âIf a 110 kg Gujarati guy, living a sedentary life, with no background in endurance training or mountain climbing, can transform his life and climb to the top of Mount Everest, nothing is impossible.â ~ Kuntal Joisher
I first saw a photo of Kuntal back in 2017. There he stood, proud, buff and haggard, on Island Peak in the Everest region in Nepal, holding a Facebook-style plaque that caught my eye.
I had turned vegan just a couple of years before that, and was still fielding questions on where I get my protein and calcium from. And here was Kuntal, once your average Indian software engineer â standing atop the planetâs highest and one of its most formidable mountains. The first person to climb Everest on an entirely vegan diet.
I finally met Kuntal at a cafe in Mumbai, as he delivered an awe-inspiring talk to an adventure-hungry, protein-curious audience. Despite his feat, Kuntal humbly confessed that he couldnât be called the first vegan to climb Everest, because he wore a down jacket as he climbed, stuffed with duck feathers (sometimes plucked live off animals and often involving abuse; fallen and collected feathers are just not enough to supply the industry).
So two years later, in 2019, Kuntal climbed Everest again â this time not only on a vegan diet, but also in cruelty-free gear. No down, no wool. His winter jacket was specially crafted by Save the Duck using synthetic and recycled plastic!
The journey from software engineering to mountain climbing
âUntil a decade ago, if you told me I would leave my job and become a mountain climber, I would have thought youâve gone crazy!â ~ Kuntal Joisher
Kuntal recalls himself as a happy-go-lucky software engineer, busy with the 9-to-5 rat race. No one in his family had ever climbed mountains, nor did he feel any such inclination. Then a trip to Himachal Pradesh in North India changed everything.
After a long, picturesque drive on the Hindustan Tibet highway, his wife and he found themselves amidst snow for the first time. Kuntal vividly remembers that moment. He sat down and took in the breathtaking beauty around him. All the pondering over the past and worries about the future melted away. He felt every breath, every single heartbeat. For the first time in his life, he felt real, deep happiness. In that moment, he decided heâd do anything to chase that state of mind.
On funding his travel expeditions without a full-time job
Perhaps like every outdoor enthusiast, Kuntal dreamt of climbing Mount Everest someday. But unlike many, he worked relentlessly towards achieving this dream. He tried to quit, but his software company offered him a flexible work arrangement instead. When he finally left, he decided to take on only part-time opportunities which would allow him plenty of time to train. Every year since 2010, he spent 3-4 months training in the Himalayas. The remaining months were split between work and high intensity training in Mumbai. To support his dream, his wife and family made a conscious decision to scale back on their lifestyle too.
An ethical vegan with a mountain to climb
âClimbing Everest was a personal and spiritual journey. It was also a chance to prove that a vegan diet does not lack nutrition and can support the most difficult physical endurance endeavor on the planet.â ~ Kuntal Joisher
Kuntal turned vegan back in 2002, just after he moved to California to pursue a masters degree in Computer Science. Along with shedding many of his preconceived notions, he learnt about the suffering, abuse and death caused by our choice to consume animal products like meat and cheese.
When Kuntal dreamt of climbing Everest as a vegan, his decision was met by much skepticism. Quoting from the BBC, âresearch indicates that high altitude mountaineers can burn upwards of 6,000 calories per day in the mountains. With excessive stress on their bodies, mountaineersâ very survival depends on a diet that includes a variety of foods to provide sufficient carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals to support them nutritionally during their expedition. A typical Everest-climberâs diet includes protein-rich foods such as eggs, yak cheese and canned tuna.â
Yet in 2016, Kuntal Joisher became the first person to successfully summit Mount Everest on an entirely vegan diet!
Climbing Everest on a plant-based diet
âThrough my expeditions, I want to inspire more and more people to ask the vegan question. Thatâs my real Everest.â ~ Kuntal Joisher
Kuntalâs training for scaling Everest included both, high intensity workouts and treks, climbs and mountain expeditions. His nutrition plan involved consuming a variety of plant-based whole foods that are low on fat and high on carbs â like fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, dates, nuts and seeds. Moving towards a healthier vegan diet, Kuntal says his recovery time improved, and he could train harder and harder for the biggest climb of his life.
