them!

Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt. of India, New Delhi-110001 – Another read for entertainment purposes, dont waste your time contacting them.

This is REALLY HOW YOU SHOULD BE

Getting a permit to Arunachal Pradesh, North East India

1. If you have 4 persons travelling

 

Apply via :

Calcutta Foreigners Regional Registration Office

237 Acharya Jagdish Chandra Bose Road (AJC Bose Road), Kolkata – 700 020

(nearest train station : Rabindra Sadan station)

or

New Delhi Foreigner’s Registration

East Block-VIII, Level-II, Sector-1, R.K. Puram, New Delhi – 110 066

Cost : us$50 per person per permit application for 30 days

Processing time varies from 1 day – 3days, to  7 – 14days or more,  as they will be sending your approval to New Delhi, you need to submit your application with passport photo, copy of indian visa, passport, and go for an interview should the current govt official decides you should do it. (total of 2-3 trips to the Kolkata office to get it done)

Non Indian Nationals : Do not apply in Guwahati.

Only Indian nationals application will be accepted in Arunachal Pradesh House in Guwahati

 

Of course there is always exception to the ruling (if you know what to do) The question is how much are you willing to donate/contribute your cash, who you talk to, which officer in charge is currently in attendance, and what mood that govt official is in.  etc.. Results will vary from Individual applications

 

2. For 2 person travelling or more, you need to use a Travel Agent (Best chance of success and highly recommended if you don’t want the headache)

Cost : us$20 per person (agent charges this for their ‘services’)

Permit : us$50 per person (Arunachal Pradesh Govt fee)

Total permit cost : us$70 per person

Duration : 1 month travel permit

3. For 1 person travelling solo (apply with Travel Agent)

 

You would still need to get someone’s passport details, pay $20+50 X 2 person for the permit. That person need not be travelling with you for the permit. You could technically submit a person’s details without that person actually visiting the state. Not recommended because it is not worth paying a total of us$140 for your permits. Find someone who might be interested in travelling with you, or travelling the same dates as you, but you could both go on your separate ways.  -> I did this, but somehow ended up travelling with the same person on my permit.

Other Information

The official website http://arunachalpradesh.nic.in/enter_ap.htm to be used for information and entertainment purposes only.

 

Notes :

Don’t waste your time applying through your local Indian mission as they don’t even know of such ruling.

I used a Travel Agent, thru a local naga contact, his replies will be incredibly slow as internet is not often accessible.

You can contact Oken Tayeng,  You might get away from not paying him prior to arrival. BUT Make sure you do pay him for his effort.

Mode: Payment of permit can be done in Itanagar, Arunachal pradesh, permit given over Email.

Oken’s Contact :

ABORCOUNTRY TRAVELS & EXPEDITIONS

B Sector, Itanagar , Arunachal Pradesh – 791111

Tel : +91 360 2211722 Fax : +91 360 2292969

Mobile : +91 9436053870

Email : aborcountry@yahoo.com/kentayeng@yahoo.com

Failing to contact the guy above, you can contact the rest of the tour operators here.

Update: Oken is now charging us$50 for his services, total $100 per person for permit. Find another travel agent to help you on it. They should charge you only us$20 for their services!

The travel operators would be all be too willing to sell you a travel package as well. -> By suggesting that you REALLY should need a guide to take you around the State, because it is really not safe, blah blah blah…

Travelling around Arunachal Pradesh is easy, just a little time consuming as road conditions are quite bad, there are plenty of public jeeps or Sumos that the locals use to transport themselves from town to town on a daily basis.

I did all my travels via public buses and jeeps, I do find the buses more comfortable for longer rides, as the public jeeps often packed like sardines. A 6 seater jeep could be filled with 10 person or more!

If you are on a time constraint, then it is highly recommended to take up the travel agents services, mostly they are pretty generic, so it really comes down to who you wanna go for.

Application Details :

You need –

1. Digital Copy of Passport WITH current Indian Visa

2. Two  Passport photo (2 digital photos organised  side by side)

3. Permit Application : filled with your itinerary and suggested dates of Entry and Exit Dates

4. Processing time : min. 7 days – 14days depends on where your travel operator apply it from.

IMPORTANT!
Make sure you fill in ALL the TOWN Names of Arunachal Pradesh in your itinerary, the permit will be issued according to all the towns you apply for in your itinerary, else you might incur problems when you register yourself with the local police in the various towns. It is mandatory that you report or declare your presence in the various towns.

However, I didn’t have visit to the local police station, the hotels would do that for you, or the police officers would approach you when they see you along the streets in your backpacks.

After you get your permit Make sure you have tons of duplicate copies of the permit, every official (from police to the army to govt official) who approaches you, somehow wants a copy of it.

