Shillong / Cherrapunji, A glimpse of North East – Part Four

Guys, last part in the series! Thank you for bearing with me 😀

Cherrapunji: If any place can be your soulmate, I can say Cherrapunji is definitely the one for me! Anybody who knows me really well, knows how crazy I am about rains! Ever since I was a kid, I have never skipped a chance to get drenched in the beautiful rains!

Cherrapunji is a beautiful place, where it rains through out the year, barring from November to February. I took MTC bus for the day trip, but to really enjoy the place, plan a 2-3 days trip. Specially to go trekking at the double decker living root bridge at Nongriat. I really regret not being able to visit this iconic place. Also, do carry umbrellas, wind cheaters and warm clothing with you.

Mawkdok bridge was the entry point to Cherrapunji. It gave a glimpse of what was lying ahead. Lush greenery, cleanliness and beauty. It was like we had entered an altogether different world!

After stopping for a while to take in all the beauty, relishing a hot cup of tea and a heavy photo session, we moved to Mawsmai Caves. It had started raining and people were reluctant to get down of the bus to visit the caves. But some of us, including me, were very enthusiastic to enjoy the rains and the caves! I might not be bungee jumping kind of adventurous, but this I could very well do 🙂

Mawsmai caves are natural limestone caves. They are lit enough to enjoy the various shapes in the cave. Certain areas inside the cave are narrow, but I could easily crawl through them. It was a thrilling experience specially towards the end of the cave.

Seven Sister Falls: As per the local guide, you need to visit in the monsoon season to enjoy the seven sisters falls in its full glory!

Eco Park: A beautiful park maintained by the Government of Meghalaya. The waterfalls are breathtaking and so is the view of the green canyons! Fun Fact: A black dog started following me just like the little lamb of Mary, a previous birth connection, maybe?

ThangKharang Park: This park is the source of the Kynrem Falls and you can also have a great view of the Bangladesh plains. The park is beautifully studded with various types of trees. It was not very crowded, like Eco Park. The rains continued and I was feeling quite chilly to be able to enjoy the beauty.

Khoh Ramhah / Maw trop: The giant natural rock formation resembles a huge upturned conical Khasi basket. According to legend the fossilized stone basket belonged to an evil giant who troubled the people through his greed and unsocial behaviour. In order to get rid of him, the people offered him a meal mixed with sharp irons and nails which killed the greedy evil giant. The basket which he left turned into a stone approximately 200 ft high.

Ramkrishna Mission Ashram: I was fully drenched by now and also it was raining continuously hence was in no mood to click pics. Since it was Sunday, the school and temple were closed. We did visit the cultural museum on the first floor. A beautiful and lovely jhanki of the north eastern states!

Nohakalikai Falls: By the time we reached the falls, the rains had stopped but it was too windy and i was chilled to the bones! I had a hot cup of coffee and Maggi in a restaurant situated near the falls. The coffee was good but I was still cold. I saw the falls from the gallery of the restaurant itself. The falls are just fabulous and mesmerising!

This was one of the best trip I ever had for more than one reason!

Fun Fact: On the way back to Shillong, the bus was twisting a lot and I lost my grip on the handle and fell inside the bus and here I was hoping to be remembered as a brave girl who came visiting the North East all the way from Mumbai and who was crazy enough to get drenched in the rains, wearing only shorts and a sleeveless top, while others were feeling cozy in their sweaters.

This is not good bye (as he once said to me) but this was just a pause. We will meet soon!!

Shillong / Cherrapunji, A glimpse of North East – Part Three

The more I write about Shillong, the more I ache to go back there. I now know why we say mountains are calling. Also the reason I had to take a break for a while. Monsoon is here in Mumbai, the climate is pleasant and greener. I can now write about Shillong without the urge to fly there.

The Dawki tour was quite exhausting so I decided to take it easy on the next day. After a good breakfast at Madras Cafe, I hired a cab to tour Shillong. The charges are Rs. 1500/- for the tour and Rs. 2000/- if you include Laitlum  Canyons. Worth it, if you are travelling in a group. The cab driver belonged to the Khasi tribe and followed Christianity. He was very chatty and was totally fixated on my weight and my single status. It was annoying but I did not let on as I wanted to know more about the local culture. He was single too and cribbing a lot about Khasi girls, on how city life has ruined them. Also, very proud of the fact that they don’t use much oil or masalas in their food, which helps them be healthy. The Khasi girls are really pretty and strong and the kids super cute! I was too shy to ask them if I could click their pictures. Next time, I hope I have more courage :p

Shillong Tour: Remember that most of the places are closed on one day or the other. Ward’s Lake is closed on Tuesday and Museums are closed on Sunday. So plan your tour accordingly.

Ward’s Lake: Ward’s lake is a horse shoe shaped artificial lake, surrounded by a lush garden. Boating facility also available. It is peaceful in the morning. You could just stroll around the garden, do boating, carry a book and read in peace. The lake is 100 years old but very well maintained. Must visit place.

Right opposite to the Ward’s Lake, there is a rose garden. Don’t miss Nehru’s statue :p

Lady Hydari Park: Lady Hydari Park is named after the wife of the first Governor of Assam. The local name is Ka Phan Nonglait Park and Animal Land. It is a huge and beautiful park. There are lots of varieties of plants, shrubs and trees. You will be welcomed by a heart shaped fountain. There is also a section for kids playground, equipped with slides and swings. There is a small pond, with ducks and pelicans. And the garden also has a mini zoo. The zoo, however is not well maintained and is quite pathetic. Since it was drizzling, could not see all the animals.

Catholic Church: Apparently the first church in Shillong. It’s very beautiful. When I visited, Sunday Mass was going on, hence didn’t go inside the church. The people were sitting outside and singing the hymns. The area surrounding the church is beautiful and peaceful!

Golf Course: Nothing much to see here except the green expanse.

Elephant Falls: As per Mr. Modi, this is a must visit place. But tbh, I have seen better falls. Here there was lots of crowd, it was raining and people were just clicking selfies. Not a very enjoyable moment for me atleast. The falls are divided into three parts..

