Monday, October 17, 2016

Day 3: First Excursion: Pangong Tso at Leh & Laddakh

 We started really early since it was a 4 hour drive to Pangong Tso. We had to take a hard decision of leaving my brother and his family back in Leh so my brother could rest and recover from the fever!

This drive is NOT for the faint hearted. Even if you have minor motion sickness, I recommend Dramamine. Eat light and definitely fluid up!!
This drive was probably the worst drive of our entire trip in Leh! For only one reason: It is too 'curvy':
Case in point:

We crossed Chang La Pass (17590 ft. above sea level) and second highest motor able road in the world. Oxygen is really thin, so besides some quick pictures, I don’t recommend stopping here at all. My father got really light headed and we rushed down the hill so he could get more Oxygen.
But I definitely managed to get some pictures for sure!

All of us became pro's at getting 'O2 stats' checked out everywhere. This is the most important stat here. Don't take it lightly. Remember what I said: Acclimatization is a real thing!

The views on this drive are breathtaking, no doubt, but you need a really experienced driver to maneuver these cliffs. Both my daughters slept on the way up and down, since they were feeling very 'woozy'
Here are a few drive pictures.

Of course the minute you see the lake, the Tso, all your travel woes are washed away. It is simply astounding. The reflection of the clouds and the surrounding mountains on the take is like looking in a natural Mirror. The lake gets its color from really high limestone content in the water and hence the lake is also "Salty" We tasted it of course!

The locals claim, this was the original sea before Africa and Asia split (remember Formation of our planets) and hence the high salinity of water!

This lake is 35% in Indian Borders and rest in China. Incursions are common and hence a higher Army Control here. There are patrol boats in the water all the time. Again, since we were with the Indian Army, Sudhirji, the Army Jawan accompanying us and keeping us company helped us to get an exclusive boat ride in the Pangong Lake on Army Patrol Boats. Needless to say, due to security reasons, I cannot take or post any pictures of this. But this was definitely a mesmerizing blue and drive in the boat!!

Here is V pretending to ride one of the 'Dingy' boats!

Getting Maggi at this altitude of 14570 ft. is amazing. 

Knowing that our drive back was equally tiresome, we all took it really easy on lunch. Since 3 Idiots was recently shot here, most of the cafes are themed after this movie. I didn’t want to leave, but I definitely wanted to be off the steep drive in Day time. With a heavy heart we left.

Right outside the Tso, we stopped by and saw the local animals: Goats, Horses  and we had a poser, so of course we took some more pictures.

Sudhir Ji, was recanting stories of how avalanche in these areas is common in winters and hence the roads are closed for all public. But Army needs to do what Army needs to do. We saw 3 Army trucks in the cliff below struck by an avalanche. It was so disheartening, Lives lost!

On the drive back, Little Lady got really motion sick and started throwing up. Sudhirji stopped by an army medical area; we got all our O2 checked. My dad grew weak and needed O2, all taxis/ rental cars are equipped with it. Yeah, I know, it sounds scary, through the trip we realized this is really normal and as long as you are pro-active and take care and take it easy, its fine.

Don’t be macho- listen to your body and really ask for help.

I made the mistake of carrying Little Lady in my arms from the car to the medical station (20 ft. walk only). This did me in really well! I was huffing and puffing and due to lesser oxygen due to 'exertion' I was also a little low for the rest of the drive back.

When we returned back to the guest house, we all just passed out on the bed, exhausted!!! Though I was still dreaming of the lake, my body had no energy left. Trust me, as soon as I returned from Pangong Tso, I had claimed, no more, let’s just stay local!

But after a delicious and light dinner, and loads of Limca later, we sat with our Army hosts and planned the next few days: a 2.5 day trip to Tso Moriri and the India-China Border.

And then I re-looked at this picture and reminded myself No Pain, No Gain:

A good night's rest and ample encouragement from our Army hosts, we agreed and excitedly prepared for our drive!!! Trust me, tonight.. I really felt like why we are torturing our bodies…..

But this picture more than made it for me

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Travel & Stay Fit: Yes you can!

There are two things that I am passionate about, travelling and food!

If you have been following my blog, know me or even just met me, i could go on and out about these two things. In addition, over the last year, I have been following through with 'My Fitness Pal' Trust me, this is the longest I have stuck to the Getting Fit business and actually seen some positive results

Like my husband says, before we finish a trip, Garima is already thinking of the next one! Sadly work comes in way of 'my travelling adventures'. I am happy to say, the kids have travelling bug and definitely are showing signs of budding foodies.

