RSS

Category Archives: travel

If a rejuvenating holiday is all you want, avoid these in Munnar

There are many reasons why we choose to go on a holiday. Sometimes it is to explore the local natural beauty to its fullest, sometimes we are looking for adventure not found in our daily lives. But every once in a while we seek a holiday to do nothing. Just a simple break in the midst of nature where you can put your feet up and soak in the goodness of nature.

 

I’m having a great time in Munnar. It’s my second day here and I am enjoying every minute of it. Since this is my 3rd trip to the place I am okay if one doesn’t make the best of every moment, but if you are here for your first trip here, it would help to know what is worth investing your time in. If you are looking to make the best of your time here and are looking for more of a relaxing holiday to just soak in the beauty, here’s my pick of some popular tourist attractions one can avoid.

 
1. Eravikulam National Park – the much popularised national park is a good 1 hour drive away from the main city and does not have much to offer in terms of wild life. The main attraction, the Neel Giri Tahr, is actually just a mountain goat. So if the call of the wild goat doesn’t excite you, choose from among the many interesting activities you can do at the resort or just catch a nice afternoon siesta.

 

2. Madupetty Dam – A north Indian tourist, who has has seen the great and gurgling dams of the Himachal, will find nothing great about this calm and serene dam of Kerala. Especially if your trip is just before the monsoons, one can totally give this one a pass.

 

3. Flower Show – the valley has some very beautiful flora and one can spend hours with the beautiful flowers in all colours and shapes. But if you are short on time, and the objective of your holiday is to chill and bond with your family, opt out. Take a walk in the organic garden your resort will no doubt have.

 

So choose your itinerary smartly. Put in a bit of research to understand what each place has to offer and then plan your stay to make the best of your holiday. A tick mark holiday where we must do everything and have pictures of every possible tourist spot to show back home is so not worth it.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Nature, travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A Walk in the Clouds

I woke up this morning to find that overnight our resort had lost its earthly anchor and floated up to the devine devloks. Atleast that’s what it looked like from my window. No where could I see the lush hills of Munnar covered with tea gardens. I rushed out and sat on the hills, marvelling at this feeling of being on top of the world.

As I sat gazing at the carpet of clouds, I could feel a change coming over them. The snowy clouds started to turn a beautiful shade of gold. Still in my sleep fuzzed and wonderstruck state, it took me some time to understand what was happening. I was witnessing a beautiful sunrise on the hills!

IMG_20170427_062428838_HDR

As the golden rays of the rising sun touched the clouds and the hills, the whole valley glowed with a beautiful shade of orange. Soon the clouds departed and the sun-kissed, misty hills reappeared.

This is how I started my morning trek to the Sita Devi Lake on top of the hills of Munnar. My guide chose an easy trek for us city-trekkers and a half hour later we found ourselves near a beautiful lake. The clear waters reflected the canopy of trees and gentle hills surrounding it from all sides. Nestled among the thick forest of Munnar, this pristine lake took my breath away.

IMG_20170427_065412862

As we sat at its banks, the first rays of the golden sun filtered through the thick forest and created the illusion of a devine harp. Sitting by the lake we were surrounded by the melodious exchange of the Malabar Whistling Thrush, calling out to their mates.

IMG_20170427_070910778

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Nature, travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A Walk in Fragrant Gardens on the Hills of Munnar

When people like me step out of our cozy and comfortable four walls, we find ourselves wonder struck by how refreshing the natural way of living can be. Everyday when we need vegetables it means a trip to the local market or ordering online, owing to the busy lives we lead. There is a contant fight between my 9 year old and me if I decide to step out and wish to take him with me. But imagine if I were to tell him to step out in the garden and pluck some fresh organic cabbage or brinjals, the conversation would be completely different I imagine. When he was little his pre-school teacher once informed me that they were going on a fruits and vegetable filed trip the next day. Over-joyed and congratulating myself for choosing a hands-on school for my jigar ka tukda, I asked her which orchard or farm they were going to. I was promptly informed that the trip was to the local super market where the children will see a wide variety of fruits and vegetables displayed. 😐

But yesterday morning I found myself walking in a beautifully laid out organic garden where more than 30 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs were grown. I could not help but wish we had something like this in the city so that kids could see how these things actually grow rather than just sold.

 

I have never seen cabbages as big as these or mint smelling as fresh as to carry its whiff IMG_20170426_104837107-1across the garden. The sweet taste of freshly plucked fennel was far more refreshing than any sugar coated fennel we find in the markets. I was amazed to find how easy it is to do this ourselves if only we find the time and passion to dedicate some of effort and resources to it.

The interesting part I got to know is that while it is good for us to consume these fresh and organically grown fruits and vegetable, it also adds to the bio-diversity of the area. The waste from the plants are used as manure for the garden and the vermi-compost pit ensures there is no need to ever use chemical based fertilizers, making this a truly organic produce.

