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1. Raigad Fort Mahad

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Here’s how I will like to describe our trip to Raigad Fort of June 2012…

“A group of 4 MBA Friends, A Chocolate-Coloured Maruti Ritz Car, Cool & Breezy Rainy Season with splendid mist along the way and loads of fun”

The boys on the road included Kunal, Prasad, Saroj & myself, all self-proclaimed mature, sober & rational gentlemen.

This was the time every married boy yearns for. Just look at this co-incidence:

  1. Kunal’s wife Pradnya was in Canada on her official deputation for 3 months & she wasn’t going to be back anytime soon
  2. Prasad’s wife Supriya was a house-wife, had just delivered a cute baby boy & was resting in her hometown in Coastal Karnataka, with no immediate plans of returning
  3. My wife, because of a leg-fracture, had taken a sabbatical from work and was in her hometown Jabalpur, with no plans of returning for another 5 months
  4. And Saroj was still a bachelor

Today when we talk of this, we call this period as HALLEY’S COMET, that appears & passes Earth only once in 76 years

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2. A Trip To The Milky Way Galaxy

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On the chilling night of August 2015, I saw the Milky way with my bare naked eyes in the dark sky of Nako
Many times I have sighted different constellations and parts of galactic lights. But nothing was a match for what I saw in Nako. After this, I was always wondering on how can I spot this marvellous sighting again.....

Technically we're in the Milky Way galaxy; so its weird to search for Milky way. What we need to look out for is the Milky Way Galactic Center. And the best times to observe the bright galactic center of the Milky Way, from any part of the world, tends to be from about mid-March through mid-October.

One of the most important factors that contributes to the visibility of the Milky Way is the time of observation. It moves across the sky throughout the course of the night and the position of the Milky Way will differ depending on the time of year.

I was lucky that I was rewarded with this beautiful sight after a tough ride through the broken Spiti trail. I was not carrying high end camera to capture the sighting as I believe in experiencing the moment than capturing it...

 

Here is the list of some of the places where you can catch a glimpse of Milky Way Galactic Center:

(1) NAKO, India
Nako has no light pollution. The population of this place is very less, always resulting to clear skies. So you can usually sight the Milky Way Galactic Center here on any dark day when there is no moon light.

(2) Natural Bridges Monument, Utah
It is the first certified Dark Sky Park of US. 
It’s possible to see up to 15,000 stars throughout the night in this place — in contrast, you can see fewer than 500 in most cities.

(3) Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania
This is rugged 82-acre state park is surrounded by the 262,000-acre Susquehannock State Forest making it a perfect Night Sky Viewing area

(4) Some other places in India
If you strategically plan your your trip by considering the best weather and the the right time of year with no moon light; then you can get a glimpse of Milky Way Galactic Center from the following places that have the less population and less light pollution.
1. Jaisalmer and Bikaner in Rajasthan
2. Sarchu and Nubra in Jammu and Kashmir
3. Kuari Pass in Uttarakhand
4. Hatu Peak in Himachal Pradesh
5. Neil Island in Andaman

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3. Cambodia Biking Trip

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1999 and I was in New Delhi watching Tomb Raider. Movie got over somewhere at dusk and I was racing on the street on my KB, I remember I jumped quite a few red lights. I lived that dream of racing my bike in the Cambodian ruins for more than a decade when it finally came true on in March 2016. I was flying to Cambodia for a dirt biking trip.

I flew from Bangalore to Siem Reap via Thailand..

Thailand airport is a kind of mess. No/almost no drinking water facility and toilets were like public toilets and to my utter surprise girls had entered the men’s toilet because water was over in lady’s toilet.

I had already got my visa done from Cambodian government website to save time at the airport and had bought US dollars from a currency broker. I exchanged some of Cambodian Khmer currency also at the currency counter at Siem Reap.

Siem reap airport is small, calm and easy to navigate. I took a pre-paid taxi from airport to hotel, reached somewhere in noon and by the time was could freshen up and eat it was evening. I lived in mad monkey hotel. It is wonderful, comfortable and wow if you want to connect to travelers but the only thing that I didnt like is we have to buy drinking water all the time. I spent that evening walking along the lake side and night at Pub Street. Pub Street; yayyyyayyy music, beer, smoke and a combination of awesome Cambodian street food and a lazy walk.

 

Tickets can be picked up easily on the first morning of your visit or the night before (the park closes at 6pm but the ticket office may close earlier). There is a separate window each for single, three day and week long passes. Queues move quite quickly – we were in and out in ten minutes. At Angkor Wat entrance tickets are available for single day, three day and week and so on. I suggest people who are not there to research pls take three day ticket or single day if you are unsure for three days.

