Category: Travel & Food (Page 1 of 3)

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Travelogue: The Calicut Chapter

You know you’re in a good place when the auto-waalas are nice to you. I mean, how often does that happen?

The weather seemed better than I expected. Humid. But manageable. Considering the hostel I booked didn’t have AC-dorms available, this was better.

I’ve become quite a regular Kerala-visitor and find myself more at ease here than any other place, even when I don’t speak the language. Of course, credit goes to the people of this beautiful state who always make an attempt to converse rather than leaving you high and dry to fend for yourself.

Calicut backpakers vintage hostel, where I stayed, wasn’t close to the beach (4 Kms away) but close to the markets. Else, the lazy-beach-bum that I am, would have stayed put at the beach itself. If you’re looking for a clean, cheap and safe place to stay in Calicut, this is it.

Except for a brief outing for breakfast, I remained confined in the hostel’s living area reading a book. I had decided to only head out when I really felt hungry, which happened somewhere after 2. Instead of taking an auto or a bus, I decided to walk more than 3kms to a highly rated restaurant named, Paragon Restaurant. Walking in that humidity I hoped the food better be worth the sweat.

And well, it was.

I just ordered a Biriyani. And, Loved it.

Post lunch, I took an auto to Kozhikode beach. Walking along the beach, measuring its entire length, I even ended up scaling the Rocky pathway till the end. All the while thinking, what if I fall?

The sides of this are lined with boats, big and small, anchored to the rocks on the side. On one side the waves keep crushing the rocks and on the other, these boats keep them in check.

On the Kozhikode beach one notices that the crowd mostly comprises of families chilling out together. I sat down with a chilled bottle of water while the cloudy sky tried its best to not let me and the sun meet. We both waited until the lights dimmed down and walked along the shores, drenching my feet in the water, for some time.

I had looked up a place named ‘Zain Hotel’, famous for its snacks and then headed off to the same. It is a 10-minute walk from the Kozhikode Beach and the vintage look of the hotel welcomes you to indulge in the menu full of snacks.

I don’t know the Malayali-names of these snacks but have eaten all of these at home at some point but with different names. Different names, of course. And yes, they were good. Especially for the nostalgic value attached to these dishes, prepared occasionally at most of Muslim homes.

Back in the hostel, adventure awaited. A tree fell down in the vicinity and the entire areas’ electricity went kaboom! Humidity and this happened. After a stroll down to the spot where it happened in the middle of the night, me, the caretaker and the security guard came back. A few hours of wait and I finally gave in to sleep.

Day 2:

The plan was to head to Kappad beach but before that, I needed to charge up my phone’s battery. All thanks to no-electricity! So, I headed off to nearby cafes in the neighborhood to get it done. Finally, one of the bakery shops helped push up the battery to 30%. Phew!

It’s tough to navigate when Google maps don’t pin point the bus services. With the help of two youngsters who guided me to the route, I finally made it.

This is the beach where Vasco Da Gama landed when he first came to India in the 1800’s. How cool, right? The historical reference adds so much value to the already amazing beach. From the Kozhikode bus stand, you can take a bus till Thiruvangoor for a mere 17INR (for 17kms) and take an auto/walk to the beach.

Bus to Mavoor bus stand (8 INR)

Bus from Mavoor to Trivangoor (17INR)

Trivangoor to Kappadbeach auto (40 INR)

So, I had this drink near Kassad beach. Vingegar+fruits+nuts and sugar solution added to crushed ice! Later came to know that this is called, ‘Churrandi Ice’.

Day 3:

The third day, started late. I had plans to head out to Beypore Beach. But I kept delaying it and only ended up heading out in the evening.

Apart from being another port town, the beach here has a path leading to the ocean. Similar to how Haji Ali dargah (in Mumbai) is located. Only at the end, there’s a view point instead. The whole pathway is lighted up and as the sun sets, it makes for a good view from the beach as well. I reckon it’ll be a good place to have a morning run as well!

The beach, however, isn’t clean unlike the other two beaches I went to. Mostly because of this being a port city, maybe?

I was, however, again lucky to reach just before sunset! 3 days, 3 sunsets and 3 different beaches!

At Beypore beach, had Churandi ice (yes, again!) and a plate of chana (not sure of the name) and then after it started to get dark, headed towards the bus stop.

Another amazing fact about Kerala is that you end up being near to mosques if you’re roaming around beaches. Prayed Maghrib at the nearby mosque and took a bus which dropped me in the town area of Kozhikode.

And when in town, ended up at this small stall of ‘Bhaskarettante kada’ to have a milk sarbath. This was my ‘find of the day!’. Finding something new to eat or even drink, is such a joy. One lives for such experiences when travelling. This Milk Sarbath was one of them. This place is located near Paragon Hotel. And I only ended up noticing the place because of the crowd that had gathered. This is just sugar syrup, Ice and Milk. That’s it. Not sure if they add something else in this. Later on, heard from someone that they add peanut powder in the same. The drink is filling enough and ensured that I skipped dinner.