One of the things that happens with this is: 'Getting Fit' always goes out the window when on a trip.

I want to eat all the local delicacies and my 'calorie meter' tells me I am way over my recommended amount. Of course after a trip, when I stand on the 'Scale of disaster' the truth is revealed. Yes, ignore the jeans fitting tightly, the t shirts being a little snug etc... I ignore it on a trip, until I get home and stand on my 'Scale of Disaster'

Story of my life!

But with this 'Getting Fit' business, I am trying to figure out and learn ways of Staying Fit, Enjoying local cuisines and continue Travelling and exploring.

Here is my simple and doable three point guide , I am hoping to add more 'points' as I travel more and eat more

1. Portion Control:
Eat everything you want, but do manage to have a little portion control. These 'buffets' are very appetizing, I get it, trust me.
May be take more variety and less portions. This way you can thoroughly enjoy the buffet and still not be 'way over the recommended calories'. Start with a salad, always!

2. Water &  Snacks:
Hydrate, any trip you take, be it beautiful Quebec, The friendly Vegas or the serene mountains of Leh, hydrate up. This way, you are snacking lesser during the excursions.
And if you are snack-er like me, carry healthy nuts, cereal bars, apple, banana or a simple sandwich loaded with vegetables.

3. Don't fall in the trap of 'Cheat Day':
Trust me, its hard. Read point 1, manage the portions so you can eat everything you really want. And at the same time skip the extra slice of chocolate cake since its your 'Cheat Day'. Its a slippery slope. I know since 'My Fitness Pal' graph is all over the place since I use this 'Its my Cheat Day' excuse a bit often.

Got You, didn't I: You were expecting me to blabber about use the gym, use the hotel facilities... haha!
In that case, you don't know me. On my vacations, I am lazier than my normal self.
You never know, sometimes just relaxing does wonders to your system! The stress eating goes away and you are eating when you are hungry and not when you are worried

 Enjoy these shows if you are in Vegas, take these beautiful excursions if you are in Vegas, the Sin City, book a hotel and enjoy the spa, the gym can wait, but truly relax!

Check out this amazing Website for Vegas, and I cant wait to book my next trip and explore all their amazing deals, and the only exercise I plan to do, is really thoroughly enjoy the city and follow  simple and doable three point guide: P-S-E (Portion- Snacking-Enjoy)!

But I do believe in really trying to stay fit and not gain the 'travel pounds'. If I come back at the same weight that i left before the trip, I am happy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Day 2: Day stay in Leh: Local Sightseeing

We really wanted to take it easy today especially after the harried day 1. My brother fell ill today and caught Viral Fever, for the rest of the trip, my Sister in law, my nephew and brother just stayed put in Leh. Sadly they really didn’t get to see anything. But they spend time in the Army guest house, recovered from the illness and learned so much about Army. This was pretty much the view for my brother for the rest of the week... not bad eh!!
View from the Army Camp

In the morning, we split up, I stayed back home with Miss V and my brother etc. While my parents, Sumit and Little Lady went on the first local trip:

Choglamsar, Shanti Stupa and getting used to breathing!

This is according to Sumit, The Dalai Lama was visiting Choglamsar on the day and though my parents could not see him, the peace surrounding the Choglamsar Monastery was breathtaking.

According to my mum and Sumit, Shanti Stupa is one of the most serene places to go to. It is a landmark in Leh and definitely worth a visit!

Shanti Stupa: Picture from Internet

In the afternoon after a nap and lots of water, Miss V felt better and wanted to head out. She had done loads of research for Leh and Ladakh. While the rest of the family rested up, the four of us headed out to follow Miss V's recommended itinerary for the evening. 
Hall of Fame- Magnetic Hill- Sangam

Hall of Fame: A must watch. This museum shows history on all the wars of India, the tough training conditions for the Indian Army and above all a history of war that has shaped our country!
The army Jawan 'Sudhirji' accompanying us through the trip was a veteran of the Kargil war and seeing this hall of fame with him was priceless
Miss V: Impressed by the Hall of Fame. Salute!

Pathar Gurudwara:
This is a Gurudwara amidst the hills and the 'Pathar: Stone' has an interesting story to it. Read it here. 
It was so peaceful here. 
Gurudwara: The peace within

After Chai and some langar we headed off to my daughter's highest recommendation: Magnetic Hill
En route for our Langar

Magnetic Hill: Of course it’s touristy.
MIss V: She get credit for this- she designed the itinerary

But your car is turned off in Neutral gear and in between two hills and car is moving in the opposite direction to the slope due to 'Magnetism' It is impressive. I think Miss V wanted to just stay here!

