rock garden chandigarh india

Chandigarh is a good place to be in when the weather is good. If you are travelling from Delhi, Chandigarh is good for a weekend stay. Hotels usually offer good deals, there are good old and new hip places to eat at and then you can always spend the afternoons in the rock garden and spend the evenings at the Sukhna Lake. The rock garden, by the way, is not what it used to be. They are expanding the garden and now there is a…Continue Reading “Rock garden, Chandigarh”

sharma sweet shop gulab jamuns

A few days back, I got into this massive online brawl about gimmickry and marketing vis a vis substance when it comes to restaurants. A Delhi restaurant named Hotmess claimed itself to be the first aphrodisiac themed restaurant with the standard regular menu of burgers, pizzas and mezze platters and blah blahs and duhs. Paid bloggers and partisanship snuffed a debate that could have led to something. Anyway, here is me dipping a naked toe into the beehive again. A few years back, we were…Continue Reading “Sharma Sweet Shop, Amritsar and food marketing”

paan shop odisha

I was driving to Satkosia crocodile reserve and spotted this by the roadside when the traffic was slow. The name of the shop is ‘musa bhaina paana dokana’ which literally translated would mean mouse brother paan shop. Anyway, the shop looked interesting, colourful and alone under a huge tree and there was enough space to park by the roadside. So, we stopped. Apparently, the shop specializes in raja meetha paan, but that almost means nothing. Raja is a monsoon welcoming festival that lasts only three…Continue Reading “Musa bhaina paan shop, Khurda, Odisha”

Despite all the romance about Indian summers, these are tough times. One day out in the sun and I realise I have transitioned from a village lad to a city boy. I was born and spent the initial years of my life in a thatched roof house in a village without any air coolers. In the humid coastal Odisha, they don’t work anyway. Those palm leaf handfans were all the respite that one got from the heat. From that to trying to rush from one…Continue Reading “Trip to Rataul – Discovering mangoes with Sohail Hashmi”

You don’t fall in love with hotels. They are not homes. You stay for a night and move on. Thankfully, Jaipur Inn is an inn. And, I love it. It was love at first sight. On the way back from a trip to Ajmer and Pushkar, we were tired, broken and sad. We were looking for hotels in Central Jaipur but could not make up our minds. A dear friend recommended Jaipur Inn, the same guy who had suggested Sunset Point. So, we were looking…Continue Reading “Jaipur Inn – Bani Park, Jaipur”

The dynamics of travel affect your experiences at the most basic level. Most of our countrymen know nothing of Odisha. Of the few who know know little more than Puri and Konark Sun temple. But it is not just about outsiders, many of us inside the state have not done justice to the state’s beauty too. Anyway, this preamble was needed to justify my reaction at finding this amazing place in a far off tourist destination in Odisha – Pantha Nivas at Chilika Lake. We…Continue Reading “Pantha Nivas, Rambha, Chilika Lake”

We used to have a house in Salepur, home of Bikalananda Kar rasgula, the most famous shop in Odisha. My paternal village is nearby too. The rasgulas are sweeter, the syrup thicker and they last longer due to high sugar content. My favourite ones, though, are white tiny ones from Govindpur, a place near my maternal village. Between Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, there is a small place known as Pahala. Almost fifty sweet shops on each side of the road for nearly hundred meters – this…Continue Reading “Pahala – The Rasgulla district of Odisha”

Kerala is god’s own country but that does not make it any less confusing. So many destinations, so many resorts and so many opinions. No matter what you chose, one has to go back, again and again. But each visit has to be planned carefully, so here is a little help. Thekkady is one of the scenic destinations in Kerala and Cardamom County is one of the places to be in Thekkady. Part of Raxa Collective and owned by Muthoot Group, it is bordered on…Continue Reading “Cardamom County, Thekkady”

This was on our third day in Kashmir. We had been to the mandatory sights in Pahalgam and had just come out of Verinag. The plan was to head to kokernag. Our guide was the local family friend we were staying with. Someone informed him that we could get fresh snow on Sinthan Top. Now, that’s a name that was relatively foreign even to him. So, we asked around for directions and ventured towards the the pass. It wasn’t a peak, it was a pass…Continue Reading “Sinthan Top – The hidden gem of Kashmir”

I have been to many old cities and have wondered why thousands of miles apart, they share the same characteristics. To say, they look the similar would be wrong. But there are so many common traits – Old Delhi, inner parts of Agra, old Srinagar, Lucknow and even Cuttack. There is a constant struggle between public and private space, infrastructure that’s stretched to the limits due to rising population, heritage buildings next to living encroaching one and a general sense of bemusement among the residents…Continue Reading “The Heritage walk of Old Amritsar – Part 1”

