Leh-Ladakh – Where to stay?

Recommendations on accommodation based on our experience, including a couple places which you should avoid.

Guesthouse and Hotel Recommendations:

Jamspal Guest House at Leh
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Located in the Fort Road, Jamspal Guest had been like our home for every alternate day. Ishey, the owner is very down to earth and is ready to offer his help anytime. Anytime you come out, he is ready offering a cup of Qahwa (Kashmiri Tea) and lots of stories about the region. His wife has maintained a wonderful garden of both flowers and vegetables, also provides delicious breakfast every morning, especially Khambir (Local Bread).

Breakfast provided at an additional  cost
Rooms: There are rooms within the building which is average and at lower rates and in the annex building which are new rooms with higher cost.
While going to visit other places, in case you require the room when you come back, reserve the room with the owners. He arranged for a room in the nearby guest house Ajantha Guest House, which you can avoid.
WiFi is available – not too good, signal mostly good when you come out.
No heater, solar hot water provided. At times, hot water is a constraint but Ishey arranges for hot water.
Connectivity: Both Airtel and BSNL worked here.

Royal Inn – Kargil
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Located beside the beautiful Suru River, and a bit away from the main roads. Beautiful place to relax and unwind until you begin the next days journey. Rooms are average, better than the other places which we checked out on the main road. Negotiate on the room rent and they provide food at an additional cost. The food was really good. The Manager of the Mehraj has done a commendable job in maintaining this Inn, we had a good chat with Mehraj for hours on different subjects and he gave us lots of inputs and his knowledge is vast.

Breakfast and Dinner provided at an additional  cost
Rooms: There are rooms in different floors with different tariff.
WiFi is available .
Solar hot water provided. No sure about heater as we went during August and did not require.
Connectivity: Both Airtel and BSNL worked here.

Habib Guest House, Nubra Valley
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Our transportation was arranged by Rigzin and he had clearly told us to blindly go to this place and he will take responsibility that the home stay, food, everything will be good. When he said that, we were sceptical should we stay here? But when we reached Nubra, there were hell a lot of billboards at one junction with the list of home stays. We decided to go with Habib Guest House no matter what, when we entered the Habib Guest House locality, we just fell in love with this place. The rooms were average, we had hot water wall the time. The Dinner and Breakfast was included in the room rent, food was awesome. The Butter Tea, I got to taste here for the first time in Leh. Lovely home cooked food. Only drawback with this place was the flies, which we found in all other places later on.

Breakfast and Dinner provided and included in the room cost.
Rooms: There are rooms in different two buildings.
WiFi is not available, BSNL works without internet.
Solar hot water provided. No sure about heater as we went during August and did not require.
Connectivity: Only BSNL worked here.

Himalayan Wooden Cottage, Pangong
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Pangong in a way, still gives me shivers. The weather was breezy when we reached Pangong and being on a higher altitude it was not easy breathing. Inside the cottage it was a bit suffocating until we settled down.

Himalayan Wooden Cottage was the best we could get in that place, including food and services. I really salute the caretakers and the people staying there. We reached Pangong late in the afternoon and we could not have food en-route as most of the hotels were shut down due to a Buddhist festival.  The caretaker, I really forgot his name, was very helpful and prepared Dal and Rice, very basic but tasty at that time. The dinner and Breakfast is provided and it’s really good, especially the soup when the temperature is below 5 degree.

Comfort: You might feel, the wooden cabin is compact and suffocating, but trust me this place is better than the other tents and cabins available in that area. We witnessed a couple of people coming and enquiring if they had accommodation here, where as they had a booking in the other place which they did not like.
Accessibility from Pangong Lake: The cottage is a bit far from the lake, but you get the better view and it’s safe and comfortable. We got to see a lovely rainbow which lifted our enthusiasm.
Acclimatisation: Take precautions before reaching Pangong, despite of more than a weeks acclimatisation at Leh, we did feel little uneasiness. We did drink garlic water which made us feel better.
Chilling Cold: It’s really really cold in Pangong lake, you may not experience this at Nubra Valley. Go prepared with the thermals and warm clothes. They provide thick blankets which is really cosy.
Star Gazing: For Sky gazers, you may not want to miss this. The cold was unbearable and we were a bit scared about the Snow Leopards or wild animals so we did not step out of our cottage but you get to witness the Stars and Galaxy so marvellous.

