Posted in bangalore, biryani, coorg, coorg hills, dum biryani, hills, india, indian, indian cuisine, karnataka, kaveri, kushalnagar, madikeri, mutton biryani, mysore, mysore palace, namdroling monastery, resort, south indian, south indian cuisine, thallakaveri, travel, travel diaries, traveller, travelogue, Uncategorized, western ghats

TRAVELOGUE COORG

We live in the vicinity of the Himalayas and it seems to be our first choice for a weekend getaway or even a long vacation. But when we are not yearning for an adventurous journey or a challenging trek, the hills of South India seem to be our next option.
Kodaikanal and Ooty have been on our bucket list for a long time now but we wanted a place away from the hustle bustle of the city life and touristy crowd. And that is where Coorg came in. No internet connection for two days with minimum network coverage can definitely leave anyone mad, but not when you are surrounded by three big hills, coffee plantation, colonial wood cottages, a small pond and an excellent hospitality.
Coorg is an enchanting travel destination located in the Western Ghats. When you head from Bangalore to the hilly slopes, the winding terrain bewitches you and it is difficult to take your eyes from the alluring scenic beauty.
Where to start: It takes around 6 hours from Bangalore to Coorg by a car through NH 2575 and en route you can enjoy the beauty of the famous Ramgarh hills where the legendary Sholay was filmed.
Pit stops: Kamat Upachar and Nakshatra
We had a light breakfast at Kamat located at Mudhugere, Bangalore Mysore Highway. The authentic South Indian Upma is to die for – a novelty for us North Indians.
A heavy lunch awaited us at Nakshatra located at the Bypass road, Hunsur on the Bangalore Mysore Road or NH 275. The chicken dum biryani was exceptional and it was the Mysore version of the biryani and was served with a spicy hot saalan or rasam. The vegetable curry was good though extra hot with the flavours of gun powder and garam masala igniting a lava on my palate. Washrooms are clean and ambience is good.


Just two hours from Coorg, we took a halt at Kushalnagar, which is home to several Tibetan settlements as well as the abode of Namdroling Monastery. A splendid Tibetan temple with a golden pagoda occupies the crest here. At around 4pm, you can hear the booming Buddhist chants when the monks gather in the main temple for their evening prayers. The chants sooth your clamorous soul and bring the eluding peace.
You can buy prayer flags, Tibetan handicrafts and paraphernalia from the shop at the starting of the monastery.

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The uphill drive starts after Kushalnagar with very narrow paths. The roads become narrower as we proceed with the forests and the sideway plants/trees growing thicker and denser. The roads are not dangerous compared to the Himalayas, but they are deserted with no sign of a living being for miles. So it is better to avoid driving or even visiting the resort after 6pm.
The roads are not jittery and you will not feel even an impulse to vomit. But if you are a newbie, better to carry Avomin.
We had booked a resort, Leisure Vacations Three Hills, which is located in the valley and three giant hills surround it. It had three separate cottages and there were rooms in the main villa as well, but we had booked a cottage for ourselves and each morning we were greeted with a raw, enchanting natural beauty. There is a little pond nearby and one can spot the ducks gracefully swimming in it.


We visited Talakaveri the next day which is the place where the river Kaveri originates. A temple is situated here and because of the extreme height at which it is located you will be greeted by clouds which will be floating away in front of your eyes. Now if that doesn’t leave you flabbergasted, what will!

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It is advisable to wear knee length or longer clothes to this place as you will not allowed to enter the temple. Additionally, they will rent out the traditional “lungi” or the wrap around garment at a meagre price of 10 bucks.


There are about hundreds of steps located near the temple and after climbing them, you can witness the whole picturesque and vividly green valley from the top. Though it would have been better if the temple authorities allow the tourists to wear footwear while climbing the stone steps, especially when the ground on the top is not levelled properly and has huge stones and boulders lying carelessly.
Our stay at the resort was pretty luxurious and relaxing. The steward assigned to us – Mr. Shiva took excellent care of the our requirements and was there to guide us about the place. We wished for authentic Coorg cuisine to be served to us and he, along with the cook presented the most explosive dishes to us. They were pretty new to us, extremely flavourful and way too spicy.