I then bought some Kozhikode halwa from a street named after it: Sweet meat street! The halwa is a combination of Flour, Palm Sugar and is cooked in coconut oil. Of course, Northies have a different variation when it comes to ‘halwa’. But hey, as long as it’s good, who’s complaining?

Tip: Do ensure the packaging is perfect when you’re bringing it back home. If you leave this unattended, it easily attracts ants. Hashtag True Story.

Day 4:

After a good Beef+Porotta breakfast, I was lazying around and just finishing off the book and planned to do just that. And then decided otherwise and went walking around. Met Mohanlal, Dulqar and Thilakan on the way to the beach as well.

But before the beach, tasted Paragon’s Biriyani one more time! Added mutton liver fry as well 🙂 And of course, one last Churrandi Ice. And this is where I ended up knowing the name of this drink as well.

But the best thing about Calicut isn’t limited to its beaches, food or the graffiti around the city. It’s the people of Calicut. They are the nicest bunch of folks I’ve ever met. Right from the Autowaala (I know!) to my hosts, and everyone I came across. Will miss this!

I’ll definitely be visiting Calicut one more time and the hospitality of strangers would be one big reason to do so.

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Travelogue: The Gujarat Chapter

When we stepped onto the vast White desert of Kutch, the moment was worth the long trip to the western state of Gujarat; the view was the most different I’ve felt in all of my travels. Quite excitedly we ran towards the not-crowded end of the Rann where the salt was whiter than the one we were standing on. The unparalleled joy was child-like, and naturally, we even tasted the salt just for the kicks. This was on the penultimate day of our Gujarat Trip. And what a way to put an end to it all.

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So, how did we reach there? What all we did before and after? Here’s the travelogue of my Gujarat Trip.

We landed in Ahmedabad on a Thursday morning and after a brief rest at a nearby hotel, headed to explore the city.

First Stop: Sabarmati Ashram

Having skipped the breakfast, we headed straight to the nearby Restaurant, opposite to the Ashram, Toran Restaurant. We planned to have the lavish Gujarati Thali, and the place had that on the menu. Although, what we ate there didn’t quite meet our expectations.

However, the food was excellent, and we headed to the Lal Darwaza area where the famous Siddi Sayyied Mosque is.

Second Stop: Siddi Sayyied Mosque

The Mosque is renowned for the ‘Jali’ placed in the mosque, considered as the de facto symbol for the Ahmedabad city. The mosque isn’t huge and not in the best of condition as well. We were lucky enough to reach at Zohar and hence offered prayers as well.

The mosque has intricated and beautifully carved stone windows or jalis on its arches. The mosque was incomplete before the Mughals invaded Gujarat and hence this jali isn’t visible on all the windows.

Third Stop: Finding the Jhoolta Minar

From here, we walked towards the nearby market, just around the corner, to meet a sea of people shopping. We walked for more than two km to reach the Jhulta Minar. It was January, and yet the heat was starting to get to our head. The Jhulta Minar is next to the Railway station, and surprisingly no one around the place knew how to reach the Minar area. Although we could see the Minar dangling out barely meters away from us, we weren’t able to locate the path to its entrance. The Minar is next to the railway station, in the hustle bustle of the market. We then thought it was best to head to our hotel before the night’s journey to Bhuj.

Our Train tickets were on the waiting list and as luck would have it, got stuck at WL1/2/3! We decided to head to the bus depot at Paldia to take a bus for the overnight journey but before that decided to indulge in some street food.

Kulchas, Pav Bhaji, Dhokla was tasted from the market and wrapped up by some fantastic Rabdi (too Good)!

Landing in a small town before sunrise gives off a completely different vibe. We witnessed the same when our bus arrived. Even in the deserted bus stand with a few Auto Rickshaws vying to get you to their hotel, one lone Chai stall was still serving tea.

The hotel we had booked was just a few meters away from the bus stop; however, our rooms weren’t ready since we arrived early. Royal Guest House is where we stayed, and if you’re planning to stay over at Bhuj, this place is pretty cool. They even hooked up with a fantastic guide-cum-auto-driver who took us to Kutch and back, while making us experience the small villages in between as well. But more on that later.

If your day starts off with an amazing breakfast of Poha, what more can you ask for, right?

We headed to the nearby areas to explore the town.

First stop: Prag Mahal

Prag Mahal is a 19th Century palace in Bhuj, named after Rao Pragmalji who commissioned it. The palace is built in Italian Gothic architecture and red sandstone from Rajasthan.

The inside of the palace is an ad-hoc museum which gives you the feeling of an old haveli being cleaned up for the arrival of guests. The interiors speak of the lavish lifestyles of the kings before and provide a glimpse into their everyday life.