His successful Everest summit in 2016 brought with it international fame and recognition. His journey was featured on BBC News, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post, among others â and he certainly bust the myth that a vegan diet is nutritionally inferior to animal-based foods.
Mind over matter
âI go on long, hard treks without drinking or eating. Things can go wrong when climbing a mountain like Everest. I may get lost or run out of food and water. Itâs smart to train for such situations.â ~ Kuntal Joisher
Kuntal believes that in mountain climbing, physical fitness is only 10% of the game. The other 90% is mental toughness. His cardio workouts usually include climbing 300 stairs up and down, running 20 odd kms and hiking for 18 hours straight. Then thereâs strength, functional and high intensity interval training.
But his biggest weakness was homesickness. There were times when he gave up a climb halfway up a mountain, deciding to return home to be with his family. To acquire mental toughness, he started to detach himself. He would go on treks and rarely call home.
With time, he started training even harder, pushing his limits even further. In 2013, he climbed to the top of three 20,000 feet summits within a span of 2 months. And finally felt ready to take on Everest. During his build-up to the Everest climb, Kuntal remembers emotionally detaching himself from his family. But after accomplishing his dream summit in 2016, with Everest no longer in his life, Kuntal says he feels an ocean of emptiness inside him. He believes it was the price he had to pay to climb Everest.
On trekking solo and tips for newbies
âDuring my journey, I have learnt to respect the mountains and never underestimate them. Put in the time and effort to have the right mental and physical conditioning before venturing out in the wilderness alone. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going. There have been too many deaths this season in the Sahyadri and the Himalayas â and believe me, no mountain is worth dying for.â ~ Kuntal Joisher
One of the key components of Kuntalâs training regime was hiking in the Western Ghats near Mumbai. He has done more than 450 hikes in the last 8 years, many of them solo.
For people who ask for advice on trekking solo, Kuntal recommends not attempting it, unless you know the terrain like the back of your hand, and are fully prepared, physically and mentally. He always carries a medical kit, including an anti-venom vial and rope, to tackle unforeseen situations.
Also read: How I Conquer My Solo Travel Fears
Overtourism and responsible travel on Mount Everest
âClimbing Everest, and climbing it safely and reliably without being a liability to anyone on the mountain requires three things: Super-human physical fitness, solid technical skills in mountaineering and an insane level of mental fitness.â ~ Kuntal Joisher
This year, shocking pictures of the âtraffic jamâ on Mount Everest did the rounds, showing how the tallest and toughest mountain in the world too, has fallen prey to overtourism. Even more shocking was the death of 11 people on the mountain this year â the deadliest in recent history.
Kuntal says it makes him sad, angry and frustrated that highly inexperienced and under-prepared climbers have begun attempting to climb this âbucket listâ mountain. Putting not only their own lives at risk, but also those of the sherpas who must try to rescue them or their bodies. Developing the skills to climb a mountain like Everest requires years of relentless training, expeditions and mountaineering experience.
Advice for people who want to pursue their dreams against all odds
Kuntal: âI tried climbing Everest in 2014 and 2015. Both times, the climb was cancelled due to natural disasters. Several people dissuaded me from trying again, some even saying âthe mountain doesnât want you thereâ. But I didnât believe that, finally summiting successfully in 2016, and then again in 2019. I knew I was mentally and physically ready.
I realized the importance of living fully in the present when I escaped sure death from an avalanche in 2015. That night, when I went to sleep, I saw my entire life play out in front of me. One thing hit me â if you have any dreams or passions, the best time to go after them is now. Not tomorrow, not the day after, not in 60 years when you have all the time and money saved. NOW.â
If you dream of hiking / climbing mountains responsibly, sign up for climb with Kuntal to join one of Kuntalâs expeditions in the Himalayas or elsewhere in the world. Connect with him on Instagram for daily inspiration.
Thanks to Kuntal Joisher and Remya Padmadas for making this post possible! All photos belong to Kuntal, used with permission.
Whatâs your biggest travel dream? How are you working towards it?
