The Lonely Planet Magazine India team’s most memorable travel experiences across eight years of the magazine
Primrose Monteiro-D’Souza, Editor
I remember standing in unseasonal rain at 5am to get my first look at Uluru. The rock was grey, with waterfalls striping down its sides, a bolt of lightning striking somewhere behind. In the desert in Australia’s Red Centre, it was magnificent.
The giant monolith rises 348m above the plain, 863m above sea level; it’s 3.6km in length, 9.4km in circumference at its base. But that is not what makes it magnificent. It is the stories – the creation stories of the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people, the traditional landowners of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The Anangu (pronounced ‘arn-ang-oo’), as they call themselves, are among the oldest human societies. They are the custodians of Uluru. The rock is a repository of their memories, a storehouse of their culture, a cathedral of sorts.
Later, seen from its base, Uluru was the glorious red we see in the photographs, pitted with massive caves, honeycombing, fissures and even waterholes high in the rock. The Anangu like you to walk around Uluru. In walking, they believe, you will be following the footsteps of the ancestral beings that shaped the landscape. They are happy to share a little of Uluru’s magic with respectful visitors – they allow the telling of some of the stories at the sites at which they are triggered: of how Kuniya, the Woma Python Woman, came to lay her eggs at Uluru, of how she attacked and defeated Liru, the Poison Snake Man; of how Kurpanya, the giant devil dingo, drove the Mala Men away from Uluru. They allow you to marvel at the ancient cave paintings. They are willing to share the peace of the Mutitjulu waterhole.
I’d always dreamed of visiting Uluru. I remember being moved to tears by its inherent sacredness. And, recently, when the ban on climbing the rock finally came through, my heart soared, perhaps higher than Uluru.
Trivandrum to Kanyakumari, Kerala to Tamil Nadu, India
Amit Gaikwad, Assistant Editor
India has always fascinated me. There’s so much to experience and I feel like I haven’t even skimmed the surface. So, when I was presented with the opportunity to drive from Trivandrum to Kanyakumari as my first assignment with Lonely Planet Magazine India (LPMI), I grabbed it with both hands. During the course of the trip, photographer Hashim and I had to find must-visit attractions, look for affordable stays, and discover places that served delicious food.
Driving scenic routes across the two states, this trip provided me with the opportunity to explore Trivandrum and Kanyakumari like never before. Apart from the regular sites, fancy accommodation and delicious treats, interacting with locals was the most fascinating aspect of my maiden trip.
Less-than-a-minute conversations with locals on several occasions have somehow managed to stay with me. Meeting people, sharing a meal or travelling with them have been the hallmarks of this wonderful experience. I think people make your trips memorable, don’t you agree?
Ganpatipule, Maharashtra, India
Aurelia Fernandes, Features Writer
When it comes to my favourite travel memory, my first trip with Lonely Planet Magazine India to Ganpatipule has a special spot in my heart. I went fully prepared for a run-of-the-mill kind of getaway, and, in many ways, it was one. But, as we stopped to get a few photographs of Aare Ware Beach from a vantage point, I found a tiny bench overlooking this calm, secluded beach. As I watched the setting sun merge with the blue waters on a Monday, I knew this was the start of an exciting adventure with LPMI.
Mahesh Sagari, Art Director
At first glance, the pyramids in Cairo don’t look that impressive; they just seem like blocks on sandy dunes. Then you start walking towards them, 10 minutes, 15 minutes go by and the structures keep growing in size. When you stand at the base of one, it hits you. The neck-breaking exercise of trying to get a glimpse of the top is painful. But, then you climb up to the entrance of the pyramid and share a cup of hot tea with the guard who always seems to be smiling…
Egypt has been the best experience I have had in my travels with LPMI. It moved me at every step. There are many pretty places on earth; France has lovely villages, Sri Lanka has its cuisine, but Egypt has its people, its history and the character that any other destination would envy. All it asks for is a little bit of time to grow on you. It has gigantic structures that would dwarf any ego, the open-air museum of the Luxor temple complex, the Karnak Temple and the silent Nile snaking its way to the Mediterranean sea. But it’s not just a land of the past; you will be surprised at how interesting its present is. The shisha and Egyptian coffee. The conversations with strangers who become friends. The walls of graffiti in Cairo’s Tahrir Square telling you the bitter-sweet, painful story of the revolution. I would definitely visit again to immerse myself in the beauty that is Egypt.
Seoul, South Korea
Amrita Lall, Features Writer
Vendors selling ttekbokki (spicy rice cakes) and eomuk (fish cakes), young, stylish 20-somethings making their way in and out of the many chic pubs in the area, salesgirls coaxing you to buy cosmetic products packaged in boxes that resemble Pikachu, neon signboards flickering to the latest K-Pop tunes and the promise of a wild party at every corner – when night falls, Seoul’s Myeong-dong district takes on a life of its own. Setting foot on foreign soil for the first time is a very special experience, and getting to do it in the heart of South Korea makes for a memory that I’m going to hold dear for a long, long time. Last November, as I made my way through the crowds at Myeong-dong trying to see, do and experience as much as I could, I realised that being able to be a part (even temporarily so) of a cultural ethos that differs so vastly from your own, is perhaps the greatest joy of travelling. For having been given the chance to do just that, I’m grateful to LPMI.
Doubtful Sound, New Zealand
Krishna Prabakar T, Deputy Art Director
Travelling can sometimes take you to places that you thought only existed in stories, myths and legends. I believe those are the destinations we deem most special. Being on a cruise boat in the middle of New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound was one such experience for me. As I gaped at the cliffs and cascades, the deep, dark waters, and the seals and penguins, I was reminded of the rich, mysterious world of Avatar. Doubtful Sound has an ecosystem of its own – misty rainforest-covered shores, unique bird and plant life and the occasional sightings of whales. To be able to experience such a beautiful, mystical place from up close, as I stayed on deck and braved the strong winds and drizzle, is easily my most unforgettable LPMI travel memory.