Category: Travel & Food (Page 1 of 3)

What goes in my head when a trip ends-

What goes in my head when a trip ends?

“….it ain’t me..” with its strummings and beats fill my ears as the bus whooshes towards Bangalore. Selena Gomez is good. I never realized before that she sings this well. For me, she reminds me of  ‘The Wizards of Waverly Prince’. Aah! Disney Channel back in the day.

Anyway!

“….who’s gonna walk you through the dark side of the morning…”

I’m left to think of what I’m taking back from this trip. When you’re traveling alone, a lot of these thoughts come dropping by. Of course, the extra kilos and pictures, are a given. But, what else do we take back from a trip?

What do I take back from a trip?

The feeling of this place?

A sense of exploring something new?

Another place ticked off from the checklist?

Content for my blog?

Meeting people? And friends?

What is it that I’m taking back with me?

The bus stops to pick a few more passengers. As I notice other vehicles go past ours, I try my best to form an answer.

I’ve hated the feeling of getting stuck. Of not moving. This miniature depiction of my emotion is apt. Is this the answer?

Travel helps in knowing, if I intend to, I won’t get stuck. From decisions. From questions that life throws. I might end up choosing the wrong direction. Catching the wrong bus. Missing my bus. Getting delayed. Been there, done that. Fashionably.

I can try to not confine my boundaries. And even break the ones that I’ve set. Others haven’t.

What else do I take back?

The randomness of conversations. Ones you would remember as long as you’re part of it. You’ll remember the laughter. The faces. The sadness behind those eyes that they hide. The excitement of capturing something new. The people. Yes, them. I take parts of them with me. Imagine how they’d deal with situations. Making them part of my stories. The ones I write, the ones my reveries write on their own.

What does travel teach me?

A lot. And nothing.
I’m not being vague. This is how it is.

I’ve realized people, wherever you go, end up being a lot alike than we picture them in our stereotype. Travel helps break those very stereotypes. Language never seems to be the ultimate barrier. Communication isn’t limited by the language when you want to talk, get help or help others.

Travel teaches adjustment. Type of food with varying spice levels, adjusting to ways of answering the nature’s call, sleeping in different places, talking, listening or just learning more about cultures.

Sometimes traveling sucks too. Just like life does. The edited pictures might not tell the stories of those places. And they should not. It is a different experience for each of us and is so subjective. No one can live our lives. And no one can travel for us, but we.

Gokarna_Travelogue_Zosstel_View_Lunch

Travelogue: The Gokarna Chapter

An uphill walk of close to 2 km in the hot-humid climate after a tiring bus journey with cramped-up leg space, we reached Zostel. And this view, right here, made it all worth it.

Gokarna_Travelogue_View_From_Zostel

As I write this Gokarna Travelogue, I’m taken back to the town that I’m definitely going to visit again. Apart from the beaches, what excited me was- Zostel. When places live up to their hype, which happens rarely, there’s nothing that beats that in making you feel good.

Where is Gokarna?

Gokarna is a temple town on the borders of Karnataka and Goa. Located at about 500kms away from Bangalore.

How to reach Gokarna?

A bus journey of about 12 hours which costs you 600-700 INR or a longer 16-hour journey via train which can be cheaper can be taken to reach Gokarna.

Here’s an illustrative map of Gokarna comprising of beaches and temples.

Gokarna_Travelogue_Map_Zostel

The beaches in Gokarna include the main Gokarna beach, Kudle, Om, Half-moon and Paradise beach. There’s another rocky beach between half-moon and Paradise – aptly referred to as the Hell’s beach. We covered this as part of our 5-beach trek on the second day of our trip.

Gokarna_Travelogue_HalfMoon_Beach

 

Hungry and tired, we decided to find solace in the food served at the Zostel restaurant along with the amazing view for company. Decent pizza and a little extra-fried chicken with a side salad along with orange juice, while we settled down adjusting to the heat.

Gokarna_Travelogue_Zosstel_View_Lunch

Gokarna_Travelogue_Orange_Juice_Zostel

 

After a somewhat heavy-lunch, we curled up in our dormitory, instead of sweating it out in the humid sun.

Headed out in the early evening for a walk around the market leading to the Gokarna beach. The temple town was active and yet even in the hustle-bustle was calm.

The beach is quite clean and less crowded. I decided to let Nehru’s pre-independence words flow into my mind through the ‘discovery of India’.

Gokarna_Travelogue_Beach_Reading_Book

 

 

Watching people observe puja and Surya namaskar, as the sun went down for the day is quite something.

Here’s when I saw an old man performing a ritual which intrigued me. 

We treated ourselves to a simple vegetarian lunch of Paneer+Rotis, along with a minty drink called, ‘Lemon Mint Nana’ which was quite good. We repeated the same the next day as well.

Gokarna_Travelogue_Lemon_Nana_Prema_Restaurant

We had decided to head out early for the 5-beach trek and pack up our stuff and keep it safely in Zostel’s Common room.

The 5-beach trek included Kudle-Om-Halfmoon-Hell’s beach before reaching the Paradise beach. We had our breakfast at Om beach in one of the joints which

Gokarna_Travelogue_Morning_Kudle_Beach

We had our breakfast at Om beach in one of the joints which was open in the early hours of the morning, overlooking the sea. Bread omelet and black coffee to start the day. What more can one ask for?

Gokarna_Travelogue_Breakfast

 

The post-Om beach trek towards HalfMoon was the best of all. Walking over the hill in the tiny pathways in-between trees was an entirely different experience. At one point, we had this majestic view of the entire sea and standing atop that section of the hill, making us feel so small.

Gokarna_Travelogue_Arabian_Sea_View

 

 

Since we were walking along the sea, over the hills, we came across boards which read like, ‘No way! Many people DIED here’ and we might have felt a little scared had it not been for the funny font and dripping paint.

Gokarna_Travelogue_Trekking_signs

 

As we crossed the half-moon beach and came across these amazing smallish gorges, we hid from the sun as the heat increased.

[Tip: Start your trek before 6 AM so as to avoid the harsh sun]

As we reached Paradise beach, which is a small section in the beach stretch, I just took out my book to read, while my friend took a dip in the sea. Of course, I couldn’t resist the water much longer and stripped down to dive-in.

Gokarna_Travelogue_Om_Beach

 

Instead of the trek, there is the option to take the boat which makes stops at all the beaches for you to do a quick photo-session if that’s what you want. While returning we actually took a boat to Om Beach instead of heading back on foot.

The view is great from the boat and you can also spot a few Dolphins. But this still doesn’t beat the trek and I’d highly recommend you to to do the trek.

Gokarna_Travelogue_Om_Beach_View

 

We were hungry and a cheesy La Polo Chicken Pizza along with King Fish became our lunch. Fish wasn’t great but the cheese made up for it.

In the last few hours in Gokarna, we went back to Zostel and took rest in their common room. I loved this part about Zostel, even after you’ve checked out, you can still keep your stuff, chill in their common room (which is amazing) and freshen up in the common bathroom as well.

We had to board our bus for Bangalore by 7 PM and a quick stroll around the beach, shopping and some home-made ice-cream and peanut-butter to bring back home, and a goodbye to Gokarna.

Gokarna_Travelogue_Homemade_IceCream

 

There are few places that you visit and then decide there itself that you’re gonna head back here soon. Gokarna is that place. I liked it better than Goa and this sits right at the top of beaches in India that I’ve visited, along with Varkala and Malpe.

 

Gokarna_Travelogue_Kulfi_Beach

reading on the beach

The Old man in the beach

As I sat down, after an hour-long stroll at the beach, with a book to read and the sound of waves and the fading heat of the sun gave me company. Solitude is best at the farewell hours of the sun. At a beach. Sunsets are beautiful!

The Gokarna beach isn’t the most crowded. Or perhaps our timing couldn’t have been better to plan a trip to the coastal slash temple town at the borders of Karnataka and a little before Goa.

The beach had families offering puja at one of the corners and just around the time of sunset, something very interesting happened.

This old man, aged around 80, stripped down to his langot to offer the Surya Namaskar. The devotion he had in offering it was amazing. After a few dips and when the sun was almost about to exit from the frame, he went back to put on his briefs and brought with him two empty bottles. At first it looked as if he was draining out something from the bottles but he was actually filling them out to carry it back. I was more intrigued by the process that this old man as. At one point in time when a priest standing nearby tried to help him, his reaction of ‘let me do it my way’ was enough for him to stop. Old people don’t like interference. They know their ‘process’.

When he was finally done, he cleaned himself up, dressed up and walked back towards the road with two bags on his shoulder.

I don’t know whether that was part of a religious custom or not, but the dedication of the feeble old man was amazing. The look on his face was speaking something. As if he’s finishing a duty. For a second, I thought I’ll ask him or even help him pick his bag, but it didn’t felt right. He wanted to do it himself.

As I sit with my laptop after a tiring day of trekking (sort of) and travelling in the humidity, I’m reminded of the old man. Maybe, it gives me a window of ‘what-ifs’ of my own old age or just remembering the old ones who really mattered. And still, do.

This Picture from Pondicherry

This picture is from my first solo-trip back in 2014.

Food was average and the coffee was not good. So much for the long list of reviews talking great things about this place’s food.

And more than anything, it is the food that excites me about an new place. However, in the humid-hot Pondicherry, the location of this place is agreeably satisfying. Gazing at the water with the afternoon breeze for company, it was that time of realization that I liked this. The whole circus around traveling. The good and sometimes not-so-good parts as well.

More than anything it is the headspace that a trip puts you in.

Over time, after multiple trips around the southern part of India, the realization that traveling isn’t about a Checklist. Sure, it feels amazing to boast, “I’ve covered this this and this” and I’m not saying that I don’t want to use it. However, in the rush to achieve this, it’s essential to reflect, imbibe what each place and culture offers and make it part of ourselves. Our ignorance about the “others” is more due to us not opening up to them. Travelling is one sure-shot way to make an effort in that direction. At least, for me. At this point.

I’m sure each one of us have their own reasons. And each one is legit. Even I like shuffling between the reasons I travel. Sometimes it’s just for the group of people you go with, sometimes it’s just for a vacation and sometimes a mix of it all.

Scanning through the pictures on my blog, my own pictures from the travels never really excite me as much as random snaps that just convey my headspace does. Like this picture. Just chilling.

wazoo khana mosque

Delhi Travelogue: The Wazoo Khana

wazoo khana mosque

The Wazoo-Khaana.

While walking towards Humayun’s fort, I walked into this mosque to offer Zohar prayers. Old, not-taken care of, withered over time and hardly anyone at the mosque. The Wazoo-khana at the mosque reminded me of innumerable other mosques of the yesteryears. Now, they all have swanky tile-fitted-running-water wazoo khanas. Don’t mistake me for speaking of this modernization in a dismissive tone. I’m more of a purist and cherish the sacrilege-like feeling associated with a Wazoo khana. 

A good number of mosques still have this, but perhaps I rarely visit the ones which don’t have a tap running with a board mentioning, “Wazoo ka paani zyaya na karen.. Paani Allah ki rehmat hai”. Only to see people read it while water while the water flows out at speed faster than their reading.

Anyways, at this mosque, one needed to take out water from the adjacent well, fill it out in the badna and then perform wazoo.

Every-time the mosque near my office runs out of water and the water-tanker doesn’t arrive, we have to take two small mugs, out of a bucket of water, for use. Inconvenient. But we all end up saving almost half the water we’d normally use.

And more importantly, we read the signage: “Wazoo ka paani zyaya na karen.. Paani Allah ki rehmat hai” without letting the water flow away down the drain.

