Travel Spotlight: Romancing the Planet
The Travel Spotlight for July takes us to India where Karthik (Romancing the Planet) is based. After connecting with him through social media, I discovered how amazing his photos are as he captures them during his travels around the world. He would rather stand in paddy fields of Vietnam, travel on a tuk tuk in Bangkok and eat at the local street food than authentic food at a star hotel just like most of us passionate travelers. This month we asked him about the exotic locations he’s been and what are his recommendations for traveling to India.
Tell us a little bit about yourself – your current location, how did the ‘Romancing the Planet’ came about?
I am based in Hyderabad, a metro city located in South of India. I graduated in MBA degree in 2012 but I have to confess that I did it only for the sake of doing it, as a person without a degree in Indian society is considered a failure. I was never interested in finding a day job. I have done many things to support myself financially like trading stocks and forex, worked as an antique broker, worked as a webmaster and buit few websites, blogged about random stuff, sold photos on stock photo websites and many more. I am a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ type of person.
Other than the occassional vacation holidaying during the school holidays, I have not traveled much as a kid. My first overseas trip came in when I was 22 where I traveld to Thailand along with my friends. But, true wanderlust started with in me, since I visited Kerala for an internship. I met a lot of people, learnt about their lifes, culture and traditions, and realised how different the world is and how small role we play in this world. Since then I had a strong desire and ecstasy to meet new people if varied cultures and background and felt that it can be achieved through travel. After I came back home from that tour, I strated to blog about my experiences on Romancing The Planet and people liked it. I have to say that I travel for people and to experience culture, not for sight seeing.
You started travelling at the age of 22 years old to Thailand. How was your first experience travelling abroad?
To be frank I do not remember much from that trip. It was a short tour for six days and I traveled only in Bangkok and Ko Lan island, eating differnt kinds of food, swimming the beaches of Ko Lan and meeting new people. I was tricked by the touts and ended up paying much more than the normal prices, but that was a learning experience and happens to every one of us. Overall it was a great experience and I would suggest every one to travel when they are young.
Where would you say is the most beautiful place on Planet Earth?
Bhutan has to be the most beautiful place on the planet and it has a special place in my heart. It’s a fairytale place that could have existed only in my dreams. The wilderness, the cold rivers, the unique culture, the colorful festivals known as Damchoe and Tsechu, the warm and down to earth people, the concept of Gross National Happiness (http://www.romancingtheplanet.com/gross-national-happiness-and-sustainability-of-bhutan/), people who are dressed up in traditional clothes, the majestic Dzongs and Lakhangs makes Bhutan the most beautiful place on the planet. It’s a poor country, but being rich is last on the agenda of the people.
Do you have a bucket list? Name the top 5 that is currently on this list.
Yes, I do have a bucket list. I am not sure whether I will be able to travel to all the places or do everything on the list. But here are the top 5 things I dream of experiencing – trekking to the base camp of Mount Everest, spend a nomadic life in the emptiness of Mongolia and Tibet, to be an official photographer of a celebrity in an African country, visit all the seven wonders of ancient & modern world and take a road trip on the death road in Bolivia.
You have been to some of the exotic places around the world such as Bhutan. Where do you plan to go next?
If I had a chance, I would love to travel in Mongolia or Tibet, but would take some time and a bit of planning as well. My next trip would be either China or Japan, but before that I would travel to the states of India I have never been to before. As already said, I travel to meet new people and more than 60% of the population lives in Asia. I want to tavel all the countries in Asia before I go for a trip outside this continet. So right now traveling within Asia, is my first priority.
India is well known for its’ iconic heritage landmarks such as the Taj Mahal. Where would you recommend us to go if it was our first time to India?
It’s not an easy question to answer, because India is very diverse and has something to offer for every kind of traveler. But if its the first time some one is visiting India here are few places that someone cannot miss out – Taj Mahal, the hill forts of Rajasthan, the historical sites in and around New Delhi, the imposing temples like Kajhuraho, Tanjavur, Ajanta & Ellora caves, Konark and Madhurai Meenakshi (http://www.romancingtheplanet.com/6-temples-you-should-visit-in-india/). If someone is adventurous they can get off the tourist track and visit places like Lamayuru in Ladakh, Pangong Tso lake, the hills of Northeastern states, the Great Rann of Kutch and the Wagah border ceremony.
For nature lovers, Kerala makes a perfect destination. The hill stations of Darjeeling and Manali are also very beautiful. The beaches in Goa are well known around the world. Wildlife enthusiats have to visit Kaziranga Wild Life Sanctuary and Sundarbans.
India has a lot of colorful festivals. During anytime of the year there is some kind of festival happening in India. Though saying this plan your visit to coincide with major festivals like Holi or Dussehra.
How about food? Where’s the best place to eat the best Indian food in town?
Indian food is different from rest of the world. It’s a reflection of various cultures that exists in India. Each state in India has its own cuisine and the ingredients used in a same dish differs from place to place. For breakfast try out the South Indian food like Idly and Dosa. Punjabi dishes will make a great lunch – for vegetarians try the Malai Kofta or Shahi Paneer Korma along with naan or roti (Indian Bread) and for non-vegetarians Chicken Tikka Masala is the top favorite here. Street food usually known as Chaat or Namkeen is very spicy and might cause some problems for first time eaters who are from western countries. Usually the higenic conditions in India are low and I would advise travelers to be cautions when they are eating street food.
The Persian inspired dish, Biryani is also very popular and delicious. Each place has it own version of Biryani, but Hyderabad is the epicenter of Biryani cuisine. There are a wide variety of sweets likeBurfi, Gulab Jamun, Kheer and Halwa taking the top honours. As far as beverages is concerned Lassi is a popular yogurt based drink. Alcoholic beverages like Bhang is liked by the tourists. Remember to purchase Bhang only in goventment authorised shops.
Do you prefer to travel solo or in groups?
I love to travel solo because it gives me freedom to do anything, but on the way I meet a other travelers and take short trips with them. The biggest problem while traveling solo is you have to bear all the costs by yourself; while traveling in a group you can share the costs and ultimately can travel much longer. On the whole I prefer to travel alone and it gives me time to think and reflect upon myself.
If I wanted to quit my job and travel around the world, what would you tell me?
I always advise people to get away from their normal lives and travel the world. Traveling has endless possibilites and teaches you a lot of things in life. Its upto an individual how he or she implement the things that they have learnt from traveling in daily life. As far as quitting a job to travel, it should be an individulas choice.
Last but not least, share with us your favourite travel quote!
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
An Indian passport holder decides to get away from his normal routine life, ends up traveling to meet new people and learn about their lives. The writer behind the scenes of Romancing The Planet and The Traveling Indian, Sai Karthik Reddy Mekala is a serious case of wanserlust who prefers to spend his money on traveling rather than buying things. Get in touch with him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/romancingtheplanet) or Twitter (www.twitter.com/romancingplanet).