The drive to Magnetic hill is flat and simple, but the views are breathtaking, the brown hills get prettier by every curve.
We are flying.... at Magnetic Hill

We then headed to Sangam: Or meeting of the two rivers: Indus & Zanskar.
Beautiful & Serene

You can see from the pictures that the color of the water is different: It changes they say, Whichever river has more flow of water, has a lighter color since less soil gets mixed it! In our case Sanskar to the right was lighter.
Finally!! A family Picture

Though we wanted to stay longer, we had a long road ahead! we really wanted to 'take it easy' per our hosts recommendations considering no one wanted to fall ill due to acclimatization.

Next Day: Was our first trip: Pangong Tso... the 3 idiots lake... More to Follow

Friday, September 30, 2016

Travel Journal: Day 1: Flight from Delhi to Leh & Acclimitize

Of course, Sumit and I had landed from Chicago 4 hours before our flight out to Leh. Talk about Travel Junkies.

After a scrumptious Indian Style Breakfast at Delhi Airport, we sat in our flight; with 6 adults and 3 kids!

Just a preview to the trip ahead.

First come first: Yes Acclimatization, is a real thing. You are at 9000 ft. above sea level and really little Oxygen: The way you realize it is your breathing becomes slightly hard, you take longer breaths unconsciously and Trust me just take 24-48 hours in Leh and do nothing major!

Within 4 hours of landing and resting in the Army guest house, my older daughter, 8 year old Miss V started throwing up. Within the next 2 hours my Little Lady, 3 year old started throwing up. (aka 3 times in less than 10 minutes).

We rushed them to the local hospital; the people were really nice and understanding. It was interesting that our Army Jawan kept telling us, don’t worry, this happens to everyone. 

At that time, it felt like, oh my gosh, what have we done… but the minute I got to the hospital and I saw people around only with altitude sickness, it was sort of comforting. All of the patients in the room, big or small had similar symptoms: Throwing up, Nausea, Light headed-ness.

When you see the two little ones so weak and listless, its hard. I held back tears and made silly jokes to keep their spirits up.

2 injections and loads of candies later, both the girls were back home and resting as highly recommended by our hosts!

We were advised to have minimum 25 glasses of water each day and eat small and frequent portions. The best advice Ever!

So again: If you plan on travelling, Acclimatization is a real thing. Plan on 1-2 days in Leh so you can settle in, it will be worth it in the long run!

Warning: Leh, Laddakh is definitely a place which is a tough trip. You need to mentally prepared for 'falling sick'.. trust me as you read rest of my travel posts, you will know why!
Having said that, I still highly recommend it. The youngest in our group was 15 months and oldest 60+. and I still say, it is heaven on earth with its sprawling beauty...

Day 2: Will be another day!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Travel Diaries: Leh Laddakh- Trip of a lifetime

Truly heaven on earth! This is probably one of the hardest travel posts to write, words really are hard to describe this place which has such contrasting and breathtaking landscapes. Be it tall mountains, vast plain lands, wide lakes or serene views, this place has it all.

I have to start by saying- we all flew in from all over the world to Delhi to take this one week family re-union and a trip. My parents, the four of us, my brother's family all 9 of us spent a week in Leh & Laddakh and definitely made memories of a life time.

We were guests of the Indian Army, a family friend is a Colonel of the Indian Army stationed in Leh & Laddakh. Thanks to him and his entire team, we had a great trip and above all found a respect for the Army which we as civilians really didn’t think about. A separate post on this ishere. Thank You Indian Army!!

Here was our Itinerary in short, and detailed posts will follow slowly but surely!!! Stay Tuned

Day 1: Just acclimatize

Day 2: AM: Choglamsar, Shanti Stupa; PM: Hall of Fame, Pathar Gurudwara, Magnetic Hill, Sangam

Day 3: Chang-La Pass, Pangong Lake

Day 4: Shey Palace, Rancho School, Thikse Monastery, Night stay at Chumthang (which might be hard for non-army visitors) so please look for either driving up to Karzok

Day 5: Karzok, Tso Moriri and surrounding

Day 6: Enjoying the drive back, Hemis Monastrey, double humped camel ride, local Leh Market

Day 7: Fly Back

Here is a quick glimpse of why you should be excited

Monday, September 26, 2016

Co-incidence or Sisterly Bond!

How does this even happen.. two sisters come to the same location at least 7 years apart...And they both do the exact same thing..

Drink water from the fountain at Chicago Botanical Garden with the same level of excitement and naughtiness in their eyes!

