Tips for celebrating Holi in India from an Indian

Tips for celebrating Holi in India from an Indian

So you want to celebrate Holi in India and want some basic information before you start? You’ve come to the right page!

Being an Indian, I have celebrated Holi all my life at many locations all over the country. As per me, it’s the most awesome festival in the world! Based on my experience, I want to share some tips with you so that you can enjoy my favorite festival as much as I usually do.

A little clarification – Holi is not a type of party, but it is a festival that’s celebrated in India and Nepal. No, it’s not a psychedelic music festival but a traditional Hindu festival, which is of course, can be psychedelic because it’s colorful. And yes, it is more colorful than you imagined it to be!

I felt a need to explain the basics because I did met a few people while traveling who mentioned they love “Holi parties”. I later found out that thought that Holi is a kind of a trance party where colors are used while dancing because that’s how they celebrate it in Europe.

When is Holi celebrated?

There is no fixed date when Holi is celebrated (at least not as per the international calendar). It is celebrated at the arrival of spring, which is the full moon of the Falgun month as per the Hindu calendar, which can be in the month of February or March. To be exact, the actual day when people apply color on each other all over India is usually a morning after the full moon of Falgun.

Where in India should you travel for Holi?

San and I celebrating Holi in India

San and I celebrating Holi in India

Well, don’t just change your itinerary based on Holi because it is celebrated pretty much all over India with slight variations. In some parts of UP state of India, Holi is celebrated for a longer duration. UP is also famous for Lath Maar Holi, which is mostly celebrated in Barsana town near Mathura where women playfully mock – beat men with sticks. The state of Uttrakhand celebrated Kumaon Holi, which is a musical celebration. In most of the Indian states, Holi is actually a two-day (or longer) celebration with Puja on the first day and color games on the second. If you want to know more about how it’s celebrated in each state, you can see this.

Anyway, I don’t want to confuse you, but I know you’re most likely interested in the second day of Holi (gotcha!). Truth be told, I have hardly ever participated in the puja part of Holi and have celebrated the second day, which is the color day”. So just go to any part of India where you have friends (or at least can make some) and celebrate! Or what if you’re traveling solo? Read my next point.

What to do for Holi if you’re traveling solo?

While it’s a different thing to go to a music festival alone, but celebrating Holi in India alone as a girl is a whole different matter. I love my country, but sadly a lot of my countrymen will leave no chance in groping women when they can get away with it. Holi is one such day when they think they can get away with it. They will find reasons to touch you, maybe at pretense of putting color on your face before they grope and run away. Sadly, crime rate against women is very high on this day, so please don’t venture out alone.

Try to make friends before Holi at your hostel or around. The best would be if you can find local women / families and just ask them if you can celebrate with them. If you don’t know where to find them, you can join this women travel group from India. Don’t worry; you won’t be forcing your company on them because most likely, they’d love to show you how they celebrate Holi.

What to wear for Holi?

My cousin and I celebrating Holi in our oldest clothes

My cousin and I celebrating Holi in our oldest clothes

Find your oldest clothes, because you won’t be able to wear them again. This goes for your undies too because they will also catch the color.

A lot of websites say you should wear white on Holi but I have mixed thoughts about this. If you’re a girl, you should definitely avoid wearing white because people will throw water on you and many will openly see through your clothes. While in Western countries you may just only receive attention, in India you will receive way more than that.

Wear clothes that are comfortable, can dry quickly and can’t be ripped off easily. I normally wear an old tee shirt with cotton pants or shorts. I always wear sunglasses to protect my eyes from the color and I highly recommend you do the same!

How to protect your skin and hair on Holi?

This point is for both boys and girls. You do need to protect your skin and hair because you can never be sure what kind of color people are applying on you. The easiest thing to do is to apply layers and layers of baby oil on your skin and hair. Make sure you even apply it on your neck and around your ears. Don’t just put it on your exposed skin, but even under your clothes. Not only will you protect your skin from rashes and dryness, but you will make it easier for yourself to remove the color. I also wear a headscarf or a hat to protect my hair because my cousin throws eggs on our heads to take Holi a level higher.

Where to go to celebrate Holi?

Usually the best (and the safest) places to go are local parks, colleges, or a local family’s house. Try to find a Holi party if you can. I usually know of a few, so email me if you can’t find one.

Where should you keep your valuables on Holi?

Carry a waterproof pouch and keep a little money. Try not to carry your phone, but if you still insist, at least invest in a waterproof bag or a pouch. For many years I just carried a little money in a plastic bag and kept it in a cheap pouch.

So do people just apply color on each other?

Many of them do, but mostly it’s like a color war. While some people will politely put a few dots on you, others will take this opportunity to get rid of their yearlong frustration and literally bash you up with colors. More than just colors, it’s also watercolors and waterballoons.

Don’t get shocked when you see people throwing eggs at each other, its pretty normal for a few of them. Back in Punjab, I also saw a few boys who were putting grease on each other’s faces!

About buying Holi Colors, Waterguns and Waterballoons

Holi in India - Holi colors on display in a street market

Holi in India – Holi colors on display in a street market

If you love colors, you’re going to love Holi markets because they’re full of colors. Buy chemical free colors that are made of herbs so that you don’t cause any damage.

You don’t have to buy all the shades but just one or two will suffice. Trust me you will look like a rainbow by end of the day, because everyone would have picked different colors to apply on each other.

Want to go a level higher than colors? Get a water gun! I’m sure if my mom would shake her head in disapproval if she ever reads this article. I don’t personally carry one but I am lucky that I celebrate it with my nephew and I borrow his from time to time to annoy my friends. Water balloons are even a level higher because they can seriously hurt! I don’t ever carry them but normally I get thrown at.

What is Bhang?

Bhang is eatable preparation of marijuana. It is usually in the form of milk-based drink such as lassi or thandai. Lassi is a yogurt drink and thandai is a milk and almond drink. It can also be in food, such as pakodas. It’s much more potent than just smoking a joint. You will not feel the effects while consuming it but it can really hit you hard after an hour.

On Holi, people openly consume Bhang in form of thandai, pakodas or lassi. So please be careful of what you drink or eat.

What should you keep in mind for general safety?

Don’t move around on the streets alone. There are enough frenzied groups that turn into mobs and circle around on Holi to look for a new target.

Don’t throw colors on animals. It irritates their skin and they end up licking it which can cause them poisoning.

In many places in India, small children hide in the balconies and throw water balloons at people. This doesn’t just happen on the day of Holi, but also a for week before the festival. These balloons really hurt when they hit the flesh, so please keep your eyes open. I once had a water-balloon thrown at me while I was safely sitting inside my car. It was funny and annoying at the same time!

Want epic Holi photos? Buy an action camera like GoPro! (this is an affiliate link, if you click this link and buy something from Amazon, I may earn a little commission at no extra cost to you 🙂 )

Be a child and have fun. Seriously, it is the most fun filled festival that I know of and I hope you make the most of it.

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Time Traveling to Goa’s Past at Goa Tribal Festival

Time Traveling to Goa’s Past at Goa Tribal Festival

Ever heard of Goa Tribal Festival? No, it’s not a psytrance party but a festival that involves REAL tribes of Goa. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you must be aware that San and I were volunteering in Goa and living here for a few months. In fact, I often call Goa my second home because I have visited it more than 20 times, but I never got an opportunity to meet Goa’s tribes.

Anyway, so talking about Goa Tribal Festival, are you must be wondering what it is all about, so here’s the basic info you need to know before I tell you what I did here:

What is Goa Tribal Festival?

A food stall at Goa Tribal Festival

A food stall at Goa Tribal Festival

Goa Tribal Festival is an initiative by the local villagers to spread the awareness about Goa’s unique culture, heritage and core. To be specific, the community that took the initiative to organize this two day festival is the Adivasi Sangatna of Quepem village. The idea is to preserve and celebrate Goa’s age old traditions, which are not just limited to food or but also craftsmanship, games, folklores and more!

Many of us have visited Goa many times and spent most of our time on beaches and parties, but how many of us ever got a taste of Goa’s old culture? I hardly ever did! And no, Goa’s old culture is not just limited to Old Goa’s churches and Portuguese influences, but is so much more. It’s got a lot to do with Goa’s oldest communities, which I got to meet at Goa Tribal Festival.

Where is Goa Tribal Festival Celebrated?

The 2017 edition of this festival, where I went was held at Village Panchayat Ground, Xeldem. Xeldem is in Quepem, which is in South Goa. Yes, Quepem is where the famous Goa Carnival is also celebrated. If you get a chance, do visit it because it is on the banks of Kushawati river and is scenic.

When is Goa Tribal Festival Celebrated?

It is usually celebrated in the beginning of the year. I went for the sixth edition, which was on January 7th – 8th 2017.

My day at Goa Tribal Festival

Ok, enough about the facts but I’m dying to tell you about my day here. After an amazing breakfast at Miramar Residency, we started our journey to Xeldem for the festival. I’m not a fan of Miramar and it’s my least favorite beach in North Goa, but the area around it is very crowded. However, the drive from here to Quepem is really beautiful. For many kilometers we could only see lush rice paddies. Everything around us was very green.

First Impressions

An hour later, we were in Xeldom. It was time to enter the festival! Let me be honest, I was expecting an overly crowded area like a Diwali mela or something like a Goan flea market but as I stepped out of the car, I felt I had gone back in time. I saw a spacious ground with a lot of room to move around. An elevated area was set up, with many chairs around it – like an old fashioned stage.

The Stalls

Villagers crafting new things at Goa Tribal Festival

Villagers crafting new things at Goa Tribal Festival

Around the stage were a few stalls and behind the stalls which were made with bamboo and coconut leaves – very old school and charming! Yes, this is the first area that caught my interest. Believe it or not, I must have taken 20-30 rounds of this area to sink as much details as I could. Most of these stalls were being handled by local women from various tribes. Some of these stalls were food related and the others were the ones where the tribes were crafting new things such as mats, brooms, flower tiaras, etc. I got to witness how they meticulously crafted these items with palm leafs and paddy grass.

The People

A beautiful tribal woman at Goa Tribal Festival

A beautiful tribal woman at Goa Tribal Festival

The women behind the stalls wore beautiful red sarees with puffed sleeves blouses, which were draped a tad higher when compared to the rest of India.  They all had flowers in their hair and smiles on their faces – the real hippies!

Beautiful Young Women at Goa Tribal Festiva

Beautiful Young Women at Goa Tribal Festiva

I also saw groups of younger women and children that were moving from stalls to stalls – all traditionally attired.

Beautiful Children at Goa Tribal Festival

Beautiful Children at Goa Tribal Festival

The Age Old Apparatuses

Using old instruments at Goa Tribal Festival
A few tribal women using traditional methods for grinding at Goa Tribal Festival
A traditional appratus for making food

As I moved from stalls to stall, I noticed their traditional methods of food preparation. Some of the apparatuses that they were using looked like they were right out of a museum. (To be honest, we did see some of these apparatuses in Big Foot museum and Chitra museum – both in Goa. It was interesting to see that these instruments were still in use.

The Food

Ever heard of ambil? Well, I had not and I got to try it here. It is a kind of porridge which is sweetened by jaggery sugar. I also got to try other things like san’na, soji, pez, chirke manda, shevyo, and pita gulio. Most of these things were just priced at INR 10 or INR 5. Unbelievable!

Fried Fish and Salad at Goa Tribal Festival

Fried Fish and Salad at Goa Tribal Festival

At lunch time, we had a buffet style meal which had rice, salad, fish and one of the most delicious Goan prawn curries that I ever got to taste. The curry was mildly flavored with coconut and was comforting. Yum! Yes, I took a second helping.

The Activities & Performances

Local Children Drawing at Goa Tribal Festival

Local Children Drawing at Goa Tribal Festival

There were many little competitions and games for children and adolescents such as drawing, guli danda, saree draping and more. There were dance and song performances as well where children dressed up in traditional clothes and won our hearts!

Amazing dance performances at Goa Tribal Festival

Amazing dance performances at Goa Tribal Festival

Do you love Goa as much as I do? Then let’s revive its oldest traditions by spreading awareness about them. Share this post with your friends and family, so that they can also visit Goa Tribal festival and time travel to Goa’s past.

Disclaimer: I was invited to Goa for the 6th annual Goa Tribal Festival by Goa Tourism on a press trip, but like always, all thoughts are my own.

Exploring the other side of Goa at Dudhsagar Plantation

Exploring the other side of Goa at Dudhsagar Plantation

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Goa? I bet it’s the beaches or palm trees. Same with me, because in my many visits to Goa and even living here, I usually stuck to the coastline.

If you look at the map of Goa, you will notice there is a lot more to Goa than just the coastline. No doubt the coastline is spectacular but after many visits, San and I decided to visit the Eastern part of Goa… or you may call it “the other side of Goa”.

Goa is massive, so in order to explore the other side, we decided to stay at a place from where we could easily access the places that we wanted to see. We didn’t have a specific plan, but had a general idea that we wanted to see a few waterfalls, visit a spice plantation and Goa’s forest area. Just for this purpose, we decided to stay at a centrally located place called Dudhsagar Plantation.

With hardly any research about the place or the surrounding area, San and I hopped on to our scooter and drove to Dudhsagar Plantation in Anjuna. In just about two hours, Google Maps announced that we had reached our destination, which felt like middle of nowhere.

Inside Dudhsagar Plantation

We saw a little board that confirmed that we were at the right spot. As we entered, we saw a little cow shed on our right and a few chickens walking around on our left. As we followed the path, we saw palm trees, banana plantation and many other tall trees. We were inside a tropical garden!

Exploring the other side of Goa with Dudhsagar Plantation

Exploring the other side of Goa with Dudhsagar Plantation

A man who introduced himself as Ashok greeted us and took us to a gazebo. We sat here with him and found out that Dudhsagar Plantation is aa family run place, which was started by Ashok’s parents Doris and Ajit Malkarnekar. Inside the gazebo, I saw many other people sitting who appeared to be from different nationalities. We couldn’t help but wonder if they were all one family. We got our answer within the next few minutes

Beautiful Family

Adorable Family at Dudhsagar Plantation Farmstay

Adorable Family at Dudhsagar Plantation Farmstay

Ashok’s father is a Goan and his mother is from Germany. Ashok himself lived in Goa, Germany and Indonesia, and his wife is from Indonesia. Ashok’s sister lives in Mandrem and is married to a Goan. Ashok’s brother, who looks a lot like Ashok is married to a girl from Russia. Quite an international family, no?

Free Spice Plantation Tour

Free spice plantation tour at Dudhsagar Plantation Goa

Free spice plantation tour at Dudhsagar Plantation Goa

After the introduction, we put our luggage in our large airy room and were ready for a tour. As we walked further, I realized how massive this place was! Ashok informed us that there were more than 150 kinds of different plants and trees in this plantation. The first thing we saw was pepper, which was easy to recognize. We saw yellow turmeric, white turmeric, cardamom, bimla, cashew, gooseberry, cinnamon, lemongrass, mace, chilies and many more things. Of course I don’t remember everything but I do remember that cinnamon leaves were very sweet to chew and the taste kind of reminded me of Christmas.

Pepper at Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Pepper at Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

The most interesting thing for me was the lipstick flower. It is a natural coloring agent, which is used in food and cosmetics. The tour of the spice plantation must have lasted 45 – 60 minites, during which Ashok educated us about the fauna and entertained us with his jokes.

Fenni and Urak Distillery

Fenni Shots with Bimla after the spice plantation tour at Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Fenni Shots after the spice plantation tour at Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

At the end of the tour, Ashok informed us that they even have a Fenni distillery in the farm. Fenni is a local alcoholic brew of Goa, which is made with cashews. He took us to the distillery and told us about the process. Honestly, I have had really bad experiences with Fenni before so I wasn’t so interested, but Ashok made us try a shot with Bimla (citrus fruit) and I had to change my mind. He also made us try “Jungle Juice” which is made from Urak. Urak is the first distil of cashews before Fenni. I fell in love with Jungle Juice and drank a lot of it. You’ll be surprised to know that I had no hangover the next day and woke up clearheaded, despite multiple late night Fenni shots. If you also hate Fenni like I did, you need to try a glass here and you’re gonna change your mind.

Water Well

This may make you laugh but I have never drawn water from a well and I got very excited when I saw one here. I played around with it for a long time but finally managed to draw just a liter of it.

Variety of Animals

Guess what – on our little exploration walk with Ashok, we saw a deer inside his farm! A little while later, I saw a bison at a distance. When I thought things coulnd’t get more interesting, I saw a wild hedgehog here. No, these are not Ashok’s pet animals but the farmhouse is near Bhagwan Mahavir Forest Sanctuary so some of them come here for a little stroll.

Farm animals at Dudhsagar plantation, Goa

Farm animals at Dudhsagar plantation, Goa

Too bad the deer was so fast and shy that I couldn’t make a picture. By the time the other animals were there, I didn’t have any camera battery.

Natural Swimming Pool

Organic Natural Pool at Dudhsagar Plantation Goa

Organic Natural Pool at Dudhsagar Plantation Goa

If things couldn’t get better, Dudhsagar Plantation also has a natural swimming pool inside the farm. No chemicals or bleach is used here to clean the water but a few plans are grown in the corners to purify the water.

Organic Farm Food -Yummy

Delicious Organic food - Dudhsagar plantation, Goa

Delicious Organic food – Dudhsagar plantation, Goa

Did I mention that everything that grows in Dudhsagar Plantation is organic? Moreover, there are no pesticides used, so everything can be handpicked and eaten directly from the trees. During our time here, we got to eat freshly made home food from organic farm produce. I love Goan seafood and I don’t remember ever eating vegetarian food in Goa. However here, I couldn’t help but taking three helpings of every meal because it was so darn good! Chapatis, rice, Konkani daal, two kinds of veggies, buttermilk, salad and dessert – the food here was perhaps the best food I have had in Goa. It felt healthy; it was not oily and was light. Seriously, I can eat this food my whole life without getting bored.

 

Self-Sustainable Fuel and Biogas

I have seen this at music festivals, but I was very happy to see that almost everything gets recycled here. At Dudhsagar Plantation, they care for the environment and recycle everything.

 

Swimming in a Clean River

Amazing river swim outside Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Amazing river swim outside Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Right behind the farmhouse is a little river, which comes from Dudhsagar waterfall. If follow our blog, I’m sure you know by now how much we love jumping inside rivers, waterfalls and natural swimming holes. It was a good way to end our day here and cool off inside this river’s cold water.

Little river behind Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Little river behind Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Our Exploration Outside Dudhsagar Plantation

Honestly, we had so much fun inside Dudhsagar Plantation that we forgot we wanted to explore the nearby areas. Ashosk literally had to kick us out so that we wouldn’t miss out what’s outside

 

Dudhsagar Waterfall

San and I enjoying our cold dip at Dudhsagar Waterfall

San and I enjoying our cold dip at Dudhsagar Waterfall

Visiting the famous Dudhsagar Waterfal was the most obvious choice, because it is very close to where we were. This is India’s tallest waterfall and I had only seen it from the train while crossing Goa. To avoid the crowds, we arrived here at 9 am on our scooter. Since the waterfall is inside Bhagwan Mahavir Forest Reserve, we were not allowed to take our scooters inside, so had to buy jeep tickets. A single jeep holds 6 people and costs around INR 300 per person, including the life west. And no, you can’t enter without a life vest. Even though the waterfall attracted quite a lot of tourists, we found our personal swimming area and had a lot of fun swimming in the cold water here.

 

Bhagwan Mahavir Forest Reserve

Even though we had entered the forest reserve when we visited the waterfall, we were not really allowed to explore on our own because of the jeep restriction. Just for this, we decided to enter this forest reserve from Surla. We couldn’t; help but stop after every few minutes to make a few photos because everything was very beautiful and green inside. We also met a lot of monkeys here.

 

Tambdi Surla Temple and Waterfall

Tambdi Surla Temple, Goa

Tambdi Surla Temple, Goa

If you enter the forest reserve from Surla, you can also visit an ancient Hindu temple that’s inside. What’s unique about this temple is that it is made with black stone where as most of the temples are usually white or multi colored. There is a nice garden outside, which looked a little too well kept for my liking. Don’t get me wrong, but the forest and the temple had a very wild look, so the excessively well kept garden looked out of place. Oh and there is a hike to Tamdu Sural waterfall from here, which you should seriously consider if you’re wearing comfortable shoes.

 

Walking Route and Village Exploration

Village Exploration outside Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

Village Exploration outside Dudhsagar Plantation, Goa

If you like walking, you are going to love a little map that Ashok has made. This map depicts a route that he has made which you can follow to visit the nearby village and see some interesting sights. It is total 8 KMs, so do this only in the morning when the weather is cooler.

Anyway, if you’re heading to Goa, I urge you to try something different and explore the other side of Goa. Stay in Dudhsagar Plantation Homestay and experience the simple life. Cleanse your system by eating organic food here and chill in the natural pool. If you’re really adventurous, then don’t miss the forest area that only a few people visit. Oh and you can book Dudhsagar Plantation on AirBnB. Use this link to book and get a $15 discount.

Visiting Goa soon and need more info? Feel free to ask me anything! Post your questions as comments below and I’ll answer as soon as I can.

Goa Flea Markets – 7 Colorful Bazaars That You Shouldn’t Miss

Goa Flea Markets – 7 Colorful Bazaars That You Shouldn’t Miss

This guide is about Goa Flea Markets. To read more travel articles about Goa, visit this page.

Whether you’re a shopaholic or not, Goa flea markets are sure to win your heart. With their vivid colors, spicy aromas, interesting sights, and funny sounds, visiting them is an experience in itself! Some of these markets started years back and have an interesting history of how they came into existence. Many of them start only during the high season, which is November to March, while some are open throughout the year.

As many of you know, I love Goa and am now living here since the last few months. While I am volunteering in Goa, I am visiting some of these markets every week and still I’m not bored of them. Whether you’re visiting Goa for a few days or are living here, a visit to these markets is a must. So, here’s a list of Goa Flea Markets that you should visit while you’re here:

Flea Markets in Goa:

01 | Anjuna Flea Market

Goa Flea Markets - International artisans at Anjuna Flea Market

Goa Flea Markets – International artisans at Anjuna Flea Market

Back in the 1960s and 70s, when the hippies first arrived in Goa, they chose Anjuna as their home. Many of them sold the last of their material possessions from their home countries here to make money. The 70s are over but this market still remains. Every Wednesday, many artisans from not just all over India, but also from all over the world set up stalls here. Anjuna Flea market stretches from the beach shacks area of Anjuna to the other side of main road where there are paddy fields. Here you can check out a massive collection of clothes, jewelry, bed sheets, wall hangings, hammocks, etc. The best time to visit is from 5 pm onwards when the sun is not very strong and some bars and shacks play live music.

Anjuna Flea Market Timings:

This market starts at 9 am and ends at sunset time, i.e., 6 pm on every Wednesday. This market exists only during the main season – November to March.

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02 | Saturday Night Market, Arpora

Considering Goa’s tropical temperature, a night market obviously makes more sense. As the name suggests, this market is set up only on Saturday night during Goa’s main season (November to February). This market is a little “high end” if you compare it to Anjuna flea market. With live music, international food stalls, fire dancers and colorful stops, a trip to Saturday night market is an experience to remember. This market usually goes on till 2 am, after which it continues like an open party while the shop owners pack up their stuff and gradually leave. From Christmas to New Year, which is Goa’s peak season, it is recommended that you arrive here early to avoid the crowds. Alternatively, reach by midnight and stay till 1 or 2 am. While here, eat some food, drink a few beers and watch a few live performances to make the most of it.

Saturday Night Market Timings:

This market starts on every Saturday during the main season at 6 pm and ends at 2 am. Again, the main season is from November to March.

 

03 | Mackie’s Night Bazaar, Baga River

Goa Flea Markets - My sister Priyanka Bajad at Mackies Saturday Night Market

Goa Flea Markets – My sister Priyanka Bajad at Mackies Saturday Night Market

Mackie’s Night Bazaar is not to be confused with Arpora Night Market, which is also on Saturdays. Although Arpora’s night market is the more famous one, Mackie’s is the original night market of this area and is closer to the river Baga. This market features many food stalls, live bands and shops. This market ends starts at 6 pm on Saturday nights during the high season and ends at 1 in the morning.

Mackie’s Night Bazaar Timings:

This market starts at 6 pm on Saturdays and ends at 1 am. Mackie’s Night market only exists during the main season, which is from November to March.

You may also like: Goa Travel Tips – 12 Things you need to know before visiting

04 | Arambol Street Market

Arambol's Shopping Street - North Goa

Arambol’s Shopping Street – North Goa

Unlike most of the listings here, this market exists everyday. This market starts a little before Arambol Beach main parking and extends for more than 3 kilometers till the end of Arambol. Arambol is near the North most tip of Goa and has developed into a little hippie village over the decades. The prices here are a bit lower as compared to Anjuna flea market and Saturday night market. This market is as colorful as Anjuna flea market and has a range of things such as spices, hand made soaps, glass pipes, hammocks, bags, clothes, tea, jewelry, bongs and chillums, etc. A lot of people that set up shops in India’s Parvati valley area in the summers set up shops here during the winters, which is Goa’s high season.

