February 2021 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!
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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Thailand’s Cultural Gem city of Chiang Mai: A Travel Photography Series

Inside the gorgeous Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

One of Thailand’s kings call this city as the ‘prime diamond on the crown of Thailand’. UNESCO has awarded it the title of ‘Creative City’. Founded in the 13th century, it is a gorgeous city located on the banks of the Ping river. I am talking about Chiang Mai, the city of temples and rich culture that is located in the mountainous region of Northern Thailand. Rich trade and many conquests have given this city as diverse and vibrant culture with many gorgeous temples, colourful markets and unique traditions. This article aims to show you the cultural gem city of Chiang Mai through a travel photography series. Hope you enjoy it and may be add it to your travel bucket-list.

Above travel photo: Inside the golden chamber of Wat Chedi Luang with a massive statue of Lord Buddha looking at you.

Celebrating New Year by leaving floating lanterns into the sky, chiang mai, thailand
 
Above travel photo: One of Chiang Mai’s biggest attractions has to be the floating lantern festival, which takes place on two days. One, during Loi Krathong festival day and the other on New Year’s Eve. These lanna style sky lanterns in the night sky are a sight to behold.

Young Buddhist monks at Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Above travel photo: Due to its many Buddhist temples, one will usually come across a lot of Buddhist monks in Chiang Mai. These are two young Buddhist monk students I met at Wat Chedi Luang.

Offering prayers at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand
 
Above travel photo: One of Chiang Mai’s most famous landmarks, visitors are offering their prayers at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, that is located about 14 kms from Chiang Mai city.

Sculpting in progress near Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand
 
Above travel photo: Artisans of all types can be seen at Chiang Mai. This is a metal sculptor seen just outside of Wat Chedi Luang.

Buddhist Monk crossing a road in Chiang Mai, Thailand
 
Above travel photo: The sight of a monk decked in orange or green is a common sight in Chiang Mai. You can see him at a phone store, at an ATM or simply crossing the roads of Chiang Mai.

Bhubing palace garden and water fountains at a glance

Above travel photo:
A place of gorgeous natural beauty, Bhubing palace is a royal residence that is decked with many flowering gardens and water fountains.

Wat Phantao, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Above travel photo: Wat Phan Tao is an ancient temple located next to Wat Chedi Luang. It is known for its exquisite Lanna style ordination hall that is made entirely of teakwood.

Signboard at Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Above travel photo: Such signboards are the norm at Wat Chedi Luang and they give inspiring messages to the visitors.

Entering the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep near Chiang Mai, Thailand

Above travel photo: These dragons greet the visitors at the start of their arduous climb to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Chinese New Year Flags and the ceiling at Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Above travel photo: Chinese New Year flags can be seen floating on the top of the Wat Chedi Luang temple.

Old stupa near Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Above travel photo: This is an ancient stupa seen near Wat Chedi Luang. Many such stupas can be seen throughout Chiang Mai, but this one was one of the few that isn’t in ruins.

Tree of golden leaves at Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Above travel photo: A tree of golden leaves seen at Wat Chedi Luang. Either the visitors write something on it and hang it on the tree or it is hung by the temple priests where each leaf signifies a human quality.

Row of Buddha Statues at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Above travel photo: A row of Buddha statues can be seen at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, one of the more beautiful temples of Chiang Mai.

Beautiful flower garden at Bhubing palace, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Above travel photo: The famous rose gardens in the Bhubing palace located near Chiang Mai.

The local head gear of a girl - Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Thailand

Above travel photo: The gorgeous head gear of a local girl who was sitting at the entrance of the 13th century Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple near Chiang Mai.

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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Tabo: Himalayan Village famous for its delicious apples

Inside an apple orchard at Tabo, Himachal Pradesh

It is referred to as the ‘Ajanta of the Himalayas’. It is home to a Buddhist monastery that is over a thousand years old and that is considered one of the holiest monasteries in all of India and the Himalayas. It is also the place where you can find some of India’s most delicious apples. I am talking about Tabo, the simple Himalayan village of mud huts that is situated in a bowl-shaped valley by the Spiti river in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh in India.

