Khardungla might have lost the height but not the sheen!

Not so long ago everybody reaching here would be showcasing the photograph of testimonial to the visit as a badge of honour to have reached the highest motorable road in the world. Such was the glamour of being to Khardung La pass, also known as gateway to Nubra valley. It was one of the must-see destinations for visits to Leh-Ladakh.

Off late owing to firstly, constantly opening of many other high roads around in Ladakh and other places of world and secondly, because of many challenges to its claim of altitude with better and actual GPS measurements–Khardungla has suddenly become from highest motorable road in the world to one of the top 10 highest motorable passes in the world. And few other claim that it is not even in top 10. Challenges to Khardung La’s status have surfaced years back from Marsimik La. And now we have many higher passes in Ladakh itself than Khardung La.

Hill top besides the Kahrdungla pass

That might be the different story altogether about altitudes and the motorable roads. But still Khardungla has not lost its sheen. It still retains all the sign boards claiming its altitude to be 18,380 feet (against 17,582 feet what is claimed now) and also the glamour among all first-timers to Leh. It still is thrill to drive to Khardung La and beyond to Nubra. Bikers or other returning adventurers will seek to look for other passes far and beyond in Ladakh, even the Urming La which is now called as highest road in the world after its access last year was thrown open. But leisure travellers have different thoughts.

Mountain passes and these Buddhist flags have an unbreakable bond!

Actually, most of the layman travellers still come here with the impression that Khardung La is the highest motor able pass in the world. For them, Khardung La is still and achievement. And mind it, even crossing a 17 thousand feet altitude is no mean task. Then, all those who plan to go to Nubra valley from Leh have to do it by crossing Khardungla Pass. Interestingly Nubra valley is bit lower in altitude than Leh. Hence tourists will feel more comfortable in Nubra, but than they have to cross 17,500 feet to reach there.

South Pullu, where every traveller has to get themselves registered at army checkpost
Road coming from Leh criss-crossing the valley below on way to Khardungla
Tourists capturing some memorable moments

Another notable point is that Khardung La is very close to city of Leh, it is just over 40 kilometres. There are many travellers who come to Leh with a very limited time. Those who reach here by flight have to already sacrifice their first day of trip in resting and acclimatising. So those who have limited time, they keep local Leh sightseeing, monasteries like Hemis and Thiksey, magnetic hill in their itinerary.

Landscape changes as you move high up
Signs of some fresh snowfall, weather can change here dramatically
That’s how snow looks like at Khardungla, almost all the year round
Mountains around Khardungla look all white with rocks engraved in between

To all such tourists, trip to Khardung La adds the adventure quotient in journey. Going to such an altitude will always be adventurous. Journey from Leh to Khardungla takes roughly about an hour and half depending in the traffic and road conditions. By traffic I mean the army convoys blocking your speed. This is strategically a very important mountain pass for Indian forces as this gives them access to Nubra valley and areas close to POK. Hence it is kept in motor able condition almost all the year round, even in heavy snowfall.

A view of the Khardungla Pass from the other side of the road towards Nubra valley
This pass is completely under the control of the army and the place has many stories to tell
Top of the Khardungla top

Best time to go to Khardungla is early in the morning. Roads would be free of slush and vehicular movement will be less. Even the weather is generally favourable in the first half of day at such places. Those who cross in the morning towards Nubra, should try to cross Khardungla pass before it gets dark in their return journey in the evening.

Pass has an army canteen, a temple and public facilities

Khardung La pass at sunset

You can easily find taxis in Leh to take you to Khardungla. Hotels, where you stay will arrange for this. If you don’t intent to go further to Nubra, than Khardungla can be at the most a half day itinerary from Leh.

Lets watch a video of the proverbial last mile drive to Khardungla from South Pullu on my YouTube channel by clicking on the thumbnail below-

Have you been to Khardungla Pass? How was your experience? Please share with us in the comments section below!

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Riding this Eel is indeed electrifying

SeaWorld San Diego threw open Electric Eel —  San Diego’s tallest and fastest roller coaster with astounding loops, twists and airtimeon May 10, 2018. Featuring multiple-launch experiences, Electric Eel propels riders forward and backward as they speed through the ride’s station house accelerating to more than 60 miles per hour in seconds. Riders then rocket skyward nearly 150 feet where they will brave an inverted “heartline” roll and a twisting loop for an exciting feeling of airtime as riders crest the top before breathlessly returning to the station.

“Electric Eel will bring a whole new level of excitement to SeaWorld,” said SeaWorld San Diego’s Park President Marilyn Hannes. “This new, first-of-its-kind coaster at SeaWorld will give riders the rare opportunity to feel what it’s like to move like an eel as they twist and flip along nearly 900 feet of undulating track.”

Complementing the Electric Eel roller coaster is a hypnotic live eel habitat featuring a collection of moray eels. The eel habitat, located at the eastern edge of the Ocean Explorer realm and already part of the guest experience at SeaWorld, features large viewing windows where visitors can plunge into the world of the eel as they swim and dart through the caves and crevasses of their naturalistic deep-ocean environment.

