For this sky watch I am presenting the travel collection of skies from my trips so far in 2015. I got a few nice shots in each trip. I hope on my next one (yes it is in the offing), I will get a bonanza of sky pictures!
Kareri Village, Himachal Pradesh
Kareri is a beautiful village tucked away in a corner in Himachal Pradesh. There is no hotel in the village, the only option is to do a homestay. I was out for a morning walk on a clear day when I stopped to click the mustard flowers. It was a clear day with blue skies, the kind you remember for months after the trip is over!
I remember Sirpur most for is scintillating music and dance festival. But it was also a quiet place, away from the bustle of life. The town moved at a slow place. There were only dhabas in the the town, I like such places. There is only one hotel which belongs to the state tourism department. There was less construction and more open spaces. I love that too.
Cities are more about concrete, but the sky is still there. The rides at the craft mela at Surajkund were immensely popular. As I had left Chhavi at home, they were of foreground and background value to me. For once I was happy to leave my daughter behind because the mela was just too crowded.
All my recent trips to Mumbai have been one night affairs. I have mostly been there to attend events and fly either to another destination or home. On my latest trip I was lucky to stay on the 28th floor of Palladium Hotel and to catch awesome views!
A Tree and Some Sky
There is something about grand old trees that just refuse to fit into my my camera frame. I found one such tree at Shivpuri. The evening sky with colors was a bonus.
Fagu, Himachal Pradesh
When I go with Chhavi to places like Fagu, when I see her walking carefree in such surroundings I wonder if she realizes how beautiful it is ? On a whole I feel she is busy with some mischief but you never know with her. I actually need to ask her about it!
Camping by the Ganges
Camping by the Ganges is a wonderful experience. Rafting is another incredible thing to do on the river. I could stay in this exact spot at least for a month before longing for civilization! And that brings me to the end of trips for 2015 till March. I hope you enjoyed my travel collection of skies.
Both Chhavi and I were quite tired by the time we reached The Apple Blossom Fagu which is a HPTDC hotel. She perked up seeing snow on the side. I was happy that she found something to look forward to in spite of being tired. We spent three nights there and The Apple Blossom Fagu review is based on our personal experience when it had low occupancy in February 2015.
The Check In: We had a smooth check-in as there was no one else arriving that late in the evening. The staff took my luggage to the room. Rakesh the kind person that he was, he quickly switched on the heater correctly guessing that we were cold.
First Impressions: The room was big and spacious. However, it had a carpet as well. Now as a rule I do not like carpets because many hotels do not keep it clean and the room stinks. At the Apple Blossom the carpet was certainly old but they managed to keep it clean, so the room had no funny smell. After that I started breathing a little easy. As the weather was cold they had provided a thick quilt.
The Room: The room had a comfortable double bed with clean linen. It had a mirror and a dressing table, table and chairs for food and a work table. There were side tables by the bed as well which is very handy to dump things like mobile phone, books earrings etc just before going to sleep. However what stumped me was the lack of plug points for charging. In the room the TV socket was the only option for charging gadgets. There was a functional plug point in the bathroom too.
I took the lowest category room and it was a big, clean and functional room. I have no major complaints.
The Bathroom: The bathroom was once again absolutely clean. The amenities were sparse, it had two clean towels, two sachets of shampoo, two small soap bars and bucket and mugs. There was a shower too which we didn’t try. There was plenty of hot water so we were good for our entire stay.
The Food: The hotel has an in-house restaurant and we had all our meals there. They made excellent soup, parathas, paneer, french fries and noodles. They make Maggie too! However the cheese omelet was just about OK. The food was always fresh and as good as homemade food. They were happy to serve the food in the room at night as it would get quite cold out there. They make good tea.
The Ambience: The hotel has a huge courtyard at the back which is an excellent place to sit on a sunny day and do nothing. In a shady area there was a reasonable deposit of snow which was the favorite place for kids to muck about! From this courtyard you can take an exit and start exploring the nearby hillocks.
This and That: I guess on two nights Chhavi and I were the only guests at the hotel. The staff was so well behaved that at no point I ever felt unsafe. I ordered room service for all three dinners and I could confidently do so.
The hotel would get quite busy at lunch time as cabs stop with their guests who were exploring places around Shimla.
Their location is excellent but then government hotels usually have the advantage of the location. There are many birds around the hotel. The bird in the picture is a rock bunting.
The Verdict: If you are looking for a clean and no frills hotel, you would enjoy your stay at The Apple Blossom Fagu. I will happily stay there again. The only thing I want is more plug points in the room, preferably next to the side tables by the bed. If that is not possible then near the work table so that people can charge their various gadgets easily.
I am a big mountain fan and I am blessed that I live in India, the home to the Himalayas. And if I want more there is always Nepal and Bhutan next door. However our ‘main’ hill stations like Shimla, Manali, Nainital etc are extremely crowded, particularly over holidays and weekends. They are over constructed too. However, the solution to the problem is also simple. Just move out a few kilometers from the main hill station and it is all beauty and solitude. Fagu Himachal Pradesh is just 22 kilometers away from Shimla but it is a different world out there. Admittedly there is no nightlife, and other than the HPTDC hotel, I spotted no restaurants as well. There are a few kirana shops and there is nature on a grand scale.
Remember my letter to the mountain gods? Looks like it worked partially. I got an absolutely gorgeous day at the beginning of the trip. After that it snowed and it was business as usual but I am not complaining.