Stupa at Tabo Monastery, Spiti

Situated at an altitude of 10, 760 feet, Tabo village lives a quiet existence amidst the mighty Himalayas. People usually visit this laidback Himalayan village for its 10th century Buddhist monastery with its many beautiful murals and wall paintings. The Tabo monastery, is one of those rare Buddhist monasteries to be located in a valley than on top of a hill. Just above the monastery, there are a number of caves carved into the cliff and that were used by monks for meditation. These caves are also home to an assembly hall and some faded paintings. It is these caves that give Tabo the title of ‘Ajanta of the Himalayas’ as they bear an uncanny resemblance to the Ajanta caves near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. In addition to these caves and the monastery, one can see a whole bunch of stupas and chortens all throughout the Tabo rocky landscape. While the monastery, caves and stupas are certainly special, I love Tabo for its juicy and absolutely lip smacking apples. Tabo’s apple orchards, located in the fertile valley of the Spiti river, bear fruit every year between August and October and I think they are the best apples in all of India. The colder environment ensures that the apples are juicier and that they get fully ripe a good 45 to 60 days later than most of the other apple orchards of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir.

Tabo is also a lovely destination for a Himalayan village holiday. Fresh food, great hospitality, spectacular landscapes, lots of walking trails and lots and lots of sun make it the kind of place where you can completely de-stress and rejuvenate your physical and mental batteries.

Sunset over Tabo Valley

Personally, I will always go to Tabo in September and October for its apples. The joy of biting into a fresh apple plucked straight from an apple tree and letting its juice fall on to your t shirt is something truly special. Not only are these apples simply outstanding, they are also available super cheap (like INR 40 per kg for the golden apples). Which means, during apple season, you can totally indulge in apples by having them throughout the day and in different forms.

If you are an apple lover, I would recommend that you visit Tabo during September and October. You can visit during the other times too and go about visiting its monastery, many walking trails and enjoying its pristine setting. It is an important pit stop on the Spiti valley trail and one that I would recommend heavily.

Ancient Tabo Monastery, Spiti

How to reach here:

The nearest airport would be Chandigarh, about 474 kms away.

The nearest railway station would be Shimla, about 362 kms away.

The nearest large bus station would either be Shimla or Kaza.

The only way to reach Tabo is by road. The route is a narrow mountain highway that is at the mercy of nature (landslides, snowfall, accidents, etc.) and hence one should budget in some buffer time to accommodate for delays.

It is best if you have your own mode of transportation. However, buses run by HPSRTC will also take you there, though the number of buses plying every day would be limited to a few.

Best season to visit:

Tabo is open all year round.

If apple season is on your mind, late September to early October should be the best time to visit.

The peak tourist season is between April and July, which also happens to be the summer season. As more people visit Spiti valley during this time, except roads to be busy and all hotels to be booked in advance.

Autumn, winters and early spring are best for people who can handle the cold, the difficulties that come with it, but love the peace and tranquillity as tourists usually avoid these months.

Soft Tsampa cake (zara with dara) and local noodle soup at Tabo, Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Dhankar: Prettiest village of Spiti valley

2) Nako: A rustic Himalayan gem

3) Kalpa: A hill station that offers spectacular views of Kinnaur Kailash

4) Chitkul: Himalayan village with cleanest air in India

5) Baspa river trek: A scenic mountain trek in Himachal Pradesh

6) Sangla: Another village famous for its apples and views of Kinnaur Kailash

7) Sarahan: A village known for its apples and ski slopes

8) Pin valley national park: A remote himalayan wilderness known for sightings of the elusive snow leopard

9) Langza: The Himalayan village that is known for fossils of marine animals

10) Ki Monastery: A stunning monastery surrounded by snow capped mountains near Kaza

11) Kibber: The village of the snow leopard

12) Komic: One of the world’s highest villages with road connectivity

13) Hikkim: The Himalayan village with the highest post office in the world

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

UAE road trip guide

The Al Ain oasis that is full of date palms

If you have been to UAE a couple of times and think that you have experienced the best of the destinations, well, think again. You truly haven’t seen the best of the UAE if you have not been on a road trip in this stunning country.

Just book a great flight with Air Arabia and plan a great trip with your loved ones. Embark on a road trip to explore and vacation at some super clichéd place.

Here is a list of the top drive destinations across the Emirates.

