2015 has been a momentous year. It has included nearly all aspects of human life for me and I have often had the feeling of going through a wringer. Professionally, my online travel portal “Your Exotic World” has overcome endless hiccups and my personal life has undergone a complete makeover. Travel career wise, 2015 has been a real star and although, I have explored less destinations than usual, all my visits have been very intense. Also, for the first time in my career, I have added a hearty amount of pleasure with work and the destinations too have been pretty mind blowing. A lot of secret travel wishlists have come true and this year has been kind enough to let me revive my old, mostly forgotten other passions in life. So, presenting my 2015 in a nutshell and what a year it has been. This has truly been life in the fast lane.
I had ushered in a brand new 2015 at Varanasi, by the banks of the holy Ganges. It has been an impromptu visit and the shivering December-January had been the perfect time to visit the dusty, chaotic hub of humanity. Varanasi had been shocking and soul shakingly alive at the same time and the burning ghats, narrow lanes, awesome food and ancient lifestyle had made me want more of India’s premier temple city. Spirituality indeed has an address and it is, in my eyes Varanasi.
The lovely, old and controversial capital of India, New Delhi has been much explored during this year. I have visited it during foggy winters, experienced frothing of Delhi flowers in spring and have sought respite in the cool awning depths of Jama Masjid on cruel summer afternoons.
My most controversial and toughest travel experience of this year has been Yemen. The ancient land of Queen of Sheba had won my heart forever, only to be destroyed by constant bombing by Saudi Arabia. I have been there during its most turbulent times and was one of the last foreigners to be rescued from the war stricken country.
The lovely little Rajasthani town of Bundi was wedged into my schedule right after my return from Yemen and the city of stepwells has been fantastically blue. It has a half destroyed fort, beautiful palaces, fairy forests, Jungle Book like ruined temples and is famous for a school of miniature paintings, known as Bundi paintings.
The French colonial town of Pondicherry and nearby Gingee was a mini romantic break and by February, I have needed it badly. Indulging in some French food, wine, luxurious stays and mini motorbike trips have been rejuvenating.
The paragliding hub of India is nestled at Bir and I had sneaked away to the hill station to meet a friend. It had not been cold anymore and flowers had started blooming. Occasional rain showers had played spoilsport and completely ruined by paragliding experience.
With the hint of spring, I had rushed off to Shekhawati region in Rajasthan to enjoy the beauty of its incredible painted houses to the fullest. A part of the Old Silk Route, Shekhawati region had been one vast open air museum.
I have visited Kashmir a few times this year and the wet spring had been followed by flood. Although, it had been rain washed, the beauty of snowy mountains and fields of gold had been unforgettable.
My summer had begun with rows of tulips, Phnom Penh love and serious start of cooking classes.
Malaysia had been for professional reasons and I had managed to get some work done there. Otherwise it had been a pretty “All fun, no work” year and I had eaten my way into Kuala Lumpur. My food love which had started with Phnom Penh had continued throughout the year.
Kanchanaburi and multiple Bangkok trips have made Thailand one of my most visited counties this year and I am seriously not complaining. Staying at a floating raft house, exploring the golden province of Kanchanaburi, cooking for love in Bangkok and some more food porn cannot be all too bad.
2015 has been a year of changes, shifting and predictably Germany has featured in the radar. Although busy and action packed, it had felt good to be with family.
Myanmar had been a tough decision. While, strictly against supporting the current dictatorship regime, a wonderfully paying assignment had drawn me to Myanmar and I had sold my conscience for money. Myanmar had been undergoing flood that time and I had returned with wet days, breathtaking memories and (thankfully) heavy wallet.
THAILAND and RAJASTHAN
CAMBODIA and KOLKATA
Autumn had started with returning to Cambodia and with a lot of Kolkata moments. This time I had explored beyond Phnom Penh by venturing into Tonle Sap, Battambang and doing a complete loop at Angkor Wat. And Kolkata has never seemed more beautiful than this autumn.
Philippines has marked the end of my international trips this year and it has been a grand finale. Manila, Cebu, Bohol and Tagaytay have been a part of our rushed itinerary and once again I have naughtily missed work.
A brief photoshoot in Jaipur had made me busy in the last months of the year and the balmy sun, crisp blue skies had combined well with the city royal grandeur and elephant love.
I had ended the dramatic year with Purulia district in West Bengal. It had been during Christmas time, when Kolkata had geared up like a party girl that I had traveled for more than half a day to visit the other end of my state. The reason had been the gorgeous masked dance called Chau and I had come back with more than that.
THE TRUE HIGHLIGHT
Kolkata has featured high on my travel list this year and I have fallen more and more in love with my city. I have realized that despite its quirks, ugly scars and whims, I love my city to the core and directly connect it with my identity. So needless to say, it was hardly a surprise that we chose Kolkata to be the witness of our beautiful (and much awaited) union.
What had begun as a city walk, had quickly been turned into an engagement at the Howrah Bridge, stolen kisses among colourful baskets of Mallick Bazar flower market, high fashion artfully nude photoshoot at a Bengali heritage house, a semi traditional wedding at Kali Temple and a champagne splashed reception dinner at Southern Avenue. Participated by only the closest of our small social circle, it had been a very private and homespun affair. We had shopped for our own trousseau, done my own make up, wreathed flowers for my headbands and decorated our house with highly fragrant seasonal Chatim flowers, lit diyas and Gramophone music.
The party had been lazy and informal and we ate, drank, gossiped and made merry till late into the night. Movie producers, lawyers, businessmen, professors, artists, fashion photographers and other friends from all walks of life had made it a memorable evening and the dinner of course, had been a quintessential multi course Bengali meal.
Can a year get more dramatic than this? I dont know, but I ain’t complaining. Happy holidays, folks and have a wonderful last week of 2015.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE