What Amazed me most in 2017!!

Photo of What Amazed me most in 2017!! by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

Every year we come across so many beautiful places and things. Some of these are spell binding beauties while some might be downright ugly. But travel never fails to amaze and mesmerize us! here's a short compilation of the top 10 things which has me amazed in 2017! After all it's the small things that leave a dent!

1. Matri mandir, Auroville:

Has it ever happened with you, that you have well prepared for an exam and it goes pretty decent and you are expecting a 75%. But to your surprise when the results are out it’s a 100 and you are amazed! Well it was a similar experience for me when I visited Gurudongmar. I knew it’s going to be breathtaking but this beautiful, couldn’t dream of! It looked like it’s straight out of the movie “Frozen”. A beautiful lake covered under a white sheet of ice surrounded by naked brown mountains and the bluest skies above it adding to the magic! The route leading to Gurudongmar from Lachen too is exceptionally enchanting. Plus, we were lucky enough since it had snowed the previous night.

Snow covered mountains, glisten like gold with sunrise

Photo of Gurudongmar Lake, Sikkim by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

Gurudongmar lake

Photo of Gurudongmar Lake, Sikkim by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

I have been to the Krang Shuri earlier as well. This time the difference was the Rains! Heavy rains had turned the otherwise subtle and serene green waterfall into a wild gushing fall which my friend termed as a “Mini Niagra” The force of the water was extreme and the opportunity to witness it in all its glory and somehow managing the chance to get a view from the back of the fall despite being so wild was a blessing. I had got myself an extra pair of clothes as I was certain to take a dip in the pools, but the rains had made it so wild and the current was extreme to even go close, let alone bathing in it!

The gushing waters of the Krang Shuri in Monsoons.

Photo of krang shuri waterfall, Meghalaya, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

A slice of Paradise indeed!

Photo of krang shuri waterfall, Meghalaya, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

The fear of death and love of life is what brings people close and make them forget all man-made differences like religion, castes etc. One such example is a Forest Goddess at Sundarbans known as “BonBibi”. Legend has it that she is the daughter of a Sufi Fakir who was left by her father in the jungle and raised by the animals of the jungle itself. She was blessed with superpowers and has protected lives of many from the man eater tigers. So irrespective of the castes and religion, everybody living in the islands of Sunderbans pray to her and seek blessings when they go to the forest areas for fishing or collecting honey! Apparently this is the only region and She is the only Goddess who is worshipped by both Hindu and Muslim devotees.

(I will write a detailed blog on this extremely amazing and beautiful culture soon!)

The deity with her brother and Dakhinrai

Photo of Pakhiralay, West Bengal, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

Innovation and talent! I guess no education is needed for these qualities! The villagers of Pakhilaray in Sunderban have proven the same! What would you do with a number of Tin oil containers!? Maybe use them as dustbins, discard it or sell it off for scrap! The villagers here hav made structures out of these like Chicken coops, Toilets, Hay storage rooms etc. I was thoroughly impressed and asked them why they don’t make out houses of these, to which an old man replied, “it’s tin so it heats up quick, it would be difficult to live in a house of this, but it’s fine to use it as a toilet or for storage”. This is brilliant example of recycling and upcycling!

I love this!

Photo of Sunderbans National Park, Pocket B, Sector 27, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

Somehow talking about Red Crabs reminds me of Mr. Krab and Krabby Patty from Spongebob Squarepants, and I am a Fan! :p Mandarmani is a secluded beach village which opened to tourists quite recently, thus helping keep its natural beauty intact. It is a hub for innumerous red crabs otherwise rarely found in India. I hired a “toto” for the local place visits and requested the driver to take me where I could find the maximum crabs and he took me to a river shore, a little ahead of Mohana(Confluence of the river and sea). I was ecstatic to find the shore full of these cute crabs as they played “Hide and Seek” with me. They would just chill on the beach and as I would go closer, all would run back to their holes. I somehow caught hold of a few and got myself a few clicks!