Drive to Al Qudra

This is a short road trip and will take you just 45 minutes to reach Al Qudra, where you can plan a day full of fun and frolic with your family. This region has grown increasingly popular because of wildlife spotting and scenic views. Spot some rare bird species, and you might see the Arabian Oryx. Do not come back until you have seen the sunset.

Drive to Khasab

Khasab, UAE

Take this enchanting road trip of about two and a half hours, and you will love the smooth drive. Plan a weekend getaway from Dubai in this beautiful city in Oman, which is also famous as the Norway of the Middle East’ because of its multiple fjords. Spend the time here exploring the Oman Fjords, Khasab Castle, and Khasab Fort.

Drive to Fujairah

Al Hajar Mountains, Fujierah, UAE

Fujairah is about one and a half an hour drive away, and the road trip is simply loved because of the spectacular views and the scenic routes. This is just the right destination to explore with your friends and family as there are numerous activities to enjoy such as fishing, sailing, snorkelling, and deep-sea diving.

Drive to Jebel Hafeet

Jebel Hafeet, UAE

If you want to drive to a mountainside destination in UAE, just head for Jebel Hafeet, which is just a two-hour drive away. The winding drive takes you to the top of the Hajar mountain range, from where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding. Explore the region to learn about its ancient history and spend some time with nature.

Drive to Dibba

Dibba, UAE

Dibba is another popular spot among road trippers, and the getaway is about one and a half hour’s drive away. Enjoy the panoramic and laid-back pace of life here and explore the UAE’s east coast. Laze on the beaches and find a perfect spot for diving. You can even take dhow cruises into Musandam.

Drive to Sharjah

Al Noor Mosque, Sharjah

Sharjah is about a 40-minute drive from Dubai, and the road trip will take you to the Ghost Town’ or ‘the Buried Village.’ It is a great spot for seasoned explorers and is sure to appeal to nature lovers and photographers. The trip would take you back to the mysterious past of the city with picturesque mosques and houses adorned with mosaic tiles and decorative wallpaper.

Road trips are indeed a great way to spend some quality time together with your loved ones. And if you are in the UAE, those trips become all the more memorable and amazing excuse of the unique experiences and destinations.

Note: Some of the pictures in this post are courtesy of wikipedia.org and have been borrowed under the creative commons license. Each borrowed picture has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Ireland: The gorgeous road trip destination that's right on your doorstep

Wicklow Mountains, Ireland

Ireland is one of the most beautiful road trip destinations that doesn’t get much mention. If you are looking for a destination for your next road trip, you can choose to explore the whole of the Emerald Isle or just a small piece of it. No matter how you choose to see Ireland, you will find that it is a diverse country that has something for everyone.

Wicklow Mountains


To experience the Wicklow Mountains fully, you can travel south of Dublin, get to the village of Bray and then head through the village of Enniskerry. This route will give you a great view of the Great Sugar Loaf Mountain in the horizon.

On your way, don’t forget to admire the Italian gardens and enjoy Ireland’s highest waterfall at Powerscourt Estate. The most memorable stop on the Wicklow Mountains will be at Glendalough, which is known as the valley with two lakes on it.

Rock of Cashel and Hore Abbey


Rock of Cashel, Ireland

The Rock of Cashel is a must-see on your road trip through Ireland. It is a ruin that sits on top of a hill and is often surrounded by sheep to give you the full Ireland experience. Although there is not much to do on the inside, the outside is gorgeous if you would like to take pictures of it.

The Hore Abbey ruins are a small distance from the Rock of Cashel. From Hore Abbey, you can also get a gorgeous view of the Rock of Cashel and this is the perfect spot for a photograph.

Cork and Cobh in the East

 
Cobh, Ireland

Cork is a few hours away from Dublin and is located at the centre of a lot of Ireland’s attractions. During your drive to Cork, you will have the chance to experience the gorgeous town of Cobh. This town is home to the Titanic museum and is the last place the Titanic stopped before its voyage through the Atlantic.

At Cobh, you would also visit the church as well as the local neighbourhoods located on a steep hill.

Ring of Kerry


Ring of Kerry, Ireland

The Ring of Kerry is also a must-visit for anyone going through Ireland. The roads are quite narrow here, so you have to be careful. The Kerry cliffs offer some driving challenges and are located in the middle of the ring. To complete your trip, you should also drive the Skellig Ring which is a short drive at the end of the main ring.