Second Stop: Aina Mahal

Next to Prag Mahal, in the same complex, is the Aina Mahal. The earthquake of Gujarat severely damaged the palace, and the ruins of the palace speak for themselves. A portion, undamaged one, now houses the museum. And it’s beautiful. You’re not allowed to photograph unless you’re willing to pay extra. However, we sneaked in a few photographs. The insides contain decorated corridors, a pleasure area for the Maharaja where dance performances happened. This is very similar to what the Mysore Palace has, and probably a lot of other similar palaces have, displaying the lavish lifestyles of the rulers of those times.

Outside Aina Mahal, there are handicraft shops to buy from the locals, just in case you’re interested.

It was Friday, and we offered prayers at the local mosque. The mosque had multiple pillars, unlike any other mosque I’ve been to. This can well perhaps be due to the severity of the earthquake. Just a guess though.

Third Stop: Umiyaji Dining Hall

Our quest to have the ultimate Gujarati thali finally ended at Umiyaji. If you’re in Bhuj, then this is a must-visit place for its amazing vegetarian offering. Oh, and the food is unlimited here. The owner roams around coordinating a busy gathering of people by arranging seats with a fantastic smile.

Tip: Do ensure you’re here before 3 PM to have their unlimited thali.

Fourth Stop: Bhuj Chattarthi

Pronouncing this place phonetically got us a few curious glances, but finally, we did end up at there. The board at the entrance says, ‘Open from Sunrise till Sunset’ and leads you to the ruins through a small park.

We just sat in the shade of the ruins while a few ‘Pre-wedding photoshoots’ adorned the other ruins and provided us some good entertainment.

Fifth Stop: Street Food

Heading back, we indulged in some street food in the Bhuj Market. From Dabelis to Pav Bhaji to some good ‘ol lemon soda. The street lights up with a flurry of stalls lined at the roadside. After stuffing ourselves up, we headed back to get some sleep to be ready for the big day. It was time for the Rann.

Rann of Kutch

Bhuj to Kutch is 100 kilometers, and we needed to start early morning to cover the villages leading up to the Rann as well.

So, we got ourselves an Auto Rickshaw to take us there. Yes! All it cost us was 2200 INR.

Along with the ride, we got an amazing guide who ensured that we know everything about the kutch way of life. It was a little challenging to get used to his Kutchi accent at first, but we talked throughout the trip about Kutch, the people, food habits, tourists that he regularly ferries around and why he stays in Kutch itself and not go anywhere else. He even told us as to when the JP Dutta movie, ‘Refugee’ was being shot how he was also part of it and Abhishek Bachchan even offered him to come over to Mumbai with him. Not sure how true is that, but talking seemed like it to be true.

First Stop: The Dabeli Breakfast

Before leaving Bhuj, we stopped at this roadside Dabeli Shop for fresh Dabelis to kick start our day and following it up with a cup of Chai.

And then we headed towards the Rann. The road gave us some impressive views of the barren lands as well as crops of Indigo and Pomegranate lined the roads, mud houses, people walking long distances by foot, under-constructed roads and small bridges, and lots of dust.

Second Stop: Nirona Village

We took a detour before heading towards the Rann by going to Nirona Village. This village has a few sets of families known for their artisanship.

Rogan Art is one such art form where castor oil is used to create pigments and painted on silk clothes.

Watching how seamlessly they create the art is wowsome. From pigments to the final art piece that it ends up into. We also got to see the design that gifted to Obama, created by these talented people. It was a dying art form, revived by this family along with a few others in the village and is slowly getting back the recognition it deserved.

We headed to another such family of iron-smiths who create iron bells.

The craftsmanship undoubtedly is what makes their artform more appealing along with the dedication with which they continue to put efforts into an age-old tradition. These iron bells can create music, ranging from SaReGaMa to a variety of tunes. Many of these bells also come attached with embroidered patches to add beauty to it.

Our next stop was at the doors of the artists who create colorful imagery on wood using clay. They showed us how they do it by painting clay on wooden utensils with so much detailing.

At the entrance, a group of women and girls sit in circles, selling many of these utensils as well as hand-made dolls.

We headed out towards Rann and before that treated ourselves with “Mava” at one of the roadside shops. You can find a lot of these lined along the roads and even eating little would feel like a mouthful. But it tastes so pure and amazing that I can still recall it even now.

Before heading to the Rann of Kutch, one must fill out papers due to its proximity to the Pakistani Border. Post the formality; we headed towards Kala Dungar or the Black Hill. On our way to the dungar, we came across people dressed in colorful Pathanis. I wanted to don one myself as we saw a myriad of colors splashed along with the Keffiyah. Bright and loud colors; leading the way to the Rann.