I am reading too much into it, I know. I get that kids love open spaces, water and all water related activities.

Chances there were loads of other kids who must have drank water from that water fountain in the Rose Garden, Yeah, I get that! But its still adorable to have very very similar pictures of the two sisters

Here is Miss V aka Chatterbox when she was 1.5 year old

Here is Miss S aka Little Lady (Budding chatterbox) at 3.5 year old

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Indian Army: A story that need's to be told

As I read up on the Uri attacks, my hearts fill up with sadness. 17 Indian Army men lives lost in this cowardly attack.

We recently visited Leh & Laddakh and were guests of the Indian Army. After spending a week with our Indian Army, I feel one Indian army man equals the courage, the strength and the humility of 20 civilians combined.

The story of the Indian Army needs to be told- not in the 'Indian Bollywood way' but their true stories of sacrifice, spending months away from family, having the willfulness to actually so something for the country. The way I see it, we as Indian's sleep peacefully while the Army (as a matter of fact our navy/ air force) stay awake and protect us.

Being an Indian, I love Bollywood, love the movies, the fun, the gossips, the drama, the music and the vibrancy of Indian Film Industry. But today, to them I say: One thing you fall short on is showing the true nature of our Jawans (Soldiers)!!

Within a week of the one-on-one time with them, my entire family was often brought to tears as we heard their daily lives.

Here are some excerpts of stories from a week:

Mr S-ji, is a Kargil veteran, he was with us for the entire week. He recanted stories of the war: His best friend from school who joined army together. He helped his friend and his lady love elope and get married; they went through training together, cared of each other's families like they were their own! In the Kargil war, one evening they sat and wished each other luck. Mr S'ji's friend said- please tell my wife no matter where I am, I will always care! The next evening they come back to the base camp and Mr S finds out his friend was martyred! It's been over fifteen years, but Mr S'ji eyes were moist. He said- he feels this guilt that he lived and his friend died. He questions 'why him', he has this guilt every time he visit's his friend's family- maybe he could have done something different to save/protect his friend.

Another Army Jawan- Mr. X, let’s call him is a Kargil Veteran. He was telling us very simply about the "Tiger Hill Capture'. In the snow clad mountains, they would go for days without food or water. There were days when they came back to the base mountain to get one poori since all Jawan's needed food and supplies were running short. He told us of a story that they had to kick ice with their boot's for some ice to melt and they could quench their thirst. He told us the eve of victory night for the Tiger Hill, he was tired, hungry and exhausted. His colleague told him, carry this extra food for the night- Mr X's response:' Just give me the Tiranga (national flag): I just want to hoist that on the mountain!! That's the only extra weight I want to carry- food can wait!”

Mr S'ji tells us about his son, similar age as my daughter gets to see him may be 2-3 months every year! He was describing a story of building his house in his hometown. And though the civilians see the army uniform- they are not shy of asking him for a bribe to get the 'house plan' passed or get 'electricity connection' going! For Mr S'ji- I am here on the border, truly serving my nation and here these civilian's ask me for a bribe to build a house with my hard earned money!

We heard about the disparity of 'hardship pay' A Jawan stationed in the Siachen gets an additional hardship allowance of say 100$, but an IAS officer stationed in the urban city of 'Guwahati' gets a hardship allowance of '100$*5' How is that fair?

We visited the army base camp near 'Tso Moriri' lake. We had the privilege of having lunch in the Officers Mess. The camp, the Jawans, the officers all had the largest smiles and unspoken humility for us. They were happy to have my little one play with their hat or show my older daughter the 'pistol' from one of the wars. I was wondering- may be watching my kids- they think about their own families, little sisters or a life they could have had!

That evening we met a really young officer and we asked him- Why army:: He responded : Why not? This young officer from grade 9 knew the army is what he wanted:- he went to military school, studied did everything he could to get to the army. Nope, he has no family in the army- it's just what he wanted to do: Serve his country!!

I can go on and on about these little conversations, the stories, the valor, the courage, the sacrifices... but they won’t be enough!

These are the stories that need to be shared, the movies that need to be made! Bollywood, you know I love you- But I really want you to show the true army! Their stories. It might not be 'masala movies' but it will be something that will inspire you and me!! may be it will make us think twice before we ask/ give bribe. May be it will make us salute a passing soldier; donate a little something to their families!! 

Just a little something for them so that they know- we care, or at least we acknowledge and really appreciate their hard work.

As I sip on hot tea in an air-conditioned office: I remember the Jawan's who blew our minds in ONLY one week!
One of them- asked us what we did professionally- and all I could say was: Nothing! Nothing compared to you