Arambol Street Market Timings:

Arambol Street Market is open everyday from 10 am to 9 pm.

05 | Arambol Drum Circle Beach Market

Arambol Drum Circle Beach Market

Arambol Drum Circle Beach Market

Out of all the flea markets in Goa, Arambol drum circle market is my favorite because it is on the beach. This market starts a few hours before before the sunset where travelers from all over the world sell their hand made creations. More than just a market, it is a party on the beach where people bring their drums, handpans, Didgeridoo (didjeridu) and meet here everyday to make music as the sun sets. It is common to see performers at this time with their juggling balls, hula hoops, poi and many other props. With things like handmade clothes, food, jewelry, glass pipes – this market looks like it is right out of a music festival.

Arambol Drum Circle Beach Market Timings:

Arambol Drum Circle flea market starts everyday a little before the sunset. Like many other markets in this list, this market also exists only during high season.

BONUS: Watch this fun video about Arambol Drum Circle

06 | Chapora Fish Market

Goa Flea Markets - Chapora Jetty

Goa Flea Markets – Chapora Jetty

What better place to buy fish than a fishing village? Chapora fishing village near Chapora River is an affordable answer for your seafood craving. Although you can buy fish here pretty much throughout the day, but the best time to visit this market is from 4 am to 6 am. This is the time when many fishermen return from their quest and their wives sell freshly caught fish. You can find things like tiger prawns, king prawns, lobsters, mussels, crabs, kingfish and Pomfrets at a very good price.

Chapora Fish Market Timings:

Chapora Fish Market starts everyday in the morning from 4 am to 6 am and then again in the evening from 4 pm to 6 pm. This market is closed during the rainy season.

You may also like: Hampi Travel Guide

07 | Mapusa Friday Market

If you’re looking to buy local Goan produce and goods, Mapusa Friday Market is the place for you. Just like Chapora fish market, Mapusa market is also a place that locals love to visit. In fact, the main Mapusa market is open everyday, but the special flea market opens on Friday morning. You can find everyday things that you need to run your house as well as a lot of food. This market is famous for things like Goan sausages, organic food, spices, cashews, earthen pots, meat and even clothes. This is a day market and closes as the sun goes down.

Mapusa Friday Market Timings:

Mapusa Friday Market opens early morning on Fridays and ends at around 6 pm.

Have you visited these flea markets of Goa already and have a few tips to share? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Wondering what we’re doing in Goa?

Wondering what we’re doing in Goa?

If you’re following us on Facebook, you must have noticed that we’re in Goa. No, we are not here for a week or two but are here for a few months. We’re not “holiday”ing here but are volunteering in Goa. This is our way of slow travel because we want to make our way to Sri Lanka by January 2017.

So what exactly are we doing in Goa?

A little work in the hostel..

I’m volunteering in Goa ‘s Red Door Hostel in Anjuna. The same hostel also has a restaurant where San is working in the bar and kitchen. We get two meals a day here and get to sleep for free. I don’t get paid because I’m a volunteer but San get a little money because he’s a professionally trained chef. Both of us work for half a day and get a day off per week. Our work is very relaxed and a lot of fun.

A little travel blogging..

2016 was a very crazy year. I traveled to 10 countries and didn’t even get a chance to write about them all. I had to take a forced break from blogging while I was attending back-to-back music festivals and later preparing for my German examination. Sitting behind the hostel help desk for half a day has given me a little stability that I needed. I’m finally getting some writing done.

And a little party..

Goa is the birthplace of Psychedelic Trance genre and a typical old school Goa party has no match. This is where I got my first taste of Psychedelic trance music back in 2004 and I was hooked. So yes, we are partying a LOT here. Again.

Why did we choose Goa?

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, I’m sure you know by now how much I love Goa. A lot of people hate it because it’s getting touristy, but which place isn’t? Honestly, Goa is massive and there are many empty areas. It’s mostly the beach belt that gets crowded and we have our own secret spots. We’re in North Goa, which is busier than South Goa.

The cost of living in Goa is definitely lower than most of the places we know of, so it is easy to survive here with little money. The fact that we’re sleeping and eating for free has made it possible for us to live off the earnings of our travel blog. Goa is a good place for digital nomads.

I visited Goa for the first time in 2004 and have always wanted to live here. After finally finding courage to quit my full time job, I can finally make my dream come true. Better late than never, don’t you think?

Want to meet us?

A lot of my friends and blog readers are in Goa at the moment because it is a popular spot to celebrate New Year’s Eve. If you’re planning on visiting, do check out my post about Goa travel tips and my detailed guide about North Goa Beaches. It has some amazing hotel and hostel reccomendations too. Oh, and send us a message on Facebook or Instagram if you want to meet us in Goa.

 

 

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Sonal Kwatra Paladini

Crossing Hampta Pass – the Adventure of a Lifetime

Crossing Hampta Pass – the Adventure of a Lifetime

Swollen ankles, bruised thigh.. and yet I couldn’t help but smile at my sunburnt reflection in the mirror. I was proud of myself! I had just returned home after crossing Hampta pass and survived 5 days of hiking through Himachal’s wilderness with GIO Adventures. I flipped through the pages of my diary to read what I had scribbled on my notepad during the trek. So here it is –one of my rare “travel diary” posts about the 5 unforgettable days of my life. In short – an adventure of a lifetime!

Oh, and before you read my trek diary, you need to know that Hampta Pass is a corridor between two of the most scenic valleys of the Himalayas (North of India) – Lahaul Valley and Kullu Valley. This pass is at the height of 4270 meters above the sea level. Many shepherds use this pass to travel to Spiti valley from Kullu area. In order to reach the Kullu Valley, you need to get to Manali. You can read more about Manali and places to visit around it, visit this page.

 

July 2, 2016 – Prini – Jobra – Chikha : The Beginning

Initial Thoughts

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. With this thought, I was ready to start my first ever press trip with the Great Indian Outdoors – GIO Adventures.

Was I completely out of my mind to have said yes to this? Being lazy and perhaps a little unfit in my eyes, was I going to be able to pull it off? Maybe I should have run for 2 KMs a day as per what the instructors told me to do. Oops!

Shoo – enough of these thoughts! It was time to do a little Yoga to inhale the positivity and exhale the negativity. 15 minutes of Yoga was enough for me to go back to my calm self. As I chanted OM, I heard a knock on my door. It was time to meet the others.

Who the hell are the others? Well, as much of an adventurer I am, I’m surely not going to be doing this trek alone. There are 5 other people who are part of this trek and it was finally time to meet them.