Even though I have been to quite a few places close to Shimla like Chail, Narkanda, Naldhera and Hail Himalayas near Sadhupul, this was my first glimpse of the snow capped ranges. I so wanted to see them glow red at sunset, but then mountain gods had other ideas. Even though it was a clear day, by sunset the whole range disappeared behind a veil of clouds, but even then I am not complaining.
We were staying at the HPTDC property Apple Blossom. There was a temple behind it and a tila (hillock) beyond it. It was our favorite walking ground. I actually liked that stray white cloud because it made the scene even more pretty.
On the hillock was this lonely house which was locked. There were no other accommodations around it. I wonder if this is just a store house?
And even when I got mist, it was beautiful on this trip to Fagu. This year the effort is going to be to go to the Himalayas whenever possible.
Traveling with my daughter is so much fun. I should keep my fingers crossed as we still have to travel back tomorrow. So far the sun part has been greater than the tantrums but we have one more day to go. Chhavi and I have now traveled together quite a few times and it gets easier with every new trip in more ways than I imagined it was possible! So this is where we stand with the latest trip.
This is of course an old rule. If the kid is hungry, she would get cranky. She would get cranky if she is very tired as well, but that happens much less than the hungry bit. She is not an easy child to feed. She simply digs in her heels and tells me she will not eat, whereas I know equally well that the success of the day depends on her stomach being full. I am able to prevail over her every time when it comes to food by any means I can, it can be barter, blackmail or pleading but I simply do not let her go hungry. And this is true of every trip we have done together so far!
Being alone with a child for a few days can get a bit daunting because I alone need to keep her entertained. If it is summer and she can play in mud and water which makes my task very easy. But at Fagu she had snow! It was a novelty, we indulged in snow fights but then we would get cold. Thankfully she likes to draw, so we carry color pencils. I do not carry any pastel colors or even sketch pens because they can easily be transferred to the towel or the bed sheet at the hotel! I also carry a bit of school stuff not because I feel she should study on a holiday but it helps in passing time! When all else failed, she had TV here at Fagu and I can’t remember when I watched so many cartoons in my life!
When she was even smaller I was very scared to go to sleep if she was awake, she would be up to some mischief in no time. This time I dozed off in Shatabdi and she simply sat by the window and entertained herself. Today morning she let me sleep for 45 minutes and sat by the window of the room. She woke me up saying, “look outside there is snow”! It is a big blessing to be able to sleep for a while even if she is awake.
On this trip we played a lot of silly games. Our favorite is bringing the index finger near the mouth of the other person where they have to pretend to bite. Initially she would make such an angelic face while pretending to bite my hands off! I told her look at my face and how I was really willing to bite her fingers off. So, now she tries to look fierce, which makes her look doubly cute.
This time I discovered a new tantrum. On the first morning at Fagu, she wanted to go back to the room before the breakfast arrived. As much I would try to reason that we need to eat breakfast, she would say she was very cold. She had gone out in snow first thing in the morning for a few minutes but I could not figure out what was wrong. We had a long argument, in the meanwhile the parathas arrived and I made her eat her bit. She perked up later and we had a merry time. Then today again she wanted to go back to the room after playing in the snow for a while. I was quite irritated as we were forced in anyway because of the snowfall in the first half. Reluctantly I agreed to go back to the room. And then I discovered that she had put her shoes in all puddles and they were wet, which then irritates her to no end. She won’t say her shoes were wet, instead she would insist that we go and sit in front of the heater. It took me a while so solve this mystery but once I understood it was easier for both of us!
Sometimes (not much) she really wanted to watch TV and not to venture out! And that would be when either the light was good outside or the weather had just cleared. She stumped me once but then I too did my bargaining and got out every time I wanted to.
The journey from Delhi to Fagu turned out to be a very long one. It is actually reaching to Shimla by bus which kills us; it takes 5 hours whether I do it from Kalka or Chandigarh. On this trip, to take the 7.40 am Shatabdi we started from home for the Metro at 5.25 am. The Shatabdi reached Chandigarh by 11.25 am as the train was late by 20 minutes. It took us about 25 minutes to reach the Sector 43 Inter State Bus Terminus by a prepaid auto. From there we took a Volvo to Shimla and this bit was 5 hours. Then I took a taxi to Fagu but by that time the kid was really tired. So, I don’t blame her at all if she kept parroting “kaab aayege” every few minutes. After all it took us more than 12 hours to reach Fagu from Delhi.
Today morning in the dining hall she kept chanting ‘mushkil wakt commando sakth’ which roughly can be translated as ‘in difficult times a commando rises to the occasion’. Now I wonder where she heard it, I am sure it must be lines from a cartoon but then how apt! So, if she threw any tantrum after this, I would tell her, “this commando is quite lazy, this commando is so soft!” And that would usually do the trick!
We took quite a few walks together, and for a 7 year old she walks quite well. Yesterday I think I tired her. Today the mild snow put us in initially and then I was careful not to tire her out. She walks ahead of me almost all the time telling me to be careful. Indeed her balance is much better than mine and downhill I am no match for her!
Today by some quirk of fate I gave her my precious, my camera, the DSLR! She already has been using my cell phone to click pictures but before this I didn’t dare to trust her with my precious. After giving her the camera I had two precious’ to worry about. I put the strap around her neck so that even if she dropped the camera, it would not fall.
She truly surprised me by clicking my photos without letting me know. She truly had a gala time, maybe I can actually do a post on the pictures that Chhavi clicked. Of course, I did the setting for her but it was amazing how much she enjoyed handling the camera. And now that my daughter can click pictures I don’t need to take selfies on these trips!