Before you travel, be prepared


The roads in Ireland are quite narrow in a lot of places so if you want to rent a car, you should get the smallest one that suits your needs. Also, you might find yourself driving off the road a lot, especially in the southside. Before you travel, it is also a good idea to get proper travel insurance. It is important to check that your travel insurance covers COVID-19. If you have a hard time finding insurance that covers COVID-19, you should choose travel insurance from Staysure. Staysure is a leading travel insurance provider in the UK. On their website, you can get quotes for a single trip or multiple trips. Their insurance policies have no upper age limit and you can get in touch with them through their website to find flexible cover that suits your needs.

There are so many interesting and beautiful places to visit, see and stay at while in Ireland. If you are feeling adventurous, you could take a road trip around the whole country, although that will take some time due to all the attractions found in Ireland.

Note: The pictures in this article are courtesy of wikipedia.org and have been borrowed under the Creative Commons license. Each picture has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.

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Sunday, February 07, 2021

Top Things To See and Do in Leuven, Belgium

Groot Begijnhof - Leuven, Belgium

Belgium ‘s compact size offers eager travelers an attractive advantage: it’s relatively easy to explore different cities within the country in a relatively small amount of time. Brussels, its charming capital, is a must-see, but there are quite a few other cities and towns that you just have to discover as you travel across Belgium. Gent, Brugge, Liege or Namur are some of them but today we invite you to learn all that you can see and do in Leuven, capital of the province of Flemish Brabant and home to the Katholikeke Universiteit Leuven, the largest and oldest university of the Low Countries and the oldest Chatholic university still in existence.

Despite Belgium having a superb public transport system, nothing beats the experience of driving from one place to the other, stopping wherever you feel like it and staying for as long as you want in each place. Yes! Renting a car and road tripping this small European country is a great idea! American tourists can even do all arrangements before even leaving for the airport and look into the different and reliable options available for a safe drive.

Leuven is a good starting point if you’re interested in exploring other historical cities of Flanders. Did you know that it’s also the birthplace of several beers and that it has a rich (and tasty) beer culture? Located just 25 minutes away by train and around 40 minutes by car from Brussels, you can’t miss this walkable and bike-friendly city. You’ll fall in love with its great restaurants, one-of-a-kind boutiques and the young and hip atmosphere that the university provides.

Stroll the Grote Markt and the Oude Markt

Oude Markt -Leuven, Belgium

Known as the Grand Place and Old Place, these open squares are probably amongst the first two places you’ll see in Leuven.

The Oude Markt is centrally located just off the Grote Markt. During the academic year, it’s the heart of student nightlife and it offers plenty of restaurants, bars and cafés. It’s a pedestrianized area surrounded by beautiful buildings. With so many eateries, it’s known as the longest bar counter in the world! The area hums with a vibrant energy, especially during the warm weather months when students and locals flock to the tables to have a good time.

The Grote Markt is Leuven’s main square and where you’ll find the city’s most important buildings such as St Peter’s Church or the Stadthuis. It’s a splendid open area with remarkable old buildings that are definitely worth visiting.

Admire the Leuven Stadhuis

City Hall - Leuven, Belgium

The Stadhuis or Town Hall in Leuven is one of the most beautiful ones in Europe and a landmark in the city. It’s located in the Grote Markt across from St Peter’s Church. Built in a Brabantine Late Gothic style between 1448 and 1469, it stands out because of its ornate architecture and for being crafted in lace-like detail.

The building is absolutely impressive. It has four corner turrets, two ridge turrets and there’s a balustrade around the building. You will also see a few hundred statues in niches around the building that represent biblical figures, prominent citizens, artists, judges, scholars and members of the nobility. If you pay close attention, you’ll be able to spot an image of Napoleon!

The inside of the Stadhuis is equally stunning. There’s a waiting hall on the ground floor, a gothic hall and salons. All of them are exquisitely decorated with wood carvings and paintings that depict mostly religious themes.