Post offering the prayers at this mosque, everyone gave me sort-of welcome smile. As if they recognized that I’m not from the place. Probably, I clicked a lot of pictures to make sure of that.

The mosque I was talking Masjid Khairul Manzil. You can read about the mosque in this post about Delhi’s architectural marvels, here.

Jahangir Biriyani, Delhi Food

Travelogue: Delhi Food Chapter

The options for food in Delhi are immense. The variety is staggering. Every pocket size can get something at every street corner. Something that’s amiss here in Bangalore.
The tales of street-food around Jama Masjid had already raised expectations and naturally this was the first place where I took the metro to.
Jahangir

Jahangir Biriyani, Delhi Food
So, my friend took me to Jahangir instead of the famous Karim’s. Knowing this won’ be my only visit in this vicinity for this trip, I agreed to trust him.
Of all the choices, Biriyani was definitely one. Chicken Lollipop and Mutton kassa became the starters.
The Biriyani was a little oily and the rice wasn’t the usual Hyderabadi Biryani kind and a little peculiar. But it definitely boasted of strong flavors and was cooked well.
Chandni Chowk.
So, confession time, I had no idea as to what Chandni Chowk was. But thanks to the innumerable references, I was curious.
Well, it turned out to be an overcrowded market place burstling with energy and yes, lots of people. Lots.

Daulat ka Chaat

Daulat ki Chaat, Delhi Food
I ended up trying “Daulat ki Chaat” in the streets and it was melt-in-your-mouth Yum. Expensive by street-food standards. However, I wouldn’t mind paying double of that if I could get it now.
Nataraja Dahi Bhalle

Nataraj Dahi Bhalle, Delhi Food
The Dahi Bhalle was on the sweeter side and personally didn’t like it. But the crowd seemed to love it. Hordes of people lining up to buy this on an evening. I’m told that this is a regular scene at this outlet. But were they all like me to have visited the outlet because of the “crowd”?

Paranthe wali Gali, Delhi Food
Close to this shop is what the Delhiwaalas call the “Paranthe wali Gali”. It’s not just parantha but a variety of fried Indian stuff being dished out. One can find umpteen number of parantha combinations. For a lane this size, there would hardly be a time when it is not crowded.
Khan Market

Khan Chacha, Khan Market, Delhi Food
My cousin took me to this posh Delhi Market called Khan Market. It’s different from the usual Delhi, although there’s no dearth of girls pouting for selfies like the rest of Delhi.
Jokes apart, the place is interesting and would have been great to be hanging around.
Khan Chacha
We went to another famous outlet called “Khan Chacha”, started Haji Banda Hasan in 1972. With a modest shop and ended up becoming popular as ‘KHAN CHACHA’ among students and youngsters. It is sort of a legacy now.
We tried rolls which were good, the kebabs too but the Biriyan was okayish. What I realized is, if you’re used to the Hyedrabadi style of Biriyani, getting used to Biriyani they serve in Delhi is difficult.
Barcelos

Barcelos Burgers, Delhi Food
This one is close to Khan Chacha and this Burger is something to die for. The black burger is too big a mouthful but is worth it. I’m waiting for the day when they open an outlet in Bangalore.
Haus Khaas Village

Haus Khaas Village, Delhi Food
Crushed Chicken Kathi Rolls at one of the many food stalls at this happening place. The crowd is good and the food around is good too.
Nikashee

Nikashee Chinese food, Delhi
Tried a little bit of Chinese as well. Noodles, Fried Rice and Shezwan Cheese Gravy to accompany it all.
Changezi

Changezi, Delhi Food
This was one dish my friend has been telling me a lot about. So, we went to see what the whole fuss was about. When you visit a place and just by looking at the food being cooked you realize, woah, this is going to be good. This outlet was one of those.

Changezi Chicken, Delhi Food
Changezi laden with Creamy butter was to die for. One of the highlights of my delhi trip.
Karim’s

Kebabs, Karim's, Delhi Food
This place has a waiting line which can envy even government office counters. I’ve been to my fair share of restaurants but had never waited this much to get a seat. Food was good, however, cannot tag it “best I’ve had” and Delhi has much more variety and quality food than just Kareem’s But of course, one needs to experience the place, and so I did. Tried out these Kebabs among various other things.
Just out of Kareems’ there is a sweet shop opposite to Kareem’s. Tried their Rabdi to end my meal on a high.

Rabdi, Jama Masjid Area, Delhi Food
I ended up trying their Biriyani at a food court where I met a friend and found it okayish. But then, it is wrong to copare food-court wala food with restaurant quality. Right ?

Momos from Delhi:

Momos from Delhi are famous. One can find them wherever you lay your eyes on. If I had to compare it to the ones we get in Bangalore, they were far better. I’m not a momo-fan, even though I don’t dislike ‘em either and found these momos great. The chutey served makes it even better. And they’re cheap as well.
The Parantha Mornings

Paranthas, Delhi Food
My usual travel plans are spread across weekends. But for the Delhi trip (as it was longer), getting to experience the weekday rush around town as well as the breakfast options. Amazingly good breakfast at 20 bucks, where you get to eat hot spicy paranthas with chutneys. Great, isn’t?

I’m sure I’ll definitely be visiting Delhi again and will add onto this list. if you have any suggestions around food, then do comment.

Humayun's tomb Delhi

Delhi Monuments: Marvels of Architecture

The Marvels of Architecture

One of the prime reasons which, from as long as I can remember, always got me excited about visiting Delhi were these! The Architectural marvels of Delhi.

Spread across the city, the monuments had decorated the pages of numerous history books I’ve read as a child and something I still find appealing. Delhi has traditionally been the “favorite” capital city of most of the kingdoms which ruled the Northern part of our country.