Third Stop: Kala Dungar

The hilly area is a magnetic field, and our driver even puts up a demonstration by letting the auto move on its own. The deserted road leading up the hill, while our auto criss-crossed its way up, made us feel like aliens out there in a different world. Also, glad that it was February, else roaming around this place in the summer would be no less than a punishment.

We rented two Camels to take us to the top and even added fancy turbans to our attire along with our rides.

Watching the border, some 80 km, from the hill is a peculiar feeling. Another country just a few kilometers away from where you’re standing. Wow!

Fourth Stop: Lunch

We headed back to have lunch at a place recommended by our guide-cum-driver and apparently this was the regular Gujarati food that people of this region eat.

The most uncomplicated food but very heartily served by the owner who was happy to talk to us and genuinely felt glad to have us there. We were told that we might not get good food over there near the white Rann and hence eat up as much as possible, which we did. And lots of buttermilk too.

Final Stop: The White Rann

Finally!

As soon as we enter the gates, watching the white Rann was pure bliss. Excited like kids, we ran on the Rann.

You know that feeling of finding food that tastes nothing like what you’ve ever tasted? That feeling of discovering something new? Well, this white desert gave us that feeling. An entirely different view of finding a spot never experienced with your set of eyes.

From the sunshine shining back from the field of salt to watching the sun go down with its crimson light spread across, is a cherished feeling that’ll stay back. I’m told that watching the Rann under moonlight is even more amazing. However, we arrived on a no-moon time and couldn’t do that. Not complaining though. This gives another reason to come here again on a full moon night.

We Headed out from Rann of Kutch to Bhuj by night time and then again catching a bus back to Ahmedabad. Arrived early in the morning at Ahmedabad, to roam a little more around the town after a bit of rest at one of the cheap hotel around the Lal Bazaar area.

We did make one other fantastic food discovery for our breakfast in the form of Khaman and Dhoklas at the famous shop named “Das Khaman shop”.

One of the softest Khamans and Dhoklas, I’ve had ever. These were just amazing, and the variety on display was staggering. I wish there were time to try more of these.

After roaming around for a few more hours around the Siddi Sayyed Mosque and the nearby market, we had lunch at a local non-veg restaurant. Our first non-veg meal in days!

It was their special Biriyani which looked different and had something new to offer. Not the best of biriyani we’ve had but then we’re always ready to try something different.

To kill time and rest peacefully, we headed back to the Sabarmati Ashram where the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was due for a visit the very next day, and hence preparations were in full swing.

Sitting on the riverfront, taking in the peacefulness that the ashram had to offer, is how I would’ve liked this amazing Gujarat trip to have ended. And that’s how it did.

Gujarat was a fantastic experience. From its incredible vegetarian food to its helpful people, the place is impressive. There’s so much more to Gujarat than just the places I visited, but getting a glimpse of the culture and the people, with only this, is a good feeling.

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The Best Places to Travel in Central America in 2018

[This is a Guest post contribution by Triphobo. TripHobo is the world’s largest repository of user-generated itineraries that helps millions of users to create their trips to more than 90K destinations across the world.]

Popular around the globe for Mayan ruins, Central America is one of the few places where you can visit one city and still have different types of travel experiences. You can plan a vacation to these beautiful tropical central American countries in 2018 to hike through the volcanic lands, explore the archeological ruins, camp in the lush forests, laze around on the pristine beaches, or simply enjoy the bustling nightlife in famous cities. Read on to know when and where you can go to have a perfect trip.

  1. Tikal, Guatemala – Tikal is one of the largest archaeological sites of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization. It can be a captivating experience to visit the ruins of an ancient Mayan city. One of the finest examples of art, culture, and architecture from the history, it usually takes a couple of days to explore the ruins and discover what secrets it holds. Wandering through the ruins of magnificent temples and palaces and admiring the thousands of years old carvings on the walls is something you should not miss. If you are a budget traveler, then there are numerous cheap accommodations around where you can stay comfortably.

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Best time to visit Tikal –  November to April

  1. Dominical, Costa Rica – This lovely, little town in Puntarenas is a surfer’s paradise. Its spectacular, pristine beaches are being popular tourist getaways. Those who love to catch a wave must head to this quirky town. Do not worry if you are not fond of sand on your toes, there are a plethora of things to do around here. Use an online trip planner to know more about Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge, Hacienda Baru Wildlife Refuge, Parque Reptilandia and Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary. These are the places that will take you to the heart of nature and will introduce you to exotic wildlife of Costa Rica. Try to visit during the wet season, May to November, to experience nature in all its glory as well as to save some money.

Best time to visit Dominical – Mid-December to April

  1. The Hummingbird Highway, Belize – It is surprising to see how some winding roads become popular tourist attractions. This major highway in Belize is also one of the most serene roads in the world. When you drive cutting through the mountains of Belize and pass lovely, little villages, vast forests, and majestic mountains, you will be awestruck by the sheer beauty of unspoiled nature. If you are a budget traveler, there is no better place than this to experience the countryside. There are numerous small hotels where you can stay overnight, and that too, without burning a hole in your pocket.