The Electric Eel attraction area will also feature an interactive educational experience called  Mission: Deep Discovery, which will allow a team of one to four players to embark on a virtual deep sea adventure aboard a manned-vehicle while they encounter the marvels of the deep ocean.

“We always strive to provide new reasons to visit SeaWorld and give our guests experiences that matter with a blend of exciting rides and incredible animal and educational experiences,” said Hannes. “We want our guests from around the world to not only have a great time, but be inspired to care about the ocean and the animals that live there.”

Electric Eel joins Manta and Journey to Atlantis as the third coaster-type ride experience at SeaWorld San Diego. It is located on an approximately 2-acre site on the eastern side of the park between Ocean Explorer and Journey to Atlantis. The new coaster is an expansion of the park’s Ocean Explorer realm, which opened in summer of 2017 as part of the park’s largest new attraction premiere in its history, also including the inspiring documentary-style Orca Encounter; and the summer nighttime extravaganza Electric Ocean, a nighttime transformation of the park into a sea of glowing color and energy, inspired by the phenomenon of ocean bioluminescence. Electric Ocean is set to ignite at SeaWorld on June 16 and light up the park on select dates through Sept. 2, 2018.

SeaWorld is open 365 days a year and is located on SeaWorld Drive off of I-5. Park admission is $89.99 for ages 10 and older; $84.99 for ages 3–9.

SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ is a leading theme park and entertainment company providing experiences that matter and inspiring guests to protect animals and the wild wonders of our world. The company is one of the world’s foremost zoological organizations and a global leader in animal welfare, behavioral training, husbandry and veterinary care. The company collectively cares for what it believes is one of the largest zoological collections in the world and has helped lead advances in the care of animals. The company also rescues and rehabilitates marine and terrestrial animals that are ill, injured, orphaned or abandoned, with the goal of returning them to the wild. The SeaWorld® rescue team has helped more than 31,000 animals in need over the last 50 years.

The company owns or licenses a portfolio of recognized brands including SeaWorld, Busch Gardens® and Sea Rescue®. Over its more than 50-year history, the company has built a diversified portfolio of 12 destination and regional theme parks that are grouped in key markets across the United States, many of which showcase its one-of-a-kind zoological collection. The company’s theme parks feature a diverse array of rides, shows and other attractions with broad demographic appeal which deliver memorable experiences and a strong value proposition for its guests.

Have a look at a video of this Electrifying Eel on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below-

Have you ever had such an amazing roller coaster ride? Share your experience with us in the comments section below!

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Where To Watch Cricket In India

There is plenty to see on a visit to India. It’s a dense, beautiful and historic country that offers everything from pristine beaches and culturally fascinating small towns to big cities and historic buildings and monuments. You can travel to India to get to know the country, soak in some luxury, or do some more adventurous exploration. There’s just a little bit of everything to enjoy.

What merits some attention and isn’t always at the top of the travel guides, however, is the sporting scene. In particular, seeing cricket in India can be a very memorable experience. The sport is revered throughout the country, and though crowds and quality of play vary from one event to another (as is true of any sport), you stand a good chance of enjoying a spectacular atmosphere.

While catching the national Indian team in action beats all, your best bet of catching a good match is through the Indian Premier League. The IPL takes place over seven weeks until the end of May and is ultimately one of the richest (and therefore most hotly contested) competitions in all of domestic cricket. It features eight of the best franchises in the country facing off against each other in an event that actually isn’t that old – but which is fast becoming very popular. Here we won’t look at all eight of the teams’ stadiums, but instead will point to a handful that give you an opportunity to see great matches in beautiful or interesting venues around the country.

Eden Gardens – Kolkata

Eden Gardens simply has to be mentioned in a piece like this. It’s the largest cricket stadium in India and one of the biggest in the whole world, able to seat nearly 70,000 fans. It’s also a deeply historic venue, having first been built in 1864 (though it’s since been significantly reconstructed). For the IPL, Eden Gardens serves as the home of the Kolkata Knight Riders, a respectable side that finished in the middle of the league in 2017 and seems poised to do so again. Additionally, attending a match at Eden Gardens, you get a chance to explore a truly beautiful and fascinating city full of many of the different elements outlined above that make India great in the first place.

Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium – Hyderabad

Needless to say this stadium takes a certain level of prestige from having been named after Gandhi himself. That would make just about any venue feel special. But it lives up to the name. The park has hosted its share of thrilling matches for the Indian national team, and in the IPL serves as the home ground for Sunrisers Hyderabad – currently in first place in the league. If you get to see a match here you’ll also be able to check out some of the coolest sightseeing stops in the whole country, such as the ruins of the Golconda Fort (once a 14th century capital and stronghold) and the Charminar or “Four Minarets” mosque.

Wankhede Stadium – Mumbai

Once another massive stadium, Wankhede was actually renovated down in advance of the 2011 World Cup. As a result it feels a little more modern and a little more intimate (though it can still seat some 33,000 fans). So, despite its having been built in the mid-‘70s, it is in a way one of the more state-of-the-art venues in India. Wankhede Stadium is the home of the Mumbai Indians, and of course attending a match there you’ll get the opportunity to explore the biggest city in all of India.