An early-morning-start believing that I’ll try to cover most, if not all, of the monuments which Delhi had to offer.

The Qutub Complex

Qutub Minar Delhi

 

The magnificent stone tower looming out from a distance is a marvelous sight as you walk inside the complex. A cloudy wintery Delhi day in the midst of this monumental complex, which comprises of the Qutub Minar,  Quwattul Islam Mosque,  Khilji gate, and Iltutmish tomb standing adjacent create a historical retreat for anyone walking in.

 

 

 

Khilji's Madarsa

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the Great Khilji to Qutub, and even Iltutmish,  Iltutmish Gate in Qutub complex, Delhithe individual contributions are evident in the architecture as they stand bearing testimony. It took almost 500 years for them to perfect the shape of the “Dome” or Ulti katori as they used to refer the dome as.

 

 

This wasn’t written anywhere,  but heard it from a really cute history teacher,  who was explaining this to her students. Not to mention, I was one of them.

Humayun’s Tomb

Beyond Qutub,  there is the Humayun’s tomb.  The Mughal architecture in their trademark style is captured beautifully.  Built in the memory of Humayun and countless other Mughals,  has earned this place the designation of  being a “tomb gallery” of sorts.  Close to 160 Mughal royals have been buried here.

Humayun's tomb Delhi

The tomb complex has 4 other smaller tomb-like structures, along with a gate used for shipments and labor from Persia. Humayun’s tomb was built by his Son, Jalal-ud-din Akbar. It also remains the first garden tomb monument in the Indian Subcontinent. The Char Baagh concept of gardens remains essential to the Persian architecture style as always.

There are mosques and smaller tomb-like structures inside the complex along with attached gardens. The entire complex is nothing but an ensemble of other smaller monuments in them.

Red Fort

Red fort Delhi

Red fort is huge.  The Mughals were very detailed when it came to monuments and the interiors of the fort present this distinctiveness. Be it the numerous diwans or the hamams, or the Sheesh mahal,  how the royal life that was lived, all this bears testimony.

Inside Red Fort comple Delhi

Inside Red Fort

Inside Red Fort Delhi

The Zeenat mahal has now been turned into a mini-museum, which displays, from letters (farman) to clothes,  from utensils used during the period to artillery as well.

Jama Masjid

Jama masjid view Delhi

Jama Masjid area is always bursting with people.  A fine example of an overpopulated old city.  The Mosque has also been reduced to one exhibit of this problem. The lane opposite to the Mosque is lined with eateries,  kashmiri clothes merchants,  and hordes of small shops and vendors.Jama masjid in delhi

The architecture of Jama Masjid, like other Indian Monuments, is entrenched into heads already and apart from the security entrance and the gareebi around, remains the giant mosque as I had pictured. Ended up offering my Namaz and then headed off for food.

Jama Masjid wazoo khaana
I ended up having breakfast and also experienced something wonderful. Hotels distributing free food to the homeless.  Not just in the one I was eating,  but across the lane.  One old woman along with her daughter,  even requested me for food, instead of money.  There’s so much of poverty visible in there, that will make you wonder at their plight. And the story is same in the complete vicinity of Red Fort and Jama Masjid  area.

India Gate

India Gate Delhi

Snack stall near India Gate Delhi

 

I also went to India Gate and even though it is not architecturally satiating, it is a symbolically New Delhi. The thing that excited me here were these carts put up by Differently-abled people.

 

They had these mechanical ovens from which all sorts of puffs and buns were served. It is great to see them empowered.

 

 

 

 

Masjid Khairul Manzil

Masjid Khairul Manzil, Mosque near Purana Qilla, delhi

On my way to the Humayun’s Tomb, it was time for Zohar prayers and hence I stopped here at this mosque. Intriguing, right ? This has to be one of the oldest mosques which hasn’t been revamped.

wazoo khana mosque

The Wazu-khana, where an elderly gentleman is making wazu doesn’t have water and one need to draw it from the nearby well. The look and smile on the very few present inside the mosque made me realize they knew I’m from somewhere else.

prayer-timings-board-old-mosque-delhi

This prayer timing board hanging outside on the tree is an adorable sight.

Khairul Islam mosque was commissioned by Maham Anga. She was the foster mother of Akbar when Humayun (his father) was in exile along with his mother.

The interiors of the mosque are not in the best of condition than the famished look of the building outside.

There was renovation work underway in the adjacent complex and I do hope certain care is taken for this as well. It was built in 1561!

 

 

 

I covered all of it in just one day and definitely could have spent a lot of time around, especially in the Qutub Complex and Humayun’s Tomb. There’s so much to learn and refresh your history.

I’ve always been intrigued by the Mughal architecture and Delhi is one of the best showcases of that heritage.

amer-fort-inside-jaipur-travelogue

Travelogue: The Jaipur Chapter

Scratching through the wee hours in teeth crushing cold, my bus, Good morning’ed Jaipur. It was cold. Everything which I could pack to keep myself warm was not much of help as I had hoped.

It was December after all. It took 5 hours from Delhi to Jaipur. Here’s my Jaipur Travelogue.

With no hotel booked as this was supposed to be just a day’s trip, I walked around the surprisingly crowded bus stop at around 4:30 AM! The upbeat brokers strolling around made sure that I know the rates of nearby hotels as I sipped a cup of chai.

I started towards Jal Mahal by asking directions from locals after the bus I boarded dropped me near the main market. This bus has to be the tiniest Mini-bus that I’ve ever traveled in and which was driven by the oldest driver I’ve seen driving anything. He was clearly in his late-80s but the way he was handling himself appeared to be a seasoned professional nevertheless.

