Vagabond in Spiti Valley : Tabo

Just 48 kms before Kaza is Tabo. Tabo village houses one of the biggest and rare monasteries in Spiti. It is also considered to be one of the holiest. Tabo is right on the left banks of the Spiti river. It is a big valley down there and so much so that you tend to forget that you are at an altitude of 3280 metres and already deep inside the cold desert of Spiti.

Tabo1
First look of the Tabo village

Tabo is just before Kaza. So adventure drivers and riders going to Kaza are often in hurry to reach Kaza as it is the final destination in the Spiti. They are also tired of long journey during the day. That prevents them from spending ample time at Tabo. The other problem is that there travel itinerary is so prepared that they mostly move towards Kunjam Pass and Manali on way back or spend a day at Kaza visiting Ki (Kye or Kee) Gompa, Kibber and Lanza, as I did. One needs time to see Tabo monastery and best way is to come back the next day. It might also be ideal to come back and spend a day visiting Tabo and Dhankar monasteries.

Tabo monastery is said to hide some of the finest of all Indo-Tibetan art. Few people also refer it as Ajanta of the Himalayas for its sheer treasure of art. Tabo monastery has nine temples, stupas and cave shrines. All the ancient temples are made of mud and wood. Due to arid and dry weather of this region, they have survived for so long. Founded in 996 AD Tabo is said to be the oldest Buddhist complex which has been continuously operative since its inception.

Above the monastery there are number of caves carved into cliff face. Having seen such caves in many films, it was adventurous to visit them. These caves are being used for meditation for centuries. There is also a assembly hall in the caves and some paintings, chants on the rock face. These caves look astonishing. They were also used as shelter by monks during the winter. Even today monks will use few of them for meditation. Few other are abandoned and are decaying. Its a small trek from the Tabo village to the caves. While caves look narrow from outside, but many of them have ample space inside. Few also have different rooms inside and have properly laid down walls and smoothened floors.

Tabo monastery has huge collection of frescoes, thankas, manuscripts, murals, paintings depicting Buddhist pantheon, principles, life and teachings. The manuscripts and inscriptions tell in detail about the idea, history and life of this monastery. This monastery is also unique in this manner that while all other monasteries in the himalayas are perched on hills and cliffs, this Tabo monastery is located at the bottom of the valley on the banks of the river. The monastery still has around 50 monks living there. Dalai Lama has himself visited this place twice for Kalachakra festivals.

Once you are here, this place seems to be from different world. While coming from big metros, one will not believe that life still exists in these areas. But its very enriching and needs to be visited with time in hand. Its a heritage like no other.

Tintin is calling for the Comic Strip Festival

Fete de la BD - StripfeestIf you love comics, then you will certainly love Tintin and when it comes to Tintin, Belgians love him. He is fondly considered as the first citizen of the capital city Brussels. No doubt that Brussels celebrates every year a festival dedicated to comics and comic strips. A unique event of this type anywhere in the world. Belgium has actually created a niche for itself in organising some exclusive festivals, and Comic strip is one of them. This year, festival will be from 2nd to 4th September. So, if you are a comic lover, then it is time to pack and head to Brussels. Here is everything you would like to know about this year’s edition of Comic Strip Festival.

Ninth Art

Belgium, and Brussels in particular, have been fertile ground for comic strips from the very beginning, so it’s entirely fitting that they dedicate a full weekend to the rich cultural heritage that is the “Ninth Art.” Since it began in 2010, the Brussels Comic Strip Festival has grown by leaps and bounds and acquired a reputation as a premier festival in the Ninth Art world. More than 100,000 people are now expected to attend each year as well as 250 renowned authors. And there will be a lot to entice everybody: The endless mazes of the Brussels Comic Strip Festival, the superb collector’s items from the great Journal Tintin Rally, and the impressive giant floats of the Balloon’s Day Parade. A wide array of offerings to delight little kids as much as grown-up comic strip fans and Sunday readers.