 

 

The dining area was in the main villa and the feasts were prepared on demand. We came to know about a local favourite here – Karimpettu – a rice and sooji steamed ball taken with spicy vegetable curry. Another favourite was the bread omelette they served us in the breakfast – fluffy yet thin omelettes wrapped around raw breads.

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After a stay of two nights, we headed back to Bangalore and what better than Mysore for an afternoon stop over?
Note: Do not forget to buy home made chocolates, organic honey, spices and cosmetics from the local shops while driving from Coorg to Madikeri. You won’t regret any bit of it.
Our next stop over was at Desi Platter, Mysore were we got to gorge upon the exploding Mysore mutton dum biryani and a vegetarian meal before heading on to the famed Mysore Palace.


The famed Mysore Palace, which is the official residence of the royal family of Mysore was next on our itinerary. Towering over you, the behemoth palace casts a spell on you with its beautifully crafted walls which light up in the evening.

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It was built by the 24th Raja of Mysore and is exquisitely designed. The glittery yet pastel shades of the ramparts and the ceilings can give those French balustrades a run for their money. The graceful and gigantic pillared halls echo with the voices of the tourists without losing their mysterious sheen.

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The marriage hall or the Kalyan Mandapa is a unique octagonal shaped hall with symmetry raging in every mosaic and motif. We were awed by the glass panels situated towards the top of the hall and we are pretty sure you will be too.

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Posted in himachal, himachal pradesh, himalayas, hot water spring, kasol, kheerganga, manikaran, mountain, mountains, parvati river, travel, travel diaries, traveller, travelogue, trek, trekking, Uncategorized, waterfall

Travelogue – Experience of a lifetime at Kasol and Kheerganga

Kasol – the hub of hippies and the adopted home of many Israelis who fell in love with the Himachal Himalayas – is a must visit destination if you love the mountains and the nomadic way of life. This area is bustling with cafes serving authentic Israeli and Lebanese dishes with the occasional European preparations coming now and then.

The roar of Parvati greets you and it won’t let you sleep in the star studded night. The river is pretty ferocious and is so deep and dangerous that no water sports and navigation have ever been executed here. Just one small mistake could land you in deep (literally and metaphorically) trouble, so river side adventures should be treated with caution.

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To satiate our hunger pangs, our trek group decided to explore the dishes at the Evergreen Café, situated in the main Kasol market. This popular outlet is always full and you need to wait for at least 15 minutes before you can get a cosy little corner for your group. I relished the chicken schnitzel which was a crumb fried dish of chicken breast and was a bit dry in taste though it was served with a very fine hummus. Another dish I tasted was penne pasta in pesto sauce and buffalo cheese, which was good but not excellent. I sloshed down these delicacies with a glass of mint and cucumber juice which was freshly prepared.

In the evening, we visited the Manikaran Gurudwara where meals are prepared for almost 100k pilgrims with the hot waters of the Manikaran geyser. The holy site is swarming with tourists and better planning and management of arrangements is definitely required.

Day 2: We start for Barshaini from which the Kheerganga trek begins. The road from Kasol to Barshaini via Manikaran is not so smooth and the frequent bumps will leave you exhausted. We went on a long weekend in June and the already narrow roads were jam packed with pilgrims who had decided to park their vehicles on the main road. Lesson learnt: never ever visit these beauties during long weekend or summer holidays.

Barshaini is the site where the mighty Parvati and the Tosh rivers meet and flow together as Parvati. There is a damn been constructed there and I am scared to think what this so called development will do to the lovely natural beauty of Kheerganga.

The trek starts with the descent of about 40-50 heavy steps and then a steep ascent through a dry terrain where the blazing Ra will leave you sun burnt. The occasional chants of “Om Namah Shivay” at a local temple will definitely mesmerise you while you trek the first 2-3km.