I walked by to see the city waking as the street lights on the clear roads slowly shutting down, one at a time, theatrically. The roads and the visible infrastructure around the city appeared good and the early risers were helpful in showing directions. When traveling down south, (Whether its Chikmagalur, Kodaikanal, Allepey, Varkala, Mangalore, Yelagiri, Kochi or even Chennai), sometimes, language does become an issue when asking directions. I mostly try to understand by gestures and then confirm after every few minutes as Google maps, which is still fun. In this case, Internet had ditched me and I had to talk more than I usually do.

jal-mahal-jaipur-travelogue

The picture of Jal Mahal, in my mind, was a wee-bit different than what was in front of my eyes. It reminded me of the man-made islands in Zoological parks around which you row boats. Only, in this case, the island was a Mahal and ,of course, there were no boats to row and enjoy a closer view. I wished there was a way to access a better view like the birds flying above the mahal. But then.

However, it was a lovely sight to wait and ultimately breathe in the sunrise along with hundreds of pigeons flying around to give me company.

My next stop was the Amer fort. Along with the rising sun I trekked (sort of) uphill on the straight road. I was glad to have packed lightly which made things easier. Meanwhile, I was introduced to an unheard cultural practice by a passerby heading in the opposite direction when he told me about a temple on the hills. On completion of a wish (mannat), which you ask the deity here for, one has to offer a bottle of liquor as offering. This was new and interesting.

amer-fort-jaipur-travelogue

I could already notice the boundaries of the fort from a distance. The off-Yellowish lines visible from a distance added on to the excitement. Scenes from movies and innumerable music videos had featured this sight quite a lot and it all came running down. It was exactly how I had imagined it to be.

There is a lake called Maota is adjacent to the fort and gives it a scenic semblance as you walk alongside to enter the fort. Amer was built by the Meena Tribe and later occupied by Raja Man Singh I.

amer-fort-garden-jaipur-travelogue
The insides of Amer Fort: As I entered, I noticed the Chaar Baagh (Four Gardens) formations which are a prominent part of Mughal Architecture. Like the ones which I saw in Delhi a couple of days before. With the shining sun illuminating the pathway towards the fort entrance, the doors literally make for a Grand Entrance.

elephants-at-amer-fort-jaipur-travelogue

A more-than visible print of Elephants being regulars here can be seen with their “discharge” all over the pathway.

amer-fort-inside-jaipur-travelogue

Rajasthan in general is a primary tourist attraction even before the “Incredible India” campaign kicked off. Finding foreign tourists in huge numbers is quite expected and this early morning at the fort definitely was one of it.

The fort has a multistoried layout which is no less than a Bhool bhulaiya of sorts with the tiniest of windows and doors spread throughout the structure. This characteristic was quite prevalent in almost all the architectures at Jaipur(which I visited) and I presume in Rajasthan as well. The Hawa Mahal is basically an ensemble of these tiny windows. Interestingly, I also noticed a few of the cleaning staff, which comprised of women, draping a Ghoongat (Dupatta used with a veil).

garden-in-amer-fort-jaipur-travelogue

I also heard from one of the guides who was explaining to the foreigners that these windows helped the women folk to easily witness gatherings, markets or processions in the sanctity of the mahals and forts.

I headed back in a crowded bus which charged around 14 rupees and dropped down near Jal Mahal which was in contrast to what I saw earlier. A makeshift market place had emerged around the pavements selling shoes, clothes and even food to be fed to the pigeons roaming around soaking the morning sunlight. The pigeons were not alone BTW!

birds-near-jal-mahal-jaipur-travelogue

I headed over to the City Palace which is located amidst the Jaipur market. Renovation work was underway on one of the gates.

city-palace-jaipur-travelogue

 

 

The insides are filled up with these glass colored window panes which add on to the many decorations in the palace.

The tiny staircases leading to the terrace are little suffocating and I cannot imagine getting lost in the dark in one of those. Nightmare.

city-mahal-jaipur-travelogue

 

However, once you’ve reached the top, the view is supremely beautiful. Not just that, the feeling of getting out in the open and watching the whole city is sublime.

city-mahal-topview-jaipur-travelogue

 

Venturing out of the City Palace, I went around the market to grab something to eat. Now Jaipur is called the Pink City. So, when you walk around the market, one can notice that the shops, walls and everything where you can lay your eyes on has a shade of pink.

jaipur-market-travelogue

 

It’s not Pink. But Pink. The market looked very organized and pink. (The pink color maes it all a litte funny though. But its not pink).

rabdi-jaipur-travelogue

I stopped by to have Rabdi (in the pic above) and Malpuas in the market. Eating these was just out of sheer hunger of not having eaten anything since morning and I ended up at the first outlet I saw. They were pretty decent and I would have definitely got a better one had I done any sort of “food research” like I usually do. But then, Internet!

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The Hawa Mahal in my head was supposed to be this mammoth building but it wasn’t so. Only when I started taking pictures, I realized why it was so. The Road opposite to the Mahal is pretty narrow and for a good picture, one would either have to take a side-shot to capture it perfectly. Of course it still looked good.

It was a Friday and I needed to search for a mosque to attend Jumma Prayers and even though I was hungry, I held on as I had to meet a friend who works nearby an IT park.

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The nice people of the city guided me to the right bus. A vegetarian thali for lunch while reminiscing about college days was great and as always it’s great to meet known friends in unknown cities.

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I headed back in another bus and then also took a tuk-tuk just to have an experience on how the city moves around in these.

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On reaching the Bus stop and getting onto one of the Delhi bound buses, I realized how much I could do in just one day. Due to time crunch, I could hardly get my hands on Rajasthani food but if I ever visit this place again that will be my priority.

Jaipur is a traditional city which has kept its original charm even with steady development. At least the areas I went around appeared to have better civic sense. Of course the public transportation can improve a lot but the folks of the city make a tourists’ life much easier.

Goa Travelogue

What’s an Ideal Travel Plan, anyway ?

When you have to take a vacation and just plunge into the abyss of forgetting your work-pressure and simply get a break, where does your mind picture you enjoying?

