Q: Most memorable trip to any destination?
As part of my job and vacation trips, I travel to 12-15 countries every year. This year, however, I decided that my vacation ought to give me a sense of achievement, push me physically/emotionally and take me out of my comfort zone. My recent self-driving motoring expedition from Lhasa to the Third Pole – Mt Everest base camp (Tibet side), along with my 16-year-old son, not only met all the objectives, it became, without doubt, our most memorable trip ever.
Our journey started in Beijing with the touristy Great Wall of China, Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, etc., then heading to Chengdu and touring the Panda Research Center before reaching Lhasa, the capital of mystical Tibet. We drove from Lhasa to Xigatse to Tingri to Base Camp and then to Karola, the hanging glacier, to the holy Yamdrok Lake and back to Lhasa. The trip included a 150km drive, mostly in dried river beds, over rocks and crossing small streams of water. The captivating landscapes, mesmerising view of Milky Way, the twinkling stars, the pure air and, of course, the occasional mountain goats at unthinkable heights, herds of sheep crossing the roads, yaks with colourful flags and a must mention – the incredible infrastructure by the Chinese government. This trip was a rollercoaster ride on multiple dimensions –
Weather – Sunny 30°C (with sun shining so bright that it would peel off your skin) to -5°C (with wind chills that could freeze your toes and numb your nose!).
Luxury – Super luxury in St. Regis, Lhasa, to basic amenities in a monastery at Base Camp.
Food - Premium Indian food in Lhasa to yak butter tea, yak meat, boiled cabbage and noodles at most places.
Altitude – Oxygen is a rare commodity at 12000 to 17000ft. above sea level and its scarcity can make every step, every syllable, extremely difficult.
Landscape – The entire landscape is a wonderland in itself, from lush green and yellow mustard fields to barren, grey snow-covered mountain peaks and water streams flowing through the mountains, fields and farms.
I must add though – having Venky from Nomadic Road as our expedition organiser made this 12-day vacation a truly memorable one. He not only organised Tibet entry permits and our Chinese driving licence, but also pushed us to reach Base Camp in spite of all the challenges along the way.
Q: You dream of going to?
I now dream of the following over the next 2-3 years:
A motoring expedition over the frozen Siberian Lake Baikal at -25°C
Driving around the beautiful Patagonian landscape
Experiencing African safaris during wildebeest migration
A cruise in the Brahmaputra River, with a visit to Kaziranga National Park
Q: Best hotel experience and why?
My best hotel experiences have been in Bay Island, in Andaman, Manu Maharani in Nainital and Fortune resort in Ooty, where I vacationed with my family in the 1990s and early 2000s. These experiences were made unforgettable by the hotel staff going beyond their usual duties to make us feel special.
Q: A place you plan to visit again?
I would definitely like to visit Big Island in Hawaii again. The landscape, weather, the volcano in all its glory, the ocean, adventure activities and the luxuries are all very stunning.
Q: A family vacation that stands out?
Our family vacation to Ooty, in 2005, when our kids were very young, is perhaps the most memorable one. The weather, hotel staff, food, activities were all beyond amazing and truly relaxing.
Q: Great food you enjoyed and where?
I think discovering a Punjabi dhaba at an obscure Malaysian hill station during a driving tour will remain our most favourite food excursion. The simplest combination – Aloo parathas and Masala Chai – 6000km away from home is simply delightful!
Q: As a frequent traveller, what’s your philosophy?
As a frequent traveller, I like to experience a place, the way the locals would – whether it’s the stay, food, shopping, airlines, transport or social circles. As an example, in Tuscany and Salzburg last year, we stayed in local hotels or apartments and had their local cuisine. I also like to spend time understanding the local customs and traditions. Learning about the history of different places also gives insights into how the world works.