Koh Rong, Cambodia: This island is paradise. As soon as I stepped off our rickety boat that brought us to Koh Rong, I knew I had just stumbled upon a piece of paradise that - unfortunately - will not remain a paradise for long as Cambodia quickly develops into a major tourist destination. Crystal clear waters, white sands, a handful of hippie bars, and the nicest islanders - what more could one ask for? Bliss, absolute bliss.
Nabadweep, West Bengal: Primarily known for the 600 year old banyan tree that acts as a natural canopy over a temple market dedicated to Goddess Kali, Nabadweep is a bustling riverside town along the Bhagirathi that can pass for any photographer’s prize subject.
Matiari, West Bengal: This looks like an idyllic scene from summer in Switzerland but it is actually on the banks of the Bhagirathi in West Bengal. Domestic horses graze idly on lush, green fields by the brass-making town of Matiari.
Kalna, West Bengal: This mid-18th century Krishna Chandraji temple is renowned for its intricate and exquisite terracotta decoration. Constructed by the Maharajas of Burdhawan, the temple city of Kalna - situated on the banks of the Bhagirathi river - is mainly a homage to Goddess Kali but it also worships Shiva - her consort god - as exemplified by the town’s stunning 108 Shiva temples.
Kaziranga National Park, Assam: Elephants are (mostly) such gentle creatures that go about their business (eating) with little regard to anyone else’s business. This particular photogenic pachyderm pair lazily chomped away on grass while a dozen trigger-happy humans furiously clicked away. Of which I was one!
Pushkar, Rajasthan: The Holy Lake of Pushkar is, alas, no longer holy for it is swarming with avaricious louts who emotionally blackmail you into doling out anywhere from 500 to a 1000 rupees all in the name of god. Nonetheless, witnessing hundreds of devotees go about their daily rituals by the powder blue of the ghats makes for an interesting sight.
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand: If you are young, fun-loving and find yourself in Thailand (and I suspect most already have or will) then you must make it a mission to visit this gorgeous island. Not only is Koh Phi Phi tiny and teeming with life in every nook but it is also incredibly blessed with stunning blue waters (Maya Bay is a boat trip away) and a beach that turns into one, big fire show of a party. Besides, Phi Phi is so small that one practically feels like a local within a day or three and that, I believe, is where Phi Phi is a winner through and through!
Jaipur, Rajasthan: Even if this chandelier at the City Palace of Jaipur is not the fanciest one around, the very installation of a chandelier still adds a touch of grandeur to any old place. Of course, the fact that these pigeons have made this chandelier their temporary home does not exactly spell well for the place…!
Pushkar, Rajasthan: This beast of burden carried us around the periphery of Pushkar town and its adjoining desert patches for two full hours under the torrid desert sun. With a packed schedule (a couple of more two-hour rides and a full night safari) ahead of it, here the camel stops for a bit of rest before the next lot of eager passengers arrive. Priced at anywhere from Rs. 300 - 800 per person for two hours, a camel ride is a must-do in Pushkar town.
Jaipur, Rajasthan: The Lotus Gate at the City Palace is a thing of beauty. Located in the Pritam Niwas Chowk of the palace, the beautifully gilded door allows one access to the Chandra Mahal. Evocative of summertime bliss, this ornate gate with its motifs of pink lotuses in full bloom is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his wife, Parvati.