Oindrila’s Omani Dream

A few weeks back, Oman asked me what I would do if had a chance to visit this charming country. Today, I’m going to answer by revealing my wishlist for an unforgettable trip to this Arabian attraction. If you observe carefully, you will notice that each of my yearnings is closely linked to the next. Fasten your seatbelts as I take you on a flight to my Omani fantasies!

Arrive in Wadi Al Khoudh:

Removed from the big-city-bustle of Muscat, this pristine valley is unaffected by the ticking of clocks. Soon after landing at the Seeb International Airport, I would take a short drive to treat my eyes to the emerald waters of Al Khoudh, one of Oman’s several beautiful valleys. The trees lining the hills and reaching for the heavens would inspire my imagination to take flight and I would feel one with the citizens of the skies.

"Ye haseen wadiyan... ye khula aasman..." (Oh! These enchanting valleys... these boundless skies...) [Photo courtesy: http://www.omantourism.gov.om/]

“Ye haseen wadiyan… ye khula aasman…” (Oh! These enchanting valleys… these boundless skies…)
[Photo courtesy: omantourism.gov.om]

Birdwatch in Barr Al Hikman:

The Omani east coast is a town square for migratory birds. I would never miss the wondrous sight of the white salt flats coming to life as thousands of herons flap away and squawk as they call out to each other… or that of the slender gulls swooping down on small fishes as they wade through the waters. I would observe how easily these creatures leave their homes to explore a foreign land… how they free themselves of worldly attachments and travel light, with nothing but their friends and family for company.

Birds of a feather... (Photo courtesy: http://www.y-oman.com/)

Birds of a feather…
[Photo courtesy: y-oman.com]

The pearly peninsula in the winter months is a wetland that doubles as a bird sanctuary. But just as the sun grows in the summers, the avian croaks and clucking noises give way to the soft sounds of salt crushing under the feet of the salt-harvesters. It is strange how so much salt can evoke such strong feelings of sweetness when you marvel at nature’s culinary gift that complements most world-cuisines.

Chew Kebabs while I Sip on Kahwa:

Oman can cook up a storm in its kitchens with dishes ranging from the sweet to the extremely spicy! Ever wondered what a vegetarian like me would do in the heartland of meat-lovers? Well, you’d be surprised with all the delectable veg options Omani cuisine offers us! Right from Sakhna, the unconventional sweet soup, to the cardamom-spiced coffee-Kahwa, their offerings are so aromatic and flavoursome that you, like me, won’t be able to wait to dive into the dishes!

Dive in Dimaniyat Islands:

If you haven’t done “it” before, you can always lose your deep-sea-diving-virginity in the calm waters of Dimaniyat. Only when I wetsuit-up in style and go below the sea-level, will I understand how meditative it feels to swim with the sea-turtles and witness marine-life in the layers of coral reefs. The depths of the seas, I’m sure, hold just as much promise as the heights of the tallest cliffs.

Green turtles gliding over the corals [Photo courtesy: http://www.omantourism.gov.om/]

Green turtles gliding over the corals
[Photo courtesy: omantourism.gov.om]

Explore the Arabian Grand Canyon:

The literal highs and lows of nature can be best appreciated at canyons where one can experience vertigo-inducing heights on the summits and deep gorges in the ravines almost simultaneously. Oman’s diverse landscape includes its very own Grand Canyon that I would love to trek up to. The breathtaking views on my way will only be the icing on the cake (a GRAND cake at that! 😉 )! And because I like to have my cake and eat it too, I would camp under the sunshine till the sky shows me some diamonds. There’s no better end to a day than to stargaze and wish upon a shooting star!

Grand canyon in all its grandeur [Photo courtesy: scoopempire.com]

The Grand Canyon in all its grandeur
[Photo courtesy: scoopempire.com]

Look Fashionable while I Shop:

I can never resist donning the local attire when I’m on a trip. The colourful Omani dresses and the ethnic prints will tempt me to dress up and ask the local women to help me with the lihaaf. With clothes ticked off my list, I would next head to one of the many souqs for some retail therapy! The fragrant frankincense products will entice me first, and only after I’ve bought some for my home will I be able to move to the other souqs. I won’t forget to bring back palm-leaf and leather artifacts just as I won’t forget to indulge in some silver & gold shopping! 😉

This pretty Omani girl knows what's "in" [Photo courtesy: flickr.com/photos/digitalazia/4776088429]

This pretty Omani girl knows what’s “in”
[Photo courtesy: flickr.com/photos/digitalazia/4776088429]

Go Back in Time at the Bat Tombs:

These tombs have been existing since the 3rd century BC and are still far from disappearing! The Bat tombs in Al Khutum & Al Ayn are on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. While I delve deeper into history, I will do a detour to Bahla Fort and lose myself in its myriad alleys as I admire the 12km long Bahla Wall.

