India – July 2013

In June/July of 2013 Holly and I went to India.  It was a combo work/vacation.  We had a full day in Singapore on our way.  There was a huge fire in Indonesia which made the city hazy and apocalyptic.  I’ve never been in smoke so thick.  Here we are checking out a temple in Singapore (with face masks that did little).  Our chances of getting emphysema later in life increased by a bunch!

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In India we went to the beautiful southern state of Kerala to do a trip on the backwaters. Here is our crew led by my good friend and Co-Founder of Owler, Rajan Madhavan (back row second from right).  His family went with us.

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Here is the boat we went on.  I’ve been on all kinds of boats, but never one quite like this.  Really cool!

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It was very peaceful.

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Rajan’s daughter Pavithra driving the boat.

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We went to the far north of India to Ladakh, in the province of Jammu-Kashmir.  You are seeing the Himalaya’s.  We landed at 12,000 feet and went up from there!

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Ladakh is culturally tied to Tibet.  Buddhism abounds.  This statue is three stories tall.

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We saw many Buddhist monasteries like this.

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Here is a prayer wheel at a monastery.  Sometimes you would see monks spinning them for hours.  The wheels are full of written prayers and the prayers get answered when the wheel spins (always in a clockwise direction).

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Prayer flags were everywhere – even on buddhist houses.  They have prayers written on them.  They get answered when the wind ruffles the flags.

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A giant Buddha.

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The main town in Ladakh is Leh, where we spent several nights.

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The Indus River.

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Here is our driver and guide.  Both were native Ladakhis and Buddhists.  Our guide, Skarma Norboo on the right, was incredibly knowledgeable and interesting.  We had ten great days with these guys.

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Skarma with a village schoolboy.  Although many villages were poor all the kids went to school and took their studies very seriously.

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We did lots of treks.  Here is a common view from a high pass looking down onto a village.

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A closer view of the crops. The yellow is mustard.  The green is barley.  The villages were truly beautiful.

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A hard working villager.

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This woman invited us into her house for tea and barley.  Her kitchen was meticulous.

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Yaks were in every village.

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An ancient fort.

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We went into a very high monastery and spent the afternoon chatting with this old monk, who had walked to Lhasa as a young boy for training (before the Chinese invaded).  He had incredibly interesting stories to tell.  With us was a Belgian Family that was staying at our same guest house.  Here are the three awesome kids with the old monk.

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On July 4th I threw a party at our guesthouse.  It was fun seeing how all the different nationalities viewed American Independence.

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Before leaving Kashmir I rented a Royal Enfield Bullet 500cc motorcycle and drove it to the top of Khardung-La Pass – the highest motorable road in the world at 18,380 feet.  Much easier to motor at this altitude than walk!  I did hike to the peak well above this pic and didn’t get that winded.  Ten days above 12,000 feet really helps.  This was the highlight of the northern part of the trip for me.

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Coming down from Khardung-La.  This picture was taken by our Belgian friends as they drove up to the pass.  The road was dusty and hairy at times, but much safer than driving in any big city in India!

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After Kashmir we went to Agra and saw the Taj Mahal.  It is the most beautiful building I have ever seen.

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The Red Fort in Agra.  Holly is with our guide (who was a Muslim and offered many interesting insights into the tension between Hindus and Muslims in India).

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Akbar’s Palace just outside of Agra.  In my opinion the Mughal Empire is the most underappreciated empire in history.

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India is an amazing place.  The mix of people, histories, religions and cultures is unparalleled.  It can be tough, frustrating travel at times but well worth the effort.  There are many more places in this fascinating country I still long to see.

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