Hemkuta Hill Hampi

Temples, Coconuts and Ganesha: Hampi in Two Days

History buff that I am, visiting the ancient temples of Hampi had been on my to-do list for quite some time. I recently used a long weekend to make this trip from Delhi to Hampi in two days via Bangalore. If you enjoy history, architecture and nature then you will love Hampi. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in my opinion one of the most underrated places in India. Read on to discover more about the town’s history, the places to visit in Hampi in two days, and the nitty-gritty of planning a trip here.  

Hampi is a small, laid-back sort of town surrounded by paddy fields, coconut trees and banana plantations. The pace of life is much slower than what you’d typically be used to. In that sense, it felt like a mix of Kerala and Goa. There are homestays and small thali-serving “restaurants” everywhere. Coconut sellers place themselves strategically outside the various temple gates, offering them to you when you return from a visit, happy but dehydrated. Coconut water is great for rehydration by the way so drink away. I lost count of the amount of coconut water I got through during my two days in Hampi! 

The historic heart of the town i.e. Hampi Bazaar and its surroundings are considered sacred ground and you will not find any non-vegetarian food or alcohol being served here. To even find an ATM you will have to come out towards Kamalapur. The town survives mostly through income from tourism, as well as the neighbouring industrial belts. It is also a known centre for weaving. Cotton Ilkal saris from Hampi are famous, as are saris and textiles made out of the locally sourced banana-leaf fibre.

 

History of an Ancient Town – Kishkindha to Pampa to Hampi

Hampi derives its name from Pampa, the older name of the Tungabhadra river. The earliest archaeological records found here indicate that Hampi was inhabited by settlers as early as the 1st century AD. It is also believed to have been a part of the Mauryan Empire, and after that ruled by the Chalukyas and the Hoysalas. One can still see some surviving specimens of Hoysala temple architecture here.

The city really came into its own in the medieval times with the rise of the Vijayanagar Empire, the last great Hindu kingdom. The Empire was established in 1336, and Hampi as its capital city grew steadily and flourished as a centre for trade in gems, cotton, spices etc. Hampi was, in the 15th century, the second-largest city in the world (Beijing being the largest) and the richest city in India. It was a thriving metropolis, with a highly developed sense of art, architecture, agriculture and infrastructure. The society was multi-ethnic and multi-religious.

In the latter half of the 16th century, the Kingdom fell to the Deccan Sultans, and Hampi was destroyed, pillaged, and then abandoned. Today the ruins of Hampi consist of nearly 1600 monuments, are spread over an area of over 30 sq. km. Anybody who has seen the temples of Angkor Wat would be struck by the similarity in the layouts of the various groups of temples.

There is another mythological aspect to Hampi as well. It is believed that Hampi is, in fact, the Kishkindha kingdom mentioned in the Ramayana, where Rama and Laxmana met Sugreeva and Hanuman and stayed for some time before leaving for Lanka. In fact, Anegundi, located across the river from Hampi, has a Hanuman temple as well as a hill called Anjaneya Parvat where Hanuman is supposed to have been born.

Bali Sugreeva battle Hampi
Sculpture from a carved pillar showing the battle between Monkey Kings Bali and Sugreeva in Kishkindha

Places to see in Hampi

The ruins of Hampi are clustered into groups; the two main groups are – the temples and sacred monuments around the Hampi Bazaar and the royal enclosure near Kamalapur. The Vijay Vitthal temple stands in solitary grandeur about 2km away from the Hampi Bazaar. There are also various hilltops around Hampi with ruins scattered across.

If you have four or five days, you can visit every monument in detail and cover everything easily. However, given that most people only stay in Hampi for two or three days, I’m giving below a list of the most important places to visit in Hampi in two days.

 

Places to Visit in Hampi in Two Days

  1. Virupaksha Temple

This is one of the most important temples in the area and the only living temple. As you walk up the road to the temple, you will notice roofless stone pavilions along the entire side of the road. These are remains of the lively bazaar that used to exist outside this temple in the 15th century. The temple is dedicated to Virupaksha, a form of Shiva and the patron deity of the Vijayanagar Empire. The original temple was constructed in the 7th century i.e. much before the Vijayanagar kingdom came about. Time your visit to this temple for the early morning to avoid crowds. Also, if you visit in the morning you might get to watch an elephant getting a morning bath at the adjoining river-ghat.

 

Approaching the Virupaksha Temple from Hampi Bazaar
Approach to Virupaksha Temple

 

  1. Sasivekalu Ganesha

This is a monolithic statue of Ganesha, about 8 feet high. Walk around and look at it from the back, and you will see that the sculptor has tried to show Ganesha sitting in Parvati’s lap. “Sasivekalu” in Kannada apparently means mustard and the statue has been thus named because of the similarity of its belly to a mustard seed. Or so I was informed.

 

  1. Kadalekalu Ganesha

Located just a couple of minutes’ walk from the earlier Ganesha, this monolithic statue of Ganesha was damaged by the invaders. At 15 feet tall, it’s one of the tallest Ganesha statues I’ve ever seen. Its location is really great, a pillared porch on a rocky outcrop surrounded by hills. Quite scenic.

Kadlekalu Ganesha or Bengal Gram Ganesha statue in Hampi

 

  1. Laxmi Narasimha

Narasimha is considered an incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu. Laxmi Narasimha as seen in Hampi is also sometimes called Ugra (angry) Narasimha due to the statue’s facial expressions. There was originally a Laxmi statue present in Narasimha’s lap, but this was damaged during the invasion of Hampi. What remains is the Narasimha statue and just the hand of Lakshmi. This statue is the largest of all statues in Hampi.

 

The Laxmi Narasimha statue is the tallest statue in Hampi
Entering the Laxmi Narasimha Temple

 

  1. Badaviling Temple

Located just next to the Laxmi Narasimha, this is a 3-metre high Shivling, carved out of a single piece of rock. It is believed that it was made by a poor woman seeking to please the deity.

  1. Underground Shiva Temple

This Shiva temple was until recently partially under water. It is still getting excavated and cleaned up by the ASI but is worth a look if you visit.

  1. The Royal Enclosure

This was the heart of the daily life of the royal inhabitants of Hampi. The Royal Enclosure contained living quarters, water tanks, stables, durbar halls etc.

Elephant Stables – This is a set of 11 stables for the King’s favourite 11 elephants.

Lotus Mahal – This beautiful medley of Hindu and Islamic styles of architecture was a part of the Zenana complex, and used as a venue for recreation and meetings. It reminded me of structures I had seen at Fatehpur Sikri in Agra.

