Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual POV

This week’s challenge is to present an unusual point of view. Here’s my story.

Souvik and I went to Dalat, Vietnam one weekend. I was feeling adventurous, and TripAdvisor had advised that mountain biking was one of the top things to do in Dalat. Souvik was not yet converted to the joys of cycling and I had all my experience only on the road. Still, I persisted (nagged) and we signed up.

The route went right through the pine forest, very scenic, but the whole deal about mountain biking is the rough terrain. Sure enough, there were plenty of tree roots, stones and other obstacles jutting out unexpectedly on the barely there trail. Plus some stiff uphill and insane downhill slopes that I could only manage on foot, pushing the bike. There was even a stretch where I struggled with myself and when our guide offered to push the bike, I weakly accepted. On the final rest stop, I lay flat on the bare ground, and prayed for it to end soon. As I looked skyward, the cyclist in me was dying, but the photographer leapt to life, and I couldn’t resist this shot from the ground up.

Unusual POV

 

Advertisements

D

D is for Vietnamese Dongs, millions of which you acquire as soon as you change a $100 bill into the local currency. What can make you feel better than turning into an instant multi-millionaire?
The other big D is Dalat, our favourite hill station in the central highlands. I have several posts on this charming town, best known for the salubrious weather, beautiful flowers, pine trees, coffee plantations and …… cycling trips! The thrill of coasting down the mountain from Dalat to Nha Trang shall stay with us forever!

20110630-040918.jpg

20110630-040931.jpg

20110630-040938.jpg

20110630-041011.jpg

The Descent To Freedom

The weekend was reserved for one final hurrah in Vietnam – a cycle ride from the french mountain resort of Dalat to the golden beaches of Nha Trang. In spite of it being in the middle of the local holiday season, thanks to the resourcefulness of my colleague, Van Nguyen, we managed air tickets and were on our way !

Dalat was cool and beautiful as ever and we were charmed by our hotel “Du Parc’s”  elegant French looks and its quaint 80-year old elevator which turned temperamental whenever it felt overworked.

Saturday morning was ideal cycling weather and we set off early with the tour operators named “Phat Tire” (we could  see our mugs in their posters.. The Fat Tyres now in Vietnam) The name aside, everything was lean and sporty. The cycles were fast, the guide was racing fit,we had  a support vehicle following us if we had a fit or something, and the picnic lunch was ideal.

 

 

The journey was 140km but the cycling distance was a 72km “best of” scenic route up and down the mountain and through the green valley. After gamely climbing up the mountain without giving the SUV much to huff about, we hit the accelerator on the downhill section. 30km of thrilling speed with the breeze and the recurrent waterfalls for company. Freedom.

There’s a week-long beach festival starting in Nga Trang tonight and we were entertained by a posse of Harley’s and Kawasaki’s roaring past us to the festivities.

And, from our well placed hotel balcony, as Aarti and I watched the Nga Trang night sky explode with fireworks, we could not think of a more fitting finale to two memorable years in beautiful Vietnam.

Of mountain biking and realized dreams

Last weekend, Aarti and I holidayed in Dalat, a beautiful hill station established by the French more than a hundred years ago. Surrounded by extensive pine forests and flower plantations its great climate all year round makes it an ideal destination. On the trip, we were accompanied by our friends Abhijit, Shweta and the little man Ahaan.

My holidays with Aarti are invariable fun filled and packed with days of either physical or hobby indulging activities and chilled out evenings. So after exploring the very nice resort (Ana Mandara) we were staying in, we hit the mountain biking trail. Four gorgeous hours spent zipping down dirt tracks, trudging up inclines, negotiating mountain pathways with (of course!) a great picnic lunch thrown in among the dense pine forests. Our guide from Green Adventour looked straight out of the Tour De France. Agile, athletic and friendly he also effortlessly carried Aarti’s bike across difficult terrain when needed!

After a relaxed evening in town and around Shweta’s fireplace, next morning we discovered the joys of another type of cycling – tandem biking. Abhijit and i had a great time cyling around the lake at double speed and half the effort. We followed this with a very nice boating trip,the leftover wine from the previous night acting as an added catalyst of enjoyment and a blanket against some particularly tuneless singing by Abhijit.

That ended another nice little vacation. And since Aarti’s dreams are never constrained by limitations of current circumstance, I look forward to many more.

Some Pagodas in Vietnam

I have almost managed to visit more pagodas in Vietnam than I have temples in India. Religious tourism isn’t necessarily my thing, but I prefer the ‘tourism’ aspect to the ‘rituals’. Many of the pagodas in Vietnam have that peaceful quality about them, and the monks have serene expressions that make me feel good. Another great feature of these pagodas is their site – a number of them have amazing views that make me want to go and visit. Here are the ones I’ve seen:

Ancient pagoda near Hanoi

About an hour’s drive from Hanoi, this is one of the oldest in the country. I joined the Souvik & his office team during the Vietnamese New Year, when they went to seek blessings for their business and their families.

Tran Quoc Pagoda at Westlake

This would rate as the most picturesque pagoda in my book. Situated on Westlake, with a view of Truc Bach Lake, this place has the nicest views and elegant architecture.

There is a banyan tree in the compound which was planted by Dr. Rajendra Prasad. They misspelled his name, so moms were quite annoyed!

One Pillar Pagoda at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex

This pagoda is probably the most crowded, touristy pagoda, being in the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum complex, in the midst of the museum, mausoleum, Ho Chi Minh’s house on stilts, and hordes of school children on their mandatory visits to the above. But it sure is unique, tiny, and cute. Pt. Nehru planted a tree here, but there’s no sign to announce that.

Laughing Buddha at Da Lat

After a wild motorcycle ride through gerbera and coffee plantations in Dalat, and a treacherous climb at the Elephant Falls (where I slipped and fell), the guides took us to this pagoda. We were laughing too!

Thien Mu Pagoda in Hué

This one is situated on the banks of the Perfume River, and is one of the iconic spots of the ancient capital of Hué. That was the day my old camera went phut, so I could only manage a picture from my phone. There are great views of the river, and though we got here by car, I would go again on the boat.

Pagodas in Hoi An

The adorable ancient town of Hoi An has a couple of pagodas, and true to the nature of the town, these sport a pretty, festive look.

No matter which pagoda you’d like to visit, there is one cardinal rule: