16 in ’16

2016 was a blockbuster travel year for me, where I got to visit eight countries – of them six new ones, and most excitingly for me, both North and South America for the first time!

I also got to tick a couple of adventure activities from my list, including paragliding in Uttarkhand and underwater walking in Dubai, stayed at a few gorgeous boutique hotels / homestays across India on work and leisure.

So, a quick look at the year that was, in images…

Began the year with a ten day trip to beautiful Myanmar with the husband

Seychelles in April for the Victoria Carnaval

The stunning isolation and magnificence of the Rockies, walking on Athabasca Glacier and being moved to tears at Niagara Falls – Canada in May

Many usual and some unusual suspects ticked off during a visit to Dubai for a stay at the new Taj, with a spectacular view of Burj Khalifa

My first trip to the USA (yeah really, can you believe it?) – two weeks on work in Louisiana and Nevada and then two weeks on holiday in California, Boston and NYC. What an incredibly spectacular country!

A dream trip for any travel enthusiast – and the delight of discovering there is so much more to Peru than Machu Picchu

Another unexpectedly delightful and beautiful country – who thought Oman would be so blue?!

Ended my international travels for the year with a wildlife trip to Victoria state in Australia – think kangaroos, koalas, penguins and platypus…

Then, there was the usual travel within India – went to the North East for a relaxed holiday (the last time I went was when I was 11!), a few hotel reviews and more chilled out weekends at luxury resorts too.

The second big trip of the year with the husband, after Myanmar in January – Meghalaya and Assam in November

A post-graduate class reunion in Ahmedabad and then a couple of day trips to Patan for the gorgeous Rani ki Vav stepwell and Nalsarovar for the flamingos

The Grand Dragon Hotel in Ladakh – in the middle of a frigid winter in January, the Gustor festival at Spituk monastery and a trip to Lamayuru along frozen roads…

The new and opulent Orange County at Hampi – for a review for Outlook Traveller

A visit to Freddy’s Bungalow in Bhimtal and Mary Budden Estate in Binsar, in February

The long weekend in mid August – a semi forest homestay in Masinagudi, lots of elephant sightings from closeby and this walk in the clouds near Ooty

Indulging at Ibnii, the beautiful new ecoresort at Coorg

Bumper sightings of Maya with her three cubs at Tadoba, once again staying at the lovely Svasara

I also managed a lot of wildlife related activities during my travels (even when they were not specifically wildlife focused) – look out for the next post coming up on this topic.

A new Facebook page

So, what’s new on Itchy Feet? A brand new Facebook page, that’s what – https://www.facebook.com/travelswithcharu

Facebook

After years of resisting – how many places in social media can I manage – I finally succumbed to the pressure and set up this page. And now to find interesting content for it on a regular basis (apart from just my own writings, yawn). And more importantly, find people to “like” the page (right now, it feels like an orphan).

And here, dear friends and kind readers, is where you come in. Have you seen the page yet? If you have been a longtime reader of this blog, or just an occasional lurker, or even a one-time visitor who has strayed here through a keyword search, do check out the page and show your liking for it.

Please head there now and make the page a much-liked one, before I lose heart and decide to shut it down. Thank you!

A bit of trivia on the mysteries of social media: I obviously wanted to call my page ‘Itchy Feet’ to maintain consistency across my social media spaces – but Facebook refused it as being inappropriate. Ah, well.

Keeping warm the Kashmiri way

As Delhi winter draws to an end and the days get warmer, I am thinking of my brief stint with the cold and snow in Kashmir in January.

Different cultures learn to keep warm in different ways. While the Bhutanese, for instance, eat chillis to keep warm, Inuits use seal oil lamps and animal skins, and the Japanese huddle around (or under) kotatsus.

kotatsu
(image source)

kangriIn Kashmir, they use the kangri. It is somewhat like a personal heater; a mud pot filled with red-hot coal embers kept under your clothes and close to your body. When I first saw all these Kashmiris walking with their hands hidden under their voluminous robes (called pheran), I thought it was just a way to keep their hands warm – the local equivalent of putting them inside the pockets. But no, they are actually keeping their entire bodies warm with kangris, earthen pots covered by a wicker basket.

kangri1

kangri2

Kangris are sold in shops everywhere, with vendors even carrying them around in local markets. Imagine the skill needed to hold a burning hot mud pot close to your stomach, but even kids carry them with insouciance, walking with one hand holding a kangri and the other, a school bag. I am told that kangris are also kept on beds, under quilts or blankets. And guest are welcomed at home with a kangri, as much as a cup of hot kahwa.

kangri3

kids with kangri
(image source)

Interestingly, the Japanese have a similar “belly warming” device, called haramaki. The original haramaki is armour a samurai would wear around his chest, but now refers to a narrow knit garment wrapped around the tummy to keep your core warm. They used to have a ruddy-duddy image, associated with the very old or with kids. But now, fashion houses have gone all out to make the haramaki a trendy, must-have accessory in both winter and summer.

So, it is true that if you call it high fashion, anything goes in Japan.

But if it is Kashmir you are still thinking about, see this lovely photoessay on the kangri. Like other forms of indigenous knowledge, the kangri is also fighting against more modern heating aids, but nothing comes close to its cost effective and eco friendly little pot.

Need your help

I got a big scare related to this blog yesterday – a fake blog which is identical to this (an exact mirror image) has sprung up in the last few weeks. This person has copied all my content, including my profile photo(!), blog posts from ten years, descriptions of all my journalism work and ever single thing that this Itchy Feet blog has. I did some research and found that they have bought the url using my first name – and on the fake name, my name gets linked back to the url of the fake site. They have even copied my line asking for writing assignments based on the strength of my work, giving their email id. I have complained to the url provider but I have no other way of dealing with this.

I am writing this blog post now also to check if this gets picked up immediately on that site.

If you have been a reader of this blog, or if you like this blog – I request you to go to that site and leave comment asking them to remove that blog immediately. Any other suggestions or ideas from you also most appreciated.

Update: October 27

It’s been about three weeks now since I discovered the fake blog and I have taken a few steps. My direct request to the site owner did not get any response (I can’t really say I was expecting any) and strangely enough, the url provider (godaddy) and the hosting company (Host Key) did not respond either. I have not yet sent a DMCA complaint but tried other measures to get the site off. The fake site has been taken down in the last few days and I hope it stays that way. I have moved my travel blog to my own domain and installed security measures (closing the stable door after the horse has been stolen, I know). I’ll now be keeping my eyes open!

Are you a travel addict?

Or should I even be asking this question, considering you are reading a travel blog? For traveholics? Named ‘Itchy Feet’? On a week day?

I came across 21 signs you are a travel addict and they had me at No. 1. “Your travel bucket list is 4 pages long.” Other people count down from 100 when they can’t get to sleep. Me, I spell out the countries I want to visit, drawing up detailed travel itineraries in my mind at 3 a.m. Sometimes I reach out for my smartphone to check for cheap fares but that’s not a detail I’m particularly proud of sharing.

That apart, my surest sign is that I am always planning my next trip when I am currently travelling. I often get angry looks for handing out small change in unrecognisable currency – Croatian kuna anyone? And I seriously judge people (there, I said it) who don’t travel (yes, yes, I know – money, kids, work, health, ho hum, yawn).

Now, if I can figure out how to fit my life into a giant backpack, I am all set.

Anyway. Much as some of would love to be on the move all the time, we cannot. Vagabondish helpfully suggests Six Ways to Prolong the Joy of Travel – so get cracking on these right away.

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