Hazara Rama Temple – This Rama temple was the only temple within the Royal Enclosure and was the location for all ceremonial rituals of the royal family. The bas-reliefs on its walls depict scenes from the Ramayana – and instantly reminded me of the bas-reliefs on the walls of Angkor Wat.

Mahanavmi Dibba – This 8m high platform probably exists in the same shape as it was made all those years ago. The King used to watch the Navami celebrations from here.

Queen’s Bath – This was an enclosed pool surrounded by corridors. The queen and her ladies used to go here for bathing and relaxation.

The Elephant Stables in the Royal Enclosures at Hampi
The Elephant Stables inside the Royal Enclosure

 

     8. Vijay Vitthal Temple

The Vitthal temple is as significant and well-known among the Hampi temples as is the Virupaksha temple. Avoid going here in the afternoon – visit early in the morning or in the evening. There is a dirt road about one km long that needs to be covered either on foot or by the shuttle bus, for which demand usually outruns supply. Vitthal temple is a Vishnu temple, and the highlights of this temple are the detailed carving, the various musical pillars (it is now forbidden to play music on these pillars to avoid damaging them further) and the huge stone chariot that is so intricately carved that it almost looks monolithic.

The Vijay Vitthal temple is one of the two most important temples in Hampi
The famous stone chariot of the Vijay Vitthal temple

9. Hemkuta Hill

Hemkuta Hill near the Sasivekalu Ganesha is a famous sunset point in Hampi. I had read about it and decided to give it a shot. It was a wonderful experience and I would recommend the sunset here to anybody. Get here at least half an hour before sunset to get a good place to sit, since it’s a very nice and peaceful place to relax. You get some amazing views of the surrounding hills. It’s a large enough hilltop to allow for a large number of people to gather without getting into each other’s space which is great.  

 

Other things to do in Hampi

Rock climbing: The rocky landscape with huge boulders attracts droves of rock climbing and bouldering aficionados to Hampi, with November and December being the peak period for this activity.

Wildlife watching: You can visit the Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary, the only such sanctuary for sloth bears in India. It is located just 15km away from Hampi.

Visit the Tungabhadra dam: Located just outside Hospet, this is the largest dam in Karnataka. There is a lighthouse here which offers great views of the surroundings. There is also a garden with a musical fountain, somewhat popular with visitors in the evenings.

Coracle ride: You can cross the Tungabhadra river by coracle (a traditional round boat) that are still used in Hampi to this today. Look for these near the Virupaksha temple ghats.

ASI Museum: This museum in Kamalapur houses the artefacts found during excavations here, and also explains Hampi’s history in detail. The museum remains closed on Mondays and public holidays.

Tungabhadra river at Hampi
Tungabhadra river and Hampi’s classic boulder-strewn landscape

 

How to reach Hampi

By train: The closest railway station is Hospet, a town located within 30 minutes’ driving distance from Hampi. If you take the overnight train Hampi Express from Bangalore (Bengaluru), this is where you will arrive. From Hospet, you can easily get to Hampi by local bus or by autorickshaw.

By bus: Hospet has bus connectivity with cities like Bangalore and Mysore. From here you can continue to Hampi by local buses or autorickshaws.

By air: Till March 2018, the closest airport for Hampi used to be Bangalore which is a drive of about six hours. Luckily, since then Trujet has introduced a Bangalore to Vidyanagar flight connection. The new airport at Vidyanagar (Bellary) is just about an hour’s drive from Hampi.  

By car: If you wish to drive yourself, you can also bring your own vehicle as the roads, for the most part, are in decent condition, except for a few bits in between. Take the route via Bellary. Hampi being a popular weekend destination, quite a few people drive down from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Goa and so on.

 

Where to stay in Hampi

Hampi has accommodation to suit all budgets and requirements. The local administration has recently shut down most homestays and guesthouses in the Hampi Bazaar area, so check before booking. Kamalapur in southern Hampi is not a bad place to stay. It’s not much in terms of ambience, but the location is great. It’s where the bus-stand and ASI Museum are. It also offers close access to the Royal Enclosure side of the ruins.  The hotel I stayed at (Clarks Inn) was more than satisfactory.

 

Best time to visit Hampi

Being located in southern India and in an extremely rocky terrain, Hampi has a dry and warm climate. Summers can be quite unbearable, so avoid visiting between April and July. If you are making a long and lazy trip and don’t mind a bit of rain, monsoon would be ideal. If a quick weekend is what you have in mind, then the cooler months of November to February are good.

 

Getting around Hampi

If you haven’t brought your own wheels, then you have quite a few options when it comes to local transportation. You could walk of course, but I would not recommend this. The Hampi ruins are spread over rather a large area and the hot weather can really sap your energy. If the weather and your fitness levels allow, you may hire bicycles from your hotel or one of the local bike-hire outfits. Some places also rent out scooters and motorcycles, but be careful to check that it’s a legit setup. The bike you hire must have a commercial licence plate or you may get into trouble with the police.

By far the most common and ubiquitous way of transport within Hampi is the autorickshaw. They are everywhere.  Drivers will usually negotiate a flat per-day rate with you to take you around the temples of Hampi. However, they are not guides, so if you want a guide in addition, that will cost you extra. If you prefer a hired car and driver, most Hampi hotels and guesthouses can arrange this as well.

 

Overlooking Virupaksha Temple from Hemkuta Hill at sundown in Hampi
Overlooking Virupaksha Temple from Hemkuta Hill at sundown

 

I’ve seen a lot of temples in India and found Hampi to be really unique. The ruins and their stories are fascinating, and the quality of workmanship in the sculptures is outstanding. I do wish the local administration would focus on infrastructure development here. Given proper maintenance, better roads, shuttle buses, trained guides, etc., Hampi can easily be India’s Angkor Wat. In fact, I didn’t get enough of Hampi in two days and know that I will be back soon enough. 

 

Have you ever visited Hampi? What was your favourite part of the trip? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to the blog for my monthly newsletter? I’m about to launch a new and improved version of it this month!

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Two Traveling Texans
Isle of Skye offers scenic views

Travelogue: Day-Trip to the Isle of Skye

I had posted a little while ago about my trip to the Scottish Highlands and promised another post about the second part of the trip, my day-trip to the Isle of Skye. Here it is!

Driving across the Skye Bridge, we took a long day-trip to the Isle of Skye from our base in Stromeferry. We spent the entire day exploring different parts around Skye. The beauty of this island cannot be described in words, and even the pictures don’t really do it justice. I fell in love with this part of the world on that day. I still count the Isle of Skye amongst one of my favourite places in the world. Maybe someday I will revisit and explore it in greater detail.