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After about 3km, you will start encountering thriving green forests with narrow trails and small cascades through which you can fill your water bottles. The protected apple orchards will entice you but hey, you are not allowed to touch those fresh stunners.

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After 3 hours, you will reach the Nakthan village which has small café serving fresh pineapple and watermelon juices. It is recommended to have these energy boosters since you will be sapped of all the vivacity that you had at the onset of the trek. Washrooms are also available here although they are not very clean.

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After 1-2km, we decided to have lunch at a small eatery by the name of Midway Camping at Rudranag which specialises in providing lunch, dinner and breakfast. I hogged on their Pahadi thali which had yellow dal with ajwain (carom seeds), tangy pahadi kadhi, sautéed potato cauliflower and chappatis. Very different flavours which I reminisce till this day.

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After a hearty meal, you are determined to move faster and after a while you encounter a bridge which crosses the wild Parvati river. Here it is descends from a huge waterfall and is scary to look at, especially when you have acrophobia. Just when the bridge ends, the luxuriant greenery of coniferous forests with little hints of sunlight commences. The air is redolent with the aroma of mountain flowers and alpine grasses. This stretch extends till the Kheerganga meadow and is comparatively cooler. The soothing air heals your sunburnt skin and tired eyes.

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But the steepness returns with an even more treacherous trail. Since it is a moist area with occasional stones, the trail is slippery and is arduous to climb with a 4kg backpack without a stick. I sometimes wonder where I would have been if not for the helpful wooden stick and the protective trekking shoes.

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The last 1km is the most difficult one. The steepness confounds you and one has to stride every step with extreme carefulness. The rocks are loose here and you have to use your stick to find the stable ground first.

The last 400m – the steepest– I seriously marvel how I hiked this particular portion. Pure concentration coupled with perseverance to reach before 5pm did the trick. And the stunning view you get of the alpine meadow surrounded by lofty peaks is breath taking.

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Since we went during peak holiday time, the meadow was not the pristine one you see in the pictures. It was overcrowded with a host of camps and cafes. Too many tourists definitely mar the experience of going to a secluded place.

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The main attraction apart from the 360 degree view of the mountains is the famed hot spring. There are separate sections for both the genders and after a tiring trek of 14km, you do need a Jacuzzi to relax in. Except that this is a natural one with sulphur in it, calming your aching nerves and sore muscles. But it is advisable to not linger in the steaming waters for more than 20 minutes as it tends to make you feel drowsy.

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A hot cuppa of Pahadi tea, vegetable fritters and a glass of banana shake return you to your morning energy levels.

The descent is easier and it can be completed within 4 hours in contrast to the ascent which takes 6 hours. While waiting for our jeep, we came face to face with an adorable café by the name of Prem where a mother-daughter duo serves the most decadent dishes with so much love! I tasted the Thukpa, the Nutells crepes and the black gram watery curry with parathas and all of them were excellently done. Do visit this café at Barshaini when you return from Kheerganga.

Best time to travel: March to May. Not recommended in the peak season because of human traffic on the trail.

Travel essentials: Water proof trekking shoes, high grade sunglasses that provide side protection, SPF 50+ sunscreen, full length clothes with a trekking jacket, a proper backpack, ORS mixed with your water, fruits and chocolate bars.

Indian style washrooms are available at the site.

The trek was organised by Kamakshi Pal, an avid trekker and travel blogger who has trekked Kheerganga 17 times.

Posted in chennai, covelong beach, mahabalipuram, pondicherry, promenade beach, travel, travel diaries, traveller, travelogue, Uncategorized

Travelogue – the mighty trio of Chennai, Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry

A chauvinistic land known for the Tamil pride is an enigma for us Delhiites. So when I decided to visit this quaint capital, little did I know that a cultural shock eagerly awaited me.

The common thing that I observed at all the three locations was the general laid back attitude – we are used to the swiftness of life and such places offer a relaxed pace – snail’s pace I shall say.