About this series: In this blog series, I hope to share with you inspiring stories of solo travellers from across India and the rest of Asia â often missing in the online travel space. Growing up in protective families and a conservative society, our battles are different, yet not impossible to fight. If youâve met inspiring solo travellers from India / Asia who I could consider featuring in this series, please connect us!
OTHER POSTS FROM THIS SOLO TRAVEL SERIES:
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Meet the Indian Software Engineer Who Quit His Job to Climb Mount Everest â But Not How Youâd Imagine! published first on https://airriflelab.tumblr.com
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(AP photo) To the shock of very few, the West Virginia Mountaineers are the hottest college football ticket in the state. Online ticket marketplace Vivid Seats recently reached out to me asking if I would be interested in some free data their company had compiled about what college football tickets people in West Virginia are […]
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(AP photo) When No. 22 Oklahoma State visits West Virginia on Saturday, the Cowboys will be without their starting quarterback. Spencer Sanders, the redshirt freshman who helped lead Oklahoma State a 7-3 overall and 4-3 Big 12 record this season, was injured in last week’s win at Kansas and required season-ending surgery this week, according […]
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There is something about Thailand that keeps calling me back. The infectious energy of Bangkok. The dramatic hills and rivers of Northern Thailand. The hipster vegan cafes and hole-in-the-wall Thai joints of Chiang Mai. The ever-growing bucket list of where to stay in Thailand. The abundant peace in Buddhist temples accessible only by hiking. An easy Thailand visa on arrival with the Indian passport. The surprises that lurk in its many corners, far from the beaten path. The warmth of locals. The acceptance, no matter who you are.
Iâve lost count of how many months Iâve spent in Thailand over the years. My heart still skips a beat every time I think of going back. And this partly has to do with all the incredible, affordable, eco-friendly places Iâve found on booking.com over the years!
Ever since I began travelling independently, Iâve been using booking.com â both within India and abroad â to find accommodations with a unique character, that offer experiences off the beaten path. By now, Iâm a âgeniusâ user (the loyalty program), eligible for discounts and travel rewards. So when they reached out to me for a collaboration, I was excited to dig into my treasure trove of finds and put together this post on where to stay in Thailand.
Whether youâre new to booking.com or an existing user, use my referral link to get INR 2000 (28$) off your next booking (minimum spend INR 8000 / 112$)! The offer expires on 31st November 2019, but bookings made before that for a later travel period will still be eligible.
Behold, the best places to stay in Thailand (boutique hotels, lodges, B&Bs, hostels and homestays) for your next trip:
Lisu Lodge: Northern Thailand
Lisu Lodge and its cousin Lanjia Lodge are shining examples of community-based tourism, where travellers are hosted by the indigenous hill tribes of Thailand. Away from the vibrant Thai cities, this is a chance to recuperate in the lap of nature, literally. Think gentle hills, lush paddies, roaring rivers and sparkling night skies. The huts are built on stilts, in traditional architectural style, suited to urban taste yet with natural air flow, and pretty much all food is sourced locally.
The Yard Hostel: Bangkok
In the hip Bangkok neighborhood of Ari sits a little secret. A green oasis in the heart of the city, made from recycled shipping containers and insulated with recycled paper! Iâm usually not a fan of hostel life, but The Yard Hostel is more like visiting family (literally too; yard is the Thai word for relatives), with a mix of trendy private and shared rooms with large glass windows overlooking the greenery. Right at your doorstep are the independent stores, cool cafes and art galleries of Ari, the new kid on Bangkokâs hipster block.
The Hideout: Koh Yao Noi
Plastic-free, wifi-free, electricity-free. If that doesnât convince you to move The Hideout â Koh Yao Noi to the top of your âwhere to stay in Thailandâ bucket list, maybe this will: tree-top living with no walls! Far from the overrun beaches of Thailand, lose yourself amid the sun, sea and stars at Koh Yao Ni, as you feast on gorgeous food handcrafted mostly with local organic produce. The Hideout has an admirable zero waste policy; you can even swap your trash from a beach/forest cleanup for an artisan cocktail. If thatâs not your thing, cool off in the solar-filtered saltwater infinity pool instead or soak up some vitamin Sea at the secret beaches on your doorstep. Just donât Instagram them
Green Tiger House: Chiang Mai
Reform Kafe is one of my favorite vegan cafes in Chiang Mai, endorsed even by my non-vegan friends. So I have no doubt that Green Tiger House, to which the cafe belongs, is a delightful abode too. Close enough to the old city yet far enough from its chaotic streets, the homely rooms offer a minimal wooden vibe, solar-powered showers, green lounging spaces and delicious plant-based breakfasts whipped up mostly with locally sourced organic ingredients.