Breakfast and Dinner provided and included in the room cost.
Rooms: There are independent cabins.
WiFi is not available, BSNL works intermittently without internet.
Solar hot water provided. No sure about heater as we went during August and did not require.
Connectivity: Only BSNL worked here.

Nezer Guest House, Leh
We had an impromptu stay at Nezer Guest House on our last day. The stay was okay and comfortable, the guest house is located at old road near the Leh market. You could call this place a hotel and not a guest house.

Breakfast and Dinner not provided. In house restaurant available – cannot comment on this as we did not use the services.
Room service provided.
Rooms: Multiple rooms in first and second floor.
WiFi is available.
Solar hot water provided. Heater available during winter.
Connectivity: Both Airtel and BSNL works here.

 

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Glimpse of our National Capital

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D.E.L.H.I. We had a stopover for one day so we thought we could get a glimpse of the national capital, Delhi. When you plan to stay in the Hyatt group of hotels any place in the world might make you feel elegant. Same was with me from the moment we were picked from the Airport.

Since it was a weekday and off peak time, traffic was minimal, that was a wow factor for someone who has witnessed Bangalore traffic almost everyday from the last decade. It was in the evening we checked into Hotel Hyatt Regency, at Bhikaiji Cama Place – New Delhi. We were informed about the Cocktail dinner which was from evening 6PM. So, we cancelled all the plans of going out and getting a small glimpse in the evening and moved the plan for next day. And who wants to get out of the comfort after the adventurous travel from the Leh, Ladakh region.

Next day morning Delhi welcomed us with fog covered sky, lately slight showers which made us lazy to start our day early. After Breakfast and only after the rain stopped, we stepped out of the hotel, confused which places to cover in the order of priority. We headed to Connaught Place, passing through all the embassy offices and few offical residences of government officials. All this while, I had a thought in mind, Delhi is so quite and calm and so welcoming still we see a lot of North Indians moved to the south for jobs in IT. Well, I was roaming in the exclusive area of Delhi.

In half a day we could see few places of importance and they were India Gate, Rastrapathi Bhavan and few other Parliament offices around, Red Fort, and Sarojini Nagar Market – we chose this as this was close to our hotel.

My experience at Delhi:
• Once I saw Chandni Chowk roads opposite to Red Fort, I started getting the original taste of delhi. We did not have sufficient time, else would have got the first hand experience of Chandni Chowk.
• People are not helpful, we asked few vendors about the road or metro stations, no one bothers to help you.
• Auto rides never get you fare price, you have to bargain on the price told by the autowala.
Uber surge is on all the time.
• Sarojini Nagar market has good quality branded clothes on very lower price.
• The attractions which we could see were maintained well.

So, I didn’t hate Delhi from my first visit, I’ll be coming back Delhi especially for Taj Mahal and Qutub Minar.

Experiencing Ladakh

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Ladakh – like everyone says it’s not a holiday but an experience, an adventure. We experienced lovely 15 days on a journey to the land of passes – Ladakh. Here’s my first post on my Itinerary, I’ll be posting more and more details regarding my trip in the coming days.

When you plan to experience Ladakh – I would say refer Devil on Wheels, this has been a bible to me during my entire trip. Dheeraj Sharma and his team has not left behind any information pertaining your trip to the Himalayans.  Hats off to you and the thankless job you do in helping the vagabonds.

How will I be thankful to the BRO – the Border Roads Organisation for the great roads, yes the great roads in such a terrain, we witnessed people working all throughout during all weather conditions. GREF – General Reserve Engineer Force was there anytime anywhere to clear the roads during landslides, shooting stones, anytime.

To the people of Ladakh who made our journey a wonderful journey to remember forever. To our sarathi’s who were our companions, happy companions, to drive us through such risky roads, with ease you drive and with safety. To Abdul and Rigzin!