After Elephant Falls, it was time for Shillong Peak. However, there was lots of traffic on the way to the peak (yep!) So I asked the cabbie to take me to Laitlum instead. We pass lots of small villages on the way to Laitlum. The drive itself is worth it. If you have only one place to go in Shillong, this should be it!

Laitlum Canyons: It’s a beautiful place with a breathtaking view. Nothing to do here except enjoy the view, chill and take lots of pictures. The clouds come anytime so there would be times where you can’t see anything in front of you. Be careful though as accidents can happen here.

Khasi King’s traditional house

The Khasi Hindu Pooja Ritual

Cherrapunji: Part Four 🙂

 

Shillong / Cherrapunji, A glimpse of North East – Part Two

To experience the full essence of a place, you need more than a 4 days, 3 nights trip. Not everybody is lucky though, to get that much time. Before travelling to Shillong, I spent days perfecting my itinerary. To make sure that I don’t miss out on any important experiences. Twitter and Blogs helped me a lot. So this is my way of taking it forward. Sharing with you my experiences, so that you could benefit from them and also add in some facts which I did not find on the internet.

Guwahati: Guwahati is the largest city of Assam, largest urban area of the North East and also the gateway to the other states of the North East. There are lots of places to see in and around Guwahati. Guwahati is smattered with temples and wildlife sanctuaries. The very famous Kamakhya temple, Umananda temple, Navgraha temple (It is known as a city of temples for a reason), Brahmaputra River, Saraighat bridge, Assam State Museum, Assam State Zoo, Deepor Beel, are some of the places you can visit. The best way to reach Kaziranga National Park (The land of the Rhinos). If you don’t have time to visit Kaziranga, you can visit Pobitro Wildlife sanctuary, which is known as miniature Kaziranga.

Kamakhya Temple, Umananda Temple, War Cemetery and Kaziranga National Park were on my itinerary but due to certain reasons, I ended up going only to the Kamakhya Temple.

The distance from Paltan Bazaar is approximately 8 Kms. I took an Ola cab from the hotel, which dropped me till the hill top. You get a very picturesque view from the hill top. From the parking spot, the temple is at a short distance & you need to climb steps to reach. There are shops lined up on the way selling puja items. If you buy something from there, you can get to keep the shoes for free else you can keep your shoes near  the temple. They charge around 15 bucks (Taaka as they say) to safeguard your shoes. Reasonable if you are going to be in the normal darshan queue as it might take hours. I did not want to spend my time standing in the queue so I opted for the VIP ticket (500 rupees) Do not fall prey to the pandits over there as they would charge double the money.

Apart from flower offerings, people also sacrifice birds and goats as an offering to the Goddess.

Birds for sacrifice 🙁

They have shared taxi services which will take you to the main road from the temple. They charge 10 Rs. per seat. From the main road, I took a private bus (Rs. 20/-) to go back to Paltan Bazar. On my way I spotted Gateway of Assam None of the must visit blogs refer to this place. I regret not getting down to explore the place.

I roamed the market area for a while, drinking in the sights and smells of the place, specially the vegetable market. Was looking for something different than what we get in Mumbai. The laukis were huge in size but the eggplants were long and delicate.

After a sumptuous breakfast, i checked out of the hotel and started my search for a share taxi for Shillong. Full cab charges is 1500 Rs. Ola outstation rentals also provide service from Guwahati to Shillong. Shared cab costs you 300 – 350 Rs.

The distance from Guwahati to Shillong is roughly three hours and the drive is very scenic! You would be tempted to get out of the car and take pictures or just stare at the view, mesmerised.

Shillong: Shillong is a famous hill station and capital of Meghalaya. It is also known as Scotland of the East. The weather in Shillong is pleasant and the air is so clean! It is a joy to walk in and around Shillong as it is a very walk friendly place. I went there end of April and it rained couple of times (not heavy rains, just a drizzle) The temperature drops to 12 – 14 degrees. There is lush greenery all around. Whatever the season, do not forget to carry umbrellas and warm clothes with you.

Police Bazar: Police Bazar, also known as PB, is the heart of the city and a very noisy and crowded place. The shops close down at 9 PM. The office of Meghalaya Travel Corporation is here, where you can book helicopter and bus services to various places. Right across the big building, there is office of Meghalaya Tourist Corporation from where you can get bus / cars for various tourist points. You can also get private cars / Sumos from Police Bazar

Rhino Heritage Museum: Disappointed by the fact that I had to drop my plans for Kaziranga, I was happy to know about this museum. Fun Fact: This museum has nothing to do with Rhino, the animals. It is all about the soldiers of North East, particularly Assam Rifles, who call themselves Rhinos. It is a beautiful tribute to the soldier. There is a silver Rhino outside the museum and a garden with seating area on the backside. There is also a tank placed outside the museum. A pleasant way to spend the evening!

The Bada Bazar (Burra Bazar / Lewduh Market) is nearby but I missed to visit as I had to book the tickets from MTC.

Dawki & Mawlynnong: Dawki & Mawlynnong tour conducted by MTC covers 5 points. Canyon Valley, Living Root Bridge at Riwai village, Mawlynnong, Dawki and the Indo Bangladesh border.

Canyon Rngain Valley View Point: This is also known as the Deep Dark Valley. The view is simply spectacular! Wherever you look, there are green hills and deep valleys!