Cuilin peaks on Skye

On this trip around the Isle of Skye we stopped to see the Cuillin Mountains; Portree which is the main town of Skye and rather quaint and lovely; the “Old Man of Storr” rock, etc. We spent an hour relaxing and admiring the views in Glenshiel (Fairy Glen). As per legends, this is the point where our world and that of the fairies meet. It did feel magical and beautiful high up there (I had climbed up to the top of the rock described as the fairy fort).

Old Man of Storr (L), Kilt Rock (R)

Tip: If you wish to pick up travel souvenirs or gifts while in Skye, try out the shops in Portree. You can buy interesting stoneware, pottery, trinkets and jewellery, things incorporating the local products like heather, and so on.

 

After passing Uig and catching some stunning sea views, we stopped at an unmarked point surrounded by cliffs and cliffside paths. Our guide took us on a walk along a trail which was, in hindsight, probably not the best idea for me with my propensity for accidents. However, the views at the end of the trail did make up for the nervous moments.

We ended the day with a visit to the Kilt Rock and its waterfall. From here, on a clear day, you can see right across the sea to the islands of Raasay and Rona. We were told that we were very lucky to have this view, since there are very few days with such good visibility here.

 

I was really tired by the time we drove back to Stromeferry. But this day-trip to the Isle of Skye was probably the most beautiful part of my days in Scotland. Just thinking about it now makes me want to go back!

The next morning we left Stromeferry and drove to Inverness, crossing the Glenelg Scenic Way. I was finally getting to visit Nessie!! Loch Ness is a huge, and I mean huge, expanse of water –  25 miles long, 1 mile wide, over 700 feet deep. Interestingly it’s a mix of salt and fresh water – salt water stays at the bottom and fresh water on top, with some kind of geothermal layer acting as a barrier. Not sure of the technicalities but interesting fact anyway. I looked around for Nessie but maybe she was sleeping in, it was a Sunday morning after all! It was grey and foggy and rather cold so we took some pictures, I picked up some pebbles that I’d promised to get for my sister, and then we drove on.

Loch Ness on a grey day

I’d been lucky with the weather so far; in all my time in Scotland there hadn’t been a drop of rain and I’d seen some glorious sunny days. Today that changed and the day was dark, gloomy, and windy with bouts of rain every now and then. Apparently, this is more what Scottish weather is supposed to be.

From Inverness, we went on to visit the Culloden battle site. This was a flat patch of moor where the Jacobites led by Bonnie Prince Charles fought a final battle against a much larger English army under the Duke of Cumberland in the mid 18th century. It was literally a massacre, over in less than an hour’s time for the most part. No prisoners were to be taken, so all survivors including the women and children were killed. Once the battle was over, the Duke set two trained butchers on the field to ensure that none of the dead would be recognisable in any way. As a result, all that marks the dead of this battle is one big common cairn in the middle. There are also numerous small stones scattered around, each bearing the name of a clan that fought and died here. It was a very sad place.

Culloden moor

At Culloden, I took a coffee break because I found myself really affected by the whole story of the battle and the brave Highlanders. In time we all got back, and soon a short drive brought us to Clava Cairns, a prehistoric burial site 3000 to 5000 years old. It is the best preserved Bronze Age burial site in Scotland. The cairns of stacked stones were constructed in such a way that on a solstice day the light of the sun would hit the inside wall of the cairn. Nobody knows exactly why the cairns were built, but it is supposed that they came up gradually over many years.

Clava Cairns

From Clava Cairns, we drove to a tiny little town called Aviemore, which is mostly a base for people going trekking/skiing/hiking in the mountains. Practically half the town was built around the one High Street. I will remember Aviemore for the awesome hot chocolate I had here!

Leaving Aviemore we went past Blair Atholl castle (the place after which the original Scottish owners had named what is now Wallwood Garden in Coonoor, India) to Pitlochry, a slightly bigger town. It was raining much too hard to look around though, and we continued in the driving rain towards Edinburgh.  At the Mile I said goodbye to the others and left for the bus station with two of the American girls from the group, as all three of us were taking the same night bus back to London.

Midnight saw me bringing in my birthday in a National Express Coach somewhere on the highway to London!!

Visiting the scenic Isle of Skye in Scotland covering places like Portree, Old Man of Storr, Glenshiel, Kilt Rock etc.

 

Two Traveling Texans
Sunshine blogger award

The Sunshine Blogger Award

A month ago I received a Twitter notification that Megha, whose blog Delightfull Discoveries I follow, had nominated this blog of mine for the Sunshine Blogger Award. This came as a very pleasant surprise, and a real shot in the arm at a time when I have been struggling with things in general. So thank you Megha, this means a lot. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, do take a look. She blogs mostly about food and books.

These awards don’t just act as motivators to bloggers, but also help one discover new blogs to read. I know I have found a bunch of new blogs just by reading award nomination posts of blogger friends!

RULES

1. Thank blogger(s) who nominated you for the blog post and link back to their blog.
2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

 

Here are the questions Megha asked, along with my answers to them:

1. Since when are you blogging?
I have blogged off and on with a gap of years between phases. This blog was started in 2017.

2. What inspired you to start blogging?
My love for travel, and the desire to talk and write about it.

3. You have a beautiful blog name. Why did you choose this name?
It’s based on my Instagram handle, which I named because that’s what I am – a nomad dreamer!

4. What is the ONE thing you don’t like about blogging?
Being an introvert, I find the “plugging” pretty much impossible to do.

5. What is your favourite book?
Pride and Prejudice

6. If you could travel to a country anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Italy!

7. Which movie you can watch again and again and why?
Casablanca, because it appeals to the tragic romantic in me :-/

8. After a tiring day, would you prefer to cook a meal or order one?
Always order lol

9. What’s your favourite breakfast?
Something hot made by my mom!

10. What’s your goal for 2018?
Get back to a decent level of health and fitness. And finally make my first trip to Italy.

11. Which TV series are you watching currently?
It’s been a while since I watched any TV series…

 

My Nominations

  1. Sonam @ Soulspeak
  2. April @ Just Leaving Footprints
  3. Shilpa @ Metanoia
  4. Ramya @ Meotherwise
  5. April @ Travellingwanderer
  6. Verushka @ Spicegoddess
  7. KJ @ KJ Around The World
  8. Katie @ WeirdTravelFriend
  9. Chad & Stef @ Touring Tastebuds
  10. Madhu @ The Urge to Wander
  11. Lynn & Justin @ Mad Hatters NYC

 

My questions for my nominees:

1. What inspired you to start blogging?

2. Is blogging your full-time career or side hustle?

3. What’s the part of a blogger’s life that you love the most?

4. If you could rewrite the ending of one famous Hollywood movie, which one would you pick and why?

5. Describe yourself in six words.

6. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

7. What’s your secret superpower?

8. What’s your travelling style?

9. If a book were to be written about your life, what would it be named?

10. Beaches or mountains?

11. If you weren’t blogging, what would you be doing?

 

Thank you so much Megha for this. I will now look forward to reading the others’ posts 🙂

 

Pangong lake in the afternoon

Pangong Lake – The Most Popular Lake in Ladakh

My post today is more of a picture-post about Pangong Lake, the most popular lake in Ladakh. It is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. The original name of the lake is Pangong Tso, with “Tso” being the Tibetan word for a grassland lake. One-third of the lake lies in India, and the rest in China.