Fete de la BD - StripfeestAt the Brussels Comic Strip Festival, which will set up shop in the Parc de Bruxelles, there will be hundreds of signings, exhibits, a packed international pavilion, workshops, and activities in every direction. Sales, and contests awaiting festival-goers. This year the Brussels Comic Strip Festival will also provide the perfect occasion to celebrate several important anniversaries: the tenth anniversary of the Raymond Leblanc prize for Young Artists, the 70th anniversary of Le Lombard’s publishing house, as well as Lucky Luke’s 70th birthday. This is the chance to top off the weekend with a few extra surprises!

Finally, it should be noted that this year, the Brussels Comic Strip Festival will play host to a greatly expanded international programme. Just like the multiculturalism in Brussels, the stands under the tents and the outdoor activities will be conducted in various languages. French, Dutch and English will of course be widely present, but also Spanish, Italian, Finnish or even Korean will be heard. As to help the visitor to quickly identify the language in which an event will take place, a free programme of the Brussels Comic Strip Festival, mentioning all languages of all events, will be distributed in the tents.

Comic FestivalBrussels will show more than ever that it deserves the title of comic strip capital. Comic strip walls, museums, and bookstores will be in the spotlight while special comic strip activities will pop up around Brussels throughout the weekend and beyond. The whole of Brussels will be decked out in comic strip colours for the first weekend of September. The occasion to highlight the fact that Brussels is bursting with can’t-miss comic strip places: whether it is the 53 comic strip walls scattered around the city, the numerous specialised bookstores and museums, ninth art lovers have found their headquarters.

A Little Train will link these hotspots throughout the weekend. Free of charge, it will make its way through the streets of Brussels from the Brussels Comic Strip Festival’s marquee entrance. It will take visitors on a tour several kilometres in length, passing by, or stopping at, the Comic Strip Museum, the MoOF (Museum of Original Figurines), the Korean Cultural Centre which will present its second comic strip exhibition, comic strip walls, specialised bookstores, and other points of interest.A free Comic Strip Pass comes with this tour and offers discounts at museums and stores.

Comic stripsAnother way to explore these comic strip sites is to take advantage of the free guided tours led by professional guides specialising in comic strips. On one hand, there will be a walking tour of comic strip murals dotting the European capital: over the course of an hour and a half, the guides will share the unique history of the murals, these sections of abandoned walls decorated with comic strip themes. On the other hand, there will be a three-hour bicycle tour departing from, and returning to BIP (Brussels Info Place) that runs to Laeken, off the beaten path, and visits jewels like the Corto Maltese mural and the Parc de Laeken.

Special Comic Strip Festival activities

The Improv League, in addition to its performances under the marquees, will offer fans the chance to take full advantage of two weekend performances at the Marni Theatre. The Improv Match will obviously be enhanced with the concept of randomness: along with three comedians, the show will include two cartoonists. Together, they will share a funny improvisational moment, combining theatre and drawing. The Cinematek will also play along by presenting a comic strip film each day during the Brussels Comic Strip Festival weekend. Personalities from the comic strip world whose works inspired the film or vice versa will introduce “Paul in Quebec,” “The Army of the Twelve Monkeys,” and “Planet of the Vampires.” The films will be shown in their original language with subtitles in French and Dutch or English.

Comic StripIn addition to the five major publishing houses, and tens of small and micro publishers, the many merchants and BD booksellers and 250 authors present, the chapters of the Comic Festival will bubble with cultural, recreational and professional activities on first weekend of September. This year, the Comic Festival aims to launch on the discovery of the ninth art of close or distant lands. An international pavilion will welcome representatives from more than ten countries around the world, as well as their authors, their works and their curiosities.

Talks: For the third consecutive year, the Comic Festival programme is complemented by a double series of conferences, hosted by the authors and designers of all backgrounds. This year, the first series is entitled “Comics around the world”. Quebec, the guest of honour this year, and the participants of the International Pavilion will host discussions, round tables and presentations to lead visitors through the culture of the ninth art. The second series, “When Comics become teachers”, analyses how comics can offer everyone current topics, society matters and sometimes complex science.

Exhibitions: A number of free exhibitions will pop up under the big top. These vital partners are also bringing the renowned exhibitions and retrospectives of their author. It’s a chance to discover unexpected gems or original drawings! The Jeu de Bulles gallery in Brussels will also flaunt its impressive collection of pieces from the world of Hergé. Finally, the 22 cartoonists of The Cartoonist will celebrate the comic strip and its heroes in their exhibition, with which they have grown up and frequently referred to in their own drawings. And this is but a brief selection: the Centre belge de la bande dessinée, The Cartoonist, BD Enchères, Banque Dessinée, 501st FanWars Garrison and the 9th Art Gallery also provide a nice compilation of the most original surprises.

