Manali

Foreigners on the luxury coach from Delhi to Manali outnumbered Indians 3:1. That, however, wasn’t the curious part. What was unusual was that all the foreigners appeared to know exactly where they were headed. The Indians, on the other hand, yours truly included, exchanged notes about hotels uncertainly. The first one off the bus was…

Magic Carpets

Buying a carpet is a life-long investment for most people. So, it is a trifle surprising that not many people know what makes a good carpet, or even what are the factors that affect the quality – and by extension price – of an heirloom that is passed on from one generation to another. There’s…

The Olive Growing World

Spain has a population of 30 million people and 300 million olive trees, the highest in the world. Tunisia has a population of 10 million and 70 million olive trees. It is Greece that has the highest olive oil consumption in the world, because olive trees grow in all parts of the country: in Italy,…

Iran Part Two

Aab gosht translates, less than fecilitously, to water meat. It is more descriptive of Iran’s meat, beans and potato dish than Kashmir’s far more refined lamb cooked in reduced milk, and no! It’s not just my prejudice. Iran’s homely dish is always cooked in a stone pot with a lid. The ones I saw in…

Iran Part One

Iran The only two cities I visited on my trip were to Mashad and Isfahan. Mashad is famous for two things. The shrine of the Eighth Imam of the Shia sect of Islam, Imam Reza, the only one out of all twelve Imams to actually be buried in Iran (all the others are buried in…

Jaisalmer. At the edge of the desert

If Jaipur is the Pink City and Udaipur the City of Lakes, how can Jaisalmer not be the Golden City? Every edifice, from its fort downwards is made of the same golden sandstone, known in the rest of the world as Jaisalmer stone. Perhaps it’s fortunate that Jaisalmer’s airport has little, if any, civilian traffic.…

Smoke on the water

A houseboat holiday As the setting sun turned the sky first golden and then rose, the waters of the Dal reflected the multitude of tints. Other shikaras were darkly silhouetted against the sun’s rays, and I supposed my own shikara was too. My shikarawallah sang a mournful ditty that made up in gloom what it…

Sikkim

It’s my pet theory that you can never really have explored a new destination till you’ve seen its market. It was with that in mind that I set off to the floor above the local taxi stand in Gangtok. Extreme pressure on real estate and not much in the way of flat land means that…