Please don’t be annoying.

Yes, I was hoping for the best.

With my tongue in cheek, I finally stepped out to meet the others. The girls – Vindhya, Kamla had come alone from different parts of the country. The boys – Vishwa, Dhanya and Sudheer had come together from Bangalore. Sweet! We were a group of 6.

Three trekking guides, one head chef, one assistant chef and 1 porter in-charge joined our group of six – which made us total 12 people. Fancy! Ankush, one of the trekking guides insisted I carry a trekking pole. If San (my husband) was here, he would have laughed and called me a “high end” trekker.

Let’s begin the trek!

From Prini village near Manali, we got on to a car to reach Jobra, our starting point of the hike. On our way, we crossed a place called Panduvrupa, where apparently Pandavas used to bathe.

A few minutes later we were in Jobra, which appeared to be a little too crowded for my liking. Were all these people going to do the same trek? Oh no!

As we started hiking, I noticed that everyone had given their bags to the porter, except Kamla and I. When I say porter – it’s not a person, but a small herd of horses.

The hike was easier than any other hike I have ever done in my life. The weather was perfect, the views were breathtaking and the path had no ascend.

In less than an hour, we reached a stream and spotted our campsite next to it on a meadow. This was Chikha – our first campsite.

That’s it? That was easy! Yes, we knew that our first day of the hike was going to be easy but this literally a walk in the park.

Hampta Pass Day 1 campsite

Hampta Pass Day 1

I walked around the campsite, trying to sink in all the beauty. It was so green! It felt I was in an enchanted forest because the mountains were covered in mist, resulting in a dramatic effect. With no other people in sight apart from our group, the gentle music of the stream was the only thing that could be heard – except a bird’s sporadic songs which was perhaps wooing its love. At a distance, I saw a herd of horses grazing lazily. It looked surreal.

My cell phone had no signal and it disturbed me. No, not because I wanted to stay connected but because my mom and dad would be worried abut me. I did not know that I would have no network and told them that I’d call at least once a day. I just hope my sister calls the emergency phone number in the email.

Ankush told us that the first day of the hike is easy but the next few days are not. With that thought, we all collected wood to build a bonfire to spend a few hours talking to each other.

After soup, dinner and dessert, it was time to sleep. I was happy that I had the tent to myself but couldn’t sleep. Was it because I was missing San too much? Or I was thinking about mom and dad being worried about me? No matter what I did, I was not comfortable enough. There were too many things messing up with my emotionally and physically. It was cold and I had to pee. It was raining outside and I could hear the loud raindrops on my tent. I tried to convince myself that I didn’t have to pee but it didn’t work. I finally braved up, took out the torch, wore my flip-flops, rain jacket and went out to relieve myself.

Phew! I was finally able to sleep.

July 3, 2016 – Chikha – Balu Ka Ghera

Morning Thoughts

Hampta Pass Day 2 morning

Hampta Pass Day 2 morning

It was barely 5:30 am that I woke up on my own due to sunlight hitting my tent. I unzipped my tent to peep outside and WOW! It was beautiful. For a few minutes, I sat there sinking in the beauty and thinking how lucky I was to be experiencing this serenity. Everything around was green, dewy and covered with mist. I gathered my toothbrush and went to the nearby stream to freshen up. The water was icy cold but felt wonderful against my face.

If you have read all my blog posts, you must be aware of my fear of toilets. If the toilet doesn’t look usable to me, my body refuses to eject anything out. This phenomenon is enough to cause me a little stress in situations where I have to use camping toilets.

Our toilet here was cleaner than those portable toilets you see at music festivals. It was more like a hole dug on the ground with mud next to it. The mud was the flush, which was supposed to be put back after each use. We were not allowed to use any water but only toilet paper – the western style of “dry” sanitation.

Hampta Pass - camping toilet

Hampta Pass – camping toilet

After successfully using the toilet, I returned to my tent and realized a spider had made its way inside. Should I pick it up or let it be? I couldn’t bear the thought of it chilling inside my clothes so I decided the little fella had to go. Did I miss San here? Yes. Not because he would have picked the spider, but because he would have been more scared of it than me. Haha.

Anyway, with a little help of a postcard that I got at a Tarsier sanctuary in Bohol, I managed to pick up the spider to throw it out of the tent. The sneaky guy tried to enter my hiking shoes that were kept outside and without a thought.. SPLAT!

Oops, I killed it. Sorry, my animal lover friends!

The Rain Test

Anyway, after a delicious breakfast, we started our hike at 8:30 am. While yesterday was easy, today was the opposite.

First, it started raining as soon as we began our hike. Second, we had to cross a river, which did not have a bridge. The only way to cross was by removing our shoes and hiking up our pants till our knees. We crossed it barefoot and the water was icy cold. Third, after 30 minutes, I fell down and broke the GoPro stick. Sorry, San!

Hampta Pass Day 2 - Rain

Hampta Pass Day 2 – Rain

After this, I realized I was getting very tired. It was because I was the only idiot in my group who was carrying her own backpack. Everyone else had availed the porter service.

The second river crossing was more difficult than the next one. I don’t think I would have been able to manage it without the help of our guide – Ankush.

The trail became slipperier because it wouldn’t stop raining. All our clothes and bags were wet. We saw a chai shop from a distance and decided to stop there for lunch. We were in a place called Joara.

Hampta Pass Day 2 - The Only Chai Shop on this trail

Hampta Pass Day 2 – The Only Chai Shop on this trail

The hike after lunch was easier, perhaps because of renewed energy. Out path was lined up with white, yellow and pink flowers. We found a few strawberries, which we plucked and ate on the way. They were tiny but were super delicious!

Anyway, we continued hiking along the Hamta River and before we knew it, we had reached out campsite. YAY!

If yesterday’s campsite was dreamy, today’s was heavenly! In a distance, I would see a glacier. Behind the glacier are a few snow peaks. Jaichand ji informed me that that was Indrasan peak. Next to the glacier is a stream. The grassy patch on which was our campsite was divided into several little islands because of the stream. All of these islands are covered with pink and yellow flowers as far as the eye can see.

Hampta Pass Day 2 Campsite - Balu Ka Ghera

Hampta Pass Day 2 Campsite – Balu Ka Ghera

This took my breath away.