Day 01 – Delhi – Leh (05 August 2016)

  • Travelled by air
  • Stay at Jamspal/Ajantha Guest House in Fort road
  • Take rest, acclimatize to the high altitude, Leh is in the altitude of 3500m which is around 11500ft
  • Visit Leh palace in the evening strolling around the main market and fort road on the way back
  • Wind up with the dinner at Amdo’s at the main market
  • Slight dizziness, even little activities would strain us and get us tired. Climbing the Leh palace was a big task!

Note: Stayed at Fort road: recommended vehicle to commute, the roads are sloppy and walking upwards to reach main market is so so difficult for first day.

Few things to remember:

  • Stay Calm
  • Take rest
  • Don’t sleep much
  • Involve in less physical activity
  • Drink water
  • Eat light food
  • Sleep early

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Day 2 – Leh – Dras – Kargil (06 August 2016)

  • Dizziness had vanished, felt relieved from the fear of AMS.
  • Started for Kargil, option was to either acclimatize with Leh or visit Kargil. I had to visit Dras for the love of nation.:)
  • Very good roads, less traffic as no one preferred travelling to Kargil from Leh and no one dared travel from Srinagar as unrest and turmoil was going on with curfew laid all over Srinagar.
  • Experienced Magnetic pull at Magnetic Hill point, watched the Moon land spot.
  • Reached Kargil around 3 to 4PM and started hunting for rooms. Avoided the rooms on main road and headed towards Hotel Royal Inn which was beside the Suru River. Checked in and headed towards the destination of the day – Dras War Memorial where the Kargil war was fought and won by India.
  • Spent some time learning about the history of the war and talking to the soldiers. Learned what patriotism is, paid respect to the martyred soldiers.

Mountain Pass en-route:
Fotu La -4,108 m (13,478 ft)
Namika La – 3,700 m (12,139 ft)

Day 3 – Kargil – Batalik – Dah Hanu – Khaltsi – Alchi – Leh (07 August 2016)

  • We had scheduled entire site seeing on the way to Kargil for day 3 when we returned. We had tweaked our itinerary based on the suggestion to visit Aryan Villages from our Kargil hotel manager.
  • Travelled from the alternate route to Leh via Batalik crossing all the Aryan Villages.
  • Visited the first Aryan village out of four – Darchik. Our bad, it started breezing and in few seconds it started raining, we rushed back to the car and started towards other village and rain started pouring heavily. Considering other couple along with us and our time schedule we planned to head back to Leh.

Caution – In few minutes’ rain, the roads were damaged with the landslides, shooting stones and at one stretch it was really difficult to pass the muddy patch. It was an experience, all were dumbstruck and quite for some time. But then this is Ladakh, adventure is part of Ladakh travel.

The taxi union is very united and they communicate among the fellow drivers en-route so well. The roads were not good ahead, so all planned to turn back and take another route and travel together. The alternate route joined the Khaltse junction. Skipped Lamayuru Monastery – still regret for not making it to Lamayuru.

Places en-route:

  • Indus-Zanskar Confluence point, both were muddy water, so we went during wrong time, could not witness green colour of Zanskar River.
  • Alchi Monastery – Old and the monastery with broad history.
  • Gurudwara Pathar Sahib – Good vibes, along with nice people around. Paid respects to the deity and on our way back had a chat with one of the soldier pulling us for a Tea and Jalebi and then for the Langar (Dinner)

Mountain Pass en-route:
Hamboting La – 4,024 m (13,202 ft)
Fotu La – 4,108 m (13,478 ft)

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Day 4 – Rest Day (Leh Sightseeing) (08 August 2016)

Our travelling partners were not ready for the adventures ahead and planned to return back. We planned to go on with the existing plan, though we took a break this day to adjust with the taxi and other plans.

Hired taxi from our host:

  • Visited Spituk Monastery (Kali Mandir for the Army troop) – It’s on a high and have to climb steps. Still not used to physical activities even after 4 days of acclimatization.
  • Hall of Fame – Not to be missed. Don’t plan this on your first day at Leh, because of less ventilation inside you might feel more uneasy.
  • Shanthi Stupa – This Stupa is built by a Japanese Buddhist along with the help of local Buddhist to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism. Our host was delighted to tell us about their contributions in building this place. A very beautiful Stupa with beautiful views within and around, not to be missed.
  • Back to Guest house – Exploring from other guests at the Guest house. Happen to meet a Solo traveler, who enlightened us more about traveling around.