 

For me, it has to be a Beach. Any Beach. The sound of waves rushing in, the waves giving the breeze a high-5 and your eyes enjoying the magic happening. Does this paint a picture for you ?

Taking out my cycle from the parking lot, I was trying to figure out my weekend plan. Probably a movie or catching up with a few friends? Maybe cooking something new in the kitchen ? or simply binge watching a tv-series while ordering food from any app which gives a discount.

Damn!

Eat. Sleep. Repeat mode awaits!

You wait for the weekend and end up doing one of those three things and then head over to another week of office.

Have to do something. Have to do something.

Goa.

And then it popped up just when I crossed the traffic signal. A green light lit right there.

Headed home, switched on my laptop, checked for flight schedules, but most were over due to the weekend rush. Finally got confirmed bus tickets as well as hotel bookings and bam! in just an hour, the Uber was downstairs taking me to my bus stop.

So, in just around an hour, the Uber was downstairs taking me to my bus stop.

The hour spent was to check how should I head to Goa. Should I take a flight ? Naah. Too expensive, although the website was offering me a good deal as compared to others. Still, expensive.

I don’t usually like buses, but hey, adjust maadi.

The backpack was dusted and any clothes (mostly clean ones) which I could find was thrown in. This wasn’t supposed to be like any of my other travels, where I plan, pack and explore the place.

This was supposed to be just a vacation and hence, the idea was to head there, chill on the amazing beaches. Maybe cool my heels while I finish those half-read books or jot down a few blogs on my laptop.

And isn’t that what goes in our head when we plan to travel? The expectation on what we would do once we are there.

My itinerary:

List of Beaches to explore: Baga, Anjuna, Calanghute and Vagator.

Sea Food: Whatever I could lay my eyes on!

Party: What’s that?

But a lot of it doesn’t go according to our plans, right? My Goa travelogue can give you a clear picture of what I (actually!) did there. And yes, it was exciting.

Of all the things that are with me from Goa, this planning process -from that green signal to booking tickets, remains an unusually exciting part. I plan things. I don’t usually do things impromptu.

I’m at a loss in imagining how all this would have been in an era of no-internet? Would I have rushed to the bus stop and enquired about the timings and tickets? Or would I have just binged on good American television along with a few cheese burst slices?

Goa Travelogue: Baga Beach

Travelogue: The Goa Chapter

How often has this thought of “heading home and packing bags and get out of the city” hit you ?

If you’re anything like me then a gasp of yes would have already come out of your mouth by now.

Anyways, I wanted to keep this as a solo trip and Goa was the first place which popped in my head and as a result of which you are reading this Goa Travelogue.

For years holidaying has been synonymous with Goa. Of course, most of those trips are planned with friends. Mine, initially, was also no different. But the thing is, most of these planned Goa trips never work. Especially when it comes to Goa.

It was already late in the evening, rushing back home, checked hotels for a 2-day stay and luckily got one at Stayzilla. Bus seats were there too. Booked.

Over to Goa.

Reached late. Took close to 16 hours of a tiring bus journey, a very expensive cab, and almost an hours’ walk to finally arrive at my place of stay.

No, not the one with Stayzilla, as those guys ditched me again. Hotel was booked, payment was made and yet they cancelled it, while I was on my way. Had to make another arrangement through Airbnb. A very unconventional hut greeted me, along with a group of hippies in a jungle!! If that wasn’t scary enough, the not-so-clean bathroom made sure that I looked out for an alternate. Luckily, got an alternate arrangement at a homestay. This whole experience is even more adventurous, but let’s keep that for some other time.

This new place was near Anjuna Beach and luckily they also had an Activa Scooter for rent (Rs 800/Day). It was a decent deal, considering, I just couldn’t get anything else.

Travel Tip: If you’re travelling Goa for the first time, my advise is to rent out a vehicle as soon as you get down at the bus stop in Panaji. Any other mode of transport in the city will cost you a lot.

Calanghute Beach:

I was here around evening on my first day. Having hardly eaten food, and a heavy bag on my shoulders, I looked for a “proper” place to eat. But even after going into one, it was pretty difficult to get your order placed. I headed over to gulp a glass of juice in the outside market.

Goa Travelogue: Sunset at Calanghute Beach

Calangute was one of those beaches where I didn’t spent much time as it was also getting dark and I needed to head to my room. Of course, not before enjoying the beautiful sunset out on display.

Anjuna Beach:

It was almost noon by the time I headed to Anjuna and this sight here lets you in with a sense of your being. The last day had been really hectic, with the extended bus travel, hotel change and hardly any time to properly eat. I finally had breakfast and then lost myself again into enjoying the view.

Goa Travelogue: Anjuna Beach

I took a long walk on the beach, clicking a few pictures in between; while the Arabian-Sea splashed across my folded jeans. Cold water splashing against the semi-tanned legs, indeed felt good.

Goa Travelogue: Anjuna Beach

Baga Beach:

The only name I knew in Goa was Baga. I didn’t looked up any travelogue like I usually do when planning a trip and apart from Baga, i hardly knew anything about Goa. Except my friends telling me, “Tu Goa jaake kya karega? Tu to peeta bhi nahi” .

This beach is crowded, but extremely well managed. You can see “baywatchers” (Sadly, not like the Baywatch Girls) out their repeatedly warning people to not go too deep. (Did that sentence come out right? :P).

They look more like DJ’s to me. What say ?

Goa Travelogue: Baga Beach
Even with the crowd, Baga has a certain charm attached to it, a stroll across the stretch of the beach is a joy undefined. And you’re not alone in doing so, you can see hordes of Solo travelers, giving that a try. And yes, you can tell who is a solo traveler. There’s that unmistakable vibe and a passing glance of smile, which explains it all.