The honey bees that nest here help in pollination, thereby adding to the grDSC_0646owth of the local flora. The trees and plants provide habitats to rare and beautiful birds and animals such as the Malabar Whistling Thrush, Spotted Dove, Malabar Hornbil, Indian Parakeet, the flying squirrel and many more.

 

I am so excited about my find that I cannot wait to plan a visit with my son so that I can show him the natural way of life. I can imagine his wonder and amazement to see the beauty and simplicity in living a sustainable life. I know it is not practical to create a life like this for him in the city. But I hope that he will stay in touch with the reality and be a conscious individual when he grows up.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Nature, travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Munnar – The journey fills your senses even before you reach the destination

Munnar, the hilly paradise in God’s own country, is on the travel list of most people. Over the last few years, the quaint little villages, the wide-spread tea gardens, the lush waterfalls have created quite a few memorable holidays. The variety this one single destination offers in terms of food, natural beauty and off-beat activities is what adds to its popularity and makes people come back for more. 
I am on a short trip to this exotic destination for the next two days. Follow my journey as I share experience through my photos, videos and sometimes verbose posts.
For now I will share some tips on making your journey to reach the destination pleasurable. 

1. Start early – Reaching Munnar takes time so its best if you take a morning flight to Kochi from where ever you are travelling. The drive from Kochi to Munnar is too beautiful to pass in the dark. 
2. Take breaks – While driving uphill, stop at the little villages on the way to just soak in the freshness and coconut-ness of the region. Travel is all about the journey and not just the destination.
3. Eat Light – Since the first day is mostly spent on travel, keep the food light. you can gorge on the southern delicacies once you reach there. But the road uphil is winding and you wouldn’t want to dot it with the undigested remains of your breakfast and lunch.
4. If travelling with kids, be prepared with –

4.1 Multiple options of little light snacks

4.2 Some audio story books as the long drive can make them fidgety

4.3 Wet – wipes, tissues and pediatric anti-nausea meds

5. Spice Gardens – Visit the spice gardens on the way and take a walk among the trees and bushes to know more about the organic spices that the state is rich in. Most spice gardens offer guided tours for a small amount.
Look out for more as I share my wonderful journey with you.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 25, 2017 in travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Of Morning Walks and Beaches

There is something pure about a walk on the beach. Waves crashing at your feet and pulling away the loose wet sand from underneath. I am not a morning person but if I am in a beach town I wake up just for this…all by myself.

 
image

One of my first memories with the sea was during one of my first few trips to Goa. We chose to stay at the shacks on the beach. I was totally unprepared for the serene sounds of water lulling me to sleep only for crashing waves to wake me up. It was almost as if the sea was in tune with me. I remember waking up wondering what the loud noise was. As I stepped out of my room I saw great big waves crashing on the beach, calling out to me to come and play. It was like meeting an old friend. One look at beautiful horizon and I was lost. I did not even realise how far away form my room I had ventured…blissful with beautiful, playful waves.

 

The beach in Pondicherry is another one of my favourites. It is best enjoyed at sunrise but that also means you have a very short while with them before it gets hot and sunny. I went there in the January last year – the best time of the year to visit any beach town in India. With waves licking my feet I walked a long way on the beach and as always found myself far from where I had started. I came across an old fisherman village called Pudukuppam. On the fringes of the village stood a small temple, ruined and dilapidated. The village was almost razed to almost nothing in 2011 when Cyclone Thane hit the coast, wiping away precious life. But life moves on and the villagers now recall it only as hazard of coastal life. One is can hear notes of A. R. Rehman’s hits floating out of houses and find women sitting outside their houses, making small talk as they prepare their meals and play board games. I believe chance discoveries like these make for great memories.

DSC_0570.JPG

DSC_0550.JPG

Village Women.JPG

Women at Pudukuppam village playing a local board game

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 22, 2016 in travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sweet Delights from the Desert Land

Rajasthan, a place rich with stories of the brave kings and beautiful queens, of ghoomars and borlas, of satis and johars, of deserts and mirages. Mesmerizing folk tales that take you back in time. With roots buried somewhere deep down, my tryst with the scorching lands of this magnificent state began when I was 4. While I have never stayed in the state, something in my Karma keeps bringing me back and tied to Rajasthan. Now I am married to a Rajasthani and thus have a lifelong relationship with this place.

This is the first part of my Rajasthan Dairies series where I will share stories and memories that I have collected over the years. Stories about the rich food, culture, traditions, history and some folk tales. I begin my story with my love for Rajasthan’s mouth watering sweets. While the state is synonymous for some popular ones, different cities have their own specialties. Every time my mother-in-law comes visiting she knows what we would love to see coming out of her bags. So much so that friends and colleagues have started keeping track of her visits. God help me if I happen to go to Jaipur and return empty handed (read without a box-full of sweets)!!! So, here’s a list of some of my favourites –

1. Ghewar – These are mesh-like disc shaped sweets made with all purpose flour and drenched with sugar syrup…slurrrp! My earliest memories of this sugar soaked delicacy is associated with the big round box it comes in, something like those hat boxes you see in Hollywood movies! A friend of my dad’s knew my weakness for these and would bring it with him every time he visited us from Jaipur.  Associated with the festival of Teej, which is celebrated in the month of August, these mouth watering sweets can be savoured as it is or with sweet rabdi or malai.