These are just three of eight stadiums that are used in the IPL, but they’re certainly among the highlights, both in and of themselves and because of where they’re located. Any or all of them would be thrilling additions to any trip to India.

DO you love cricket? Have you travelled anywhere just to watch a game of cricket? Share your passion in the comments section below.

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India Summer Days return to Karlsruhe and lot more in SouthWest Germany


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On the weekend of 14th to 15th July 2018, the INDIA SUMMER DAYS return to Karlsruhe under the heading ‘Baden-Württemberg meets Maharashtra’: a small piece of India right in the centre of Karlsruhe, with all its sumptuous colours, music and dance. India fans can indulge in live music, an Indian bazaar, culinary delicacies and numerous other cultural highlights, as well as Ayurveda and yoga workshops.  Last year India Summer Days were held for the first time alongside the “Pre-Festival” in the middle of the Günther-Klotz-Anlage.

SouthWest Germany, the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, is right in the heart of Europe and is bordered by France, Switzerland and Austria. Easy to get to, easy to get around, easy to have fun: that’s SouthWest Germany, a real four-season destination! With history and high-tech, romantic palaces and vibrant cities, natural beauty, glamour and fun, SouthWest Germany guarantees something for everyone. 

Also Read: Germany Unplugged – Holidaying in the SouthWest

Due to its varied historic and cultural heritage, South West Germany is abound in cultural monuments. Six of 42 UNESCO World heritage sites in Germany are located between the lake of Constance and the northern part of South West Germany. Ice Age Art in South West Germany, Historic Stone Age lake-dwellings on Lake Constance, the Frontiers of the Roman Empire , the Maulbronn Monastery and the Monastic Island of Reichenau. Worth mentioning as well, are the apartment buildings of the French architectLe Corbusier in Stuttgart, „the Weissenhof Estate“. Le Corbusier designed as well the master plan of the Indian City Candigarh in 1952 which was declared by UNESCO as World heritage in July 2016.

Wherever you go in Southwest Germany you are never far from a grand palace, a romantic castle, half-timbered houses – and something good to eat and drink. Stop in a café for coffee and cake; linger in a beer garden over a locally-brewed pint; taste wines at a traditional wine festival; sample schnapps and world-class gin in the Black Forest. Order traditional dishes in a Weinstube (tavern) and gourmet meals in Germany’s most Michelin-star studded region. In 2018 there are many foodie reasons to come to Southwest Germany, or Baden-Württemberg, as we call it.

Europa Park

In the heart of the border triangle, between the Black Forest and Vosges, lies the best theme park worldwide- Europa-Park. Whether Ireland, France or Spain ‒ 15 European themed areas with exemplary architecture, gastronomy, and vegetation are waiting to be discovered by visitors from around the world, embarking on a journey of discovery through Europe with over 100 attractions and shows and the promise of lots of fun and adventure for the whole family. The park’s own 4* hotels provide everything visitors need for a perfect family holiday or romantic wellness weekend with an authentic atmosphere and ambience unique to each themed hotel.

Shop till you drop! Read: Munich is a ultra-chic shopping destination

At India Summer Days, visitors will experience the great diversity of Indian culture and tradition in an authentic way. The focus will be on Maharashtra, Baden-Württemberg’s partner region in the heart of India, which has been linked to Karlsruhe for years. Last year Balaji També and a team of Ayurveda doctors, yoga teachers and cooks traveled from Atmasantulana Village, India, to the summer festival in Karlsruhe and offered many informative workshops on Ayurveda, Ayurvedic products, pulse diagnosis, Ayurvedic nutrition, healing music, meditation and yoga. Numerous other artists and musicians as well as yoga and Ayurveda experts will be arriving in Karlsruhe directly from India. This region has got special relations with Maharashtra. Stuttgart meets Mumbai wine festival also celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2014. The long and enduring town-twining between Mumbai and Stuttgart which dates back to 1968.

India Summer Days, Credit: jowapress.de

Susanne Schlung, Marketing Director of the State Tourist Board said after her recent visits to Mumbai and Delhi that  she could see a lot of interest in traveling to Europe and especially the interests of travellers who travel the second or third or….time to explore a region of Germany – such as SouthWest Germany. She was really surprised that a lot of the people she met during our stay, know of Cuckoo-clocks, the Black Forest with its delicious Black Forest cake and Baden-Baden with its Spas and Casino.

Sharing culture! Read: A culture feast at Upper Rhine Valley

Susanne said, “Due to the demand for smaller family groups, apartments and smaller busses for more people are more relevant. Small groups and individual travellers also like to try our lovely traditional food and beverages (beer and wine) as well as our high level cuisine in lots of Michelin starred-restaurants. But on the third or fourth day of their journey they need to have Indian food again. No problem; south west Germany has a lot of Indian restaurants to offer! Indians also like Shopping! So, in south west Germany they have lots of possibilities to go shopping – from traditional souvenirs , e.g. the Cuckoo-Clock at the Tiitisee-Shops up to designer wear in the Outlet City in Metzingen which is a 30 minute drive to Stuttgart or Wertheim Village in the north of SWG. Outlet City Metzingen offers at about 80 different luxury designer brands (such as Hugo Boss, Prada, Nike, Michel Kors, Armani, Burberry, Gucci & Jimmy Choo).”