Day 5 – Khardung La – Diskit – Hunder – Nubra Valley – (09 August 2016)

  • We had enough time to acclimatize, so we did not worry about reaching the Khardung La top, but the roads were crazy. But hats off to BRO, they were there fixing and maintaining each and every nook.
  • We reached Khardung La top by 10AM, clicked few pictures, and had Maggi at Richen Café there. We could stay there for around 45 minutes without any uneasiness and we were glad for that. We ascended down where the roads were not good for few stretch and the vehicles from the opposite side started. The taxi union has an understanding even here with the traffic. Until 12 you would not see the vehicles on the other side.
  • Buffet lunch at River Side Restaurant – Delicious Veg buffet with beautiful landscapes outside. They have setup umbrellas and chairs outside too. They even offer River Rafting.
  • On the way visited Diskit Monastery, the Monastery has a good view overlooking a big Maitreya Buddha Statue.
  • Stay at Habib Guest house – Suggested by our driver Rigzin. We were a bit hesitant about this place but then we gave it a chance. The Dinner and Breakfast was included in the room rent, food was awesome. Lovely home cooked food. Only drawback with this place was the flies, which we found in all other places later on.
  • After check in we came to the sand dunes. Beautiful landscape, amazing views, sunset and camel ride is a must. Try to reach early in the evening and enjoy what Hunder Sand Dunes have got to offer.

Mountain Pass en-route:
Khardung La – 5,359 m (17,582 ft) and 5,602 m (18,379 ft) elevation is in the vicinity

Day 6 –Nubra Valley – Leh (10 August 2016)

  • Travelled back to Leh enjoying beautiful landscapes, stopping wherever we felt like, and reached early to the Guest House
  • Spent the evening speaking to the travelers at the guest house

Note: There’s an alternate way to reach Pangong Lake on the way back from Nubra Valley. But we had an alternate arrangement from Rigzin for our Nubra trip so we couldn’t make it through that way. We could save a day here.

Day 7 – Leh – Pangong Tso (11 August 2016)

*Road to Pangong Tso was closed for couple of days as it was blocked by the landslide happened on 07 August.

Today was a big day for Buddhists, his holiness Dalai Lama’s teachings was scheduled at Thikshey monastery and all the Buddhist around Leh city were visiting Thikshey monastery to take blessings. We too wanted to join, but the route to monastery was so crowded with vehicles and we thought it’s take long time and we also had to reach Pangong by noon.

  • We went through the scenic routes crossing the Chang La pass
  • Encountered slight snow fall at Chang La pass
  • Did some photo shoot among the Yak’s, Marmots and wildflowers
  • Spotted the Himalayan Griffon Vulture widespread its wings flying peaceful in the clear skies
  • Surprised by the wild horses who climbed half the mountains and tricking us for we thought they were a group of Ibex
  • Experienced the terrific weather conditions by the Pangong Lake. So windy, the wind was pushing us back!
  • It rained for few minutes making us feel sad for not able to see the reflection of cloud, but Ladakh is full of surprises, the rain left behind the beautiful RAINBOW I’ve ever seen in my life. B.E.A.U.T.I.F.U.L
  • Stay at Himalayan Wooden Cottages – Nice place with wonderful caretakers.
  • Felt a little uneasy inside the cottage, it’s on the altitude of 4,350 m (14,270 ft) and because of the windy weather. Drank water with garlic, felt better.