 

2. Churma – Popularly paired with the traditional Rajasthani dish of Dal-Bati, Churma is coarsely ground wheat crushed & cooked with ghee and sugar. It is flavoured by adding roasted and crushed dry fruits, kesar (saffron), rose petals etc.

 

3. Mawa Kachori – This sinful sweet is a meal in itself. It is a deep fried kachori (or wheat flour disks) stuffed with sweet mawa (milk cheese) mixed with dry fruits, nuts and soaked in sugar syrup. Loaded with calories, this sugary delight is a specialty of Jodhpur.  the uniqueness of this sweet lies in its multiple textures. Bite into the crispy outer layer and savour the juicy soft filling mixed with nuts.

 

4. Gunjhiyaan – Specially prepared around the festival Holi, a gunjhiyaan is similar to a mawa kachori. What distinguishes this sweet is its momo-like shape. After deep frying and dipping in sugar syrup it is rolled in grated coconut to give it a distinct flavour.

 

5. Mohanthal / Dilkhushar – Mohanthal, or Dilkhushar as it is sometimes called, is a sweet barfi made from gram flour. It is prepared in large quantities on special occasions like weddings and is an all times favourite among all. Its one of those sweets that you cannot eat just one. The name Dilkhushar means ‘something that makes your heart happy’. 🙂

 

6. Malpua – These are fried pancakes, again dipped in sugar syrup and garnished with finely chopped nuts. Malpuas are also prepared during weddings, especially winter weddings, and are served hot. One can have them as is or with rabri to give it different texture and offset the extremely sweet taste of sugar syrup.

 

7. Monng dal halwa – Last on my list of favourites is Moong dal halwa which is prepared from split yellow moong dal. Making this delicacy is a tedious process involving overnight soaking of the moong dal and grinding it into a paste. Then it is slow cooked with mawa and oodles of ghee and sugar until golden brown. My mom made them e very year on Diwali and now no Diwali is complete for me without a generous dose of this mouth watering sweet.

 

While these are some of the more popular ones, Rajasthani cuisine has many more sweet treasures to delight your sweet tooth. Every household has its own traditional sweets and no meal is complete without a sweet. An interesting tid-bit about Rajasthani sweets is that these are not called ‘desserts’ which is supposed to be had at the end of a meal. They are  had before, during and after the meal. So next time you are planning a trip to this majestic land indulge in its sweet delights and don’t worry about gaining some extra kilos.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 21, 2016 in travel, world

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Make the Best of Weekend Getaways

Weekends are tailor made for short getaways and if there is an extra day or two thrown in in the form of a long weekend its too good an opportunity to let go. As weeks are becoming more and more stressfull this trend is catching up. People look for quick options to fulfill their travel quota. Some do it to de-stress and some to satisfy the travelling kida in themselves.

Having lived in Mumbai for the past 10 years I have had my share of these weekend escapades where we just up and leave the city to explore nearby locales. There are so many beautiful places to go to within driving distance near Mumbai…but I’ll save that for another post. What I want to share here are some key tricks I have picked up while on these trips that truely ensure you have a good detox on these getaways.

So here goes. My tips on how to make the most of short getaway trips –
1. Dont pack in too many things on the itinerary – remember the whole point of this is to destress. Don’t make this a tick-mark trip where you have to see everything and do everything. For once just sit still and let the peace settle in.

2. Travel light – since you are going for just 2 days refrain from packing in all the spoils of your latest shopping spree! Keep your baggage light…it helps to unpack fast when you return late on Sunday night and have work the next morning 🙂

3. Go in for a spa therapy – you may not be a spa person but make that rare exception and go for a spa. Let the massuer work their magic on your tired muscles. You’ll be grateful you did when you are hunching in front of your laptop on Monday morning. Couples can opt for joint spa sessions. Some places even offer family packs!

4. Rent a bike – If the place allows it rent a bike or a cycle and explore the local area. Finding a lesser known water fall in the middle of nowhere makes for a better anecdote than the air conditioned tour guides.

5. Drive down – Road trips have a charm of its own. Stop on the way to click that perfect sunset or to have freshly squeezed sugarcane juice at a village on the way. Play car games or just lose yourself in soulful music as the scenery passes by. Choose an old highway over the expressway – they are more picturesque :-).

6. Go Gypsy – Try staying at a homestay or rent a villa instead of booking into a resort or a hotel. Lots of websites today offer exciting off-beat stay options. Explore those. They are easy on the wallet too. Plus if you are lucky you get to taste the real authentic food.

So get your bags ready. 2016 is a year of many long weekends. Here’s a ready list for you to get started. Happy Holidaying 🙂

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 19, 2016 in travel

 

Tags: , , , , ,