A very large section of the Indian population had not heard of Pangong lake till 2009. That’s the year when the popular Aamir Khan movie “3 Idiots” was released. This lake was where the final scene of the film was shot. Since then, the popularity of the lake has grown across the country and a visit to “the 3 Idiots lake” is a must-do for practically any Indian visiting Ladakh.

Pavilions alongside Pangong lake
Pavilions alongside Pangong lake

I’ve been lucky to see the lake both in summer as well as winter. In summer, the colour of the water in Pangong keeps changing according to the level of sunlight and clouds. In winter, the water freezes over and I had a great time walking (and slipping) on the frozen Pangong lake.

Some more images from the late summer visit

Clear waters at Pangong lake
The water is crystal clear, salty and brr cold!

 

Pangong lake around sunset
The lake at twilight

 

Pangong lake at sunrise
Watching the sun about to rise over the mountains

Increasing tourism in the region has brought its own challenges of infrastructure and ecological balance. I hope the local administration will continue to keep a control over the area, and not let it get over-touristed like so many other places in the country.

Getting to Pangong:  Pangong Tso lies about a 6-hour drive away from Leh, the capital of Ladakh and the only airport in the region. Leh is connected by flight to Delhi, Srinagar and Mumbai.
Cabs or bikes can be hired from Leh for a day-trip or overnight excursion to the lake.

Stay at Pangong: During summer (Mid May until about the end of September) you will find seasonal camps set up near the lake. These will be basic tents with toilets but no other mod-cons. If you are in reasonably good health, and happy to rough it out for unforgettable sunrise and sunset views, then you might want to stay overnight. Be prepared though – the area gets terribly windy at night. Also, the lake is at a much higher altitude (14,200 feet) than Leh (11,500 feet), so you will need to acclimatize in Leh first.

If you are travelling with children or older persons, I would recommend a day trip and return to Leh, to stay at the lower altitude.

Camp at Pangong lake
Typical camp at Pangong

Whether you visit for a day-trip or brave an overnight stay, Pangong lake is an unforgettable, unmissable part of a visit to Ladakh. Do remember though that you are in an ecologically sensitive area, and act like a responsible traveller.

Pin it:

Pangong Lake is the most famous and popular lake in Ladakh

 

Two Traveling Texans

 

Liebster award 2018

I got nominated for the Liebster Award 2018!

I cannot believe my luck. I was nominated for the Liebster Award 2018 by the very sweet Marina Wang, an Aries who blogs about travel, fashion, and lifestyle at Wait Marina Who. 

Since my blogs are both just a few months old, and I’ve never been nominated for any kind of blogging-related award before, I am rather thrilled at this. The world out there is full of super-talented bloggers/writers doing amazing things. I hope I can also take my blogs to similar levels someday. So this nomination has really been the motivation I sorely needed. Thank you so much, Marina!

About the award: Liebster is a fun way to recognize and support upcoming blogs, increase your audience and also get to know some fellow bloggers around the world.

Rules for the Liebster Award 2018:

  1. Thank the blogger that nominated you, and link back to their blog (dofollow link, not nofollow).
  2. Pay it forward by nominating in turn 5-10 new bloggers that you appreciate. Of course, leave a message or comment for them to know they’ve been nominated!
  3. Answer the questions given to you, and write some of your own for your nominees to answer.
  4. Link your Liebster Award 2018 post to this post by the Global Aussie, and leave your blog post link in the comments section of this same post.

 

Here are my replies to the questions that Marina asked:

Use five adjectives to describe your blog.
Interesting, passionate, friendly, curious, mad (about travel)

Your favorite city in the world?
Impossible to name just one…but if I had to pick just one to revisit it would probably be New York City.

Where are you from and where are you currently living?
I’m rootless 🙂 My dad was in the army so we moved around a lot. They’ve finally settled in New Delhi and I live close by in Gurgaon, where work is.

Three best things about the city you currently reside?
a. Some of my closest friends live here too
b. There are lots of cute cafes around Gurgaon where I can sit quietly with a coffee and a book.
c. Lots of shopping around, if that’s your thing.

Your goals in 2018?
Get healthy. Write more.

Your favorite TV show?
A toss-up between The Big Bang, Gray’s Anatomy and CSI. Yep, I have eclectic tastes!

How did you come up with your blog name?
It was the title of an essay I wrote about myself in my diary many years ago 🙂

Where do you get most of your blog inspirations from?
I blog about places I’ve visited and food I’ve loved, so you could say that my blog inspirations mostly come from own life experiences.

 

Liebster Award 2018

Here are my nominees for the Liebster Award 2018. These are all people who have made good starts in blogging. Some are very new but promising, while others have been around a little while longer. All are worth following. List in random order:

Rashi at Live It Young

Saf and her family at The Travel Bugster

Anamika at The Yellow Bookshelf

Ashvini at Fitbewell

Penguin and Pia the Canadian-German couple

Manas at It’s Only Words

Danica at Jetlag & Wanderlust

Catherine at Working With Bipolar

 

My questions for you are:

1. If a new Superhero were to be created with you as inspiration, what would he/she be called and what would his/her superpower be?

2. What made you start blogging, and what kept you going?

3. If you could get a wish today, what would you ask for? This isn’t Ms. Universe so it’s fine if you don’t pick world peace 🙂 

4. Imagine your Twitter account as a person. Now, describe him/her using one sentence.

5. If you weren’t a blogger, what would you be?

6. Describe yourself using only words that start with the first letter of your name!

7. If x is the average (arithmetic mean) of m and 9, y is the average of 2m and 15, and z is the average of 3m and 18, what is the average of x, y, and z in terms of m?

Lol just kidding, that last one was just for fun. You only need to answer the top 6 🙂

 

Hope you enjoy answering these questions as much as I enjoyed thinking them up. I will look forward to reading your posts in turn. Don’t forget to comment here to let me know when your own post goes live!

 

 

 

Travelogue: My Visit to the Scottish Highlands

One of my most memorable trips so far was the trip I took from Edinburgh to the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye. Even though it was a while ago, all I need to do is to close my eyes and remember, and I get transported to a happy place! I’ve decided to share my memories of that trip in two successive posts, starting today.