Comic FestivalWorkshops and entertainment: In addition to the necessary Spirou Festival and entertainment and games planned for the 70 years of Lombard, an infinity of other options are available to all festival-goers. Those who want to laugh uproariously can relax in the spectacle of the improvisation of the actors of the Ligue d’Impro, led by Quebec’s designers. Those who like to see things large can admire the giant fresco which Frank Pé will make during the Brussels Comic Strip Festival.  Those who want to engage in the delicate art of caricature can follow the advice of the Atelier 24. Finally, the “geeks” and fans of manga can meet in Belgotaku to hunt for manga treasure, to read or to learn to draw the Japanese way. For the most avid of new horizons, the International Pavilion will reveal the comic in all its diversity.

Finally, toddlers and youth will see their creativity challenged; they will have fun tinkering, becoming revampers or by colouring in the Kids Zone, or learn the ropes of humorous comics by creating their own board at the Macadam Valley stand. The more adventurous will visit the “Sky High Survival”, an inflatable structure over six metres high erected by Éditions Kana.

Tintin RallyThe journal Tintin Rally: The Brussels Comic Strip Festival is organising the journal Tintin Rally for the third year in a row. In what has become an essential weekend tradition, the race of vintage vehicles will gather nearly 80 collector cars. On Sunday, 4 September, vintage vehicles found in the journal Tintin from 1946 to 1988 will be invited to participate in the great rally. After a journey of about one hundred kilometres and a stop at the Hergé Museum, these cars will arrive in Brussels from 2:30 PM. The public will then be able to come and admire the myriad of auto bodies at Place des Palais/Paleizenplein next to Parc de Bruxelles/Warandepark where the festival of the Brussels Comic Strip Festival will be in full swing at the same time. This should be a delightful spectacle for people of all ages and interests. At the end of the race, a panel of judges will award the prizes for the cars that best match the journal Tintin.

EDAN5232The Balloon’s Day Parade: On the occasion of the Brussels Comic Strip Festival, the 8th Balloons’ Day Parade will take place along the main streets of Brussels. Composed of famous Belgian comic strip characters, the Balloons’ Day Parade will give kids young and old the opportunity to see these gigantic balloons. This year, the Balloons’ Day Parade will take place on Sunday 4 September. For an hour and a half, a parade of giant balloons taking the form of comic strip characters will cross the city, turning it upside down. The Balloons’ Day Parade and the Comic Strip festival will plunge comic fans into the fantastic world of Belgian comics. Another brand new balloon representing a famous comic strip character will join this year’s parade.  The impressive sight of the balloons being inflated will begin in the morning at the Place des Palais. During the afternoon, Billy, Spirou, Tintin, Le Chat and their new friends will parade through the city centre. The route comes to an end at De Brouckère, where the balloons will be deflated. The Brussels Police Band will open the parade. In addition, folk groups from around Belgium will join this colourful parade to provide entertainment.

(All photos: courtesy Visit Brussels)

Asus goes premium, in show and in phones as well!

The launch of Asus Zenfone2 series was for mass and Zenfone3 series was launched for class. The difference was quite striking- in the phones of the new series as well as the launch event. Exactly an year ago launch event for the Zenfone2 series was in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and the event though hi-tech looked like a mass event. But Zenfone3 was launched in India on Wednesday in a Delhi 5* hotel for a select audience in a fashion show type atmosphere. There was a different feeling altogether for the event, and that applied to the new series as well. (See at the bottom a exclusive video of the event.) 

Huge anticipation!
Huge anticipation!

ASUS CEO Jerry Shen was there to announce the launch and marking the availability of the latest ZenFone 3 range of smartphones during the Zenvolution event, making India one of the first countries to have access to the stunning new line-up of smartphones.

Well, here I am not reviewing the phones or the other gadgets, but talking just about the show. Regional head for India & South Asia Peter Chang introduced the phones and the laptops. Besides the Zenfone3 series smartphones, launch was also for ASUS ZenBook 3 and ASUS Transformer 3 Pro PC.