Our stay was at South Chennai, so we decided to visit the nearby places. First in line was the Covelong beach which is a fishermen’s one located on the outskirts of Chennai. The netted boats of the hardworking fishermen adorn the length of this beach of brown sand. This beach is a lovely place to visit but the vegetarians amongst us won’t be too keen on it considering the strong aroma of the fresh catch and the way some bits and pieces of fishes touch your feet as the water caresses your feet.

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Fish lovers can also spot some street vendors selling the local delicacies – I did not dare to try these one though!

If you love colours and classy French architecture and cuisine, then Pondicherry should be on your go to list. The adorable French colony situated about 150km from Chennai can be reached in a four hour road trip along the East Coast road with a running sea view on the left side. My journey was a peaceful one with occasional rests along the tree lined road and snacking on pineapple chaat and coconut water.

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Paradise beach here is one of the major attractions for the beach lovers. Fashioned out of brown sand, it is clean and well maintained. The ferocious waves of the Bay of Bengal keep washing this beach and you can have a gala time drenching yourself in the playful waters. Additionally, there are various local cuisine stalls available here and I was fortunate enough to taste a freshly prepared fish snack – it was okay though.

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If you are going on a long weekend like we went, you are bound to find it too crowded. Too congested to even move and visit the authentic French cuisine based restaurants.

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But you will definitely fancy a walk along the pavement lining the Promenade beach. The late night stroll is relaxing here though the sunrise in the wee hours of the morning should not be overlooked. Promenade is a rocky beach, so the slippery rocks should be treated with caution. There are a host of cafes and hotels along this beach and it is better to book/throng them during your stay there.

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The colourful homes of the French settlers here will leave you spellbound. Yellow, pink, white, mustard, red – you name them, they have it. The classic French architecture is the added icing on the cake. Young girls riding their bicycles to school and guiding you to your destination is another experience in itself.

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Since it is a sleepy little town with a laid back attitude, you would not get the special French breakfast in any of the cafes here before 9am. We thronged the whole white town to look for bakeries and restaurants opening up at 8am and after much hard work, we were able to find the Indian Kaffe Express which serves French breakfast but not before 8:30am. Pretty late ha?

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Mahabalipuram can be visited through the same East Coast Road and is about 50 km from Chennai. It was initially called Mammalapuram and was the capital of the Pallava king Narsimhavarman during the early medieval period. The famous Ratha or chariot temples dedicated to the five Pandavas are the major attractions here – the impressive rock cut architecture with inlaid relief is a sight to behold. There are huge boulders depicting Arjuna’s penance and Descent of the Ganges – ancient folklore hewn on these giants.

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The Shore temple is another attraction here but unfortunately, we were not able to visit this one.

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Best time to visit: October to January

Hotels should be taken on the outskirts of Chennai so as to save time on travelling to the East Coast road.

Better to avoid on long weekends

Posted in dhauladhar, himachal pradesh, himalayas, kangra, khauli valley, mountains, travel, traveller, travelogue, Uncategorized

Travelogue – Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh, India

Dharamshala – the residence of the respected Dalai Lama, the second capital of Himachal Pradesh, the jewel of the mighty Dhauladhar mountain range and the abode of one of the highest cricket stadiums should be on your bucket list if you are a mountain person. It is a paradise for the trekkers – having so many trails towards Triund, Mt. Dhauladhar, Chamba, Kangra etc.

I went there on a department trip and our stay was at the Snow Monk Camp, nestled in the Khauli valley in Kangra. There are Volvo and deluxe buses available from ISBT and Majnu ka Tila in Delhi till Kangra and from Kangra where the road narrows down, you can take a tempo traveller or a local bus. You can also board a train till Pathankot but it runs for only a few days in a week and has the tendency to get cancelled or late.

Since we went in the first week of March, heavy downpour greeted us and the mountain in front of us was covered in glistening snow in a matter of 15 minutes.

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For starters, I have never been a mountain person, though I have travelled to Shimla and Solan more than an average traveller, considering their nearness to my city and my father’s official tours to these regions. The altitude sickness coupled with acrophobia is a lethal combination and I have been no different. But this trip to Dharamshala was an important milestone on my travel journey as I was able to overcome my fear of heights and trekking.