Visit Sint-Pieterskerk

Oude Markt - Bustling Center of Leuven, Belgium

Sint-Pieterskerk stands in the middle of the Grote Markt and it’s one of the best examples of Brabant Gothic architecture in Belgium. The main nave stands out because of its straight line of sheaf pillars and high-pointed arch windows. Here you can also appreciate the late Gothic brass font in the chapel, to the left of the west gate, and the wonderfully carved Baroque pulpit of 1742.

The old chapels surrounding the nave contain an interesting selection of XV and XVI painting and sculpture, which is overseen by M-Museum Leuven. Amongst the highlights in the collection there are two of the most famous masterpieces of Dieric Bouts: The Last Supper and The Martyrdom of St Erasmus, which are exquisitely painted to detail. The paintings are located in the Treasury of Sint-Pieterskerk.

Sint-Pieterskerk is one of the must-sees during your stay in Leuven.

Enjoy Learning at the Central Library of the Catholic University

University Library, Leuven, Belgium

The Catholic University of Leuven was founded in 1425 as the University of Leuven and is the largest, oldest and most prominent university in Belgium. It’s now made up of several historical buildings that offer enticing accommodation for students.

The biggest attraction in Leuven is probably the Universiteitsbibliotheek or University Library. It dominates Monseigneur Ladeuzplein and it stands out as a grand Flemish-Renaissance-style palace that features a soaring Scandinavian-style brick tower topped with a three-storey octagonal stone cupola. It burned down during both WW but it’s now fully reconstructed, operational and offers visits to the public. The admission ticket includes access to the bell tower, which of course offers magnificent panoramic views of the city. However, climbing up those narrow winding staircases is not for the faint-hearted! Keep in mind as well that this bell tower is still working so it rings every hour. When bells go off they are loud and shake the whole tower and, for some, it’s definitely not the most pleasant experience when you’re 80 meters above the ground! If you’d rather stay on ground level, you can admire its impressive reading room.

Stroll the Groot Begijnhof

Castle Arenberg - Leuven, Belgium

Leuven’s Groot Begijnhof is nothing short of impressive. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with about 3 hectares in size, 300 apartments in almost 100 houses, it is one of the largest remaining beguinages in the Low Countries. It stretches on both sides of the river Dijle, which splits into two canals inside the beginage thus forming an island. There’s a bridge connecting the parts of the beguinage. Now, it’s owned by the University of Leuven and it’s used as a campus mainly for housing academics.

The Groot Begijnhof dates back to the 13th century when it served as a home to women who had taken temporary vows of chastity and obedience but were nevertheless free to leave any time. More prosperous beguines had a private residence while poorer ones lived together in community houses.

Take your time to explore this quiet and charming area of Leuven. Stroll the little alleyways and cobblestone streets and let the peaceful atmosphere transport you to a past era. You’ll love strolling about this idyllic village-like corner of Leuven. It resembles an ideal film set for a medieval drama! The lantern-lit cobbled streets are lined with step-gabled brick houses with stone window frames.

Don’t Miss the Klein Begijnhof

Fonsk, Leuven, Belgium

Compared to the Groot Begihnhof, the Klein or Small Begijnhof is really small: only one street of which used to be a larger area around the Sint-Geertrui Church and the Sint-Geertrui Abbey. Unlike the other one, this area looks like a working class neighborhood. You’ll see tall red brick buildings and smaller humble white-washed houses as well. In old times, around 100 women lived here. The infirmary was restored in 2000 and around 30 Flemish houses remain.

Love Beer? Visit Stella Artois Brewery

Martelarenplein - Leuven, Belgium

If Belgium is a great place for a beer, Leuven is extra special as it’s home to Stella Artois Brewery. If you can’t tour Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam, don’t miss the chance to visit this Brewery now that you can.

Stella Artois is one of the oldest beers in the world and the brewery offers guided visits. The building is only a 15 minutes walk from the train station. There are English tours offered on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays but please check for the most accurate information. After the tour, you’ll be able to taste Stella Artois beer and you can also purchase some gadgets, beers and souvenirs to take home.

Admire Art at the M Museum

Fochplein, Leuven, Belgium

Established in 2009, the “M” Museum is essentially the history of the city museum. Located in the centre of Leuven, this beautiful building will immediately catch your eye. The complex integrates existing historical buildings with contemporary architecture. It’s home to a superb collection of documents, paintings, artefacts and costumes and from the room of the museum you have a splendid view of the city.

Built on the site of the former Vanderkelen Museum, the M Museum includes the contents of this municipal art and craft collection as well as a wide range of classical and contemporary art from around the world. The museum includes more than 52000 objects including paintings, photographs, sculptures, glasswork, engravings, ceramics, textiles and metalwork.

Note: The pictures in this article are courtesy of wikipedia.org and have been borrowed under the creative commons license. Each picture has been linked to its host page on wikipedia.

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Looking for a TEFL Adventure? Look No More!

TEFL Adventure - A great way to travel the world

Do you spend your days at work sitting at your desk daydreaming of eating croissants in Paris, or relaxing on a beach on Koh Phangan, or hiking Macchu Pichu in Peru? Do you often wake up and wish your life was different, that you could lead the life you’ve always wanted to, you’ve always dreamed of?

Well, who says you can’t?

Teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to travel the world. Think about it: you can live anywhere you want and have a job. You can live in whichever exotic destination your heart desires, do your work, and spend your free time adventuring around.

There are an estimated 1.5 billion English language learners in this world. That means there are a lot of students needing English teachers – which is good news for you.

So the question is, how can you get involved?

The first thing on your to-do list is to do a TEFL course. Find an internationally recognised, reputable TEFL course provider and sign up for a course that’s at least 120 hours. TEFL courses are either 100% online, 100% face-to-face, or a combination of the two.

The TEFL course will teach you all about teaching English as a Foreign Language. You’ll learn about learning styles, teaching methods, educational theories, classroom management, and the skills and systems of English. It is not expected that you have any previous teaching experience. The TEFL course will prepare you for any classroom situation.

It’s also possible to take an online course and supplement it with a practical component – either online or face-to-face – to give you some practical experience in the classroom. This will allow you to put the theory you have learnt on the course into action. This will prepare you for teaching your own students in your own classroom - and it looks great on your CV.

Once you’ve been awarded your TEFL certificate, you can now decide where you want to live and work. To help you out, download the World Factbook 2021 from The TEFL Academy. With useful information on over 100 countries, it’ll help you choose the best place for you. It gives you details on teaching requirements, average salaries, cost of living, popular accommodation choices, weather and even local cuisine you should try.

If you have a question about teaching English in a certain country, the World Factbook 2021 will have the answer.

An alternative idea is to become a digital nomad.

Digital nomads work online so they can work from anywhere. A popular option is to teach English online. All that is needed is a good laptop, a microphone or headset, a reliable internet connection and a quiet place to teach in. Whether you are on a beach or in the mountains, if there is an internet connection then you can teach!

A TEFL certificate will allow you to sign up with one of the hundreds of online teaching companies. They will find students for you and arrange your teaching schedule for you. You can even upload an introductory video on some websites and students can book with you directly. Some teachers prefer to be totally independent so they find students themselves and teach on Zoom or Skype.

Teaching through a company is considered by many to be better than teaching independently. This is partly because you do not have to spend your time marketing yourself. However, it is also because, in general, teaching materials and lesson plans are provided by the companies, so you don’t have to spend time preparing lessons. All you have to do is show up and teach!

Whichever route you decide to take when it comes to teaching English as a Foreign Language, the opportunities for travel are real. If you are living abroad, you can explore your new city in your free time, and you can go further afield on weekends and holidays. If you are teaching online, your teaching schedule can be organised according to your travel plans – so you are free to go wherever you want!

Now we know this might sound like a crazy idea. Packing your bags and moving abroad can be quite daunting. But it is also very brave. Teaching English as a Foreign Language and travelling the world will change you in ways you never thought possible. It is said that travel broadens your horizons, and it does so on so many levels. You will meet new people, discover new places, experience new cultures, find new ways of thinking.

Teaching will also change you. You will become more organised, more responsible, more independent. You will become more confident when speaking to people. You will learn to adapt to change quickly and be more flexible when it comes to dealing with whatever challenges life will throw at you.

If you are interested in travelling the world and you are unhappy or dissatisfied in your current situation, then maybe it’s time to believe in yourself and take a step towards the life you’ve dreamed of living.