Zenfone3 series smartphones are in four models- the basic Zenfone3 has two high-end versions- Zenfone3 Ultra and Zenfone3 Deluxe. There is also a low end version- Zenfone3 Laser.

Next were ASUS ZenBook 3, an ultra-sleek and lightweight notebook with a premium aluminum design, and ASUS Transformer 3 Pro,  which company claims to be the world’s most versatile PC.

What was similar from the last launch of Zenfone2 with this one was the fact that ASUS felt its competition with Apple both the times. While earlier it tried to compare its phones with Apple in terms of features, while this time it tried to match Apple’s premium feel as well. Hence were the prices which had a touch of luxury segment. Perhaps ASUS has realised that the way to consumers heart is not just by the features, but through the luxury feel as well.

The products were showcased in a fashion show produced by designer-duo Shivan & Narresh. Well, it looked impressive- Look for yourself-

And then, there was the show-stopper- leading lady of silver screen – Sonakshi Sinha. Another thing that haven’t changed from the last time was the brand ambassador. Sonakshi continues to be there promoting ASUS phones diligently. She was stunning in her dress and was all smiles. Look for yourself-

A great show put together by ASUS. But, wait for the reviews and then it will be left to see whether it has guts to steal the hearts of the Indian consumers.

See the video to have a feel of the electrifying launch-

Vagabond in monsoon at Gokarna & Om beach!

Konkan region is one of the best places in India to enjoy monsoon. Ancient temple town of Gokarna comes into this region and it is a perfect place for soaking into some quiet, relaxing moments. While talking about Gokarna, I am talking about not just Gokarna, but also about some nearby beaches, which largely fall into Gokarna as a destination. Gokarna is a temple town in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka and is very close to Goa. Gokarna is a small and remote holy town, with four of India’s most secluded and pristine beaches nestled nearby. It draws both pious pilgrims and hedonistic holiday makers with equal enthusiasm. There are many temples in this town and main one among them is the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Gokarna town has its own beach, but that’s not as tempting as other beaches around the town. Town sees heavy rush during many festivals but while monsoon its calm and cosy. Monsoon has its own charm in the region.

Om beach is located 8 km from Gokarna. It derives its name from the two semicircular coves which join to form an inverted symbol of Om. It is the place where you can see many numbers of Hippi Sadhus doing their penance. It is also a major center for water sports activities such as surfing, water skiing, para sailing etc. Om Beach is the most happening beach, and is the only one that’s reachable by car or rickshaw.

The others are around a 20 minute hike away from each other through the hills and over rocks, or a short boat ride away. The last beach, Paradise Beach, is not much more than a tiny protected cove that’s a patch of hippie paradise. Gokarna town has plenty of hotels. Instead, find yourself a basic hut right on the beach. Om and Kudle beaches both have shacks offering accommodations, while places also open on Paradise and Halfmoon beaches during the tourist season from November to March. There are also a few new luxury resorts in the area. But during monsoon, its leisure being here with no rush. But then because of lesser number of tourists, there is also a chance of closed guest houses and restaurants. But then there will be always a better bargain.

Hills surrounding Gokarna are said to be mythological, with stories about them being related to Ramayana. It is also said that this is the are which was called as Kishkindha (किष्किंधा). There is a hill with reference to being as Hanuman’s mother’s place.

Getting there
The nearest airport is Dabolim, in Goa. From there it’s a four hour drive to Gorkana. Alternatively, trains on the Konkan railway stop at Gokarna Road station, 15 minutes from town, as well as Kumta and Ankola stations, both around 25 kilometers from Gokarna. Gokarna is also well connected by bus from major cities such as Madgaon in Goa, and Mangalore and Bangalore in Karnataka. Om beach is another 8 kms from the Gokarna town.

Its Japan all over at the Grand Place in Brussels, in flowers!

Flower-Carpet-2016_6We said some time back that it would be Japanese Kacho-Fugetsu & Koi at Brussels Flower Carpet this year. So the time has finally come and its Japan all over the Brussels Grand Place, and with beautiful flowers. This year’s Flower carpet is now open for the visitors today. The Brussels Flower Carpet is one of the most amazing flower shows in the world and also one of the most awaited ones. Hence here it comes.