Europa Park

German cars, especially Mercedes Benz and Porsche are well-known and loved in India. There are two museums in the capital city of SWG, Stuttgart, were one can see a lot of cars and learn something about the history of the cars. Traveling by train, which is very fast and convenient in Germany is also very popular with travellers.

Have you visited SouthWest Germany or Europa Park? How was the fun? Please share with us all!

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Reaching climax: On the top of the Manali-Leh route


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To sum up the rides before and after Pang, I can just say that while it was all thrill before Pang, it was sheer joy after that. In a hindsight, one can say that all troubles are marked just to reach Pang, Leh is a cakewalk after that. But having said that, Pang to Leh is also about the climax of a astonishing journey and crossing milestones, one after another.

Reaching Pang! Read: Where whisky and brandy are ferocious nallahs!

Changing landscape, as we move higher up towards More plains

After the restaurants and dhabas at Pang, as you move ahead, we leave the army transit camp on one side (Read: Thrill of being at highest transit camp in the world). Although Pang itself is over 15000 feet in altitude, we immediately gain height further for around five kilometres. That’s when we reach More plains, a plateau of enormous proportion at this altitude. Criss-crossing this plateau is a road unthinkable at this altitude and better than many of our city roads.

Ghost on the way! Read: Loops of the haunted!

Looking back towards Pang from the road
Towards right on the vast expanse of the plateau
Road taking directly to Tanglang La and further to Leh

It is an expressway at altitude of 4800 metres, more than half the altitude of Mount Everest. This is almost 50 kms of flatlands between Pang and Tanglang La pass. Flanked by mountain ranges on both sides, this plateau is good enough for dozens of football fields. Amazing, breathtaking and serene, this is a place like no other on this planet, and perhaps one of the most beautiful road journeys in India.

An inhabitant of the plains welcoming a stranger in me!

Have a look at the video of this ride on More Plains on my YouTube channel by clicking on the link below-

This is a long and at times, monotonous drive. You will find no village or habitation on the way. Only persons you meet will be fellow travellers going to or returning from Ladakh. Except for some riders stopping here and there for the photo-ops you will find everybody enjoying the speed.

Road conditions? Read: Himalayan Rides- Road from Manali to Rohtang & Gramphoo

I had an interesting experience while on this stretch. I had just crossed roughly about ten kilometres, when I found a group of bikers coming from the lake stranded on the road. One of the bike had a flat tyre. They were trying to get it repaired, but were somehow not able to do. I stopped to enquire. I was carrying a new spare tube with me. I handed over my tube to them. Although they were a bit reluctant as I was travelling solo and was still on my onward journey. But I told them that my bike had puncture resistant seal in both tyres and I expected that to work fine for me, as it had so far. Moreover the route ahead till Leh was supposed to be perfect. They even offered me the cost of the tube, but I laughed them off and after a few handshakes moved on. That was one of the satisfying moments of the trip, nature makes you more and more humble in its lap.

Travelling solo? Read: Lonely at Baralacha La

Just before Debring in More plains is the diversion to Mahe and Tso Kar lake.

Continue this journey further, enjoying the vista until we reach Debring towards the fag end of the More plains. Debring is a BRO depot and now also has a well-developed dhabas and campsites for travellers to have food and stay on the way. There is also a diversion just before Debring for Leh via Tso Kar and Mahe. Tso Kar is a high altitude lake famous for its wild ass and white sand. Many travellers will take this route to cover Two Kar and Two Moriri lakes in either their onward or return journey, instead of making a trip to and fro Leh.

Lot many things on different boards, but nothing to tell that where this road goes!

After crossing 50 kms of More plains, we again start to climb and this for the last time before reaching Leh. Still ten kilometres are left befor Tanglang La- the highest point on this Manali-Leh route.

Expanse of the valley before Tanglang La

I was travelling in September and at that time of the year roads were generally in very good condition as most of the snow around had already melted. But it can be tricky around July-August as snow is still there and melting, so it will not only worsen the road condition but will also make pools of water on road at different places.

The perennial trekkers moving up towards Tanglang La
Looking back from top. Two black spots are two trucks going towards Pang
Road criss-crossing the mountains

Reaching Tanglang La is a huge achievement as well as relief. We know it is just downhill from here onwards until Leh on good roads. The goal seems to be nearer now. Besides there is always a feeling of accomplishment after reaching to this height.

Bikers at Tanglang La
A temple at Tanglang La, only few care to go inside.
The board marking the altitude but now many challenges to its ranking.
View from the top… you are on top.

It is often termed as Gateway to Leh. Tanglang La is at an altitude of 5328 metres (17,480 feet) and is also among the world’s top 12 highest passes. Here is the video of last five kilometres ride to Tanglang La while coming from More Plains. It’s amazing. You almost feel like on top of the world. Enjoy the fascinating views on both sides of Tanglang La.