Since it was raining profusely on day one of our outing, all the team building activities were cancelled and instead we decided to go for a 2.5 km long trek (single side) in the surrounding areas. The rain was wreaking havoc now and then and the trail had become quite slippery. But still, some of of the travel enthusiasts amongst us geared up for the challenge. We braved small water filled pits, slithery steps and stinging nettle on our sojourn. I was able to overcome my irrational fear of heights to an extent as walking and climbing without slipping was a priority then. But still, I stumbled quite a few times and my lone pair of shoes got wet in an already moist and cold environment.

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The night was a starry one sans any sort of electricity. A raging cold storm penetrated our bones – I had never ever experienced this sort of iciness in my entire life. The famed “Dilli ki sardi” is nothing compared to the biting cold that we encountered that night.

Day two came up with a bright and sunny morning and I was relieved to find my shoes all warm and dry. This was the main trekking day and we had to travel a distance of 9 km on foot towards the starting point of a glacier.

I had a heavy breakfast of milk, eggs and aloo parantha – thank god for that! You do need a heavy diet before going on a long trek as the continuous walk on an uneven terrain saps you of energy. Another precaution that I took was to carry a very small pouch carrying ORS satchets and power bank. Cellphone and hand sanitizer were meant for the pockets.

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The terrain was relatively easy to begin with but got tougher with the passage of time and distance. We went from the Khauli village to a dense jungle along the Khauli river with numerous small cascades and waterfalls in between. The width of our trail was small – only one person could walk at a time with the rocks on the left  and the valley on the right. We also encountered small rocks and boulders which encouraged us to use our calf muscles more efficiently. And some lovely meadows enchanted us by providing a perfect resting place for our tired bodies.

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The total distance of 9 km had an elevation of 900m. So basically, the trail increased gradually but was not too steep. This was a blessing for a person like me who is not used to trekking.

I was somehow able to traverse the whole distance without any qualms or tantrums. I quiety went on, sometimes stopping and soaking in the natural beauty, sipping ORS and eating oranges while on rest and clicking pictures of the relatively unexplored area. At the end of the trek, we did not see the glacier as it had receeded but I was still happy as I had undertaken a long and arduous trek with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. The trekking instructor even complimented me on my achievement and was baffled to find out that this is my second trek and the first one which is successful. (I am not counting Vaishno Devi, I was helped by my friends there).

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While on return to our camp site, it started raining and we had to move faster, My warm and dry shoes got waterlogged again and I undertook a 7 km long return on a precarious terrain in wet shoes. Since getting back to the comfortable and cozy camp beds was a priority, I did not let the sogginess come in my way.

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When I reached the camp and finally took the Pumas out, they were soggy beyond repair and my feet had shrunken due to wetness. But the sheer joy of successfully completing a trek with no anxious moments made me forget all that and I happily donned on my slippers and went on to have a few mouthfuls to compensate for the lost calories.

Posted in cave, dehradun, robbers cave, travel, traveller, Uncategorized

Mini travelogue: Adventures at Robbers cave, Dehradun

Never knew that an office colleague’s marriage at Dehradun will bring an opportunity for a visit to the famed Robbers cave a.k.a. Guchhu Paani. Before this serendipity, I never had even a glimpse of a cave and the associated pebbled streams. Since I ardently believe in first times, I decided to explore this natural heritage.
I went in the month of February, so the place was definitely colder and a watery cave invites more iciness. We had to ditch our warm socks and shoes and take the journey in the humble hawai chappals. There is a special place for the storage of foot wears, so you need worry about your expensive Nikes getting stolen.

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This cave is actually a very narrow one with a 10m waterfall and has a slender gorge after the refreshing falls. The overlying rocks over the water fall are pretty slippery and I was quite apprehensive of crossing them to see the beautiful gorge.

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Considering my low tolerance for mercury dipping temperatures, I did not dare to experience getting drenched in the falls but I would recommend you to try it if you are going in warmer months. The water is fresh because it is just coming from the melted glaciers and is falling from an altitude of 10m.