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Friday, February 05, 2021

Nako: A Rustic Himalayan Gem

Om Mani Padme Hum Prayer Wheels at Nako

It is a gorgeous high altitude village located super close to the Indo-China border in the Trans-Himalayan region of Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh. It is famous for its apples, apricots, yaks, horses and a 11th century monastery. I am talking about the rustic Himalayan gem called Nako that is situated at the end of Kinnaur and at the start of Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh.

Located at an altitude of 11,893 feet and under the backdrop of the mighty Reo Purgyal mountain (22,362 feet), Nako is a small village of about a thousand people in the Hangrang valley. Farming, fruit orchards and cattle rearing are the main sources of livelihood here. Not many tourists stay here. Rather, they continue to Spiti valley for the more famous tourist attractions. But, there is more to Nako than what meets the eye.

Capturing a photo of the beautiful Himalayan village of Nako

For starters, there is the Nako lake whose periphery has willow and poplar trees. During the winter months, when it freezes completely, it becomes a skating rink. At other times, it offers some of the best views of the village and offers oodles of mountain peace and quiet. Then, there is the Nako monastery that was founded in the 11th century by a renowned ancient translator Lochen Rinchen Zangpo. Also known as Lotsava Jhakang or complex of the translator, the serene Nako monastery is built along the lines of the famous Tabo monastery in Spiti valley.

Nako is also the base camp for the trek to Pargial peak and is enroute to the Thashigang monastery. There are also many shepherd trails that connect Nako with the villages of Chango, Hango and Tashigang. In addition to these trails, there are many day walks behind the Nako lake that will take you to view points in the east and that looks into Tibet.

If you feel like relaxing, you can spend time walking around the small village absorbing its traditional atmosphere and architecture. My favorites are the gates in the village streets built from stone and wood and that are painted in the inside with colourful Buddhist religious paintings. Then, there are the walks around the farms and the orchards.

The rustic Himalayan gem called Nako

I see Nako as a fantastic rustic holiday destination in the Himalayas. It has oodles of quiet, stunning panoramas, a bit of culture and traditions, lots of avenues for walking and trekking, kind people and delicious locally sourced food. If such rustic places are your thing, then I would highly recommend Nako to you. It is definitely more than a pit stop on your trip to Kinnaur and/or Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh. It’s beauty deserves at least a couple of days on its own. Do remember to visit this place on your next holiday to Himachal Pradesh. And don’t forget to taste their apples if you happen to visit during the late autumn season. They are truly special!

Offering my prayers near Nako monastery, Himachal Pradesh

How to reach there:

The nearest airport would be Chandigarh, about 410 kms away.

The nearest railway station would be Shimla, about 311 kms away.

The nearest large bus station would be Shimla or Kaza.

The only way to reach Nako is by road. The route is a narrow mountain highway that is at the mercy of nature (landslides, snowfall, accidents, etc.) and hence one should budget in some buffer time to accommodate for delays.

It is best if you have your own mode of transportation. However, buses run by HPSRTC will also take you there, though the number of buses plying every day would be few.

Best season to visit:

Nako is open all year round. Winters can get really cold. Summers can get quite busy. Spring and Autumn would be the best seasons to visit if you wish to enjoy the landscape at peace. September and October would be perfect if you like to taste fresh apples from the local farms.

The gorgeous Nako village, Spiti valley, Himachal Pradesh

Other nearby tourist attractions:
1) Tabo: A village that is home to some of India’s best apples and a beautiful monastery

2) Kalpa: A hill station that offers spectacular views of Kinnaur Kailash

3) Chitkul: Himalayan village with cleanest air in India

4) Baspa River Trek: A scenic mountain trek in Himachal Pradesh

5) Sangla: Another village famous for its apples and views of Kinnaur Kailash

6) Sarahan: A village known for its apples and ski slopes

7) Dhankar: Prettiest village of Spiti valley

8) Pin Valley National Park: A remote Himalayan wilderness known for sightings of the elusive snow leopard

9) Langza: The Himalayan village that is known for fossils of marine animals

10) Ki Monastery: A stunning monastery surrounded by snow capped mountains near Kaza

11) Kibber: The village of the snow leopard

12) Komic: One of the world’s highest villages with road connectivity

13) Hikkim: The Himalayan village with the highest post office in the world

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