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Photo credits: Cephas

Best time to visit The Hummingbird Highway – Late November to mid-April

  1. San Blas Islands, Panama – Looking for a place to go island-hopping? This group of more than 360 islands and cays should be your next destination. Some of these islands are so tiny that you may not even find it on maps. This is a paradise for those who want to catch some tan without getting disturbed by the groups of tourists. Shores adorned with palm trees look postcard perfect whereas clear blue waters are great if you want to go snorkeling. Cheap food and cheaper accommodation make it one of the affordable destinations in Central America.

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Best time to visit San Blas Islands – February to March, September to early-December

  1. León, Nicaragua – León is a historically significant city in western Nicaragua. With more than 15 churches scattered around the town and colonial buildings with unique architecture, León has a different identity when it comes to attracting tourists. The magnificence of the Cathedral of León, the elegance of art galleries and warmth of people are some of the things that have become the identity of this city. If you have a couple of days, then there are eight volcanoes around. You can explore the rugged lands to get away from all the hustle and bustle. The city is home to exotic resorts as well as budget hotels. You can pick a place according to your budget.

Best time to visit León – December to April

Start packing your bags and get ready to visit the best places in Central America this year!

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The Joy Of Cycling

From being my #Cycle2Work partner to roaming around the Bangalore road; from as near as the local kirana store to as far as Mysore, this has remained by my side. It sounds very snobbishly boring to award the stature of this importance to a materialistic possession, but WTH! This one’s earned it.

From the sun shining brightly to rains lashing over, from potholes to footpaths, from muddy roads to the sweet asphalt, you’ve been there.

Few minor repairs and servicing aside, this one’s been perfect. I’ve never felt the need to upgrade and even with this being a 7-gear one, is an adequate ride on the roads over here. Although, I do wish the roads were better.

On days when I don’t cycle to work and left at the mercy of Uber/Ola, the distance of 9 kilometers to office ends up taking close to an hour and sometimes when their pooling Algorithm screws up, more than that as well. On Cycle, I can easily cover it in 30 minutes, irrespective of the Traffic. If the roads were any better the time can come down as well.

Back in the day, when I was on a Strava spree (Strava is a cycling/running measurement app), I’ve recorded a high of 22-minutes. Of course, I stopped using Strava because it was eating away the joy of cycling and making me trying to best-my-time.

People who don’t cycle assume it is for exercise or to stay fit. Frankly, these are just by-products (if any) of cycling. Sure, you can turn this hobby into an exercise, but I haven’t. And don’t plan it to be. This is more to do with convenience, leisure, and what I’ve come to realize is, to derive joy out of it.

Striving for a better Cycling year than the one that went by. And to those who plan to start cycling, there’s no better time to start than this new year.

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Travelogue: The Dandeli Chapter

It had been a while since I opted for a train for one of my trips. I was excited at the prospect of it and lucky enough to get tickets booked on time.

Destination: Dandeli.

Dandeli is a town in North Karnataka. It has the Second largest Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka which was designated as a tiger reserve in 2007. It is one of the few places for White River rafting in India.

Of course, there aren’t any direct trains running/crossing from Bangalore to Dandeli. Hence, I booked tickets till Londa Junction. (Yes, that’s how it is spelled). My friends, travelingDandeli-Travelogue_Pic-Bike-on-the-roads on their Motorcycles, were to join me there at the station, the very next morning. The prospect of a bike-trip was again exciting. I wasn’t driving and hence it was still exciting (and not scary) for my other friends.

After a breakfast of Puri-Sabji, with fluffy puris and mashed potato fried lightly, at one of the few roadside joints, dimly lit, we started off towards the town of Dandeli, on tarmac roads with greenery all around us. The fresh morning breeze racing past us as the town neared us. After roaming around, finding our own way towards the Kali River, we decided to take the resort package. It comprised of a night’s stay (Tent or a room), lunch and a breakfast. Along with it, the package included Zorbing, Boating, Swimming, Forest Treks, Cycling, Jacuzzi, Shooting and a Bon-fire to end the night.

The fresh morning breeze racing past us as the town neared us. After roaming around, finding our own way towards the Kali River, we decided to take the resort package. It comprised of a night’s stay (Tent or a room), lunch and a breakfast. Along with it, the package included Zorbing, Boating, Swimming, Forest Treks, Cycling, Jacuzzi, Shooting and a Bon-fire to end the night.

We were also given a map of the town and various sight-seeing places, which included:

  • Syntheri Rock
  • Ulavi Temple
  • Nagoda Backwater
  • Supa Dam

We headed towards Syntheri Rock and instead of off-roading the last 2 km stretch, walked along the route amidst trees and chirping of the birds.