My great Scottish Highlands adventure started on a sunny June morning from Edinburgh, where I had already spent a few days exploring the city. I was travelling solo for the first time, didn’t know how to drive and wanted a cheap way to explore the Isle of Skye. Therefore, I had booked a three-day backpackers’ coach tour out of Edinburgh. There was a motley group of travellers on this tour – a mother and daughter from France, a couple from Argentina, female students from the US, a handful of Germans, two Russian brothers (one of them a Daniel Craig lookalike), a student from Taiwan, and me bringing in the Indian angle!

We left Edinburgh and drove out into the countryside towards the Highlands. A drive of about 90 minutes brought us to Bannockburn, the site of the famous 14th-century battle where Robert the Bruce had defeated the British. It was here that I realised that the movie “Braveheart” was not really as factually correct as I’d imagined it to be. Leaving Bannockburn we drove further west passing Stirling, with a brief halt to see Doune castle. We stopped for lunch at Callender, a small town with picture-book houses and pretty lanes lined with tiny cafes and shops. A single Main Street runs through the town, with most of the town businesses located on this street. I had a really delicious mint ice cream from one of the small shops here.

Just a little ahead of Callender we visited a personage called Hamish. Hamish is a Highland Cow (Hairy Coo!!) and something of a minor celebrity. Tourists flock to see this long-haired cow, feed him and take pictures of him. Everywhere we went in the Scottish Highlands, you couldn’t miss the souvenirs related to this animal. The Highland cow is a local VIP and an industry in itself!

As we drove further up into the Highlands I had my first glimpse of a Scottish Loch. We stopped at the rather beautiful Loch Lubnaig to stretch our legs and take some pictures of the spectacular scenery. Further up we stopped to see Glencoe, the valley (glen) where British troops had massacred the entire Macdonald clan. It seemed hard to associate this beautiful, peaceful place with so much bloodshed. Glencoe, by the way, is also where the set for Hagrid’s house was set up, for the movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

 

After Glencoe we drove on past long lake-shores (Loch Leven, freshwater, and Loch Lhinne, saltwater) to reach the midsized town of Fort William. It is the second largest town in the Scottish Highlands. This area is also the beginning of the 100km long Caledonian Canal, which links Scotland’s two sea-coasts along with the Lochs Lhinne, Lochy, Oich and Ness. The town is the starting base for treks and hikes up to the Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the British Isles. We passed the Ben and then went up past the Commando Memorial. This is where a British Commando unit was set up and trained during the Second World War.

Our last stop for the day was the Eileen Donan castle. I recognised this as the castle from the Patrick Dempsey movie Made of Honour. Unfortunately the light was failing and I couldn’t get a good picture here. The current castle is actually just about 90 years old. The original castle was used to store gunpowder during the Jacobite rebellions and ended up getting blown up by British cannon-fire.

We finally reached Stromeferry (population seventeen) at around 7.30 pm after a long day. We were staying at a lake-side house called the Stationmaster’s House, a small B&B. It had bunk beds and hot showers and was quite comfortable. After dinner was done and we had all helped to clear and wash up, everybody scattered to do their own thing – showers, naps, walks. I took the opportunity to go for a short walk around the incredibly quiet and scenic lake-side.

Stromeferry where we stayed while visiting the Scottish Islands and Isle of Skye

 

I got back to find that the ice had been broken; the group was playing card games and talking about themselves. I think everybody was a little surprised to see a female solo traveller from India. We were a rare breed then, not that there are tons of us around even now. (You can read some more of my posts on solo travel here)

Over the next two days we covered Skye and Inverness. You can read about that part of my Scottish Highlands trip in this post  🙂

A typical sight from a visit to the Scottish Highlands

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A visit to the Scottish Highlands including Callender, Glencoe, Fort William and scenic Lochs

 

Two Traveling Texans

 

Qutub Minar complex courtyard

Exploring Delhi: The Qutub Minar complex

A casual conversation at work a few days ago brought up an interesting realisation – people will go far and wide to see the world, but often neglect to see their own city. Now I am not originally from Delhi, but having lived in Delhi/Gurgaon for over 15 years now, I guess I can qualify as a resident. I was quite surprised that my Delhi-ite colleagues had never been to places like Qutub Minar and Red Fort. After a quick mental inventory I realised that though I might have seen these two, there are still a number of places in Delhi that I have not explored yet. Over the next few months, I will be trying to remedy that, and also hoping to encourage others living here to explore their surroundings. This post on Qutub Minar is therefore the first of my “Exploring Delhi” series.

I first visited Qutub Minar as a young trainee in a travel agency, escorting a group of school children on a sightseeing tour of the city. Even though I didn’t get a chance to spend much time there, I remember wondering at the expanse of the site and promising myself I’d return. I returned one February afternoon, camera in tow, and ended up spending hours just wandering around the entire complex.  It was beautiful.

Calligraphic inscriptions on the Qutub Minar
Calligraphic inscriptions on the Qutub Minar

Some historical background now, for those who are not familiar with Delhi’s history.  Delhi is said to have been built not once but seven times, at different periods in history. One of these seven cities was Mehrauli (now an area in south Delhi), capital of the Slave Dynasty. The first king of this Sultanate, Qutb ud din Aibak, started the construction of the Qutub Minar in 1199 AD. His successor Iltutmish finished the job some 25 odd years later. At 73m high, this was the tallest brick minaret in India. Depending on which theory you believe, the Minar was either a victory tower or a place for the muezzin to send out his call for prayers.

qutub minar

Today, the Qutub Minar complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Later rulers (including the British) added to it, making the complex quite a mix of influences. The original sandstone tower suffered damage on multiple occasions due to earthquakes and lightning strikes; in fact the two upper stories are later additions. Apart from the Qutub Minar, the complex also has the Quwwat ul Islam mosque (said to be the first mosque to be constructed in India), various tombs and arches, and the famous Iron Pillar.

Iron Pillar
Ancient inscriptions on the corrosion-resistant Iron Pillar

The Iron Pillar of the Qutub Minar complex was originally constructed in the 4th century by Chandragupta, one of the most famous kings of ancient India and the founder of the Gupta empire. Constructed of an iron-alloy mix, it’s highlight is that it has resisted corrosion for these thousands of years. A later king brought the pillar from Central India to Delhi, and it now stands near the Qutub Minar in an unusual juxtaposition.

You don’t need to hire a guide to visit the Qutub complex. Just pick up an audio guide from the ticket office and you’re set. You can wander around at your own pace and choose how much – or little – you want to know. The complex is open from sunrise to sunset, except on National holidays. If I were you I’d go in the morning or late in the afternoon, since that’s when the light is best for photography.

