Arijeet Mukherjee, my childhood friend, is a computer engineer by profession with an unquenchable penchant for exploring far flung places on his motorbike. He went on his first motor-biking adventure in 2009 right after purchasing his first bike, and has not stopped since. He has already explored various places in North India, including a solo 4000 km, 24-day Journey to Quest roundtrip between New Delhi, Spiti Valley and Ladakh Valley. He talks about his passion and his adventures in this post.

1. Tell our readers something about yourself.

I am a part of the corporate industry, a salaried computer science engineer passionate about motor-biking and photography. I was born and brought up in Mughalsarai (a small town near Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India), spent my childhood away from home in a boarding school. Those were the nine golden years of my life. I love to sing when I have my guitar along.

2. What/who motivated you towards your motor-biking adventures?

The love for two wheels was there since I rode a bicycle for the first time. I always wanted to ride a motorbike however having grown up in a boarding school I had no option but to wait for the right time. I was self-motivated and that helped me to look at things differently. I knew I would be happier if I travel and explore on my motorbike. This will allow me to connect to people, understand culture, get closer to Mother Nature and foremost, live free.

3. Introduce us to your riding gears.

Adventure without safety measures is dangerous. One who rides a motorbike should always use good quality protective gears as these can save your precious life. My gears include RJays Riding Jacket /Pant (with inbuilt guards), Scoyco Riding Gloves (with Knuckle Protection), LS2 Helmet, Riding Boots (Army DMS) and Axo Knee Guard. But the most important thing is to be a cautious and mature rider.

4. What was your first long-distance road trip?

I remember I bought my first motorcycle (Bajaj Pulsar 180cc) quite late in 2009 and was thinking of taking my “Blue Angel” to Devbhoomi of India, Himachal Pradesh. Three of my adventure-loving friends and I were on the road within a week of purchase of my motorbike. A sudden united decision and we were off to a 850 km ride. The route was ChandigarhKulluManali-Vashisth-KasolManikaran-Chandigarh. This was my first motorbike adventure. I have not stopped ever since.

5. Do you ride alone, or with a group?

I never did an entire ride alone until 2014. It was only after watching the award winning documentary Riding Solo to The Top of the World (2006) by Gaurav Jani, that I was inspired to execute my dream ride in August-September 2014 all alone. It was a solo ride of 4000 km in 24 days (New DelhiSpiti ValleyLadakh Valley-New Delhi).

I am a member of – Free Souls Rider Club (New Delhi) and have participated in group rides occasionally. Hereon I will prefer riding alone because I have now tasted the fun of solo riding. 🙂

At Pangong Lake, the meeting point of India, China, Tibet and Pakistan

At Pangong Lake, the meeting point of India, China, Tibet and Pakistan

6. What motor-biking feats have you achieved so far?

I never cared much about “achievements” in my motorcycle adventures. I have always travelled to those areas, which made me go there. To name a few I have rode to Kedarnath, Jaipur, Agra, Lansdowne, Nainital, Pangot, Sigri, Shimla, Kullu , Manali , Sadhupul (Chail), Bareilly, Dehradun and many more places in India. 

The “Journey to Quest” on Honda CBR250R in mid-2014 made me ride to –

* World’s Highest Motorable Pass “Marsemik La (18953 ft.)” followed by

* Khardung La Pass (18380 ft.)

Journey to Quest onward trip from New Delhi to Drass.

Journey to Quest onward trip from New Delhi to Drass.

* Tanglang La Pass (17582 ft.)

* The mighty Chang La Pass (17688 ft.)

* World’s Most Treacherous Road in Spiti Valley

* World’s Highest Motorlinked Village – Komic (Lahaul & Spiti Valley)

* World’s Second Coldest inhabited place – Drass “Recorded Temperature in January 1995 (-60 Degree C)”

* Skyangchu Thang (Biggest and Highest Plateau on a stretch of 42 Kms)

7. Which among these have you enjoyed the most?

Every Journey comes with new experiences and unforgettable memories. If I have to choose one among these, it will be Journey to Quest (New Delhi-Spiti Valley-Ladakh Valley-New Delhi). Seeing the mystic beauty of the Himalayas closely and how the inhabitants of one of the World’s highest plateaus live.

Arijeet during his solo Journey to Quest trip in 2014

Arijeet during his solo Journey to Quest trip in 2014

8. I am sure there have been a plenty of funny/memorable incidents during your adventure, but any particular one or two that you want to share?

Yes for sure. Well funny incidents are plenty; the scary ones are worth mentioning.