Someone please tell him I am a vegetarian.. Won't eat it :p

Photo of Mandarmani, West Bengal, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

Hide and Seek

Photo of Mandarmani, West Bengal, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

A day at this divine land of Haridwar will amaze you with how faith can be so mesmerizingly beautiful!! An overcrowded “Har ki Paudi” was such a clumsy and “non favorable” affair before the chants of the Ganga Aarti started. So much crowd, people pushing each other away and loud noises was a huge turn off, then came a voice on the loudspeaker “Har Har Gangey” and begins the famous Aarti. To my surprise, the entire crowd got still and quiet, all eyes on the Pujaris performing this glorious and riveting ritual! I somehow managed to sneak a few clicks of this sanctified act. You can’t really understand the greatness of this Maha-Aarti until you witness it live!


Photo of Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)


Photo of Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

It’s the little things after all which leave a dent in your mind. This cookie Maker guy- Gautam, has set up his own “Bakery On wheels”! Yes, and it’s not a food truck or Van with all modern baking amenities. He’s created a unique oven from tin and bakes “Wood fired Cookies” in those.

Baking sumptuous Cookies in three flavors, the butter cookies won me over! Flaky, Melt in mouth, moderately sweet and buttery- Too perfect for a street delicacy! I got almost a pound packed as souvenirs for friends and I ended up eating it all during the week-long trip! :p

Gautam, selling his cookies

Photo of Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

In the oven!

Photo of Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

The woodfired oven

Photo of Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

More than the valley, it was the night and the weather here which came as a surprise to me! The temperature under -10’C towards the end of April and a night of continuous and extreme snowfall! With those weak tin roofs of our little homestay we could almost feel the snow as it hit the roof! A tiny hamlet with a micro monastery and an extremely small temple, this village was a perfect example of “Before and After” scene for us! The snow had drastically changed the landscape and the foggy, colorful village got drenched under a thick carpet of snow giving it a natural Monochrome filter!

Day 1: Evening scenes with clouds and Fog!

Photo of Nathang Valley, Sikkim, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

Day 2- early morning everything covered under snow

Photo of Nathang Valley, Sikkim, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

This has been the most favorite advent of this year for me! For moments I felt as if I am not on the same planet right now! The extremely enchanting mangrove roots breathing above the water and those dingy scary “mangrove caves” where you wouldn’t at all be surprised to find an Anaconda! Please check my blog on the same for detailed information about this unexplored mysterious mangrove forests!

Not enchanting??

Photo of Pichavaram, Tamil Nadu, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

What amazed me most about Matri Mandir is how flawless it’s constructed and is so well maintained! Despite of the arrogance of the guides and staff in general at Auroville, I totally loved visiting this Golden Globe of Spirituality. It will give you feels like you enter a spacecraft of some sort on a major mission (Well finding true self could be considered a mission too :p). It’s extremely white on the inside and you are asked to wear white socks! White carpet, white ceiling, white floor and all covered under a huge magnificent 24k gold structure! You can choose to spend more time meditating at one of the “petals” or the beautiful Banyan tree as well! Well it’s not the meditating experience here which whooped me over, just the fact that you are sitting in this beautiful globe of gold with people from all over the world and breathing in the nothingness gives an amazing feel for sure!

Mesmerizing Matri Mandir!

Photo of Auroville, Tamil Nadu, India by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)

2. Pichavaram mangroves:

3. Gnathang valley:

4. Frozen Gurudongmar lake:

5. Krang Shuri Falls:

6. BonBibi of Sunderban:

7. The tin container huts of Sunderbans:

8. Red crab beach at Mandarmani:

9. Ganga Aarti of Haridwar:

10. Rishikesh Cookie Carts:

Apart from these, there were many other awe striking moments. But the list above remains my favorite.

Now that you know how little things can make your travel experience even better, start looking for details!! Keep the traveling spirit alive and be amazed!

Sikkim Silk Route, Zuluk!

Photo of What Amazed me most in 2017!! by Chetna Khetawat (The Vagabond Dreamer)
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