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The giant rock with a stream of water from the Kalindi River flowing past it is a sight. The pleasant evening weather proved just the right fit for us to lose our shoes and let our feet dangle in the flowing water. One can sit by the stream and do nothing. I’m assuming there will always be a crowd here but pretty sure without them one can enjoy the view and sound of water, undisturbed.

Syntheri Rocks is a giant monolithic Rock located in the dense Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary.

As you head down towards the water, the view of this one rock fills up your eyesight.

 

 

 

As we headed back, the weather decided to literally spread water over our plans for further sight-seeing.

Instead, we headed to the town for a much-needed food break. A small restaurant called, Al- Kohinoor’s non-veg laden menu piqued our interests. Apart from having our lunch on the first day, we even followed it up for the second day. The food was good. Our orders included Beef Biriyanis (Plural, yes), Kebabs, Chaps, Liver and Fish Fry.

We had to drive down in the rain as it decided not to stop on our way to the Resort. The resort was pretty close by, but the route was blocked and hence we were forced to take a longer route.

It was already night by the time we reached and apart from dinner, dancing around the bon-fire and a late-night conversation under one of the many shacks, there wasn’t much to do. And I guess, that was the purpose of it all?

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The night was about getting some much-needed rest by tucking ourselves in the tent. The tent part was my first experience and although this was in a resort, still it was fun to be in one.

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Ideally, Dandeli is a place known for River Rafting. The reason for coming over to Dandeli was that! However, since it was raining and due to government restrictions, it was closed.

There was a trek through the woods for the large part of the crowd who were up at that time. The trek culminated into a scenic area with a stream of water at the end of it.

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Post this, we took a boat ride along the stream along with a very animated guide for company, who shared a few spooky Crocodile tales from around the area while we were in the middle of the water. Timing.

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While my friends zorbed in the river out there. I decided to carry on reading the book.

Post the activities, we decided to head off to Dushsagar Falls. There was a lot of discussions and after much deliberation, we headed towards the next destination. First stop was, ‘Castle Rock’ from where we either had to trek up to Dudhsagar or hop onto a goods train. Alas! A surprise awaited us.

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Apparently, they’ve closed the trek option due to multiple accidents in the area and the last train which crosses Dudhsagar which we hoped to get onto, left a few minutes back. The quaint little station even had messages warning about the same.

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But we had our tent with us, and decided to park ourselves for the night. And this part, right here at Castle Rock, was a good decision. This area was like a mystery and I’d probably need a separate post to talk about that.

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The town is out of a B-grade horror movie for the gloomy and foggy weather. Deserted as we walked in and made us wonder, do people even live here?

Answer : They do.

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Dandeli-Travelogue-Castle-Rock-Pics-Station-near-doodhsagar

Anyways, long story short, we put up our tent in the verandah of one of the guest houses and even ate a decent meal. The joy of doing this is irreplaceable. One of us was of the opinion to put a tent right here on the grass itself. Picturesque? Yes. But thanks to our skepticism, the rain at night would have troubled us if we had done the same.

Dandeli-Travelogue-Castle-Rock

Dandeli-Travelogue-Castle-Rock-Pics

As we headed out early morning enjoying the amazing view, once again, and wondering how come everywhere you go in Karnataka, the roads are amazing. But as soon as you’re back in Bangalore, the scene just changes!

I had a few hours to kill before my train arrived and ended up penning down my musings at Londa Junction, here!

Musings at Londa Junction

To Summarise my Dandeli Travelogue, it was more of a road trip where we made multiple and elongated pit stops. There were many things to explore in Dandeli and of course, the River rafting, but the roads are amazing and I’d suggest to take a car or a bike when you plan to head over to the place.

Musings at Londa Junction

Musings at Londa Junction

Waiting for a train in a non-crowded station has a calming effect on you. Or maybe coz, you don’t have much to do.

Londa junction is that station today. I know, for the hinterland folks, this might sound colloquially ‘funny’ (for the lack of a better word). A 3-platform station almost at the border of Karnataka-Maharashtra-Goa. 

A group of army men, with their military hair cuts, donning their trademark polo t-shirts with a slew of luggages, await close-by. 

A mother teaches reading to her daughter by asking ‘what’s written over there’. I so remember playing this with my sister and then trying the same with my brother. Yes, trying is the word. 

Across the other side of the platform, few dogs are lazying around for an extended sleeping session. It’s a national holiday, after all. Few dogs on this side are trying to become the alpha. By fighting it out, of course. Contrastingly, there are less folks fighting over recharge points than there are slots available. 

Aah! The life in a place like this. 

Heading outside, a slew of small shops and eateries serve food and tea. Both equally bad. The tea, a tad bit more. I’ve not had coffee since Friday. One more reason to head home at the earliest, only if the Indian Railways were on time. A few minutes back checked, to my amusement, the average speed of the Pudducherry ‘Express’ I’ll be traveling in, is 48km/hr! Looks like we’ll need a bullet train here as well. 