If you are ever in Delhi with a couple of hours to spare and have even a little interest in history, I would recommend a visit to this medieval remnant of the city’s past.

Getting there – if you are in South/Central Delhi or in Gurgaon, the Yellow Line of the Delhi Metro will take you to Qutub Minar. Alternatively you can take an Uber/Ola cab, or get someone to drive you over.

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Exploring the Qutub Minar in #Delhi

 

Why I write

Why I Write

Why I write? I write because I feel. Because somewhere inside me are a million thoughts waiting to find expression. And a hundred stories hoping to be told. Writing gives me a voice.

I write because to an introvert like me it’s the most natural way of self-expression.  And a way to reach out and seek connection with those who think the same way. Or those who think differently.

I write so that I can have a record with me, of all the wonderful and surprising and disappointing and unforgettable and heart-breaking moments I have experienced. To look back at life whenever I wish to, without having to rely just on a fading memory, is why I write.

Another reason why I write is the rush of seeing something I wrote, actually getting published and appreciated. Acknowledged and understood. Shared. I have so much to write about, that I actually have two completely different blogs!

I write because I know how much I need to improve my writing skills. Because practise is the only thing that can get me there.

I write, also, because it centres me. In that sense, in almost every sense, I write for myself.

 

This is a post in response to the #everydayinspiration prompt from WordPress. 

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

 

NYC

7 Popular Destinations for Solo Travel – 2017

You might remember an earlier post where I talked about why I travel solo. Solo travel is becoming increasingly common across the world. As a closing post for 2017, I have created a short list of some of the most popular destinations for solo travel this year. Read on to learn about the top 5 global and 2 Indian destinations that were popular among solo travellers in 2017.

 

Siem Reap

One of my personal favourites, this one. This small town in Cambodia offers a variety of things to see and do, the most famous being the fascinating temples of the Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom complexes. The people are gentle, friendly and very hospitable; you’ll never feel unsafe or lonely. With plenty of nightlife, good food and a variety of accommodation available for every budget, it isn’t surprising that Siem Reap consistently figures amongst popular destinations for solo travel.

Getting there: Siem Reap is connected by air with Phnom Penh as well as neighbouring countries like Thailand and Vietnam. You can also travel here by bus from Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

The picture below is from a solo trip there in 2014.

Angkor Thom temples

 

Tokyo

The Japanese capital makes a great base for a solo trip. Not only is it very safe and well-connected by local transport, but the Japanese culture itself is based on tremendous respect and politeness, therefore making Tokyo ideal and safe for solo travellers. From Tokyo you can make easy day trips to Kamakura, Odawara, Mt. Takao etc. The city and its surrounds are also highly instagrammable – cherry blossoms anyone?

Getting there: All major airlines fly to Tokyo, usually into Narita airport. Tokyo is further connected with other towns by road and rail.

 

London

The British capital has always been a favourite for all kinds of travellers. While definitely not cheap on the pocket, the city is extremely easy to navigate (via Tube or on foot) and full of things to see and do. Apart from offering a rich collection of historic sights and major museums, London also acts as a base for trips to nearby places like Oxford, Windsor, Bath, Brighton, Stonehenge etc. The city also has a vibrant nightlife, with everything from clubs to theatre and everything in between. Travellers also like to try out some of the local foodie favourites and indulge in shopping while in London.

Getting there: London has two major airports with multiple flights from across the world.  You can also fly direct from India on airlines like British Airways, Jet Airways, Air India and Virgin Atlantic.

London
A cloudy morning in London

New York

I have yet to see a city with more energy than New York. It’s intense, it’s electric, it’s always busy and it’s one of the most popular destinations for solo travel across all age-groups and genders. From strolling in Central Park to walking the Brooklyn Bridge, from shopping at Macy’s to visiting the farmers’ market at Union Square, from museums to restaurants to Lady Liberty, there is so much to see and do that one visit doesn’t feel enough! Public transport is convenient, but I’ve found walking more convenient. While hotels in New York City are not exactly cheap, you can always try Couchsurfing or staying a little outside Manhattan if you want to stick to a lower budget.

Getting there: New York has multiple flight connections with the entire world through two major airports.  You can fly direct from India on airlines like Air India and United Airlines.

 

Barcelona

This Mediterranean city is known to be one of the friendliest places on earth, and ideal for solo travel. One of the biggest draws here is the fascinating architecture – 7 of the World Heritage Sites in the city are associated with Gaudi. The Catalan capital is also a haven for foodies, offering world-famous cuisine and friendly tapas bars to hang out in. You can also head out from the city to relax on Barceloneta beach, hike in Montserrat, visit Sitges, explore Gerona (GoT fans would know of this location!) and so on. Due to its laid-back feel, Barcelona is also a very popular destination for solo travel among students.

Getting there: Barcelona has an international airport with links to major airports across the world. There are also fast train connections with major European cities like Paris and Milan.

 

Puducherry

The small seaside town of Puducherry offers visitors a little bit of France in India. This former French colony, known internationally due to the Auroville community, offers a variety of things to do for every kind of traveller. Wandering through the French part of town (also called White Town) you will pass ancient churches and gaily painted homes constructed in a typical European style. There is a lot of French-influenced cuisine on offer, as well as the serenity of the Aurobindo Ashram. A lot of travellers visit Puducherry to visit Auroville and the Ashram and take a meditation course. The town is lately also becoming popular for adventure activities like scuba diving, surfing and canoeing.

Getting there: The best way to get here is to fly into Chennai and take a cab or bus to Puducherry. The drive along the coastal highway is extremely scenic.

Surfing
Photo by LECHAT Valentin on Unsplash

Kasol

This tiny hamlet by the Parvati river is often referred to as the Goa of the Hills. With its “hippie” vibe and chilled out ambience, Kasol is one of the most popular destinations for solo travel for young people. Visitors can stay in homestays or budget hotels, and indulge in activities like trekking, hiking, visiting neighbouring villages etc. There are a number of cafes and bakeries offering international cuisine (especially Israeli) apart from Indian food. Kasol is perfect for when you want to escape from the din of life in a typical Indian city.

Getting there: Kasol’s nearest airport Bhuntar (Kullu) is connected by air to Delhi. You can also take an overnight bus from Delhi to Bhuntar, and take a taxi to Kasol.

Are you planning any solo trips in 2018? If yes, I’d love to know where!

 

Some of the most popular solo travel destinations in the world

 

Soup in London

Foodie Friday: Of London, jet-lag and soup!

In today’s Foodie Friday post I want to tell you about the time I went to a Gordon Ramsay restaurant without knowing, and had the best soup I have probably ever tasted yet.