Hampta Pass Day 2 - Balu ka Ghera - Kinda looks like Valley of Flowers

Hampta Pass Day 2 – Balu ka Ghera – Kinda looks like Valley of Flowers

All this beauty made me forget about my wet shoes and clothes. However, a little while after dinner, it struck me again – my so called waterproof hiking shoes were STILL wet. Moreover, the next day was supposed to be the most challenging part of the trek because we gotta cross Hampta Pass. Ankush mentioned that it might take us 12 hours! I can’t be wearing wet shoes for 12 hours.

Sensing my despair, Ankush asked what was up. He smiled and said – don’t worry, we have a way of drying all your shoes. Really? Is there anything that these guys can’t do?

 

July 4, 2016 – Balu Ka Ghera – Hampta Pass – Shia Garu

Crossing Hampta Pass

Today is the big day because it’s supposed to be the most challenging day of our trek. The weather Gods must be happy because it’s a sunny day. If it rains, our trek is going to be harder and riskier.

The mood at the breakfast table is a mix of excitement and nervousness. Vindhya is unwell because she slept in her cold wet clothes. I wish she had told me because I would have given her my clothes.

My shoes are surprisingly dry. GIO definitely knows some magic tricks! Haha – I later found out that they dried all our shoes in front of the stove.

At around 8 am, after overstuffing ourselves with delicious breakfast, we finally started our trek. The first part of the trek was surprisingly easy. The trail is beautiful and is through Balu ka Ghera’s flowery meadow.

Is that a lake I see in the distance? It’s beautiful! On our way to the lake, we cross a herd of sheep and a shepherd. What if I was not born in a city but in the mountains to a shepherd family? Would I have loved living a simple life as Heidi? Would I have laughed at city folks who took out time from their busy schedule to climb mountains as an adventure sports activity? Maybe I will find out in my next lifetime.

Hampta Pass Day 3 - Crossing balu Ka Ghera Lake

Hampta Pass Day 3 – Crossing Balu Ka Ghera Lake

We have crossed the lake now and we can see a glacier nearby. Funny, because I thought this was farther than this. As we make our way to the glacier, we cross a few more trekking groups that are a little too big for my liking. Being small in number, our group is faster and soon we cross almost all the groups that we met on the way.

Although it appears to be white, but the glacier was covered with goat poop. Eww! I don’t want to fall here. Jaichand ji and Ankush tell us to dig our heels into ice as we walk on the glacier.

Hampta Pass Day 3 - Crossing Glaciers

Hampta Pass Day 3 – Crossing Glaciers

Under normal circumstances, I would have lost my balance here a few times but seeing goat poop all over made me extra cautious. In about half an hour, we had finished crossing the glacier. As I “phew”ed with relief, Ankush smiled mischievously and said – don’t be so happy, there are a few more glaciers. Wow, great…

As we walked further, I couldn’t help but smile. There was not a soul in sight, no chai shop, no phone signal, no airplanes above us.. Nothing except wilderness. With meadows, mountains, streams, snowcaps and flowers around me, I thanked mother nature for her generosity.

Just at that instant, we spotted a chai shop in a tent. Yes, the universe wanted to prove my thoughts wrong. The boys decided to stop here for a quick snack and chai but the rest of us decided to go on.

As we hiked further, we approached another glacier. “How far is Hamta pass?” asked one of us. “This IS the Hamta pass” was Ankush’s answer. Wow, that was fast! I was happy that we were about to cross our main point of the trek. Just at that moment, the boys joined us from their little break at the chai shop.

Hampta Pass Trek - Crossing glaciers

Hampta Pass Trek – Crossing glaciers

While the previous glacier was a 20-20 cricket match, crossing the Hamta Pass was like a test match. It took 5 times more effort and time. Perhaps the effort was because we were at the height of 4270 meters above the sea level and the oxygen level was thin. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe with my mouth closed to avoid feeling dehydrated.

Hampta Pass - an adventure of a lifetime

Hampta Pass – an adventure of a lifetime

At the top of the pass, we had a little celebration where we posed for a few pictures with the Indian flag. We found a nice spot on the rocks to sit and enjoy the natural beauty.

Jaichand Ji passed around a few plates of delicious vegetable biryani for all of us. To my surprise, the biryani was hot. How do they do it? Seriously, the GIO team was now exceeding my expectations. On top of one of the most isolated parts of the Himalayas, which is away from the civilization, I sat on a rock and ate a delicious lunch of hot biryani followed by laddoos for desert. I love my life!

Beyond Hampta Pass – Entering Spiti

Hamster Pass Trek - Entering Spiti Valley

Hampta Pass Trek – Entering Spiti Valley

I couldn’t help smiling as we finished our lunch and hiked further. Pink and Yellow flowers gave way to Purple flowers. The lushness of the valley gradually disappeared, as we got closer to Spiti’s dramatic barren beauty. “Cold desert” is what they call Spiti and I was awestruck at the first glimpse.

Hampta Pass - Day 3 - Entering Spiti Valley

Hampta Pass – Day 3 – Entering Spiti Valley

They said the landscape will drastically change over the course of time and I finally began to see it. First the lush greenery, then the stark glaciers and now Lahaul and Spiti Valley’s arid beauty. We were now in Himachal Pradesh’s tribal area.

With that thought, we reached the final glacier of today’s trek. Unlike the glaciers before, this one surely appeared to be steeper. What if I fall? “You can’t fall because you have to slide down” – Ankush answers to my thought. Was I thinking aloud?

“If you try walking, you will fall.” he explains, “…so it’s better if you slide down.”

Was he serious? I searched his face for a hint of sarcasm but I found none. Yay, I get to slide down a hill in the Himalayas, as I always wanted!

“Sit down, keep your hands up and your back slanted backward and let go…. When in need, use your hands and feet as brakes. Are you ready?”

This was all that I needed to hear. I wanted to be the first one to slide down. Perhaps I listened to only a fraction of the instructions and I sat down and begged Ankush to push me down. With the campsite in view, I wait for Ankush to push me down for an ultimate adventure.

Zoom – is what I hear in my head but in reality, this is not what happened.

In a fraction of a second as I’m falling down, I realize the importance of listening to full instructions. Why were my hands sliding through snow? Am I supposed to do this? Oh shit, I’m about to crash into the rocks!

Hampta Pass - Snow slide

Hampta Pass – Snowslide

In that instant, I see Jaichand Ji diving in front of me to save me. All of a sudden everything happens in slow motion… I lose balance, I am about to crash, he saves my fall and I… well, I’m still on the ground with my hands deep inside snow!