Mountain Pass en-route:
Chang La – 5,360 m (17,590 ft)

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Day 8 Pangong Tso – Leh (12 August 2016)

  • Checkout from the Cottage spent some time at the Pangong Lake. Clouds were still there, no clear sky. Bad luck! They say at least we were lucky we could visit the Pangong Lake – last couple of day’s people who had planned could not even visit the majestic Pangong Lake.
  • On the way, visited Thikshey Monastery, Shey Palace and 3 Idiots School (Druk White Lotus School)
  • Avoid lunch at Karu on the way back from Pangong – especially Druk Restaurant
  • Bid Farewell to Abdul – our Sarathi for few days in Ladakh

Day 9 Leh – Shopping Shopping (13 August 2016)

  • Abdul had recommended we shop at Tibetan market, there are plenty but he showed us one at Old road with gate numbers.
  • Visited Women’s Alliance of Ladakh – Spoke to the team handling different workshops on global warming, fighting climate change, corporate globalization, traditional knowledge and skills and many more. They also screen a movie at 2PM in the afternoon related to Ladakh region and all the above topics. We did not get a chance to watch any of them, but the workshop was going on when we went. We also watched how they make the woolen shawls using the authentic pashmina wools. We got some postcards to post to our friends and relatives.
  • We went in search of a specific handicraft item to Women’s Alliance of Ladakh but came back with lot of information from there. We also got the details of the handicraft and where to get that from.
  • So we were at one of the Handicrafts shops to buy the handicrafts. A lady manages this shop, we were not privileged to meet that Lady but we encountered with the Lady’s husband and what a great man he was. We spoke and spoke and spoke all the afternoon no sure for how many hours. It was so nice speaking to Sonam, this man, gem of a person.
  • It’s a routine for us to hang around the main market area during the evenings, distributing chocolates to the kids and close for the day. Localities come to main market area to sell home grown vegetables, apples and apricots. Most of them come from Dah-Hanu region to sell their produce, from so far. They stay near the main bus stand area, because this is the only season they can make some money and main market is the place where tourists flock. A request to be a responsible tourist – Not to bargain hard on them for just a quarter kg of apricots or apples. I’ve seen a lady yelling at an old women (I would say yelling not bargaining, by the way she was speaking) and I really felt very very bad for how an educated lady behaving to the helpless vendor.
  • Found Kashmiri food joint – New Wazwan Planet – It was good, mutton was good, place is crowded and the cuisines get over early by 9 or 9.30.

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Day 10 Leh – More Shopping (14 August 2016)

  • From the last couple of days we were looking for options to reach Delhi.
  • HPTDC was totally booked and it leaves on every alternate days.
  • Did not want to opt for shared taxi or Tempo traveler as they travel at night
  • Flights were like out of reach starting with 22000 fare per person from Leh to Delhi – for an hour flight! [Aren’t they taking advantage of the situation?]
  • Finally we plan to take out our trump card – airlines miles and shattered to see that the award miles can’t be claimed for the entire week [They have been sold out]
  • Calls begin with the airlines – So a waitlist option is recommended and they say keep calling the support and we will update you on the status.
  • We call the airlines every hour with no luck!
  • Do more and more shopping at Tibetan Market, Moti Market, Main Market, roam around Leh Market, and talk to people and distribute chocolates to kids. Their priceless smile when they receive unexpected bounty.

Day 11 Leh – More Shopping (15 August 2016)

  • It’s Independence Day; we had lot of plans but also worry about our return.
  • We had planned to be in Delhi on 15th but that did not happen. We thought our waitlisted PNR would be confirmed by morning but that did not happen.
  • Run to HPTDC office to book ticket for 17 August, the person says there was a cancellation and we should be placed against that – but the system wasn’t working.
  • Called after few minutes to know someone had taken those tickets online. How bad!
  • Calls begin with the airless again the same story!
  • More and more shopping in the day
  • Visited Chokang Vihara, a small and peaceful monastery in the main market area. Spent hours inside this monastery sitting peacefully and talking to the monks.
  • Call hour after hour to the airlines asking for our waitlist status and we are asked to keep waiting. We decide to head over to the airport in the morning.

Day 12 Leh – More Shopping (16 August 2016)

  • We checkout and drive towards the Airport.
  • Surprised that our waitlist has been cancelled
  • Call airlines call support and bang bang bang
  • Get to know the mistake of airline and somehow we get our award ticket confirmed for next day. [Redeeming award miles was like literally begging with the airlines. This is what we get after being loyal to a particular airline?]
  • Hurray – one more day at Leh.
  • Post office was closed for few days – Saturday, Sunday and Monday for Independence Day.
  • Excited to write letters and post them to our dear ones. It was a nostalgic feeling, remembering our childhood days.