Coming back to the platform, the rush of the humans increases, as the dogs head over to another corner. The alpha-male debate seems to have been resolved, much to the discomfort of the passengers. 

I’ve strolled around the platform enough for now and probably head over to platform no. 3 where the train is supposed to arrive. But, probably a last Sprint to catch the train would be more habitual. 

I hope you, the reader, wasn’t looking for a connection to the myriad sets of descriptions above. Because, there isn’t any. 

Just my musings.  

Hampi-Travelogue-towards-town

Travelogue: The Hampi Chapter

There are places which emanate a characteristic vibe as their name pops up. Hampi, for me, is one of them. Hampi has been that unchecked item on my ever-expanding ‘places to visit in this part of the country’ list. But finally, it is ticked off that list.

Hampi- traditionally known as Pampa-kshetra, where Pampa was the old name of Tungabhadra river, around which Hampi is located.

A 2-day weekend road-trip, the ‘city of ruins; was visited. And even though, the rain did play spoilsport in keeping us inside our car or chilling around our cottage, the trip will be remembered.

We started off early in the morning, 7 of us, from Bangalore. The view on the road is supremely amazing! Like, one can sit by the window (which I make sure of) and take it all in. This, right here, is the best part of a road trip. Not to sound too cliched, but the best part of any trip is the journey towards that place.

Hampi-Travelogue-road

You see, what I’m talking about. The untouched beauty. The blues and the greens. And the road in-between breezing past it. And this isn’t all. You have the sunflower fields to do your own photoshoots. Full Filmy!

Hampi-Travelogue-sunflower-fields

Looks like those cheap photoshops where they add you in between flowers, eh? Well…!

When you’re on the road and the weather appears to be in a good mood, the scenery just keeps extending itself from one page to the other, forming a scrapbook on its own. Everything looks just not-ordinary. The purpose of traveling gets answers in return.

Chitradurga falls in route to Hampi and we took a very small diversion to the fort. Thankfully, it wasn’t raining and since it was really early morning (around 8 AM), not much of a crowd was present. We weren’t looking to spend time at the fort to ensure we reach Hampi at the earliest. Hence, instead of scaling up the top of the fort, we were content with stopping at one of the many peaks.

Hampi-Travelogue-Chitradurga-Fort-Nameplate

The majestic fort is a sight!

Hampi-Travelogue-Chitradurga-fort-view

‘Chitra Durga’ means ‘Picture Fort’. The fort is pretty well maintained and even though we selectively strolled around the fort without a guide, it was quite amazing. It is a series of several small hills, each overlooking the place. The view is a bliss. It was cloudy and that made it all an extra bit of drama for the eyes to behold.

Hampi-Travelogue-Chitradurga-fort-viewpoint

Hampi-Travelogue-chitradurga-fort

The fort was built over several years by the Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas and Hoysalas as well as the Nayakas of Chitradurga, feudal lords in the Vijayanagar Empire. There are 18 temples in the vicinity of the fort.

We continued on our journey towards Hampi with more photo-worthy moments for the hungry camera.

Hampi-Travelogue-towards-town

Hampi-Travelogue-hampi-town

Hampi-Travelogue-hampi-greenery

The route, as you enter Hampi, welcomes you with big boulders spread like arches like those ancient Greek kingdoms you see in period movies. In a way, this introduces you to Hampi.

We stayed on the other side at a cottage which overlooked paddy fields, a small stream, pebbles spread around. I so wish, we had more time to just chill here at the cottage itself. What more does one crave for? A book with a view? You have it here!

Hampi-Travelogue-places-to-stay-mowgli-cottage-view

Hampi-Travelogue-places-to-stay-mowgli-cottage

This is the dining area for the restaurant. Lots of board games to play while you enjoy the view along with decent food.

We did venture out on the first day in-between the start-stop rain and came across a small stream, trekked a little to just watch the sunset. This is what Hampi is mostly about, finding spots like these and absorbing the view.

Hampi-Travelogue-capturing-pictures

Hampi-Travelogue-capturing-pictures-camera

Hampi-Travelogue-sunsets

Hampi-Travelogue-sunset-points

Hampi-Travelogue-sunset-point-rocks

Hampi-Travelogue-rocks-evening

 

The night was more about getting some good sleep to make sure we explore the ruins, for which Hampi is famous for, the next day. However, we started off pretty late and with the rain pouring down, we had to hurry and squeeze in as much as we could.

However, in the morning we took a little stroll around the backyard of Mowgli Cottage. You can see the Virupakshi temple from across the stream. This area is great for a late-night campfire. But, of course, we missed that.