Living Root Bridge at Riwai Village: Next stop was the living root bridge at Riwai Village. The bridge is a miracle created by man and nature. The roots of the Rubber tree are weaved in such a manner that it creates a natural bridge. The bridge was created to join two villages, which were separated by a river. You need to climb down 200-250 stairs to reach to the bridge from the parking spot. The bridge is delicate and it is advised not to stand on the bridge or click photographs standing on the bridge. You can walk on the bridge though. The way is lined with small shops selling refreshments, berries, bamboo products, support sticks and other paraphernalias. One more fascinating thing was bamboo trash cans (annoying thing – tourists still threw the trash here & there as if the world is their dustbin)

Mawlynnong: Known as the cleanest village in Asia, Mawlynnong was our next stop. It is 2 Kms from the Riwai village. As per the guide, there are 100 houses in the village. There is a person charging 20 bucks to show Bangladesh border from a structure on a private property. Found it funny. Rest of the people had lunch and roamed around the village while I got myself clicked in a typical Khasi dress. The dress is worn by Khasi Hindus during religious functions. The girl asked me where were my friends and was surprised to know I was travelling alone. She didn’t know Hindi nor much English but we still managed to communicate somehow. At that moment, she was my friend. 🙂

Indo Bangladesh Border: From Mawlynnong we moved on to Dawki. By this time you get used to the beauty of the surrounding areas and silently enjoy it. Even with closed eyes you can feel the lush greenery around you! To reach the border, you need to cross bridge on the Umngot River, Dawki. Dawki is between India and Bangladesh. Even part of the Umngot river belongs to Bangladesh. It was really funny to see people excited to go to the Bangladesh border. We crossed the Dawki bridge to go to Tamabil (Bangladesh village near border). The bridge is patrolled and at a time only one vehicle can pass through. It was exciting to see Indian soldiers and the Indian flag and Welcome to India board filled me with a sense of pride! The Muktapur milestone (this side of India) reminded me of Mukti Bahini.

Umngot River: The most beautiful river I have ever seen! The beauty cannot be described in words. We were so enchanted by the river! When the boatman said, the river is muddy right now (the water was clear) and you should come in winter to see the real beauty, we were pleasantly shocked. If the river is so clear right now, how it would be in winter!! There are tenting, fishing and kayaking options available too. You can stay over to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of the river.

The journey will continue in the next part…

Shillong / Cherrapunji, A glimpse of North East – Part One

It had been a hectic few months and I needed a vacation badly. I booked tickets to Guwahati on my birthday, as a birthday gift to self! Since then I had been planning my itinerary to Shillong. It was supposed to be Sikkim originally though.

In 2017, I was transcribing a docurmentary on Sikkim for a friend and in the process I learnt quite a bit about the state. I had made up my mind to go there for my next vacation. How did I end up in Shillong then? We had Meghalaya day at work for which I did some research and Shillong replaced Sikkim just like that.

While planning my itinerary, I was amazed to know that Nepal and Bhutan were so close to the North East. I mean, you have a general idea but you only realise certain things when you look closely. The distance from Mumbai to North East still did not hit me.

I did no check ins on Facebook. No updates on Instagram or twitter. Not many people knew about my trip. I wanted it to be a social media free trip, a solo travel in the true sense. I had infact deleted all apps (including Outlook – did not want to be bothered by office mails either) But while returning from Shillong, I did check in to Facebook and FB showed me the length of my travel. I shared the pic with my dad.

And then we googled the distance I had travelled. It was 3000 KM! (From the highest point I had travelled, that was Cherrapunji) My dad was amazed that I travelled such a long distance. Though this would not be a big deal for many, consider this, I was not allowed to get in Mulund college & was forced to study in a college in Dombivli because my parents thought I would not be able to travel in train daily. So it *WAS* a big deal for me!

Coming back to my trip..

North East India has always been fascinating for me. Be it the mountains, lakes, culture or history. We have grown up seeing the beauty of the seven sisters, as the north eastern states are fondly called in photographs, movies and documentaries. I was super excited for my trip and kept browsing for places to visit.

This was my final planned itinerary:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I arrived at Guwahati Airport around 1:15 PM. I was welcomed with a glimpse of Assam and it made me look forward to my trip even more!

The departure area has many more pictures depicting Assam. Also, there is a Goodwyn Tea shop from where you can get different types of teas for your friends and there is a handicraft shop, from where I got a gamchha for dad. The sarees are way too expensive though!

View of Saraighat Bridge from air!

Kamakhya Temple – Painting

As I was travelling to the hotel, the first thought was, I am in ASSAM! It was unbelievable! I was in the land of Bhupen Hazarika, Kaziranga National Park and tea plantations! But it was terribly hot & once I reached the hotel, I did not venture out. Just enjoyed lazying in my awesome room! One fantastic fact about Guwahati was that all boards (atleast at the bus stops) are in Assamese. I had to rely on one co-passenger to know where I had to get down. Another fantastic thing is that Ola cabs are easily available in Guwahati.

Guwahati is the common point to go to all the North Eastern states. You can get taxis from the airport for any place you want to go to. In Guwahati itself there are plenty of places to visit. Kamakhya Temple, Brahmaputra River, Umananda Temple, War Cemetry, Saraighat Bridge, etc. Book a hotel in the main market area like Paltan Bazar or GS Road. They are focal points to all the places you may want to visit. There is also a share taxi stand in Paltan Bazar from where you can get a cab to Shillong. (A direct cab ride costs 1500 rupees – Ola outstation works too for going to Shillong) A shared cab may cost 300 – 350 rupees. The cab will drop you at Police Bazar in Shillong.

The drive from Guwahati to Shillong is very scenic and you get to see Lake Umiam (commonly known as Barapani Lake) Sadly, I did not get to take a picture but the view of the lake is breathtaking!

In Paltan Bazar, there is an awesome Oyo Rooms hotel available, Onyx Garden. The ambience was very romantic and there was a mirror on the bathroom door. I just fell in love with the room! The service was very good too. They have varied breakfast options for each day of the week and the morning I was there, it was Aloo Paratha. Quality & quantity totally worth the money!

Police Bazar is the main market area in Shillong. Meghalaya Transport office is also in Police Bazar (Jail Road to be specific) Even though everything would be accessible in Police Bazar, if you want peace & quiet, don’t book your stay here. You can stay in Batti Bazar (Laban)  where I stayed or Laitumkhrah. Both places are around 2.5 KM from Police Bazar. You can get a cab easily from these places to Police Bazar and you can also walk if you wish, taking advantage of the pleasant climate and walk friendly roads.