A highway of mountain passes! Read: Journey to the roof top – Five of the highest mountain passes in the world.

Once we move to the other side, it is a very straightforward road. We have to go down by atleast seven thousand feet until Leh in about 110 kilometres. It is almost like going down a gorge. Roads are good and after 20-25 kilometres you feel like getting close to habitation again.

Back to habitation
Nice to get down in sunlight
Soon back to villages

You can see villages and also electricity but will have to wait till Upshi to get mobile signals. Upshi is where we meet Indus river, cross the river through bridge and move in the Indus valley.

Some Good samaritans: Chacha-Chachi of Batal

Along the Indus after crossing Upshi towards Leh

As soon as you reach Upshi, everything changes- landscape, topography, weather, altitude and the mood. Mobile signals are back and calls are being made. You are still more than 40 kms from Leh but mind has already started working on where are you going to stay in Leh. Body seems to be demanding rest already.

Have you ever travelled on this route? How was your experience? Please do share it in the comments section below.

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The Jewel of Arabia gets a stylish new gateway

The first phase of Oman’s brand new Muscat International Airport is currently operational and has increased passenger capacity to 20 million- up from the previous 12 million passengers recorded in 2017. The state-of- the-art airport has been designed to be the shining symbol of the Sultanate of Oman. The new airport is designed as ICAO category 4F airports which will be able to accommodate the world`s largest aircraft, Airbus A380 and the runway will enable independent parallel operations. The passenger terminals built with the latest technology are aligned with IATA Service Level A standards. The total gross area for the new Muscat International terminal building is 580,000 m2 with an overall airport land area of 21 km2. 

Salim Al-Mamari, Ministry of Tourism, Oman said “The government of Oman is focusing on Travel and Tourism as a part of its economic diversification strategy. The newly opened Muscat International Airport, brand new Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre, revised visa rules along with other infrastructure developments seen in the recent times determine some of the efforts to increase tourism in Oman. India is one of the key markets for Oman and we are certain that this proactive initiative by the Ministry will drive a lot of visitors from India. Since 2014, Oman has witnessed over 23% growth in Indian arrivals. In 2016, Oman received 297,628 Indian arrivals as compared to 256,210 arrivals in 2014 that is over 16% growth within 2 years. In 2017, Oman received 321,161 Indian arrivals which is remarkably higher, showcasing growth of over 7.90 % in just one year.”

Oman’s new international airport has already welcomed over one million passengers, as it celebrated its first month of operations. The airport will undergo further upgrades in three consecutive phases which aims to boost the number to 24, 36 and 48 million passengers per annum. Presently, the Muscat International Airport is ranked among the top 10 airports in Middle East and has recently won the 2018 World Travel Awards as Middle East’s Leading New Tourism Development Project 2018.

For convenient travel, the new terminal’s departure hall allows guests to avail of three entrance gates that seamlessly flow to the 96 flight check-in facilities that are well located. First & Business class passengers flying with Oman Air will be assisted separately at 12 check-in counters and 3 supervisor counters, all of which personifies Oman’s magnificent hospitality. With an array of shopping and dining outlets, guests transiting through the new terminal will experience unrivaled service. The extravagant duty free is every shopper’s paradise with world-renowned brands and close to 100 outlets ranging from perfumes to jewellery, fashion and travel accessories along with a dedicated store for traditional handicrafts. Arrive re-energized at your destination with a comfortable stay at the 4-star hotel within the airport complex which houses 90 rooms, delectable food lounges and swimming pools.

Quick facts:

  • Muscat Passenger Terminal Building total area – 580,000 m2
  • Other Airport Buildings total area – more than 30,000 m2
  • ATC tower height – 97 meters
  • 96 check-in counters
  • 29 passenger boarding bridges
  • 30 aircraft remote stands
  • 5,500 bags per hour baggage processing capacity
  • Two parallel runways, capable to serve world`s largest aircraft A380
  • Airside hotel (90 rooms capacity for 12 MPPA)

So be there and experience the Jewel of Arabia in a new magnificent way. Till then, enjoy this beautiful video.

David moves on from Nahm and leaves a legacy of Thai food behind

After 18 successful years, multi-award winning chef David Thompson has concluded his involvement with Nahm, the restaurant he created with Como Hotels. Renowned worldwide for his dedication and commitment to Thai food culture, David took the decision to leave Nahm last year in order to continue his work exploring and protecting the history and legacy of Thai food and flavours and to pursue new opportunities through Aylmer Aaharn, the Thai food group he co-founded in 2014. Final Dinner Service under Chef David Thompson will be on Monday 30th April 2018. 

Photo Credit: mycitylife.com.au

Chef David Thompson, who was presented a lifetime achievement award in 2016 for his dedication to Thai food culture at Asia’s 50 Best, has left Nahm at a point of excellence. The restaurant has remained on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list for 7 consecutive years and was recently awarded a Michelin star in Bangkok’s inaugural year of the guide. 