Bat Tombs - The giant beehives [Photo courtesy: .andantetravels.co.uk]

Bat Tombs – the giant beehives
[Photo courtesy: .andantetravels.co.uk]

End my Trip on a High Note:

My last day in Oman will naturally sadden me with the thought of leaving this vibrant country of sun, sand and serenity. To keep my spirits up, I will shake a leg with the Omani locals at a Fann aṭ-Ṭanbūra performance till I enter a state of trance.

Muscat at Night [Photo courtesy: vacationsandtravelmag.com]

Muscat at Night
[Photo courtesy: vacationsandtravelmag.com]

I have written quite a bit about this place that I have never seen before, but I have only been able to cover 8 letters of the English alphabet. (You’ll know if you’ve really been following this blog-post.) Imagine how much more there is to Oman – camel-rides on the undulating sand-deserts, dhow-cruises with a view of the Omani skyline, cave-tours near natural springs and learning the melodious Arabic language! Oman deserves a long vacation… so you can soak it all in.

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Admiring the Clouds below – in Coorg

This is my entry for Prismma Holiday 2014.

This year, I spent the ‘month of love’ falling in love with nature… in the least populated district of Karnataka – Coorg.

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My journey began from Mysore and we drove for a couple of hours through an empty road that lent us views of leafless, lanky trees and lush coffee plantations alternately. Once inside Coorg (Kodagu), it took us a good hour to reach our resort.

I stayed in a chalet with a valley-view at Porcupine Castle. This is an eco-friendly property that sits at the end of a long-winding road that cuts through a coffee estate. The bedrooms, walk-in closets and bathrooms have sunroofs that let in light during daytime and restrict the usage of electric-lights to nights only. The only sounds you hear in the serene surroundings are those of the winds, whistling (and perhaps your own self, gasping at the charming sights).

I sat on my balcony over the clouds, sipping on Coorgi coffee as I watched the golden sun dissolve into the silver clouds till the sky was painted in a riot of warm colours. I could see the Western Ghats curtained by the diaphanous clouds from where I stood, and an entire world of dark green trees that hid the earth that lay several feet below. The night was equally enchanting as the fireflies and bumblebees filled the air with more sounds.

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Next morning, it was time to trek! We decided to tour the coffee plantations on foot.

Hot Tip: Wear shoes and clothes fit for rugged terrain if you plan to trek through the plantations. If you can’t manage professional hiking gear, studs or even basic keds will do. Wear cargoes (that have multiple pockets to hold your things so you don’t have to carry a backpack) or denims with comfortable a tee and avoid jackets/sweaters (it only gets hotter as the day progresses and you work yourself up).

I must tell you now that nobody gave me the aforementioned tip, and my ignorant self assumed the coffee plantation would be like tea plantations – almost like a garden I could leisurely stroll through. I showed up in peep-toed flats and a fancy summer top with a knit jacket. I also took my dangling handbag along. I was in for a rude shock when I saw the trail.

Our trekking-guide handed us each a walking pole and took us through narrow clearings in the dense foliage. I soon realized my jacket was of no use when the temperature kept rising along with my body heat. After an hour of non-stop walking, our guide showed us a lake – way down the sloping hills covered with coffee trees. Our goal was to reach at the foot of the slope. Sweat trickled down my forehead for I was sure I’d end up with torn shoes and clothes if I ever managed my way down. But the adventure-enthusiast in me rose to the occasion. The rest of the trek was physically gruelling as we slid and scraped through the land with only the coffee shrubs for support (walking poles are of little help in this kind of terrain).

There was a point when I was ready to give up and I had mentally decided to never trek again if I only made it through this time. But after I reached the lake at the bottom of the slope, I knew the effort was worth it. The view from below was so humbling – all the trees dwarfed us and made me realize how insignificant humans are in this grand world. We observed many plants other than coffee (life saviour for its strong stem that keeps you from rolling down the hills into your death) – orange, eucalyptus & cherry-tomato, to name a few.

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Before I left Coorg, I made a detour to Bylakuppe. This area houses many Tibetans in exile. It feels like you’re in a new country as you absorb the distinct culture around you. I walked into the Namdroling Nyingmapa monastery (locally known as the Golden Temple) – a majestic monument that struck me with awe with its sheer size and beauty. The statues of Buddha and others inside the monastery are imposing and send a signal of peace to your heart. I was lucky to witness a prayer-session during my visit.

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My trip to Coorg ended with a torn shoe and a strengthened heart. And I hope my story will teach you not to repeat my mistake :). Write to me about your trip to this heavenly place, and if you haven’t been here already, let Coorg be your next vacation!