I stayed in Oyo Homestay in Batti Bazar. It was a decent place and friendly people. I got allotted the best room because I was a solo female traveller :p There were lots of ATMS and shops around. There was also a church (laban presbyterian church) and a school around. It’s more of a residential area, Fun Fact: Swami Vivekananda lived nearby. Unfortunately, I could not have a look of the house he lived in.

View from my room – Woke up to this!

Things I love about hotel rooms – a spacious bed all for myself!

I reached Shillong around 1:30 PM, took a cab to my hotel (50 rupees if you take a “reserved” cab. 10 rupees if you take a shared cab) After freshening up, I went to the Rhino Heritage Museum in Bada Bazar (Lewduh) and then walked towards the Meghalaya Transport Corporation as I had to book tickets for Cherrapunji (I had decided to travel by public transport as much as possible)

The tourist tickets for Shillong / Cherrapunji are available at the Meghalaya Tourist Centre (and not in the main building of MTC) The office is next to Purbashree Emporium (I found it the best place to buy souveniers for friends and family) and Meghalaya Handloom House. The office timings are 7:45 AM to 7 PM in the evening. It is better to book tickets on the previous day. There is also a chance that the trip might get cancelled if there not enough tourists (like the trip to Mawsynram was cancelled as not enough people)

The MTC conducts various tours – Dawki Mawlynnong (500 rupees), Cherrapunji (350 rupees) and Shillong (300 rupees) You can also get cars on hire from them. You can also get private cabs on hire (Plenty of taxi and Sumos near the MTC office) You can share the cab or take one for your own.

Since I was super tired after the Dawki trip, I took a cab next day to explore Shillong. They charge you 1500 rupees for the tour and 2000 if you include Laitlum Canyon.

The day begins very early in the North East. Daylight happens around 4 – 4:30 AM & sunset around 5 PM. The climate is very pleasant and it also rained couple of days I was there. The shops and restaurants close down at around 9 PM. There is a Subway in Police Bazar, You can get north indian chaats and all kind of Indian sweets in the Dilli Mishtaan Bhandar (It is in the lane of Golden Arrow) They do have a seating area, if you want to sit & have a bite. In the morning, you will find lots of tea stalls selling tea and Puri Bhaji. Somehow, didn’t feel like experiencing that. I did find an amazing restaurant in Police Bazar – Madras Cafe. The entry was narrow so I was sceptical, but it is actually a wonderful place for Indian food.

Cherrapunji is rightly the wettest (now second) place on Earth. It is so so beautiful! All you see is mountains, dense trees on the mountains and clouds for miles at stretch. The mountains are peppered with waterfalls. The locals say that the real glory of the waterfalls can be seen from June to August. It rains all times of the year, except for the winter months. It is recommended to stay for couple of days so that you can enjoy the beauty of the place and also can go for the Living Root bridge trekking. Will take atleast 4-5 hours to cover this place.

Even though I was travelling alone, I did not feel lonely. The other tourists on the bus were very friendly and after a while we became one family. When we took a pit stop on the way to Shillong, my purse was locked in the dicky and I wanted to buy a bottle of water. A honeymooning couple let me borrow money to buy it. And they kept asking if I wanted to buy fruits or chips. Once when we got lost in the Mawlynnong village, a South Korean woman (who was also travelling alone) went to search for me and when I wanted to do boating in the Dawki River (They rent the boat and do not take single passengers), one uncle gave up his place in the boat they had already hired so that I can enjoy the boating (I did pay my share of fare though). I also got lots of admiration from fellow travellers and locals when they came to know I was travelling alone & I had come all the way from Mumbai. Most of the tourists are from West Bengal or Guwahati.

As my sisters said, travelling alone is liberating and you get a chance to discover yourself!

Here’s to more travels, more experiences and many more stories to share!!

Delhi!

Delhi has always fascinated me. It is a place which exudes power. After all the fates of a billion odd people is decided by a handful of men in Delhi. Apart from that fact, Delhi has more or less been the centre of power, especially since the invasion of Mughals. Delhi is also known for its fabulous architecture. Delhi is rich in history and culture (Yes, I am a Mumbai girl and no, I do not hate Delhi) Also, Delhi 6 (a movie by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra) had fuelled the desire to visit this city.

Though I love experiencing new places, I have not travelled much. I had decided to change that fact and planned to travel as much as possible. There had been a one odd weekend trip to Pune in 2015 and after that life was a bit messy and the travel plans were on hold again. This year, I got an opportunity to visit Delhi. It was an impulsive decision. Due to twitter, I have made good friends all over the country and also outside it. While planning the trip to Delhi I realised so many friends in Delhi!

I got a good break during the Easter holidays & to everyone’s surprise, I landed in Delhi. It was supposed to be horribly hot. Not gonna deny it. The heat was horrible indeed & I had to keep guzzling water. As a result, could not taste much of the famous food of Delhi.

It was a good experience meeting all the friends from the online world. But it was more satisfying to actually be in the place you only heard about or read about.

When you look out of the plane in Mumbai, you can see only shanties / slums. In Delhi I could see lots of cars (which looked like ants crawling in search of food) and lots of lights. The proverbial Bling Capital! 😉

The first step out of the airport in itself was mesmerising. The air was filled with scent of the trees. This continued till the end of the cantonment area.

The roads are very good in the national capital (the reason is obvious in the statement) Also, lots of greenery. The people on road are very rude though and there does not exist words like Excuse me, Please or Sorry. Everybody behaves like they are the king of Delhi. There was a lack of common courtesy and no care about fellow beings. Only in Delhi you could find this kind of notice. (The top line says do not molest women, nor let anyone molest women) Truly the sign of being an unsafe city for women. One thing that also fascinated me was super connected metro lines. This is the best way to travel in Delhi. The metros are connected to almost all the historical places in Delhi.

The most beautiful place in Delhi is the Humayun Tomb. I had seen pictures before and was in awe of the structure. The Taj Mahal is supposed to be inspired by Humayun’s tomb. Apart from Humayun’s tomb, the entire enclosure also includes smaller monuments, like Isa Khan’s tomb. Read more about it here: Humayun’s Tomb 

It did feel creepy to take pics of the tomb. The place is very beautiful though and you can get lost in it for hours.

Next Stop: Lotus Temple. It is one of the best designed buildings of the current century. The lotus shape fills you with awe. I also got to learn about the Bahai religion.

I also wanted to visit Akshardham Temple, another architecture marvel, but didn’t have the stamina to go through all the security rigmarole.

In the evening I visited India Gate. Nothing exciting though, Gateway of India is much much better than this place. You should visit for the Soldiers memorial though. The experience was surely humbling!

Visited the Sarojini Market for some fabulous earrings but was disappointed. Had thought to gather a loot at throwaway prices. We get better stuff in our local markets in Mumbai. Even the clothes we get at Linking Road / Fashion Street / Colaba are much better than this market. Anyway had great fun at Haldiram’s enjoying all the northern goodies!

The evening turned out to be a lot better! Spotted Bangla Sahib but couldn’t visit due to time restrictions. Next time for sure!

And then finally I was in Delhi 6! That means Chandni Chowk, Red Fort & Jama Masjid. You can not imagine my excitement! i was like a kid in a candy shop! I got to know the story of sheesh ganj and rakab ganj gurudwara. You can read about it here: Sis Ganj It was enthralling to move in the lanes of Chandni Chowk. Spotting Red Fort (I did not know that Red Fort was so near to Chandni Chowk) Jama Masjid! The best part  of the evening was a visit to Mirza Ghalib’s Haveli!


As explained above, couldn’t sample the famous food of Delhi inspite of being in Chandni Chowk and near to Parathewali Gali. I did get to sample aloo tikki, gol gappas and the very famous Jaleba! Also had one of the best momos & Fruit Beer at Dilli Haat.

Post my visit to Delhi, I read William Darlymple’s Last Mughal and realised how many more places I had to visit. Someday again for sure!

I know the title of this post says Delhi but I do need to add something about Agra as well.

I had kept one day entirely for Agra. The Taj Mahal, Agra Fort & Fatehpur Sikri were on my mind. Also shopping for Pethas! I just love them *multiple heart eyes* Had to skip Fatehpur due to time constraints. Instead got to meet a very lovely tweep from Agra, who taught me how to sit on a bike / scooty!!

What to say about the Taj? Words fail at it’s beauty. It is definitely one of the most beautiful monument in the world! So mesmerising! You have to see it to believe it. The Agra fort is very beautiful as well! Exploring the fort was an enriching experience!

View from Agra Fort

Some places can not be explored in 4 days, 3 nights kind of travel. Delhi / Agra are those kind of cities. It was truly an awesome experience, which I would like to go through again. Au Revoir!

A Walk to Remember

What do you do when you have an amazing company, fabulous rains and a will to explore the city beyond cafes, restaurants and air conditioned malls? (Specially when you are living in the godforsaken place called Dombivli)

You plan an impromptu trip to Yeor hills. You have no clue what you will find there. You have only heard about leopards being spotted or about the wonderful waterfalls.

Yeor hills is a part of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, located in Thane. (Insist on going by the meter from Thane station, we paid double of what the fare ought to be) The autos / cars / bikes are allowed inside but the real charm is in walking all the way to the top of the village.

It was drizzling nicely when we started the walk and it started pouring heavily as we inched further towards Yeor village. The raincoat and umbrella were barely protecting us. The climb was not very steep, except for a single patch. It was so nice to get drenched in the rains to the core, experiencing a much pleasant weather and looking at all the flora (fauna was hiding from us because of the rains I guess) The best thing we experienced was that we had left all the negativity behind us and we carried only a sense of wonder. It was unbelievable that such beauty exists amidst the chaos of the city. The hills are as scenic as Lonavala. We ended the trek with the delicious duo of hot tea and vada pao at a quaint little tea stall, which was a surprising discovery indeed.

This was going to be a Walk to Remember forever.

Hot Tea – Bliss!

Always Amazing – Aditi

A natural Pokestop (Tee Hee)

Dancing in the rain!

A surprise find!

Snail! (Spotted by Aditi)

Who needs Lonavala bro?

A fake Touch Me Not

Orchid like flower.

Speechless

 

 

Goa – Beyond Partying, Boozing and Sea Food

It had been a long time since we went for a vacation. We, as in myself and my parents.

On mom’s birthday in Nov ’14, I was wondering what to gift mom. (Usually it is jewellery / smart phone)  and then I recalled that how mom keeps saying she is the only one  from the family who has never been on a flight. And voila! a idea formed in my mind. Let’s zero in on places which are not far from Mumbai and which won’t be too expensive!

I had been to Goa in 2010 for a weekend. You can read about it here: Rendezvous with Goa But it was just a sip for a thirsty soul. I always planned to return for a more fulfilling experience.

I booked flight tickets, hotel and planned a detailed itinerary which would suit my parents. Some people tried to dissuade me from this plan saying you all are vegetarians and teetotallers, what would you do in Goa? I was not doing Goa right maybe but I was definitely doing being a daughter right 😉

We didn’t booze, party or go for adventure water sports but we did have fun in our own way!

Brace yourself! A detailed account is coming up! 😉

On D day, we left home at 9 to catch a flight scheduled at 1.30 (Funny thing that we had to travel 150 minutes for a 45 minute flight 😛 ) Anyway, we reached the domestic airport in Mumbai well in time, only to know all domestic flights of Air India do not take off from Domestic but the International Airport (fondly known as T2). Anyway, we took another cab & reached T2. The path leading to T2 is amazing in itself and so is the airport! The airport is done up beautifully including lots of art installations.

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We had a quick brunch at the Street Foods by Punjab Grill (Yummy food, specially the Samosa Chaat) The walk towards the flight gate was too long, be careful if you have people who can not walk much. Arrange for a wheelchair well in advance.

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Since it was an Air India flight, we got free snacks – a cheese sandwich, Frooti & a small bottle of water. Shouldn’t have eaten at the airport 😉

Anyway, so we landed a bit late at the Goa airport as the plane wasn’t getting place for parking (who would have thunk?) Do take the prepaid taxis (booking inside the airport at the prepaid taxi counter) to save yourself from being fleeced. Unless you have an arrangement with the hotel to pick you up.

Our first destination was Vasco, at my mom’s cousin’s place. After a heavenly lunch, sharing stories, discussing politics and a refreshing nap, we headed towards Calangute. The air was filled with scent of trees and you could sense that you have left polluted city far behind.

The hotel, Calangute Grande, situated in a charming bylane was a delightful place (for the budget we were on that is)

Day 2: A visit to Old Goa, Dona Paula & Miramar Beach was planned. Also lunch at Delhi Durbar in Panjim (Amazing amazing food)

The Basilica of Bom Jesus is an enchanting structure with lots of options for photo ops. The Basilica also displays the remains of St Francis Xavier and a hall of paintings based on life of the said Saint. The paintings are a bit dark and the remains can give one the creeps. The backyard of the church has a small garden as well.

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Right opposite the Basilica is the Archaelogical Museum and Se Cathedral. Its a beautiful place and I regret not going inside the museum. Next time maybe!

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We had booked the cab for sight seeing via the hotel and none of us had taken the driver’s number or noted the licence number in enthusiasm (Totally Facepalm moment) Like fools we kept searching where the driver had parked his car. And after a long futile search, coordinated with the hotel for the driver’s number. We were totally exhausted by then. Delhi Durbar here we come! After a leisurely lunch, which included Sula Rose Wine for dad (after all we were in Goa 😉 ) we moved towards Dona Paula. A picturesque place with such a beautiful view! Totally enjoyed clicking pics here 🙂

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Next Stop Miramar Beach. The sand here is very silky and the distance from the beach to the sea is probably the longest.

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Day 2: Dolphin Trip, Fort Aguada & Baga Beach

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Unlike few years ago, there are ample restaurants available for vegetarians, one of them being Navtara in Calangute. We had this amazing Veg Xacuti, a spicy vegetable curry along with hot hot buns!

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We had planned to go for Spice Plantation on Day 3 but somehow dropped that plan and just did some shopping in the morning & a visit to the Calangute beach in the evening. Got inked (temporary) and made dad envious and had an amazing Italian dinner at Over The Flames. Got parents introduced to Tequila, only to be questioned over and over again on what happens if you drink tequila (annoying parents happen that’s what -_-) Note that Calangute beach is more crowded than Baga. Water sports at Calangute are cheaper than at Baga beach.

One thing was puzzling parents that we didn’t see any animals, not even strays in Goa and then look what we found 😉

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My Arm Tattoo 🙂

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On my neckline 😉

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Mom getting inked 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Over The Flames

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One Tequila, Two Tequila, Three Tequila, Floor!

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Bebinca (Goan dessert. It’s non vegetarian         (don’t tell dad ok?)

And finally it was time to bid Goa goodbye! Sigh! One of the most beautiful vacation I have had. Would go again. I want to explore more on foot. The beaches as well as the beautiful by lanes. Goa is very green and clean inspite of so many tourists. It would be a delight to be here again! Au Revoir!

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Beautiful Art at Goa Airport

 

A weekend in Pune!

This year I had decided to not waste my weekends lolling on the bed. I finally made it to my first weekend getaway last week!

It feels weird that there are so many places to visit near Mumbai itself & I have never been there yet! Anyway better late than never, right? I decided to start my journey with Pune. (For more than one reason 😉 )

Booking tickets was not a new task for me. But hotel reservation was. I had planned to reach Friday night so that I can start early on Saturday. Had thought to meet couple of friends on Sunday & leave for Mumbai at night. Hence booked only from Friday to Sunday. Big mistake it turned out to be. Plan of meeting friends fizzled out. Had to walk around the city along with my luggage. Only if I could stow away my luggage I could have had a fruitful Sunday too! Anyway, the hotel was chosen based on the best deal Clear Trip offered & it turned out to be a pretty good deal. The room was quite spacious & I was happy to have a room of my own even if it was only for couple of days 😉 And a perfect mirror for MIRRORFIES!!! YAYYY!!!

German Bakery Date

I had heard the name Deccan Queen since childhood but never travelled in one! I was super excited! The train journey took almost 3.15 hours and the view from the train was amazing!

Deccan Queen

 

The hotel I had booked was near the legendary German Bakery! I was already looking forward to visit other legendary places. 🙂

The climate in Pune was very cool & air condition is absolutely unnecessary. I was feeling chilled even with the fan on! Woke up early as decided & had yummy coffee & pancake at The Yogi Tree, which was incidentally next door to the hotel I stayed.

Yogi Tree 1Yogi TreeFirst on the agenda was to go to Osho Ashram. It is situated in Koregaon Park (referred by Punekars as KP). While on the way I had darshan of the German Bakery from outside :p Lane no.1, where the ashram is situated, is surrounded by trees on both sides. It is a walker’s paradise! Earlier, they used to have a tour of the ashram. But they have stopped it now, unfortunately. If you want to visit then you would have to buy some costly day packages. 😀

After the ashram, moved on to the Aga Khan Palace, which has been turned into a Gandhi memorial. The palace is surrounded with breathtaking greenery! It is a photographer’s delight!

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It was humbling to walk around the place where legends have walked!

Moved on to Raja Kelkar Museum. The museum is a tribute by Dinkar Kelkar to his son, who passed away at a very young age. He along with others, collected unique items of daily use. The creativity is amazing!


Kelkar Museum

Kelkar Museum 1

 

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Ivory Door, part of the museum collection

Erotic Nutcutters, Interesting

Erotic Nutcutters, Interesting

Though I loved the entire collection, the musical instrument section was the best! They play classical music in the section & it was so soothing & charming! I got a book about the museum & DVD of the virtual tour for my parents (So much for the resolution of no shopping, no increasing baggage!)

After I left for the museum I remembered I needed to get couple of things. Had a chat with the shopkeeper couple, who knew immediately that I was new in the city. They told me inspite of living walking distance from the museum they had never visited it. I urged them to do so. 🙂

My spirits were high & was off my way to the next stop Shaniwar Wada. The GPS told me it is quite nearby & since I was in a mood to explore the city on foot, I walked towards the fort. By the time I reached the fort I was utterly exhausted. I couldn’t explore the fort much & came back to the hotel.

Shaniwar Wada, a heritage site

Shaniwar Wada, a heritage site

After a quick lunch & a short nap, I was raring to go out again!

Wasn’t in the mood to have anything so just sipped on ice tea at German Bakery. I just loved the ambience! From German Bakery I moved to Goodluck, the much revered Iranian Cafe. I ordered for tea & bun maska, but I wasn’t actually hungry & also was a bit disheartened, so just had the tea. It was delicious!

Famous Bun Maska

Famous Bun Maska

So that was Day1.

Next day, I decided to have some nice spicy puneri breakfast. Pataleshwar caves was the only one on my agenda. It is situated on Jangli Maharaj Road & I found a very nice restaurant there which serves yummy & spicy misal pav. Day = made!

Spicy Misal Pav

Spicy Misal Pav

The Pataleshwar Cave Temple is located on the main road. And is an interesting site. Not much to see though. But the stone construction & banyan tree at the entrance enchanted me!

Pataleshwar

Banyan Tree

Banyan Tree

I was clueless regarding my next stop. So I just roamed around. Walked till Deccan Gymkhana, bought some goodies for home & team from the very famous Chitale Bandhu, walked towards FC Road but then it was too hot so I went to Phoenix Mall, Vimannagar, which is very far from the city & getting a return auto from there is very difficult. I spent couple of hours in the mall for the AC & then returned to the city. I wanted to visit the Sambhaji Garden, but it was closed for the afternoon & there was plenty of time left for it to reopen. I had fresh hot corn on the cob & some coconut water. That was my lunch for the day 😀 I walked around F C Road, in & around the smaller bylanes. But I got pretty bored & wanted to sit for a while. I wanted to visit Vaishali restaurant, but it was jam packed! I also wanted to visit Starbucks Cafe at F C Road as I had heard so much about it!

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But by the time I entered the cafe I was pretty much bored & in pain what with carrying all my stuff around with me! I decided to end my journey. Last Checkin: Swargate Bus Stop 😉

Overall I had good fun. I need to plan my trip in a better way. There are many places in Pune I have missed out on. I hope the next experience turns out to be a better one 🙂

A Day in Mumbai!

An Awesome Day Spent in Mumbai:

1. Get up early around 6 – Leave home by 7.

2. Take a slow local to Dadar. Travel in Second Class.

3. Buy tit bits from hawkers selling stuff in train.

4. Start conversations with random strangers (Not so difficult in Second Class).

5. Reach Dadar. Go to Siddhivinayak Temple on foot. Drink in the smell of the flowers coming from the flower market..Don’t be overwhelmed by the crowd 🙂

6. After the Darshan go to Mahalaxmi Temple via Worli Sea Link. Be mesmerised by the beauty & vastness of the ocean..

7. From Mahalaxmi Temple, go to Snowman’s in Breach Candy on foot..Work up your appetite 🙂

8. Snowman’s is one of the first icecream parlour in Mumbai!

9.  Have your fill of icecream & snacks.

10. Walk on to Cumballa Hill, Malabar Hill right up to Walkeshwar.

11. Check out the most famous place in Walkeshwar..yes guessed it right…Teen Batti!!!

12. From Walkeshwar go to Babulnath Temple. After Dev Pooja, time for some Pet Pooja!!! Best place for this is opposite Babulnath – “Soam” It serves the finest satvik food 🙂

13. It should be evening now & you would be tired after walking for entire day.

14. Go to Chowpatty & just lie down on the sandy beach..sea near your feet & blue sky above..

15. After resting a bit walk along the beach..also give your feet a taste of sea water…

16. Must have Pani puri in the Food Plaza & awesome Golas!!!

17. If your heart desires, have a kulfi from the shop near shiv sagar..unforgettable taste!

18. Take the 108 bus & come to CST station. Enjoy the magical view enroute..

19. Board the train for home..

20. Cherish the moments of the day!

A day well spent…Treasure it forever!!!

 

Rendezvous with Goa!!!

 

If wishes were horses, beggars would ride goes a famous English proverb. It literally means that if one could readily have what they want, life would be easy & we all know that wishes are not fulfilled so easily! But sometimes they do…A White Stallion comes along your way & you simply have to enjoy the ride 😉

Being a avid reader, I have travelled many places over the globe in my mind but there are some places which I actually want to visit. Beaches have always fascinated me & Goa, dotted with beautiful beaches, has always been one of those places..

A chance discussion between my sister & her sister in law on Facebook led to planning their birthday celebration in Goa.

After my sis had done all the meticulous planning, we were set to Go Goa!!! She had designed a fab itinerary & set our mouth drooling for all the excitement that laid ahead of us!!!

Friday was the day we were to set sail & it was very hectic to cover the day’s job well in time to board the bus for Goa in the evening!

The Joy ride started with playing games in the bus & having mom made sandwiches (None of us had proper food during the day to make up for leaving early & packing hassles). After much rocking & rolling the bus reached Mapusa at 10. From there straight to our resort in Goa. The Resort was pretty & the view from our room was just breathtakingly awesome!

The birthday girls were ready to move to the beach immediately but we had something else in store for them..By the time they got ready, we had arranged for Cakes, Bouquets & Champagne.

The surprised & happy look on their faces was priceless!

Time to move the celebrations to the beach!

The beach was beautiful & in spite of being heavily crowded was surprisingly clean..

After drinking in the view, it was time for some Adventure Sports..

Water Bikes, Banana Boats & Paragliding was the menu for the day…

Water Biking was the most adventurous I could get 😉

After all the fun & adventure, we were famished & went reluctantly to have some lunch..But the day was not over yet. We returned to the resort & headed for a dip in the swimming pool..God had also conspired for us to have good time & showered his blessings in the form of rain..