Photo Credit : nytimes.com

David Thompson visited Thailand for the first time in his twenties and immediately got enchanted by the country, the culture and some of the cuisine. He hardly knew that in next three decades he would be one of the fines Thai chefs of his generation. That fated journey in mid 80s resulted in the beginning of his love affair with Thailand, its food culture and gastronomic history.  Initially he achieved success back home in Sydney in the 90’s, opening two popular critically acclaimed restaurants: Darley St Thai and Sailors Thai.  His research and connection with Thailand continued, as did his love for the language and people, allowing him to tap into ancient recipes and deeper layers of Thai food culture. In 2001 this research cumulated in Nahm, which opened in London and within 6 months it had achieved a Michelin star (the first Thai restaurant to do so).  In 2010 David took a decision to live in Thailand full time and opened Nahm in Bangkok. David Thompson also opened Long Chim in Singapore at the city’s Marina Bay Sands shopping mall in 2015 and in just third week of opening he was cooking for more than 50 of Asia’s finest chefs and restaurateurs.It was indeed a feat of sort for any cook. 

Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

David Thompson writes: “Nahm grew into an extraordinary restaurant with its success acknowledged in so many ways. I believe that this has been due to the hard work and talent of all those involved, but most particularly the staff. For me, the most rewarding aspect is that Nahm has been a happy restaurant. Even as Nahm’s reputation grew, refined its service and succeeded as a business, the restaurant always retained its sense of sanuk; the pleasure in looking after customers. The application of culinary integrity in the kitchen was never to the cost of the joy in doing what we all loved. This is what I will always remember. It is a rare restaurant that can achieve all of this”. 

Nahm restaurant in Bangkok. Photo courtesy: cwfoodtravel.blogspot.in

Nahm opened at COMO’s Halkin Hotel in London to immediate critical success and was awarded a Michelin star within six months. David received the ‘London Chef of the Year’ award at the Carlton Evening Standard Food Awards in 2003. Throughout this time David worked on his highly regarded cookbook, Thai Food, which provides a comprehensive overview of Thai cuisine, features over 300 recipes, and has won an extensive array of celebrated book awards. David opened the current Nahm restaurant at the Metropolitan Hotel in Bangkok in 2011, again with the COMO Group. Aylmer Aaharn, the Thai food group headed by David Thompson, currently manages operations across six countries including Thailand and Australia.

Have you ever been to Nahm and tasted some of Chef David Thompson’s preparation? Share your experience in the comment section below.

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Pang : Thrill of being at highest transit camp in the world


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View of Pang dhabas (towards right) and the army transit camp (towards left), as seen from the way up towards More plains.

Pang is a magical place. It brings you to an entirely different world, like the one never seen before. At an altitude of over 15,300 feet this is also claimed to be the highest army transit camp in the world. Army claims the altitude as 15, 640 feet. For a traveller- a biker or a driver, Pang is in midst of two entirely different terrains. While coming from Sarchu is the rough routes of Kangla Jal while on the Leh side is the super-highway of More Plains. Both worth a journey of lifetime.

Dhabas around Pang, with ample facility for food as well as tents, beds for night stay.

Establishment at Pang would have been come up as a place for stoppage for armed forces moving to and fro to areas bordering Pakistan and China. Being an open valley close to stream and less windy in comparison to Sarchu would have made it ideal place for transit. When adventurers started taking this road journey, they also found place good for camping, as they will always feel assured because of close proximity of the transit camp, if in case of any emergency. Later on locals came up with restaurants here to provide food to travellers. Slowly camping facilities kept growing and now most of the dhabas have rooms and beds for bikers, trekkers, to stay overnight. Transit camp is still very helpful for locals and travellers in providing medical and communication facilities. I have often used paid satellite phone facilities at these transit camps on the way to inform about my well-being to my family.

More permanent sort of structures coming up at Pang, due to ever increasing numbers of adventure seekers.

But staying at Pang isn’t a mean task physically. It is quite challenging to stay at an altitude of over 15,000 feet. More so, when you are tired because of tough ride from Manali to Pang. Many travellers will feel acute AMS here. Still many locals will suggest to stay at Pang instead of Sarchu, despite its higher altitude because it is less windy.

Have a look at a video below of way to Pang and places around camp.

 

Another video below of route from Bharatpur to Pang, a magical view of mountains turning into gold when struck by first lights of sun!

Manali-Leh route is also known for its five high mountain passes. Have a look at a video below of all the five from Rohtang to Tanglang La

As I said Pang has some of the most fascinating terrains on its both sides and amazing roads constructed in them- sheer engineering marvel. Among them is the Kangla Jal. Flowing over a rocky bed at an altitude of 4878 metres, Kangla Jal makes for an amazing landscape. Kangla Jal is in a valley and there are towering mountains on both the sides. It is located where Miyar connects to Zanskar valley. A beautiful road has been carved into rocky sandstone formations making it a spectacular sight. But than it is also one of the toughest (often people say ‘the toughest’) water stream (Miyar river) to cross on Manali-Leh route. Water flows from the top and falls into the deep gorge overlooking Pang. Still, you won’t always find water here, as in the video below, it is completely dry (it was in late September). That is what makes it unpredictably beautiful. When there is water in the stream (mostly early in the season upto August) the flow of water changes as the day progresses and recedes towards evening. Old-timers will say that the best time to cross it is early morning when the sun if soft and the snow hasn’t started melting. Middle of the day will account for the most severe flows. Even for vehicles, life is tougher for bikes as they might have to cross kneedeep freezing cold water in great flow. A bit of challenge! However a newly laid bridge has made the life somewhat easy for bikers.