In recent past, this is the second time that we have got lucky. After two very good homestays in Chail, one of which I written exhaustively about, we got even a better turn of events in Kashmir. However, luck favours the brave. And, in this case, we had stood our ground. From the moment we booked the ticket, everything seemed to go wrong. The flight was rescheduled from an early morning one (8.15 a.m.) to 10 o’clock departure. It, eventually, took off at twelve o’clock,…Continue Reading “Travelling to Kashmir – Living like a local”

The ever insistent Sunny Deol, in one of the innerwear ads, gave a very philosophical advice – apna luck pehen ke chalo. I understood the true meaning of those deep words on our trip to Chail. Having never travelled in peak season before, I never knew how it feels not to find a place to stay, how to be talked down to arrogantly by hotel owners who suddenly behave like fathers of an eligible, successful NRI. Good reason apart, the primary reason why I have…Continue Reading “East View Homestay – the best place to stay in Chail”

In my last post on our trip to Lansdowne, I had mentioned how small the town is. There is practically nothing to do here and that’s how I love it. You can go up and down the hill, but you will have better sights if you just sat down in a place. Bhulla Tal lake is one of the few tourist attractions. The churches of Lansdowne , the bazaar and the lake are on one road. It’s straight up the hill. They all come one…Continue Reading “Bhulla Tal Lake, Lansdowne”

It is so enticing to visit a city and bypass all the major landmarks. There are those kinds travelers – the off the trail explorers etc. I used to do that at times. Took me 12 years to see Qutub Minar and countless visits to see the Hawa Mahal. When you have ticked off all the offbeat places, the touristy places may just save the day. It is better from the front than from inside. It is extremely crowded. The narrow stairs and the eager…Continue Reading “Hawa Mahal, Jaipur”

I was in town to meet the Chief Minister. Despite my personal feelings for the political class of the state, the morning air felt good. I had around four hours to kill in the early part of the morning. I had gone to the Ambedkar Memorial Park, found it closed, walked around and be done with it in less than two hours. Bada Imambara is on the other part of the city but all other cities look smaller to dilliwallahs. If you can go from…Continue Reading “Bara Imambara and Bhool Bhulaiya, Lucknow”

Lansdowne is a small place. There isn’t too much to see and not many places to go to. It’s just one hill and that’s why we loved it. Also, a reason why we wanted to stay at a more than reasonable place. We had learnt that from our time at Club Mahindra Resort, Corbett. I have nothing against backpackers, but resort tourism isn’t that bad either! You can stay at a cheap hotel in Shimla considering that you will spend a lot of time outdoors…Continue Reading “Kasang Regency Hill Resort & the trip to Lansdowne”

Nothing about Mayawati was one dimensional. Her rise, her rule or her departure from power – every bit of it is laced with controversy. But, that’s true for all or most political leaders in UP. When Mayawati won the election, people hoped that she can’t be much worse than the anarchy loving Yadav clan. When she was ruling, nothing could be worse. Once the Yadavs came back to power in Lucknow, people fondly remembered her citing corruption and waywardness is better than rampant hooliganism. Lesson…Continue Reading “Ambedkar Memorial & Park, Lucknow”

Almost all the hill stations have beautiful churches. Why? Same reason why all the tall mountain peaks have temples. You give the religious guys a beautiful spot, they will say wow and immediately get down to piling rocks and building a place to pray. Anyway, few days back, we were in Lansdowne. Given the name, it would have been surprising if the place didn’t have a bunch of churches (imagine a Rudrapur without a shiv temple!). So, the churches were there – St. Mary’s Church…Continue Reading “The churches of Lansdowne”

Old cities are like celebrities. You form a thousand preconceived notions about them even before meeting them. Sometimes, they are flattering, most of the times, not. For instance, I am a reluctant explorer when it comes to these relic towns. Though I have taken a thousand walks in Old Delhi, I love sitting around Connaught Place more. In spite of being amazed by the crowds and the 24/7 life of Cuttack, I have always preferred the orderliness of Bhubaneswar better. So, I was not exactly…Continue Reading “Hazratganj, Lucknow (I)”

Born close to the beach, I always had a weak spot for the hills. When the whole of Delhi migrates to Goa or Jaipur during the winters, I race to the hills. When the city heads to Kerala during the monsoon, I sneak into the hill stations to see the droplets from up close, to listen to the mighty waterfalls and to dip my feet into the streams and go to sleep. Recently, a friend bought a flat in Rishikesh. It was not just fully…Continue Reading “A house in the hills”