Mowgli-cotage-hampi Mowgli-cotage-hampi-stream

Here’s a list of places we covered on our second day. First up was, the Queen’s Bath which is outside the royal enclosure (which we visited next). The Queen’s Bath was created for the royal women but in most probability served as the private royal meeting place.

Hampi-Travelogue-Queen's-bath

Hampi-Travelogue-Queen's-bath-inside

Next to the Queen’s Batch, is the Royal Enclosure housing the Lotus Mahal, stepped tanks, Royal Elephant chamber and a number of other relics from the Vijayanagara empire.

Hampi-Travelogue-Lotus-Mahal-treeview

Hampi-Travelogue-Lotus-Mahal

The architectural style resembles a mixture of Vijayanagara and Mughal influence. The enclosure serves as a historical open museum depicting the era gone by with the ruins it houses. The adjoining gardens along the buildings, with trees around, serves as a viewing pod for tourists to sit and enjoy. It was raining and we were on the clock and hence roamed around to cover most of it.

Hampi-Travelogue-royal-enclosure

Hampi-Travelogue-royal-enclosure-view

 

This Royal Elephant chamber is one structure that seemed better preserved to this date among the ruins in Hampi. The dome-like structure for elephants displays an Indo-Islamic architecture style and was built during the Vijayanagara Empire.

Hampi-Travelogue-royal-elephant-enclosure

Hampi-Travelogue-royal-elephant-enclosure-bull

Hampi-Travelogue-royal-enclosure-museum Hampi-Travelogue-royal-enclosure-view

Next up were the Virupaksha Temple and the nearby ruins housing other temples, with boulders spread around the hills. The Virupaksha Temple and the adjoining areas are one of the main tourist attractions of Hampi. There was some renovation work underway at the temple and it started to rain when we reached there.

Hampi-Travelogue-virupaksha-temple

Hampi-Travelogue-virupaksha-temple-view

The only restaurant, other than our Mowgli Cottage, we went to was the most-talked-about Mango Tree restaurant. The ambiance is quite hippie and the food has variety, although pretty hyped. But with very few restaurants around this area, this was the default choice.

Hampi-Travelogue-lemon-tree

We saw ‘Lemon mint nana’ on the menu and ordered it, after having had a really good one during the Gokarna Trip. However, it wasn’t the same. Apart from this, their special Pizza, Pasta, and a few other things were ordered. Food was good but nothing unique to write about. Although, I would suggest to still visit this place.

It was time to head back to Bangalore. It had already started raining and after a few GPS-hassles, we were finally back on track.

Hampi was a great experience. There are so many things to do around and if you have even the slightest interest in architecture and history, you’ll get to see so many stories unfold in front of you. It gave me the feeling of ‘wish-there-was-more-time’ while returning. And that is what every place should make you feel. Don’t you think? Inviting and welcoming!

 

Have you visited Hampi? Share your experiences or travelogues in the comments, below!

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

Goa Travelogue

The Goa Plan

We’ve all been part of those comversations which have “Chal Goa chalte hain” innumerable times. School, college or any group of friends always have this plan for Goa.

We all know what happens to those plans.

My first visit to Goa, two years ago, happened to be a solo trip. Apart from my crazy impromptu planning, this ‘Goa plan’ was the reason behind it. Ki ab chal hi jaata hoon, akele hi sahi. 

There’s something about the place that people from every corner of the country plans to go there. Maybe even Goa wale folks also end up saying, Chal Goa chalte hain.

The latest planning session is with my school friends. This ‘Goa plan’ seems to have finally found some direction after weeks of being postponed. But hey, unless we reach Goa, there’s no surety of it either.

The frequency with which people get excited when planning for the trip comes to a standstill as soon as one of them goes, ‘Yaar.. nai hopaega’.

Its not like I’ve not done this ever. I’ve also done the same with my version of the classic Indian head nod.

But then what are plans for, when they cannot be changed ?

Or was it promises ? Ummm.. Aah, this works too!

After-effects of Travel

As soon as the bus entered the hustle of Bengaluru. I was like, Finally! It was close to 2 hour late and the journey was not very comfortable, to put it sensibly. 

That feeling of taking a proper shower in your own bathroom is unmatched. Familiarity is a sucker!

As the day went by, and I ended up in office before my scheduled ‘arrival’to a few, ‘Woah! You’re before time, today’ greets and with an evident tan,work and meetings piled up. 

Excitedly describing the trip to my colleague. Singular. Because, number of people I hang out at office. Duh!

As I motioned back home, peddaling back home, I missed the beach. The noise. The Water and even the damn sun. Okay, not that sun. A little, perhaps. 

I’m certain, I’ll head back to Gokarna on a whim. Like I’d do with Varkala or Fort Kochi. The vibe. 

The beach. The rocks. The trek. And even Zostel. 

I wanted to write the Travelogue right away, before I add another one to the “drafts”, but I Gokarna tells me, be a little Laidback. Chill kar, thoda. 

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.

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