For those who love haunted stories, Gata Loops offers a couple. Very  interesting that a road of 21 hairpin bends taking up the mountain is also related to such stories. Gata Loops are in between Sarchu and Pang. Travel to these loops in the video below-

Pang is also the place where we see the unique soil formations on the mountains, and some very unusual structures. Vistas here are quite different, special colours of the sand & rocks as well as few images which have become iconic in this Manali-Leh journey for decades now.

Also read: Where Whisky and Brandy are ferocious Nallahs! 

Climbing up the mountain overlooking Pang and moving towards More plains

Factsheet: At an altitude of almost 4600 metres, Pang is 80 kms ahead of Sarchu. Tanglang La is further 70 kms from Pang and Upshi is another 60 kms from Tanglang La. It normally takes no less than three hours of biking to reach from Sarchu to Pang, depending upon the number of photo stops you are willing to take.

Have you ever stayed overnight at Pang? How was the experience? Please share your views in the comments section below.

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ASUS dumps its ZenUI for Android Oreo in its new Zenfone Max Pro M1

Right from launch of Zenfone 2 series in India, ASUS has always kept somebody as a close competitor in front of its eyes. I am not sure, whether it works as a strategy to give targets to your team or it backfires as a marketing strategy as it always acknowledges the competitor to be the one who has set the benchmark. Whatever the case might be, but ASUS has still not shied of adopting this trick. 

But it has changed one thing since launching of Zenfone 2 almost two and half years ago. That time it went on challenging the king straightaway- iPhone 6S Plus. Might be the target consumer for it that time would have been not the iPhone buyers, but those consumers who always dream of an iPhone but were aware that they are not going to have all the money in the world to buy an iPhone. iPhone or Apple as such continued to be the antagonist even for the Zenfone 3 series.

Also read: ASUS goes premium, in show and in phones as well

Since than ASUS has stuck itself to challenging competitors more from its segment.It was Gionee M5 plus against Zenfone Max, Oppo F1 Selfie expert against Zenfone Selfie and now Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro against Zenfone Max Pro M1 launched today. A pro v/s a pro! It was the global launch for the latest smartphone from the ASUS stable in Delhi. Clearly ASUS is repositioning itself in the under-20K Rs smartphone segment.

This phone is the extension of the Max series of phones meant for heavy power users. Hence ASUS has maximised it with some newest features, few of them are firsts for an ASUS phone, just like it is the Android 8.1 Oreo. ASUS has dumped its trademark ZenUI for this phone.

As for the other features, ZenFone Max Pro packs a massive 5000mAh battery, a 15.2 cms (5.99) FHD+ Full View display and a dual-camera system into an compact metal body. It is powered by the fast and energy-efficient Qualcomm® Snapdragon 636 Mobile Platform, with Adreno 509 graphics for enhanced responsiveness and outstanding gaming performance. The smartphone’s exquisite design features a stylish aluminum-alloy body and 2.5D-curved display glass, and is available in two stunning finishes: Deepsea Black, and Gray. But users will certainly miss the Corning Gorilla Glass protection in this price segment. The hallmark of the ZenFone Max Series is the huge battery capacity, designed for serious travelers and those who need maximum battery endurance. The ZenFone Max Pro (M1) has a high-capacity, high-density 5000mAh battery — the most powerful in the ZenFone Max Series — but here again users will miss the fast charging support, that is almost a norm now elsewhere. 

Also read: Zenfone 4 Selfie: Putting a jigsaw puzzle together

Immersive Display and Audio

The 15.2 cms (5.99) Full View FHD+ (1080 x 2160) display in the ZenFone Max Pro features stunning 450cd/m2 brightness, class leading 1500:1 contrast ratio and an 85% NTSC color gamut to provide users an magnificent visual experience. The ultrawide 18:9 aspect ratio and slim bezels provide a greatly expanded viewing area that makes viewing photos and watching widescreen videos incredibly immersive, and when browsing the web there’s less need for scrolling. Multitasking is also easier, as two apps fit comfortably side-by-side on the screen. 

Max Box

For powerful, immersive high-quality sound, the ZenFone Max Pro (M1) features a five-magnet speaker driven by an NXP smart amplifier that delivers higher volume with lower distortion. Compared to single-magnet speaker performance, the ZenFone Max Pro (M1) delivers 41% louder sound, 14% better low-frequency response and 12% less distortion. When coupled with Max Box, the volume can increase up to 2X louder. This Max Box comes free box packed with every unit of new phone. Interestingly, this Max Box will remind old-timers of the Audio Booster that came with Nokia 7210 Supernova almost a decade back. Actually that Audio Booster from erstwhile Nokia looked more durable and stylish in comparison to this Max Box from ASUS.