It was the first day of a work trip to London with my boss (we were attending a Trade Expo) and I was badly jet-lagged. We decided to get a bite to eat someplace nearby, as we didn’t have the energy to explore much.

So we basically just walked into the first nice-looking restaurant that we found close to our hotel. This happened to be The Narrow, a really cool riverside eatery that is part of the Gordon Ramsay group. I found out this bit later – at that point I just knew that it was a nice warm place where we could eat dinner and I could finally get to sleep! How’s that for serendipity?

We were seated quickly in the centre of the dining area. I remember seeing a glassed-in part of the restaurant which looked lovely. They call it the conservatory. I could see around me cheerful groups of people visibly having a great time.

Now I am not much of a soup person but since it was cold and there were not too many vegetarian options, I selected the roast butternut squash soup. Even in my jet-lagged hazy state I remember being blown away by the dish. It remains to this day one of the best soups I have ever tasted. Don’t ask me why, it was just right in every way. After the soup I declined a main and opted for dessert instead (naturally!). It was an apple crumble of some sort, and I enjoyed it immensely.

I wish I hadn’t been so exhausted and zoned out that day, because the place seemed really nice. Someday, whenever I am in London again, I must go to The Narrow again to experience it properly. If you are ever in London and anywhere close to the Docklands area, do give it a try!

 

 

Meeting locals

Travel Tip Tuesday: How to meet locals while travelling

To me, one of the most interesting facets of travel – apart from seeing a new place – is that you get to meet people. If you really want to take back a correct picture of the place you are visiting, you want to be sure that you also interact with actual locals and not just tourists like yourself. How do you get to meet locals while travelling by yourself and have no friends in the area? Today’s Travel Tip is from a fellow blogger Maria, who blogs at this very interesting site.

How to find a friendly local where you don’t know anyone

We live in such a globalized world that it’s super easy to find a friendly local to show you around or have a beer and a casual chat wherever you are in the world. All you need is to know where and how to look for them.

I am not a great fan of tour guides because they often tend to follow schedules, lack flexibility and all in all are just doing their job. What I love is having a local (a friend or a friend of a friend) everywhere I go to rely on for insights and tips, but I don’t have friends all over the world (yet). So what I do is use platforms like Global Greeter Network and MeetUp to meet locals who are more than happy to welcome and show around visitors to their cities.

Global Greeter is all about filling a short form pointing your interests like architecture, history or local cuisine, and then the website matches you to a local volunteer who wants to show you around. Unlike many other platforms, this one is completely free, which means you are not expected to leave a tip at the end. After having met tens of amazing people around the world, I became a Global Greeter local guide in my own city.

MeetUp is another hub for cool, open-minded people that meets locals and visitors who share the same passion. Everyone can organize an event (a meetup) and invite all people at this location to join. It could be anything from a yoga class, slacklining in the park, language exchange or a book club. If you don’t find an event you like, you can simply create your own.

Meeting locals instead of hiring tourist guides is one of my favorite ways to travel for free and how I can afford to travel almost every week.

Do you do something similar when you travel? Share your tips and thoughts with me in the comments below!

About the author of this post: Guest blogger Maria Angelova is a 20-something “traveling disaster” roaming the world. She’s crazy about mirto from Sardinia, speaking in foreign languages (mostly if she can’t) and studying fortune-telling. 

Things women travelling solo will hear

I wrote an earlier post about why I choose to often travel solo. Solo travel by women is getting increasingly common across the world. In India, while the number of women travelling solo are gradually growing, we still stand out sometimes as a bit of an oddity in the eyes of the more traditional thinkers. Hence, we also get to field a lot of curious queries. Here are some things that women travelling solo would often hear:

1. Aren’t you afraid of getting robbed or mugged or killed or something? Well, not exactly afraid, but one does exercise normal caution. Same as anyone else travelling with other people would. Depending on where I am, I might end my evening earlier than if I’d been with a group of people. But that’s just being practical, not afraid. Basic safety precautions are necessary not just for women travelling solo but for any traveller.

2. Don’t you have a husband? This usually happens when I am travelling within India, although I did face similar questions in Cambodia too. I guess they meant well. No, I don’t have a husband, and I am not going to let the absence of one imply that I cannot travel. Even if I were married, some of my travel might still be of the solo kind.

3. How does your family allow you to do this? Again, mostly heard this in India. My family, you will be happy to know, are very supportive and just glad that their daughter is independent and does things that make her happy. My mother follows my travel blog. Some amount of apprehension is normal I guess, and I ensure that I always stay in touch with them and leave my itinerary and other details with my sister.

 

 

Cambodia solo travel
A happy memory from a solo trip to Cambodia

 

4. Don’t you get lonely? Well, if it’s a long trip, sometimes you wish you had someone to talk to. But in this day of 24X7 connectivity, there is always a way to do that over Skype, Whatsapp or plain old phone calls. Most of the time though, I am really happy being by myself. Sometimes I meet up with other groups or even women travelling solo, and hang out for a bit. It can be interesting, and I would probably not have this opportunity if I was with family or a group of friends.

5. Would you like to go out tonight? Yep, happens a lot. A single woman travelling by herself will often attract invites of the sort. Entirely up to you to decide how to handle them. Most men will back off nicely once they know you’re not interested in a holiday fling. Unless you are?

6. How do you manage to finance your trips? Erm, the same way anybody else would. By working hard and saving money and forgoing some things in order to afford to travel. Why would it be any different for a woman?

7. Wow, that’s really a brave thing to do! Hmm, maybe the first time I travelled solo it was a brave decision, because I really was clueless. Now, not so much. Travel gives me joy, and how can you not do something that does that for you?

If you are reading this and have had similar experiences, do leave a comment! If you haven’t, leave a comment anyway!!

You can also find me on Twitter and Facebook. For travel inspiration check out my Instagram feed

 

Photo Challenge: Transformation in Ladakh

This is my first attempt at participating in one of the WordPress challenges I have been following lately. The subject of this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is transformation.

This picture is of Pangong Tso, the most famous lake in the Ladakh region of India, popularised even more after it was used as a shoot location for a hit Bollywood movie.

In summer, the tourist season for Ladakh, the lake is known for its beautiful blue-green waters that keep changing in hue, depending on the time of the day and cloud cover. It is an incredibly beautiful lake, and offers gorgeous shots of sunrise and sunset amidst the surrounding mountains.

Fewer people have been lucky enough to see the transformation of this blue water to a frozen sheet of ice. Unlike the usual Pangong images, this picture shows the lake in its fully frozen state. The lake freezes over during winter and you can easily drive a car over the frozen waters to the other side. I shot the picture in late Feb, on a day when the temperature at Pangong was an incredible -30 degrees Centigrade. Apart from the four of us, there wasn’t another soul around except for a military post some distance away. Walking on the frozen lake was an awesome experience, although the ice was so slippery that it was less of walking and more a combination of sliding, falling and stumbling, much to the enjoyment of my companions.