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After getting up on the rocks and then getting down, the narrow serpentine gorge starts. Since the stream has a shallow bed covered with rocks and pebbles, one should be careful to carry those pair of slippers otherwise your heels will have a pain to remember. The icy cold water does provide some relief but after a while your feet give up.
There is a local vendor after a few metres who sells maggi and momos and somehow they did not taste very appealing. But the owner assists you in your sojourn and recites the tales of this stream and how he saves the lives of people during floods. He does captivate you to an extent.
Climbing barefoot on the rocks and walking with naked heels on the cold pebbled stream was a painful experience; but now when I think about it, it was adventurous, considering the fact that we had a marriage to attend in the evening. Who says life has to be all ordered and perfect?

Posted in benaras, ganga, ganges, travel, traveller, Uncategorized, varanasi

Varanasi Diaries

Benaras, the spiritual city, the cultural abode, the seat of the Dharamachakra and the four lioned Ashokan pillar and the land of sweet obsessions, should be a must visit place on a traveller’s bucket list. I never intended to visit Benaras because I had a common misconception that it was a too religion driven place, but trust me, there is more to this metropolitan city than temples.

Yes, you can spot a temple after every 500m – small, medium or large. But the composite culture of this place is one of a kind. This is the same place where the Japanese have built their Buddhist temples and Pt. Bismillah Khan played his Shehnai to glory. This is the same place where the very famous fabric of our country – the Benarasi silk has been woven by people from myriad backgrounds and the Paan has passed on to the whole country. The prestigious Benaras Hindu University is here only and one of the oldest temples of India – the Kashi Vishwanath stands mighty here. This is the oldest city of India and is one of the prominent places where the Ganges passes, so why not pack your bags for this place on your next visit?

Best time to travel: October to April as the scorching heat in north India and the monsoons wreak havoc here in the remaining months.

Places to visit:

Ksheer Sagar:  This city is famous for its sweets. And Ksheer Sagar does not disappoint you when it comes to the different varieties of sweets that it has to offer. It is a heaven for a person who is obsessed with sweets. So I had Chamcham, Kheer kadam, Malpua sandwich and Chaine ke Bade.
We all must have eaten malpua but this place devised a new way to serve this age old delicacy in the form of a sandwich.
Moving onto this amazing sweet, Chaine ke bade. They were just like the Dahi bada that we all had once but the surprise was that these badas were sweet.

Assi ghat: If you love sunrises, then relish the one here. The orange ball of fire rising over the Ganges is a sight you will cherish for your whole life. Since the past two years, Ganga aarti has been performed every day on this ghat and luckily when I went there, Mani from A.R. Rehman’s musical troupe gave an enchanting performance. You can walk to the other ghats along the river and savour a boatride. Since this is a spiritual city, the citizens rise early to perform their Yoga and meditation activities on the ghats.

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Dhashwamedha Ghat: A boat ride just before the evening aarti is highly recommended. There are around 87 ghats along the Ganges and the boatman takes you to all of them and recounts the historical anecdotes associated with them. The most interesting one is associated with the Harishchandra Ghat. The boatride is followed by the beautiful spectacle of the Ganga aarti, where the pundits perform aarti using different paraphernalia. Sitting on the boat is akin to watching poetry in motion – an enchanting and divine experience.

Sarnath: History buffs, this is the place for you. The Dhamek stupa where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon should not be missed. In the earlier times, there was a Buddhist Vihara here and you can see the remnants. The fact that this whole complex is more than a thousand years old showcases the engineering feat of those times.

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The Sarnath museum should also be on your go to list as here lies the majestic Ashoka Pillar. We all must have seen images of this edict in our books but to savour it standing there in all its glory is a completely different experience, one that cannot be fathomed while sitting in our classrooms and reading about it. The Dharma Chakra which graces our National Flag is also present in this museum. The museum also houses the excavations from different periods. Majority of these excavations belong to the Gupta period, which was a golden age for the ancient Indian culture. Walking through this museum is like going  through the fading yellow pages of a book that was read ages ago.