Are my hands burning? This is the exact sensation I experienced as I took my hands out of snow. Are my fingernails about to fall off? Why are they hurting so much? Thankfully, our campsite was near enough for me to visualize holding a cup of hot chai in my hands and to be motivated enough to finish today’s trek.

The next part of our hike for today was a tad easier than before. It was mostly downhill but we had to be careful not to slip. I noticed how many of my hike mates had fallen sick – vomiting, bad stomach, headache, fever and more. Altitudes have a way making everyone feel weaker. I refuse to be the next victim!

With determination in my head, I walk a little faster towards our new campsite. Yes, I could see it at a distance and I know I can run to it.

In less than an hour from the slide, we finally manage to reach our campsite. Yes, they were right and today was the most tiring day of all but FUCK! Oh my Effing GOD!!!!

It took a while for me to sink in what all I had accomplished today. I was finally in Spiti Valley!

My dream destination.

Thank you GIO team.

With the emotion of triumph, I say good night to everyone and retire for the night. I tell myself – “The most difficult part is over and I get to see Chandra Taal lake tomorrow.” With a smile on my face, I decide to call it a night and fall into the most peaceful slumber of the three days.

July 5, 2016 – Shia Garu – Chatru – Chandra Taal

Reaching Chatru – Our Last Campsite

Today is the last day of our trek. It is going to be an easy day except for our first task – crossing the icy river without shoes! It was colder than the coldest place that I had ever visited and we were expected to remove our shoes to walk across the river on the slippery stones. SHIT.

Just like everything else that appeared difficult, I wanted to finish this part of our hike before it started messing with my head. As we got closer to the river, the water appeared to be moving faster than I thought.

I removed my warm shoes and socks and took a deep breath before stepping in. We had formed a human chain by holding each other’s hands to cross the river together. Ankush was leading this chain so that he could tell us where to step.

Crossing icy cold river without shoes

Crossing icy cold river without shoes

As I stepped into the water, I realized I had somehow become mentally stronger. The water was colder than before but it did now weaken me. Being in the middle of the chain, I felt many tugs that pulled me in opposite directions but luckily I did not fall. Yes, I reached the end of the river without falling even once.

We jumped for a few minutes to allow our feet to get warm before wearing our shoes and resuming our hike. While the previous days demanded a serious workout, today was a walk in the park. We strolled around in Spiti Valley’s barren trails and enjoyed the beauty. There was no need to hurry because our campsite was not so far.

The green patches reduced as we walked further inside Spiti Valley. This barren valley hardly gets any rainfall and is called “cold desert”. The geology is similar to that of Tibet’s or Ladakh’s.

Hampta Pass Day 4 - Spiti Valley's Barren Beauty

Hampta Pass Day 4 – Spiti Valley’s Barren Beauty

We crossed a little heard of mountain goats with a dog as their watchdog. “How cute” was my first reaction but I was instructed to admire them from a distance by the others to not be a victim of the watchdog’s wrath.

Within a few minutes, we reached our final glacier of the trek. To my delight, my footing was much better than before and I crossed the glacier without any help.

Soon we were in our last camp of the trek – Chatru.

This is it. This was the end of out 4 day ordeal. We were finally at our last camp and there were no more treks beyond this.

Next?

It was time to head to Chandra Taal to see the legendary moon lake!

Oasis in desert – the moon lake!

What appeared to be an easy day, ended up being a difficult one. Even though we did not have to hike to Chandra Taal Lake, the car journey to it was the bumpiest ever. It is known that Spiti valley has one of the most treacherous roads in the world but nothing prepared me for this journey from hell. Most of the people in our group were sick so they got the comfortable seats while I sat in the most uncomfortable spot with Ankush and Vishwa.

Spiti Valley's narrow roads and traffic jam

Spiti Valley’s narrow roads and traffic jam

The road was narrow, winding and was flooded by waterfalls on many spots. To make things worse, most areas were full of boulders and many of them often rolled on to the road. At one point, the road was completely flooded and we had to wait for over an hour and patiently observe all the vehicles crossing the spot before it was our turn.

An hour later, we finally arrived at the spot that I was waiting for since the beginning of the trek. No, not the lake but a satellite phone booth! In the middle of Spiti’s wilderness, I ran to “STD / PCO” sign outside an Indian Army tent to call my family. For some strange reason, I had tears in my eyes as I reached the tent. A lone army man was sitting inside and nodded when I said I needed to make a call. I swallowed a lump in my throat as my mom answered. It took massive control to not to cry a river as I heard my mom’s sweet voice. Thank you Indian Army for arranging a satellite phone service in this area! You’re the best.

One more hour and we were at the parking spot, which was around a kilometer away from the lake. At the height of 4300 meters above the sea level, this was the highest point of our trip. Everywhere around looked even more barren than Chatru (our campsite). Everything around was beige, except one thing. We could see the lake from a distance, which was like a shiny turquoise pendant on Spiti’s barren collarbone. As we walked closer, we got a sense of the lake’s enormous size.

Chandra Taal Lake in Spiti - Moon Lake

Chandra Taal Lake in Spiti – Moon Lake

How come the water is so blue? What is the origin of the lake? How can anything so beautiful exist in the middle of a desert? Minutes or maybe an hour passed as I sat by the lake’s edge wondering about its mystery and drinking its beauty. After all, I had worked very hard to reach here.

At this moment, I felt thankful to everyone and everything in my life for giving me wanderlust.. Because it felt pretty darn good to be a part of the scenery that I had often stared at on my computer screen.

Chandra taal lake from a distance - Hampta Pass trek
Chandra taal lake from a distance - Hampta Pass trek
Chandra taal lake from a distance - Hampta Pass trek

So you want to cross the Hampta pass and see Chandra Taal Lake too?

Please do yourself a favor and get in touch with GIO Adventures! Although I have done beginner level treks alone, crossing Hampta pass is a level higher and I am happy I went with GIO. Unlike the other groups, we were a small group, had a strong support system and always got to eat the most delicious food. Moreover, with no cellular network and no connectivity to communicate with the outside world, I felt safe with GIO because their team is entirely made up of mountain experts.

Wondering what’s my next trekking expedition? I can’t stop looking at Will Hatton’s camping pictures while he was backpacking in Pakistan. Yes, I want to visit Pakistan. 🙂

Disclaimer: a big thanks to GIO Adventures for a complimentary trek. As usual, all views in this article are mine.

A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal Kwatra Paladini should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her husband (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Sonal Kwatra Paladini

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