  • I was riding back from Kedarnath in July 2010 and saw couple of local vehicles stopping before a narrow stretch on the mountains after Agustmuni. It was already dark and I was hardly 5 km away from Rudraprayag where I thought of staying that night. There was a landslide but people kept on moving and said, “be careful”. The moment I started after a local carrier Jeep the total stretch of mountain fell down leaving me inside a whirlpool of dust with no visibility. I had no option but to turn my motorcycle and race back to safety. That is when I acutely experienced the fear of dying.
  • Met Tenzin, a 6 year old smart boy of the hotel owner at Sarchu (Ladakh Valley) where I stayed after a tiring ride on the way to Leh. He loved my Motorcycle and my Helmet. I took him for a ride the next morning along the only road there. Tenzin was waving his hand to everyone with a beautiful smile on his face. It was time to leave but he didn’t want me to go. His tears made me emotional. I again stopped there on my way back to New Delhi to meet Tenzin. He greeted me with a contagious smile but this time he didn’t cry while bidding goodbye. This time he knew I will come back again and I do speak with him over the phone.

During my ride I often come across some situations . Few of them are –

  • Are you racing? (Most asked question in local language)
  • Locals will leave no stone unturned to get ahead of you even if he is riding a lower cc bike without a helmet and I give up purposefully caring about their safety.
  • Are you from Media / Indian Army?
  • How could you have come this far on your motorbike!
  • You’re unmarried that’s the reason you can do this. Even I wanted to travel around but I got married. 😛  

9. What future motor-biking plans do you have? Any dream adventure you want to go to?

As of now I don’t have any plans but willing to visit the North-Eastern part of India sometime soon. My dream adventure is to ride on the Isle of Man TT track.

10. Your Safety Mantra for fellow bikers?

Ride Hard Ride Safe . Be sensible and responsible while riding. Most importantly use proper gears and enjoy your ride.

Find Arijeet on Facebook

Arijeet’s Photography page on Facebook

Cross-posted from Chelsea’s blog, The Globally Curious.

Tintin and I recently took a trip to Turkey, with 10 days of backpacking along the Lycian Way bookended by a few days in Istanbul. As you probably have guessed by reading my blog, one of my goals on any trip is to explore the local options for bookstores and book-buying.

This is part 2 of my book-buying tales. In Part 1, I described the difficulties we encountered in finding bookstores along the Lycian Way during the off season. In this one, I describe my attempt to find English translations of Turkish novels during our few days in Istanbul.

Taksim Square Area

After reading a large number of guides (here here here and here) to finding English-language books in Istanbul, I decided to look for Homer and Pandora bookstores near Taksim square. This area was everything I don’t like about the big city – terribly crowded (even in the off-season!) and confusing to navigate. Even though I went armed with the names of the bookstores I wanted to check out, it was difficult to get directions from the locals; most people didn’t know what I was talking about.

Finally we made our way through the crowds to the intersection near where Homer Kitabevi was supposed to be located. It was dark, but we followed the streetlight-less road (toward the Museum of Innocence!) for a long time, but didn’t find the store. When we returned the next day, it turned out that Homer had been closed and we had missed it on our first search. Although I had heard very good things about Homer’s selection and was excited that they also have a publishing company, the selection did not live up to the hype. All that I found in the way of Turkish novels translated into English was the same books by Pamuk and Safak that we had been seeing, for a similarly high price. Perhaps if we had been there at a different time, we would have had a different experience.

On the opposite side of the street from this road we found a multistory bookstore named Insan Kitap. Of all the bookstores that we visited in Turkey, Insan was the one with the best selection of Turkish novels in English. There was a whole floor of books in English and other foreign languages, with a large selection of Turkish-English translations, especially those published by Everest Publishing.

We also located Pandora Books, which had recently moved down the main road and up an alley (which explained why no one knew where it was!). Pandora had a large number of English-language books, especially classics, but their translated Turkish novels were confined to a small corner bookshelf on the third floor.

If you’re in the Taksim square area, I recommend visiting Pandora and Insan Kitap, and stopping into Homer if you have time.

The Second-Hand Book Bazaar

Tucked into a corner next to Istanbul’s giant, confusing, and overwhelming (and extremely tourist-oriented) Grand Bazaar sits the Second-Hand Book Bazaar (featured image). When we asked for directions, people sent us around the perimeter of the Beyazit Mosque; it is actually nestled between the Mosque and the main part of the bazaar.

The book bazaar seems like a fun place for the book-lover to go exploring; amongst the Turkish books, there are probably some English ones as well. We were so tired when we got there that we had no energy to do more than ask about a few specific books that were not available. Overall, it’s more worth a visit than the Grand Bazaar (in my opinion).

Museum Gift Shops

I love checking out museum gift shops, though I rarely buy anything from them. Surprisingly, the gift shops that we looked at had a fairly good collection of translated bestsellers. The prices, as always, were quite high, but not as much as we expected compared to the other bookstores. The Topkapi Palace museum shop had the best selection of books; if you’re pressed for time, it might be worth buying from there. There were also a few books that were only available in museum shops, such as this beauty (which I missed my opportunity to buy).

I hope this was helpful! Where have you found Turkish-English translated books in Istanbul?