A  look at the this years’s carpet-

After two years of preparation, the 20th Flower Carpet is finally on show in the Grand Place at Brussels for visitors to admire over the next three days. This year’s carpet at the Belgium capital celebrates 150 years of Belgo-Japanese relations and features a Japanese design in honour of the occasion.

Flower carpet making is a very specialised process which needs precision, knowledge and timing. So here are five facts you need to know about the 20th Flower Carpet:

  1. It is made up of 600,000 flowers. Most of them are begonias, but there are also dahlias, grasses and dyed bark.
  2. It is 75 m long and 24 m wide – that’s more than 1,800m² of flowers!
  3. It took a team of 100 volunteers eight hours to put it together.
  4. It was conceived by a young Japanese designer, Fuji Suzuki, who drew inspiration from Japanese representations of flowers, birds, the wind and the moon to depict the beauty of nature.
  5. It honours more than 150 years of friendly commercial, diplomatic and social relations between Belgium and Japan.

A look at this years carpet in making-

Practical info

The Grand Place in Brussels will be dressed in its Flower Carpet on 12, 13, 14 and 15 August 2016. The public will be able to access it on 12 August from 1 pm to 5:30 pm and on 13, 14 and 15 August from 10 am to 10 pm. The opening ceremony, fireworks and sound and light show will take place on 12 August at 10 pm. If you want to admire the carpet as a whole, don’t miss the panoramic view from the balcony of the Town Hall. Visits will be available from 10 am to 10 pm (last entry at 9:30 pm). There is a entry price of €5 but children under 10 get in free.

(All photos in the post courtesy VisitBrussels ©Wim Vanmaele)

Nine celebrities to SALUTE spirit of SIACHEN

First-ever such expedition to Siachen Glacier

They fall, they rise, and they march ahead relentlessly, through extreme climatic conditions. Siachen Glacier. The world’s 2nd longest glacier has come to represent the resilience and fortitude of the Indian Army.  It all started in April 1981 when the Indian Army made history by traversing the uncharted Siachen, also known as the Third Pole.

Salute to Siachen1On the occasion of the 35th anniversary of this daring expedition, Eros Now, the leading OTT platform of Eros International Plc, has announced a ground breaking initiative, Salute Siachen, India’s first-ever celebrity expedition to the Siachen Glacier. The unique expedition will see nine celebrity adventurers from different walks of life, retrace and relive that journey. The 20-day expedition flags off this Independence Day (August 15) from Leh, and will culminate at Kumar Post, named after Colonel Narinder “Bull” Kumar, PVSM, KC, AVSM, MacGregor Medal, IMF Gold Medal, Padma Shri, Arjuna Award, FRGS. Bull Kumar planted the India flag on the Siachen Glacier in 1981 and became the first person to scale the uncharted Siachen from its freezing snout to its icy source.

Arjun Rampal and Ranvijay Singh Rana
Arjun Rampal and Ranvijay Singh Rana

India’s much-loved celebrities have come together to take this arduous journey to salute the courage of our soldiers who man the posts there in conditions of extreme adversity. Popular Bollywood actors Arjun Rampal, Arunoday Singh, sports personalities – cricketer Rudra Pratap Singh and hockey player Yuvraj Walmiki, TV heartthrob Rannvijay Singh along with Shlok Sharma, Namrata Gujaran, Hasan Zaidi and Sonnalli Seygall are in this select squad. Well we know about many of them, but few of them will need some introduction.

Namratha Gujaran
Namratha Gujaran

Known for her grace and elegance Namratha is a popular model and has featured in several commercials across industries and brands. With her winsome smile and petite grace, Namrata possesses the natural confidence to take on any situation head on. Hailing from a family of academics, Hassan Zaidi comes from the city of culture, Aligarh. With his charming personality and easy demeanor, Hassan is a household name in the world of daily soaps. The face of prime time India, Hassan has just been blessed with a baby daughter. Cover Girl for hit music videos, the gorgeous Sonnalli Seygall is an Indian actress who debuted on the silver screen with the sleepr hit Pyaar Ka Punchnama, followed by its sequel Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2. Trained by Anurag Kashyap, Shlok Sharma, spent his formative years assisting on such masterpieces as Dev D and Gangs of Wasseypur. Shlok has gone on to make a deeply enigmatic, life drama titled Haraamkhor featuring the talented Nawazuddin Siddiqui, that won the Silver Medal at the 17th MAMI Festival

