Go Trotting! with Sankara Subramanian
In his early 30s, Sankara loves adventure travel, wildlife photography, meeting new people, understanding different cultures, tasting different food and doing his bit for mother nature. His Travel and Photography Blog, Be on the road, is listed among the top 50 blogs in India.
Tell us about beontheroad.com
Be on the road came into existence in Aug 2009. Like, most of the travel bloggers, I started it to share my travel stories with my friends and also the world. In the last 3 and a half years, it has gone from a personal blog to a travel oriented website that specializes in ‘Travel in India’ and that has also become my full time job. A lot of hard work has gone into it. A lot of feedback has been provided to me by my readers and in all this while I have traveled to the entire country of India at a very leisurely pace.
Currently, I am on a 9 month trip across South East Asia trying to understand their culture and visit their well trodden places as well as find some off beat destinations. In simple terms, explore the country without a guide book or the internet, but like a local with fellow local guidance. As part of this trip, I am planning to cover the mainland South East Asia (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar (Burma) by road. As of late January, I am in Cambodia after spending 53 days in Thailand and about 3 weeks in Cambodia. My next country is Vietnam.
My plans for the future is simple. Take Be on the road.com to the next level, continue doing what I love, which is traveling and make money from it, albeit in a way that is sustainable and refreshing.
What is the best part of traveling in India?
The sheer diversity. We speak 30+ unique languages with unique scripts. We speak many more dialects. We have the wettest place on the planet, we have some of the hottest places on earth, we have the 2nd coldest place and we have some of the driest too. We have the tropics, the temperates, the alpines and the Himalayas. We have one of the oldest cultures in the world. We are host to some of the world’s oldest tribes. We have some fantastic food. And the list goes on. It is this diversity that amazes me, keeps me excited and ensures that I am always on a high when I am exploring India.
Tell us about your most memorable travel experience in India?
This is a simple one. The most memorable experience was me exploring the entire country of India alone on my Royal Enfield motorcycle. That joy, awe and learning is one of my best experiences ever in India.
Have you been to any place while traveling where the people made a distinct impression on you?
Definitely! Let me account a short story to help you understand the depth of this impression.
I was riding through the Thar desert of Rajasthan. There were hardly any vehicles and it was really warm in spite of being a winter afternoon. In the middle of nowhere, I saw a man asking for a lift. Usually, I don’t allow strangers to hitchhike, but then I thought this is the middle of nowhere and decided to help this guy. I dropped him 40 kilometres later. The man in his mid forties was so overjoyed at me giving him a free lift that he literally begged me to have lunch with him. I entered a small shack of tin metal and sat down. He heated his food and offered it to me. I knew I could not eat his food as food for him was may be miles away. But, in spite of that fact, the person was offering me his food. This moment literally brought tears to my eyes and I was amazed at his humility and the fact that he wanted to return in kind for the free ride.
It is such moments and such meetings that make you wanna travel more and discover more of India. After all, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ is deeply ingrained into most of India.
What has been your favorite culinary experience?
Phew! This is a tricky one as I have so many favorites. I am a vegetarian and absolutely love India for the fact that I can eat like a king across all places in India. If you need names, I like Kher Shangri from the deserts of Rajasthan, Undia during winter from Gujarat, Leh saag with young bamboo shoots and red rice in Assam, Kal Dosai and Vettai Kozhambu from Chettiandu belt of Tamil Nadu, Puttu and Kadalai curry from Kerala, Maddur Vada from Karnataka, Shahi Litchies from Madhya Pradesh and the list goes on.
Which is your absolute favorite place to visit in India? And why?
Lakshadweep Islands for the simple fact that India can be very clean too. These pristine islands give stiff competition to some of the best tropical islands in the world and sometimes even come up trumps. Such is their beauty and unspoilt ecosystem.
Which are your top three destinations in India?
1) Silent Valley National Park in Kerala for the fact that it is one of those rare rainforests to exist in the world and thereby offers an insight into species that mankind didn’t know existed.
2) The upper Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh to be alone with mother nature.
3) Andaman and Nicobar Islands for their beaches, great diving spots, remote tribes, large mangrove swamps and for a true island experience.
Tell us about the places you have been to which is off the beaten track.
1) The living root bridges of Meghalaya: this is one of nature’s best kept secrets.
2) The Great Himalayan National Park and Pin Valley in Himachal Pradesh: This is one of those places where you can see a snow leopard.
3) Eastern Arunachal Pradesh: There are so many tribes living here that sometimes you wonder if you are in India.
What was your most recent travel experience? And where do you want to go next?
All my recent travel experiences have been out of India, though there are still some places that I would like to explore more in India. Recently, I was in Kenya for the great migration and then spent 53 days in Thailand before writing this interview from Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
How does travel affect you as a person?
When I first started traveling, I was arrogant. Today, I am controlled. Travel has made me grounded.
In those first few months of traveling, I was apprehensive and may be scared of many things. Today, I look at the world in its eye. Travel has made me bold.
I always used to connect well with people. Travel just made it better.
Finally, it is the source of my energy. I can keep going with travel and never get bored.
Any advice for those planning their dream trip to India?
I don’t want to be preachy, but these are 3 things that people can do to enjoy India. I know it is easier said than done, but there is always a start.
1) Be a sponge; Absorb everything that you see, hear, smell and feel
2) Don’t fight the place and the place will not fight you back
3) Relax and let the explorations begin. You are in for an interesting ride.
Which places would you recommend for someone coming to India for the first time?
One of the metros, the south west coast of India, the plains of the Ganges and may be Eastern Himalayas to allow travelers to soak four diverse regions of India. This will allow them to sample India without finding it over powering.
What was your favorite souvenir from India?
A hand made carving of a one horned Rhinoceros from Assam.
What do you always take with you when you are on a trip?
Any packing advice to first time travelers to India?
Travel light, wear a good pair of shoes and ensure that your stomach is strong.