Adjacent to the Sarnath complex, are some Japanese Buddhist temples which are peaceful and offer you a whole gamut of cultural experiences.

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Ramnagar Fort: Situated 14 kilometres from the city, the fort exudes grandeur. It is a standing reminder of the long forgotten era, the time in which the fort was flooding with riches and wealth. The museum in the fort houses American vintage cars, medieval costumes, palanquins, armoury filled with swords and old guns. However, the present condition of this once magnificent fort on the banks of the Ganges is deplorable. It has not been well maintained and you can spot the usual paan stains.

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Posted in andaman, andaman islands, havelock, india, island, islands, travel, traveller, trip, Uncategorized

Andaman Diaries

Though late than never! It has been two years since we visited the very beautiful islands of Andaman and now we have got some time to write about it. We’ll share our experiences here as well as advice the readers on the do’s and do not’s. You can consider this a travel blog.

November to March is the best time to visit this place, considering its nearness to equator. And you need to book your flight tickets, ship tickets and hotel two to three months in advance. And yes, since you are going in the so called honeymoon season, do not under any circumstances, leave the bookings to the last minute.

According to us, if you are visiting these set of islands, it is better to go for a week and a half. Why? Because this is one place you are not going to visit again (talk about burning a hole in your pockets). And when you do visit, try to explore the islands which are allowed to be seen by tourists. We went for 4 days and we regret not visiting some islands.

There are three routes available for reaching Port Blaire through flight. Direct flights from Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi are there so you can first reach these cities according to your convenience and plan accordingly. We went from Delhi to Chennai and from Chennai to Port Blaire. And yes, these flights are not flying with every day.

Here is our day wise breakup of the places we visited :

Day 1 : We reached Port Blaire at 7a.m. in the morning. Port Blaire is a mountainous island, so you will experience slightly winding roads which are well maintained. The morning has a fresh airy feel to it because of the maritime influence. The people here are welcoming and polite and they will advise you to go here and there.

We stayed in a government guest house because it was a family trip. After resting for two to three hours, we went to a nearby South Indian restaurant Annapurna. You will find a host of South Indian restaurants here and can expect some amount of authenticity in the dishes served.

While roaming down the streets, you will feel the warm sun and the swift moving sea breeze. This is to be cherished.

During the day, we visited the Cellular Jail which housed the brave freedom fighters exiled by the Britishers. We saw the Light and Sound show, which depicts the saga of the heroic freedom struggle, in the evening. This place is a must visit, considering the historical factor associated with it and the ease with which the show is presented. The show will surely move one’s heart and is presented in such a beautiful and heart wrenching way that one is left emotional. The tickets are available from 3pm and it is better to grab them before they are sold out.

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Day 2: Havelock is one island that should be on your go to list. Why? Because the pristine beaches there, are on the third number in Asia. And the ocean side resorts are soothing to the core.

Ships – private as well as government ones ply between the different islands of the archipelago and you need to carry the necessary belongings. Our ship was in the morning and it took 3.5 hours to reach the island. For a city dweller, the ship moving swiftly in the waters of Bay of Bengal is a treat. The ship is travelling at 20 knots, so do expect flowing winds and water splatter. There are different sections in the ship where you can keep your bags and sit. And yes, there is no nauseating feeling.

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Havelock is a lovely island and has a host of beach and water facing resorts. Ours was the Dolphin resort at Vijaynagar beach and was a government one. It is available to government officers only. For private ones, the starting range is 4000-5000 INR.

The ocean facing resorts are a sight to behold. They are constructed a few inches above the ground so that periodic flooding of ocean waters does not damage the structures. Each resort has its own restaurant and bar and you have to pre-order your preferences because every dish is freshly made. We ordered prawns and fish and the whole course took 1.5 hours. Pre-orders are to be kept in mind while travelling here.