I sat, with drenched lowers on the sands at Baga, along with a water bottle in my hand, stark contrast to the other “bottles” which everyone seemed to have. The view of the ocean, kids playing, groups of friends having fun and even cows having a Sun bath, while I munched on peanuts. Meanwhile, wondering how come beef consumption is fine here, even when it’s a BJP ruled state.

Goa Travelogue: Sunbathing Cows

Baga is the most happening beach, I’m told. Late evening when I visited, it remained crowded with all the “party animals”. I excused myself to enjoy my dinner.

Vagator Beach:

Technically, I didn’t put my foot on this beach at all. I was meters above it, at the Chapora Fort. Or as people like to call it “the-Dil-Chahta-hai-fort” as a few scenes were shot here.

[To the Uninitiated, Dil Chahta is a famous Bollywood movie directed by Farhan Akhtar]

Goa Travelogue: Vagator Fort

The place is full of people humming the title song along with clicking selfies.Yes, I’m not kidding even a bit. I went to the other side to sit atop one of the rocks, gawking down at the shiny waters while the wind blowing down sunlight off my face.

Goa Travelogue: Vagator Beach

Now, let’s talk about the Goa Food:

This was one of those trips when I ate less and roamed more. However, I’m not complaining.

I started my day with a decent English Breakfast. The street leading to Anjuna Beach is lined with numerous options, and randomly I checked into one, after finding space to park my rented Activa. A decent start to the day.

How wrong can you go with an English Breakfast anyway ?

Goa Travelogue: English Breakfast near Anjuna Beach

I was craving for some good sea food, but amidst all the beach hopping and merrily driving around, time was running out. Also, since I wasn’t sure whether Meat would be Halal or not, the number of food options were limited. Plus, almost all the restaurants serve alcohol, which kind of creeps me out anyway.

Goa Travelogue: Pomfret near Bagha BeachI tried Pomfret at one of the popular joints in Goa, called Twenty23 which is almost in the middle of Calanghute and Anjuna. Very Expensive, and perhaps the most expensive food item I might have ever eaten till date. But a good fish is worth the bucks you spent.

The last day, before I headed back to Bangalore, I ended up meeting a few of my batchmates in Goa and ended up with Calamari on my plate. Pretty weird taste and I guess it’s mostly an acquired taste like most sea foods. However, I might not eat it again.

[Also read about my Mangalore trip, where you can enjoy Seafood and lovely beaches]

What I got from the Goa trip?

The Goa trip was my way of getting back to solo travelling. There couldn’t have been a better time than this. Although with the long weekend, it ended up getting way too crowded and defeated the purpose of going to Goa in off-season, yet finally having ticked Goa off my list feels great.

From Goa, I got back my travel mojo. I got back the joy of simply strolling around beaches. I got back the adventure of adjusting to change and of course the happy vibes from the beaches. However, it still doesn’t beat the best beach I’ve been to.

[Wondering which one is it ? Read Here]

My sole intention was to only cover beaches and enjoy my time without any itinerary. Must say, I was successful in achieving my goal.

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Travelogue: The Varkala Chapter

Our initial plan was to return to Ernakulam and after spending some time there around the city, to head back to Bangalore. But all of a sudden, we thought why not go to Varkala?

And the next moment, we took a bus for Varkala. Don’t you love it when impromptu plans work out? I do.

Changing two different buses, we reached Varkala. Reviews showed that the place will have more foreigners than Indians. And it was actually true.

 

 

We were lucky enough to get a decent room at just 600 INR. We freshened up and headed for the beach-side restaurant for dinner. Sizzlers, prawns and juice, and we were already full. Along the beach, there are a series of restaurants and we randomly entered one of them.

Tired as we were, headed back to hotel along while indulged in a conversation with a french whom we befriended on our way to Varkala. We talked about issues ranging from politics , culture, and religion. Like every foreigner, his questions were based on things they hear back from their own media. It was around the time when the documentary on the Delhi Rape accused was Banned in India and most of the questions centered around the topic.

The next morning started with a great breakfast.

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An interesting thing happened, while we happened to have our Breakfast, we were told that “French Toast” isn’t actually french!! Thanks to our french friend.

Post breakfast, the moment we saw the beach. OMG!!

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It has to be the best, out of all the beaches, I’ve seen till date. We had no second thoughts on NOT getting into the waters. Like kids, we splashed around and just enjoyed the course.

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When sanity prevailed and we headed back to have our lunch as we needed to rush over to Ernakulam to catch our train. But before that, it was time for food.

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Finally, I could taste beef fry from Kerala at this seaside restaurant. The best part was not just the food, which comprised of amazing Tuna laden pizza too, but also the decor of the place.

Filled with books around, it was as if we were eating inside a library overlooking the beach.

The weather was excruciatingly hot and humid. I can’t even recall how many bottles of water I would have gulped down to compensate for the loss by sweating.

Varkala is one of those places where you should not visit during summer unless you are okay with the hot and humidity. However, my bet is, you’ll still end up loving the place.

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The beach is amazing and we could see a lot of trekking options available along the beach like the one Gokarna offers.

Varkala_Travelogue_Beach_scenesWe had a shortage of time and hence could hardly explore anything apart from the beach.

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We ultimately ended up reaching Ernakulam late, very late. We were supposed to reach by 8.30 PM to catch our train, but then we reached only by 10.30 PM.

It all was because we started late, and then took a bus instead of the train, which everyone suggested. We ended up spending the night on the platform, like a couple of nomads and the next morning boarded the train, but not before having a nice breakfast outside the station.

 

It’s a wrap of the Kerala adventure. There are of course many places to visit in the state which is termed as “God’s own country”, and hopefully will visit them soon.

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Read the other two parts of the Kerala Trip as well and share your thoughts in comments.