Aster 9 House: Bangkok
Tucked away in a quiet by-lane, yet a stoneâs throw from the more happening area of Sukhumvit, Aster 9 House is a townhouse B&B, run with the warmth of a family-run homestay. Walking through the little gate, I fell in love with the green outdoor lounging area and the minimalist white theme, plucked right out of a French villa. The rooms are stylish and super comfy. Kanta, a Bangkok local, and his sweet mother, personally host all travellers for breakfast with a delightful Thai feast (or an English breakfast if youâre so inclined).
Ban Lom Jen Homestay: Chiang Rai
Now that I look back on my travels, I think staying at Ban Lom Jen Homestay â a homestay run by Son and Jan, a Thai-Dutch couple in a little village off Chiang Rai â is what sealed my love affair with Thailand! My partner and I went back 3 years in a row, to savor their warm hospitality and humor, indulge in incredible Thai food and homemade breads, work on a balcony overlooking lush rice paddies (the once long open balcony is split by rooms now) and explore northern Thailand on a bicycle.
Also read: Going Back to the Places We Love
The spectacular Koh Phi Phi island in Thailand is often in the news for the wrong reasons. Due to overtourism and its ill-impact on the ecology, Maya Bay has been shut indefinitely and Koh Phi Phi island itself went through a water crisis. That makes responsible tourism in the area of utmost importance. Enter Zeavola Resort, a boutique hotel nestled amid ten acres of tropical rainforest in Phi Phi Don, serenaded by the waves of the turquoise blue Andaman Sea on the pristine Laem Tong Beach. Go beyond the charming rustic luxury of its teakwood suites to discover the underwater world with Zeavolaâs âCoral Freedomâ initiative â which aims to club leisure diving with its quest to fight coral bleaching and enable coral reef regeneration.
Phor Liang Meun Terracotta Arts Hotel: Chiang Mai
Phor Liang is over a hundred year old clan in Chiang Mai, whoâs founder is known to be an elephant whisperer (he used indigenous herbs to treat sick or hurt elephants). His great grandson became a famous terracotta artist, carving sculptures that represent both Buddhist and Lana Art â and this art is what sets Phor Liang Meun Terracotta Arts Hotel apart. Borrowing design concepts from across Southeast Asia, with a focus on local terracotta artisans, this trendy art hotel is for anyone with a creative flair.
Plant Life Hotel (coming soon)
Even though itâs yet to open, I canât contain my excitement at the idea of Thailandâs (the worldâs?) first and only 100% vegan and sustainable luxury resort â Plant Life! After a successful crowdfunding campaign, plans are underway to use renewable energy, source locally, install a self-sufficient water system and instill a zero waste policy to create a space that is ultra luxurious yet kind to the planet and the animals who share it with us. The dream is that one day, such spaces will be the norm, not the exception!
Have you used booking.com on your travels yet?
*Note: I wrote this post in collaboration with booking.com; as you know, Iâve been using it for years and opinions on this blog are always mine. This post contains affiliate links. Any bookings made through these links will earn me a little commission at no extra cost to you.
Order a copy of my bestselling book, The Shooting Star.
The post Where to Stay in Thailand: Unique Lodges, Boutique Hotels and B&Bs Away From the Crowds. appeared first on The Shooting Star.
Where to Stay in Thailand: Unique Lodges, Boutique Hotels and B&Bs Away From the Crowds. published first on https://airriflelab.tumblr.com
via Tumblr Where to Stay in Thailand: Unique Lodges, Boutique Hotels and B&Bs Away From the Crowds.
(video via WVU Sports on YouTube)
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Physical Educator and sports coach from 6 years , with degree in sports science and physical education from RLT University in US. Coach of football, skating, hockey and rugby teams. Now working as Sports development officer in Perth city.