Someday, I hope to revisit Pangong in winter. Till then, pictures keep the memories alive.

via Photo Challenge: Transformation

Foodie Friday – Breakfastgrams!

Okay, I just invented that word. You’ve probably guessed that it refers to instagrammed images of the breakfast kinds. That’s what this new Foodie Friday breakfast post is all about.

When I travel, it’s as much about exploring the place as about trying out the food. Even though being vegetarian limits my ability to try out the entire universe of cuisines, I still manage to experiment as much as possible. Over the years, I have realised that I often skip lunch or dinner when I am out around town doing my thing. But I never start my day without a good breakfast. It’s a practice that has worked well for me.

This post is simply a recollection of some of the more interesting and memorable breakfasts I have had while travelling.

Banana Nutella pancakes from a street food stall in Phuket – Sweet and chocolaty!

The finished product!

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Peanut butter French toast in Atlanta – Could not finish it off! That’s sweet potato pancakes on the left and eggs and toast on the right. Yes, everything was delicious. No, I didn’t order all of it for myself.

Breakfast #Atlanta #yummyfood

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Pooris with tangy potato curry in Kolkata – Worth the early morning start

#Kolkata #foodiemoment

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Masala dosa with sambhar and two types of chutney in Chennai – Probably one of the best dosas I have ever had

#Chennai breakfast treat #foodiemoment

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Beignets and coffee in New Orleans – When in Rome…

The obligatory Cafe au Lait with beignets at Cafe Dumonde #neworleans #latergram

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Naga Chilli Cheese Toast in Shillong – Spicy as anything!

img_5286

This is by no means the entire list, and I sure I will be writing more on the subject sooner or later 🙂

If you are reading this, do share some of your favourite foodie memories!

Travel solo

Why I travel solo

I travel solo quite often for various reasons. While an Indian woman travelling by herself for leisure still often elicits some surprise/shock/concern from others, I’ve never let that bother me. In fact I believe that solo travel has made me better in many ways.

This is what I believe happens, when you start to travel solo

  • After the initial discomfort of being all by yourself, you move on to being able to enjoy your own company and the pleasures of being the sole decision-maker for your holiday plans. Want to capture a sunrise? Go for it! Prefer to spend the morning lazing at a café instead of visiting a museum? Sure, whatever you like!
  • You become a lot more confident. Travel can bring along with it missed connections, lost belongings, budget issues, security concerns and lot of other things. Dealing with it all and still having a good trip teaches you that you are stronger and smarter than you think you are. You learn to trust your gut.
  • You start getting to know yourself better. With nobody else’s preferences to worry about, you can plan your trips just the way you want to. In the process you learn more and more about your own likes and dislikes and what makes you happy. You also figure out things like how good a communicator you are, what your travel style is, what are the things you have trouble dealing with, and so on.
  • Gradually your perspective on life begins to change. When you go out into the world, meeting and talking to people, learning about different places and cultures, you realise what is superficial and what really matters in life.
  • You learn that there are a lot of good people out there, and travelling alone does not necessarily mean not having folks to chat with. All you need is a willingness to smile and communicate.
  • You realise that your fears about travelling alone were mostly unfounded, and that you’ve ended up actually having a great time.

If you have not tried solo travel yet, go ahead and give it a shot. Be sure to let me know about it!

Featured image by Yaoqi Lai on Unsplash

Foodie Friday – Amritsar

This is the first post in the Foodie Friday series. I hope to make it a regular one. This post is about a foodie-delight city called Amritsar. Amritsar, apart from being the home of the revered Golden Temple, is also an absolute heaven when it comes to Punjabi cuisine. I recently had the good fortune of spending a day and a half here with my parents. While the primary aim of the trip was a visit to the Temple, the side attractions of various food outlets that we tried out were equally enticing!

So here’s a quick run-down of the places I tried out (too many on the list were left out due to paucity of time and inability of the system to handle so much food):

Gian Chand Lassi – Delicious lassi served in metal tumblers, topped off with butter and cream. People struggle to finish one serving, and once done, you are sorted hunger-wise for hours together. They also have something called “pede waali lassi” where they add bits of sweet pedas to the lassi! Located near the Temple in the narrow market lanes.

Bharawan da Dhaba – The place to have a vegetarian meal in Amritsar. While my parents raved over the dal and bharta and the crisp tandoori rotis, I went straight for the one thing I wanted here – the onion kulcha thali! The kulchas were hot, crisp, nicely stuffed and accompanied by some very delicious chholey. While most people head to the outlet near the Golden Temple, we went to the newer branch at Ranjit Avenue. Comfortable seating, good ambience, decent service. My dad still remembers this meal fondly!

Kanha Sweets – The Sunday brunch here is legendary – a fixed menu of pooris, potato curry and chholey. The potato curry is like nothing you would ever have tasted before – tangy and sweet-spicy. It’s a challenge to stop at two pooris, and you will definitely ask for refills of potato curry as well as chholey. Don’t go here for ambience, there’s none – just focus on the amazing food! The sweet shop outside also sells a variety of traditional mithai (sweets), of which the most famous seemed to be the pinnis. After having eaten one, I could see why.

Prasaad at the Temple – While the Gurudwara visit was not food-centric at all, I cannot help but mention the kara prasaad here. It’s one of the best suji halwas you will ever have, and even though we were not able to join the Langar, I am glad I could have this famous prasaad and be blessed.

Lubhaya Ram – Different from the Ram Lubhaya shop, this is a small kiosk under a tree near the Girls’ College on Lawrence Road. We tried out a range of delicious aam papad, choorans and interesting mouth fresheners before settling on a few to buy. Worth a visit if you’re there. Chef Vikas Khanna’s list of food recos for Amritsar includes this little cart.

I realise the list is way too short given the scores (hundreds?) of amazing food joints in Amritsar. Unfortunately we barely had 24 hours, and of course being vegetarian means that I did not try any of the fish and meat dishes that I’ve heard people rave about. A second visit (soon, I hope) would be needed in order to scratch the surface further.

What are your favourite places to eat in Amritsar?

Getting there: Most airlines now fly to Amritsar; there are also multiple convenient Shatabdi trains at different times of the day.

Stay:We stayed on Ranjit Avenue – good restaurants around, calm and quiet, and only a short Ola ride away from the bustle of the old town.

If you are planning a visit and looking for tips on places to visit in Amritsar, then Shivani at The Wandering Core has some helpful tips here, take a look.