The Long winded story

In Menchuka, the police commissioner approached me in the same shop as I was, while he was shopping for his daily local vegetables. In another town, one of the policeman asked me for my permit rather casually over dinner while sharing his nightly whiskey  shots with me at the local tea house, he happen to see me there, while he was having his daily drink,

And yet another town, i was asked again for the permit over a cuppa Indian chai and samosas, compliments of the police chap.

They were all pretty friendly bunch, but somehow they are pretty obsessed about that Restriction Permit. So you get my long winded drift, MAKE TONS OF RAP PERMIT DUPLICATES

Attached is the permit application form here :

https://ihavetravellust.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/arunchal-pradesh-rap-pap2-copy.jpg

https://ihavetravellust.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/arunchal-pradesh-rap-pap1-copy.jpg

Update me on how you got your permit done, I am interested to know, as this whole permit issue changes like your regular curry masala.

Lakdahi Toilet

Ladahi toilets are one of the cleanest toilets I have ever been to, even though its just a hole in a shack. There is no water, just mud and soil. The odour is bearable, there isn’t any really horrid smell compared to those water sewage septic toilets.

In other places in the Himalayas, instead of mud, they use millet husk or wheat husk to cover up your daily soils. and the pigs will feast under the shack. Just in case you are wondering, yes people do eat those pigs during festival times.

Enroute to Tsokar, I saw these horses

Enroute to Tsokar, Changthang District, Ladakh, Himalayan India

Tourist treks and horses

These horses were returning to Leh after a week’s trek guiding tourists around, popular trekking routes consist of treks around Changthang plateau doing the popular Tsokar to Tsomoriri route.

Not many travellers know that their trekking horses usually come from around Leh instead of around Changthang plateau. The horsemen would bring their horses to Tsokar, meeting the tourists who usually commute there with the jeeps.  There are not enough trekking horses around Tsokar or Tsomoriri to cater for the large number of tourist treks during the peak season. Horses are expensive and not many villages around the Changthang plateau can afford to have that many horses living in their property. Only those around Leh would be able to possess four or more horses especially if they are connected to the tourist trade.

They usually take 5 days to reach their trekking destination before embarking on the  trek. A typical tourist trek takes a further 7 days from Tsokar to Tsomoriri Lake. After which the horses return to Leh 5 days later.

Arduous work for these horses and for their owners, still better compared to the people around the much poorer region of Changthang plateau who live on subsistence farming and breeding pashmina goats. In my previous post, I did mention that Pashmina goats are usually bred around Changthang region and not in Kashimir.

Likir Village view from Gompa

Likir Village view from Likir Gompa, Ladakh Himalayan India

Likir Village is about 60km from Leh, Ladakh and accessible via the daily public buses from Leh’s bus station, then its a fairly easy sandy 3 – 5km walk into the village. Most tourists probably would take the day tour which combines a few gompa visits especially if they are only in Leh for a few short days.

To get there on your own, its possible but buses from Leh to Likir starts from noon as the buses originate from Likir village ferrying the villagers to the Leh town in the morning before returning at noon.

On return, I hitched a ride back via a jeep. It was getting dark and feeling a little anxious, I didn’t want to wait. There might have been buses on the main road if I had waited long enough. I took a chance coming here, tt was either miss the rides back to Leh, or stay overnight at the village, like what I did for other gompa visits.

I arrived to Likir in later part of the afternoon, and so had to wait for the attending monk to open the doors to the main gompa for quite awhile. It was fairly a hit and miss affair but with a little wait and luck, a small group of local Ladakhis arrived for some pilgrimage trip, the monk  appeared, (for the locals knew where to look for him) and open all the rooms including prayer rooms which usually would’nt have been opened for tourists.


Likir Gompa, Likir Village, Leh, Ladakh, Himalayan India

It wasn’t particularly a memorable gompa despite it being one of the oldest gompas around Leh. The rooms were fairly dark and there were no photography in the chambers belonging to the darker guardians usually called wrathful deities. There were no photography, the rules’ reason being that it was for the respect of these wrathful deities and for the safety of this photographer who might offend these powerful beings. Personally for me, I refrained from taking any photos out of the respect of the Lakdahi pilgrims I was following around.

The view of the wheat colored millet fields of the Likir village was kinda pretty and that was my highlight for this place. Many other gompas I had been to, didn’t have this gorgeous view overlooking the millet fields and the the village.

Likir Gompa or Monastery belongs to the Yellow Hat of Tibetan Buddhist Sect. It is more popular for its large Maitreya statue situated out in the open, behind the gompa. I failed to get any decent shots of it for you to see, as a light shower descended upon me when I was there. Besides that I was suffering from an overdose of gompas and buddhist statues for the week and so was immuned and jaded to all the beauty around me. Such is life!

In the interiors of the main gompa, you might be interested in the ghostly yellow sect robes that the monks use for their cold early morning prayers. Will post those photos up when I find them.