Kochi Travelogue
Allepey Travelogue

Kodaikanal Travelogue Revering Thoughts

Travelogue: The Kodaikanal Chapter

Over the last year, I’ve been to quite a few hill stations. There are numerous weekend getaways around Karnataka, Kodaikanal is one of them. Located in Tamil Nadu, this hill station is quite famous and here in this Kodaikanal Travelogue, I’ll take you through with me. After Ooty, also located in Tamil Nadu, this definitely is the second best in South of India. Although, Chikmagalur isn’t bad either.

 

A group of 4 from my previous office, planned a weekend trip last month, this was supposed to be my farewell trip with those folks. A bus ride at night landed us in the scenic beauty of Kodaikanal. We were glad that our hotel was just around the corner of the Kodaikanal City bus stand. Having refreshed ourselves, we headed off for our breakfast before embarking on our schedule.

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This place right around the bus stop called Astoria, was where we started off. One of the softest Idlis, I’ve had in a long time. And the variety of chutneys and sambhar makes it even better. You’ll go wow, just when you break those soft Idlis and the moment you dip into those chutneys and savour it in your mouth, your mouth will burst with authentic south Indian flavours. Everything else, the Rawa Dosa and Masala Dosa, were good too. If you want a good vegetarian breakfast before you head for the trek, Astoria Veg is the place.

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Being a tourist place, you’ll have a sea of drivers and tour guides vying for your attention as soon as you’re out of the bus, or any restaurants. We decided not to use the guided tours and instead walk and trek our way to different suggested spots which Kodaikanal had to offer. Stopping regularly for innumerable photoshoots from time to time.

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While heading out to the Pillar Rocks, we even came across several fruit stalls, and couldn’t help ourselves stop eating these, what looked like litchis.

Kodaikanal Travelogue Revering Thoughts

Stopping at various “suicide points” and discussing why they were called that, and then idling around the roads, we thought we will never reach our destination!! But then, the best part about being in a group, how small it may be, is that you always have something to do. And if you don’t, something crazy can always be done. Like I did.

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Finally after walking a lot, we got to see The Gigantic Pillar Rocks!! What a sight it is. My personal view is, places like this should be little less crowded, so that people can savor the beauty a little more. The shops lined across the view point add a little congestion to the whole view. But then, a tourist town and it’s people earn their livelihood through this only and is totally justified. We purchased a few Kodaikanal Chocolates to eat, so as to prolong the lunch pangs after the long walk uphill.

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Walking back, we decided to take a cab, but it wasn’t easy to get one. So, we had to adjust by taking a lift from one of the mini-buses and then finally halfway across, where we had to stop for a little Kodaikanal shopping. Coffee, Dry Fruits and lots of Chocolates, after having tasted a variety of them, we took a can back to our hotel. Cabs don’t come cheap when you hire them. They have a standard rate of Rs 150 no matter how less the distance may be.

We took solace in getting our food from a hotel nearby on our way to the hotel and dozed off for a while as we all were really tired. All of it was a result of our extended walking spree.

Kodaikanal Travelogue Vegetarian food

We headed out to have dinner at The Tawa, this vegetarian joint was recommended by almost all travel blogs, and gorged on the food. Aaloo paranthas laden with Butter, Pav Bhaji, Matar ki sabzi and Shreekand to finish off our dinner. Paranthas were the pick of the lot. Good vegetarian option is what this place is.

 

Next morning, checked out of the hotel and had breakfast at the same hotel, Astoria , where we had the amazing Idlis the previous day. I tried out their Rawa Dosa and then we after a cup of coffee at the nearby stall, headed towards the lake to hire a bicycle. We took it from the first shop we could lay our eyes on, but I’d recommend you to explore your options before hiring. Our initial plan was to head towards the Water Falls, but we made it to just one of them which was dry. Expecting the same in other places as well, we decided to skip hopping waterfalls and head back to the lake area.

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We did have fun on the road while cycling, and pictures do essay the fun we had cycling around.

Heading back, we roamed around the lake eating Corn and the local wheat laddoos, and also indulging in some balloon shootings as well. And yes, this time, we even took the Double-rider cycles, which was a first-time experience as well. The single riders cost us Rs 50/hr and the Double rider Cycles cost us Rs 100 each.

 

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Once we finished off our cycling, headed to a Tibetan place for Lunch. Although the initial plan was to head to a place called Altaf’s Cafe, but for some reason, we headed to this Tibetan joint located inside the market. The ambience is pretty cramped up and but the food is great. On a friends’ recommendation we ordered the Beef Fry, Fried cheese Momos, and Chicken Noodles and along with it Gobi Manchurian for the veggies. Liked the Fried cheese Momos and loved the Beef Fry, but the noodles were a little bland. But, must add, all of it was worth the bucks.

The heavy lunch required us to head back and we finally explored the Coakers Walk, a scenic point to check the vast expanse of the Kodaikanal beauty. There are lots of Telescopes put to view closely, charges Rs 5, and is a perfect waste of your time and money. Stalls are lined around the stretch and if you’re interested, you can buy a few decorations for your home or even mementos around the lakeside area again.

Roaming around to finally land in one of the antique shops. This store had a lot of stuff and each of us bought a lot of stuff for ourselves. Most of it is wooden stuff and is comparatively cheaper from all the tourist places I’ve visited. The store’s name is “Danish Display” and would recommend you to pay a visit. It is near the Kodaikanal bus stand.

 

We packed our Dinner, Subway Sandwiches, and headed back to Bangalore. Must add here, the journey back might make you feel nauseous and precautions for the same should be taken.

To Wrap up this Kodaikanal Travelogue:

Kodaikanal was pleasant. Hill stations are generally quite similar from one another, but this is a great place for a short weekend trip. Head out and relax in the surroundings.

Kodaikanal Travelogue Revering Thoughts

Cheers to the amazing Kodaikanal Trip.

Also, if you are planning a trip to Kochi, Varkala, ChikmagalurAllepey, Mumbai, Pondicherry, Mangalore, Udupi, Chennai, you can read my Travelogues by simply clicking on these.

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