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Our evening was spent at the Vijaynagar beach and it was not as good as the Radhanagar one but still serene. You can spot a host of dead corals on the beach and it is better to be careful while dipping your feet in the clear ocean waters. The sand is as white as it can get and the occasional white coloured crab will take your breath away.

Since we went on a full moon day, the high tides were pretty ravaging that day. A chilly breeze kept on blowing making the nights cooler than the day. You could hear the waves for the whole night if you wandered the resort. Walking at the beach in the night is not recommended as the waves bring poisonous snakes to the high tide line – we saw one and were relieved that there was an embankment to protect the resort from high waves.

Day 3

We woke up early and saw the sunrise which should definitely be on your list. Because of the eastern location, the sun rises pretty early here – 4:30 am to be precise, around March. Sunrise is a beautiful and peaceful spectacle and should not be missed at any cost.

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The morning was sunny and we packed our stuff for our sojourn to the famed Radhanagar beach. This is the best beach of India and is the third best of Asia. The endless glistening white sand is a sight you will never forget in your whole life. The waters are so clear that you will wonder why you never visited this place before, and after visiting this place you would never want to visit any other beach. And since the moon was in its full bloom, the waves were humongous – the pressure of the ocean waters enough to disturb your balance if you are not careful. The beach is well maintained and clean to the core. They have separate washrooms and changing rooms which are chargeable. We spent around three hours there and were wishing to spend more.

We had plans to visit the Elephant beach but it was closed because of Holi. It should be on your visit list as the beach has elephants swimming in the ocean waters. How often do you see that?

We boarded our ship at 3:30pm and reached Port Blaire at 6:30pm. Since we were tired, we called it a day.

Day 4

It was our last day in Andaman, so we planned to visit North Bay island and some other attractions at the capital, museums being one of them.

North Bay is a coral island, so the boat will stop a few metres before the shore and a small glass boat will take you to the lands. There are no boat/ship docking points/jetty as their construction can destroy the corals which are a treasure here.

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An early morning motor boat to North Bay is preferable as you will reach early and will be able to relish the myriad activities there. I decided to go for snorkelling, my sister went for scuba diving and my parents preferred glass boat. There was sea walk as well but we were not able to experience it as there was a long queue already present and we were short on time.

The island has trained scuba divers and snorkelling instructors and they are competent enough to handle you even if you do not know swimming. So do not be scared about venturing into the water as this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The glass boat is a good option for the elderly but it has its own disadvantages, one being that the glass fitted in the boat is not clean, hence making it difficult to view the corals.

Scuba diving is an ethereal experience. It was priced at 3000 to 4000 rupees but trust me it is worth every buck as you can see the corals and the beautiful and colourful fishes up close, which cannot be done through any other activity. Yes it is costly compared to other activities but in scuba diving they not only click your pictures when you are inside but also make a video, which will be a beautiful memory for you to hold on to. My sister was a little afraid about going into the water but even after spending one hour there, she didn’t want to come out. Scuba diving should definitely be on your list!!

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Because most of the corals are already dead, it is better to do all these activities on other islands like Havelock and the Neil island as they have a rich coral deposit.

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You can buy jewellery and souvenirs from the North Bay island. There are a number of shops selling pearls and sea shells. The pearls come in a variety of colours (pink, white and black) and sizes. Grab loads of them as they are a little bit on the expensive side at the emporiums.

Port Blaire has so many museums themed on sea creatures and history of inhabitants (original and migrants). The Samudrika Marine Musuem houses a variety of fish, crab, corals and other marine life. It is run by the Indian Navy and offers insight into the archaeology and marine life of the islands. We also visited the Fisheries museum which houses more than 300 species of the marine life which are endemic to this region.

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The Anthropological museum offers an insight into the lives of the indigenous tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar islands like the Nicobarese, the Jarawas, the Shompens, the Onges, and the Sentinelese.

We visited the Corbyn’s Cove beach in the evening as well. The beach is  not as clean or beautiful as the beaches that are there in Havelock. You can indulge in water sports also but it is too much chaotic here.IMG_20150307_164535403