Sonnalli Seygall. Image source: YouTube
Sonnalli Seygall. Image source: YouTube

The celebrity participants have undergone rigorous training and prepping for the expedition which will begin with a five-day acclimatization trek to Stok Kangri base camp near Leh. Once geared to face the journey ahead, they will proceed to Siachen Base Camp for the expedition to Kumar Post. They take with them the goodwill and gratitude of an entire nation as we join them in saluting Siachen…!

Commenting on the announcement, Rishika Lulla Singh, CEO, Eros Digital said, “We are very excited and proud to launch this initiative on Eros Now. We have gathered a team of notable individuals who have come on board in support of this mission to Siachen and become ambassadors in expressing the nation’s gratitude towards the valour of these brave soldiers. Eros Now being the front runner in the digital landscape believes in pushing boundaries and creating path-breaking content such as this initiative”. 

Zulfiqar Khan, Business Head, Eros Now added, “Salute Siachen is Eros Now’s landmark initiative, getting together much loved faces from the world of Bollywood, Television and Sports, to traverse the icy frontiers of the Siachen Glacier, giving the world a glimpse into the lives of our real heroes at Siachen. This epic journey will be documented by the adventurers and showcased on Eros Now.” 

When asked about this expedition, Col. Kumar said, “Of all my exploits in the mountains, this was the most pivotal one for me. For the first time, I was leading an expedition as a soldier of the Indian Army, not just as a mountaineer. I wasn’t just doing this for myself or my team, this was for the entire nation. Thirty-five years later, I am very happy that civilians from all walks of life are going to Siachen to see for themselves the hardships our soldiers are undergoing there, and to show them that their efforts are being appreciated by a grateful nation.”

From the Bali album : Royal attires for pre-wedding shoot!

There were many revelations for us in Bali – an island of Hindu culture in Islamic Indonesia. And many of them came to us in the Bali Art Centre. I will be talking about the Bali Art Centre in a later post, but this is about something we witnessed there. Pre-wedding photo-shoots are not uncommon world over. Even Bali is famous globally as a wedding and honeymoon destination. But here I am talking about pre-wedding photo-shoots of local Hindu Balinese couples. Its grown into a tradition now and is extremely popular.

Bali pre-wedding1

Its quite unlike hindu traditions in India where to be bride and groom are not supposed to meet openly before the marriage and a planned, open and detailed photo-shoot is out of question. But here, to be couples get the photo-shoot at all type of exotic, traditional, historical or natural locations and in all types of costumes from modern to casual and traditional. Actually, even muslims in other parts of Indonesia follow this tradition.

So, we got to see a few such pre-wedding photo-shoots at Bali Art Centre. And, the place being one of the most important place in Bali for traditional culture, has many artistic backdrops which are popular among the wedding planners for such photo-shoots. So goes the costume to match the backdrops. Hence, all the couples you will see here are in traditional Balinese dresses. The first couple that we encountered at the stage of the open-air theatre of the centre was perhaps the most beautiful of all of them. You can see for yourself (click on a image to see it in bigger size and enjoy its beauty)-

Look gorgeous. Don’t they! Most interesting part was that, these couples had absolutely no objection on likes of us clicking their photographs. It is said that Balinese weddings have a romance, mysticism and a unique culture. Though it has its roots in the hindu traditions, but Bali has developed a culture altogether different from what is practiced in hindu cultures of India. Its traditional, but it is no more rigid. Like hinduism in India, Bali too followed a caste system, but with changing times, it it growing weaker.

Here is another bride-to be waiting for her partner to get ready.

Bali pre-wedding12
Where is my prince!

These photos from the pre-wedding shoot are also used in wedding invitations of the couple, besides going to their wedding albums.

We don’t have such elaborate pre-wedding shoots in our part of world, atleast I can’t recall anything like this

It was indeed, one of the highlights of the trip for us. One of our best chances to understand the Balinese culture.

World through my eyes

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