Dress code: To go inside the actual temples you will need shoulders covered and legs covered to at least your knees. Scarves aren’t permitted

Two to three days are enough to see Siem Reap. Tha Prom, Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the nearby places. Taking a tuk tuk is awesome. So not take an enclosed taxi. You need to sweat, you must feel the heat of Cambodia. Tuk tuk take you around the Angkor complex $15 per day, you can use electric bikes for hire, which cost around $10. I took tuk tuk. I recommend to carry an umbrella along with sun screen if you don’t want to get darken like me.

Cold drinks and lunch – which can be expensive. Expect to pay around $10 per person for lunch.

Next day I was up soon and had to go to Angkor Wat complex. Just know that by 10 a.m. or even 9 a.m., the sun will start to beat down hard. I covered almost all including Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon was amazing in Angkor Thom, and Ta Prom, etc.

Bayon - There are numerous smiling Buddha heads in this temple and this adds to the awe and mysteriousness of the temple. There are stories carved on to the wall which reflect great craftsmanship.

Tha Prom is my favorite in that complex. Being there feels like being in a dream world. Trees have eaten up the temples. Its amazingly astonishing. Ta prom is something that will leave you an awestruck traveller with an enthralled feeling – is it real?

If you cover Angkor Thom (Bayon, etc), Angkor Wat, Ta Prom, and nearby temples, you have almost covered 90% of it. At around 5 p.m., the sun will start to mellow and this would be a great time to head back to town. Phimeanakas temple or roam around the Prasat Suor Prats can be seen in evening.

All the evenings I was at Siem Reap, I did nothing but down at the pub street.

After two days I left for Phnom Penh and hired a bike there – Honda Degree … a monster dirt bike for Cambodian biking. It didn’t ride, it just flew with front wheel pooping up in the air every time I started.

I rode to Kampong Cham 130 km. Road was good, traffic is less and most of them drove sensibly well. In Kampong Cham I was lucky to be a part of Mekong river festival celebration. It was jointly celebrated by Khmers and Thais together, held at Mekong river bank. I drank strawberry juice, it was ummmmm pulpy. (now I feel like drinking one more time). Kampong Cham is the place where you can ride over the bamboo bridge to the Koh Paen island. Each year the bridge is washed away by the rising Mekong river during the monsoon season; and each year they rebuild. And it can be quite a tight fit, so watch out that you don't fall into the river. Sometimes, you don’t only need skills, you also need guts. You have it, you go over it.

 

I throttled my dirty Degree over the hot tarmac from Kampong Cham to Kampong Thom 140 km. This is the place where partial shooting of Tomb Raider happened along with Ta Prom. If you have courage and a navigation brain, get ready to get lost in the jungles of Cambodia in Sambor Prei Kuk - The ruins, which are several centuries older than Angkor Wat. I rode my bike over the sand, mud, water, over the broken stairs, just everywhere. You need to get inside that jungle to locate those ruins. Be careful with the wild animals. There is a fake ticket counter, they fooled me for $20; don’t take ticket for Sambor Prei Kuk, it’s not required. At Sambo Preykuk, it is the real deal. These temples have been truly lost to the jungle and recovered. Everything about my time in this complex was like living a Tomb Raider film.

When I rode back from Kampong Thom to Phnom Penh, I was a terrific ride. I felt like, I was sitting over a devil and racing at the speed of 140 km/hr and though it was cloudy I could feel the heat on my thighs from the bike radiator.

Phnom Penh offers killing fields, some temples, etc, nothing adventurous but good for tourists for a day or 2. Going to city market especially Russian market was amazing. Don’t forget to buy cigarettes there at the dirt cheap rate and ya they are original but be careful with alcohols. Taking a short trip at Mekong River by a boat or jetty is recommended or if not, take a long never ending walk along the silent river bank.

Camodian food is different. I love their soup. They boil meat (some meat I don’t know), asparagus, lemon leaves, mint, cabbage, basil, Cinnamon, and it taste awesome.

Caution – Always park your vehicle in garage, or consider it unsafe and no charity, it’s all fraud.

Currency – They use USD in almost all cases and also Riel. 1 USD - 4008.70 Cambodian Riel

For Cambodian e Visa –

You can contact Navigers.com for visa services or you can do it through Cambodian government (govt. also charge service fee) https://www.evisa.gov.kh/

help@mfaic.gov.kh and cambodianevisa@mfaic.gov.kh

e-Visa Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affair and International Cooperation  

Telephone: (+855 23) 224 973 and fax: (+855 23) 224 972

If you want any info on Cambodia for your trip/holiday pls contact me

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