We enjoyed in the pool till we wrinkled up like a raisin! The only motivator for us to leave the pool was an evening filled with music & dance in the most happening club in Goa!

I was visiting a club for the first time & It was a mind blowing experience! The Music, people, ambience & the dance floor all were an exhilarating experience & inspired a non dancer like me to Twist a bit 😉

The mind was still willing to indulge but the bodies were tired after all we had been through the day. Our sleep was induced with dreams of Sun, Sand & Sea!!!

The next day was for sight-seeing..In a short span of time we covered Fort Aguada, Aguada Jail, Panjim, Dona Paula..

All places were best places for photo sessions & we had a blast taking in the view & preserving it in our cameras..

But the best memory was having lunch at Delhi Darbar. It was finger licking delicious & I simply had to say I M Lovin’ it 😉

For all those who have never been to Goa, I would recommend them to visit the place at least once & for myself can’t wait to have a major vacation in Goa to pack in what we had left behind this time!!!

Till Then – Goa Esperame!!!

 

New Girl in the Old City!!!

 

Talking about London, Paris & New York, reminded me of one of my most favourite city in India. The city which made me fell in love with it. A city which always will be a Happy Place for me. 🙂

In January 2009, I was shipped to Bangalore for 3 Weeks! My first thought was how I would survive for 3 looooooooong weeks without my beloved Mumbai, & without my Aai 🙂
 
The only comforting thought was that I would get to meet my dearest cousin, my best friend from childhood  & spend quality time with my bua, cousin, sister in law & my cute niece!!!
 
There was also a dream (of course due to the Mills & Boons impressions) that i will meet my special someone in a strange city 😉 Well, it’s still a dream but made my travel light & easy <3
 
I travelled through train & was hoping to see interesting sights on the long journey..However, all the people in my compartment were hell bent on sleeping for the entire duration of journey & I couldn’t see anything beyond Kolhapur..
 
By the way, was very excited to see Kolhapur..Had heard so much about it..Kolhapuri Chappal, Kolhapuri Mirchi & the black sand, etc..I also wanted to have something of Kolhapur, so had a vada pav (Proud Fan) at Kolhapur station..But it was bland beyond imagination..My one thought was no one can beat Mumbai as far as Vada Pav goes 😉
 
Well, then stuffed myself with Bourbon biscuits..Mom had packed some sandwiches but they got stale due to the heat..
 
Off to sleep & M & B dreamland..:-) Till landed at Bangalore City Station.
 
Tired as Hell But Eager to meet team..In the end Rest @ Guesthouse won! I loved my room, It was airy & spacious & had a huge window. And thus began my paid vacation 😉
 
Still remember the south indian breakfast at Sandhya, the awesome sandwiches, Sapota (Chikoo) Milkshakes, continental breakfasts at CCD, hunting for good places to eat..:-), all you can eat buffet at Masala Chowk (Eva Mall) – Had a first look at real Chocolate Fountain! Was mesmerised <3, MTR Ki Coffee, its amazing how they serve ghee in a tiny bowl & the tiny 1 Rs coin sized dalwada are just so yummy!!!
 
Also did some sight seeing on my own..Garuda & Forum Mall, Brigade Road, Lalbaugh Botanical Garden (Was fortunate to visit during the Flower Show)
 
The Flower Show was something.. I just got delirious looking at all the different types of flowers!
 
Weekends were usually spent at my cousin’s place & what a surprise that my NRI, newly wedded cousin, was there too with his wife. Had a great time recreating our childhood by playing silly games & loads of laughing!  

 
Visiting the Banerghatta National Park with them was the best part of my visit!
 
Of Course, I worked too during the week days, in case anyone was wondering 😉
 
I had grown too fond of my team & most of all Bangalore..As my day to return to Mumbai was approaching, I was feeling sad to leave & what do you know? Got an extension of a week to stay!!! Was Loving it 🙂
 
But all good things come to an end! Also, was badly missing mom ke haath ka khana..Thought If I saw Idli for one more time, I would just puke 🙂
 
My Last Day was on Saturday, 7th February, when we were also celebrating Rose Day in the office!!! I was returning back by Flight, my first time ever..
 
I had got a whiff that my team was planning something for me so I had to go to office plus had to do packing & collect the famous Mysore Pak for everyone back home & also get roses as we were celebrating Red Day + Rose Day. My bua had given me shukan money & I got a lovely red top from Revolution to celebrate the Red Day 🙂

When I reached office, a huge white teddy bear was waiting for me on my work station & one by one the gifts started pouring in..I got a Will Miss You card, a handwritten poem, a painting, a pen stand with a barometer & a lovely saree. Also got 6 red roses from one of my team member, a fibre red heart on a stick from another & a yellow rose each from everyone else.

And as if that was not enough, they gathered & sang a Song for me, Chalte chalte mere ye geet yaad rakhna…considering where most of them don’t even speak Hindi, it was too overwhelming…

Then I had to rush to guest house & fit in all the gifts in my bags..:-) It didn’t help that I had a bagful of books, which I bought from Landmark!!! My house mates managed somehow with my luggage & then I left for airport. They had planned earlier to give me Bangalore Darshan but since there was a huge traffic on that day & we were already short of time, just went straight to the airport. My colleague was there till I entered the gate. After that it was a cake walk as my sister & sister in law both had told me what to do next..

I got my boarding pass & a window seat, collected tags, went for security check & then roamed around the waiting lounge..I didn’t feel anything extra ordinary..it was just like walking in a mall..:-)

My seat was in the middle row & there was a wing right beside me so I could not see much..But as I had settled in my seat, I did not ask to change my seat..just turned my head in the window behind me & took in the view..

The view was amazing, specially when we were flying above the clouds & also when we were about to land in Bombay. The view of the sea from the plane was absolutely amazing..

And thus ended my paid vacation, which has left sweet memories to savour!!!