Also read: Its now dualfie time with Vision 3

Dual rear cameras

The ZenFone Max Pro (M1) comes with a dual-camera. Main one is a 13MP sensor with a f/2.2 wide-aperture lens. The secondary 5MP rear camera is a dedicated depth-sensing camera for bokeh effect in portraits and close-ups. Through the initial looks, the camera leaves much to be desired. It also has a 8MP front camera. It also has led flash light with both rear and front cameras. All other trademark ASUS beautification features are also there. ZenFone Max Pro (M1) shoots video at up to 4K UHD resolution.

Dual SIM slots and an expandable storage upto 2TB

The 2.5D-curved front edges make the ZenFone Max Pro (M1) comfortable to hold, with significantly less bulk than a standard 6-inch phone. The ZenFone Max Pro (M1) is available in two stunning finishes to match the user’s style: Deepsea Black and Meteor Silver. The ZenFone Max Pro (M1) comes with two SIM slots supporting 4G LTE, and an additional microSD slot to expand storage by up to 2TB. Its convenient triple-slot tray lets users install two SIMs and a microSD card in one easy step.

The ZenFone Max Pro (M1) is easier to use and more convenient than ever, with a new face unlock feature that lets users unlock the phone simply by looking at it — the perfect solution for messy or gloved fingers. In addition, ZenFone Max Pro (M1) sports a rear fingerprint sensor. Although both the features are yet to be tested in actual conditions for their efficiency.

A hands on experience

Special Launch Day Offers and Pricing

ZenFone Max Pro (M1) smartphone is also the first smartphone to be co-marketed and distributed online under the recently announced partnership between ASUS and Flipkart. It goes on sale from 3rd May 2018. Flipkart launches ‘Complete Mobile Protection’, India’s end to end post sale assurance at a special introductory price of just Rs. 49 in partnership with Asus especially with this phone. It offers comprehensive coverage and ultimate convenience to the customer with doorstep pick up and drop service. In addition, there is an extra Rs. 1000 off over regular exchange of models and to spread buying cost a special no cost EMI, upto 12 months on all credit cards and Bajaj Finserv Limited. ASUS ZenFone Max Pro (M1) will be available in two variants namely 3GB / 32GB for Rs.10,999 and the 4GB / 64GB for Rs. 12,999. There will be soon a third variant as well- a 6GB / 64GB with 16MP + 5 MP rear camera and 16 MP front camera. That will be available for 14,999 Rs. But only sometime later.

Also read: ASUS goes MAX with its new Zenfone

Vodafone also has an offer on ZenFone Max Pro M1 for benefits up to Rs.3200. Offers include, Free additional data, Free Red Sheild Device security plan for 2 years and weekly telecom and non-telecom offers for youth customers.

Have you used any ASUS smartphone? How was the experience? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Creating young artists at Bali Art Centre

View from outside

Taman Budaya or Bali Art Centre is a prime example of how traditional art forms should to be preserved. Built in traditional Balinese architecture this is a centre of learning and also a centre of excellent performances. It motivates young Balinese people to learn all the forms of traditional Balinese performing arts. Bali Art Center grooms young ones in traditional Balinese arts- dance, theatre, music, painting and lot more.

A scene from Mahabharata at Bali Art centre

A beautiful complex run by public money is a very sincere attempt to preserve the traditional forms of art. Interestingly, all these classes are completely free of cost for the children. Such art centres encourage them to learn and perform and thus keep the traditional art forms alive by transferring them to the next generation… A way to learn for all such societies!

Even the bridges inside campus have artistic designs

In Islamic Indonesia the Hindu majority Bali is fascinating example of co-existence of cultures. Equally fascinating are the attempts to preserve art and dedication among the young ones to learn.

Here is a photo journey of this excellent centre:

Kids striking poses in their training schedule-

rigorous training is quite hot!
Notice the name of the arena! An Indian feeling! Where gems are being polished!!

Amazing beauty! Read: Sea on Fire: Sunset at Bali Beach

Bali art centre campus is big and beautiful
Young student practicing theatre
While some learn sketch and painting….
….and many others learn traditional musical instruments

Art centre for wedding shoots? Read: From the Bali album- Royal attires for pre-wedding shoot!

Students are also assessed for there progress, when they perform on stage whatever they have learned
Time for some rehearsal before the show
Confident looking trainees for their evaluation

Bali has lot more to do. Read: White water rafting in Bali

Multi purpose open theatre with traditional architecture
Everything designed tastefully

When there are so many students around, then they ought to be hungry.  So there are plenty of options for them, like these ones-

A lady selling street food
Parents need to kill time as well, while kids are busy in training
A lot of options to eat
Young trainees having some refreshment in the interim

Moving in to Bali! Read: Bali from the sky- few captures

Besides imparting training, Bali art centre also preserves many artefacts and paintings.

This video is from such a class inside the centre, where young ones are learning the art of playing the traditional musical instruments.

Another video of kids taking training in Balinese dance. Such is the dedication that while watching this performance, you will feel as if you are viewing a stage performance, not a training class.

Have you been to Taman Budaya or any such art centre anywhere else? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

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