Day 13 Leh – Delhi (17 August 2016)

  • Finally, here we are with the confirmed ticket travelling to Delhi.
  • On reaching Delhi, we planned to stay there for a day.
  • Checked in to Hyatt Regency, relaxed – felt great soaking in the luxury after all the adventures and hard work and stress.

Day 14 Delhi sightseeing – Bangalore (18 August 2016)

Started with Connaught place, India Gate, Rastrapathi Bhavan, Red Fort and then little time at Sarojini Nagar Market. That sums up for our 15 days out from the rat race.

Shades of Kochi: In and around

We were at Fort Kochi for three days and it is sufficient to explore Kochi, though we did not try the backwater trips. I would suggest a weekend trip, even a day is enough to explore Kochi. Alleppey is around two hours drive so exploring Kochi and Alleppey would have been great. Virtual journey of our visit through these pictures we captured.

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View from St. Francis Church (Close to Chinese Fishing Nets)
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Non electrical fan, these are manually operated by pulling ropes (The church was under renovation so not sure if it still works)
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Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica (On the way to Chinese Fishing Nets)

Around Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace)

Biriyani at Kayees Rahmathulla Cafe (Sweet but authentic Biriyani)

Fort Kochi Jail (Near CHinese Fishing Nets – a Heritage site, freedom fighters were imprisoned here)
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Pepper House cafe aka Cafe Agape of Malayalam movie Premam
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Pepper House cafe, one of the Premam scenes were shot here at the waterfront
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Paradesi Synagogue

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Paradesi Synagogue

Seafood at Vasco Da Gama Square Fort Kochi (You buy fish, a food joint near will prepare based on your preference)

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Ammachi’s Pazhamkanji with Kappa(Tapioca), Pickle, Chutney for as less as 50 Rupees at Pappadavada, MG Road

Here and there…

And there’s Chinese Fishing Nets https://travelsoiled.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/shades-of-kochi-chinese-fishing-nets/

Faces and Pilgrimages

We see faces everywhere.I was going through my collections and these people reminded me of those visits. Here are the portraits of people whom we captured on our different trips to spiritual destinations around.

Dharmasthala
DharmasthalaPiligrims who visit Dharmasthala take a holy dip at the Netravathi River bank. Seeing the Baba’s image here, I remembered the condition of Netravathi river. People have not considered nature as their home, they have polluted the river and the river banks with everything they can. It is very disheartening to see the temple town in such a state.

Dharmasthala at Dakshina Kannada district, Karnataka is home to Shri Manjunatha Temple and piligrims from all over Karnataka visit this temple. Dr. Veerendra Heggade is the current successor of this temple and known for his provinding judgement to the one’s who come seeking justice. It is believed that the justice he provides represents the will of dieties.

Shri Manjunatha Temple, also has a very organised dining hall providing free food for lakhs of piligrims visiting everyday. The service is so swift, making it possible for more people to dine easily. The Dharmasthala kitchen was also featured in National Geographic Channel. Refer: http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=329575

Haji Ali
Haji AliOn our way to Haji Ali, we spotted these gentlemen sitting behind the pickup truck. Their expressions involved in deep thinking.

Mumbai is the city of seven islands and in one of the islet there’s this powerful shrine Haji Ali Mosque and Dargah. We had visited Haji Ali in June and Monsoon had not yet started. So we didn’t have to worry about high tides and we could walk the Worli coastway easily. The path was very very crowded as we visited after dusk, the path was so crowded with street vendors, beggers, homeless, piligrims leaving no space for any movement. But the sight of Haji Ali was illuminating.

Mahalakshmi
MahalakshmiHe’s the flower seller near Mahalakshmi Temple in Mumbai. He was selling Lotus and even at that time at night the lotus was fresh and beautiful.

The Lakshmi temple in Mahalakshmi area is a very famous temple. The temple premises has several stalls and flower sellers around.

Tirupati
TirupathiA mother was applying henna to her dear daughter in the grounds of Tirupati temple. So dear is mothers love.

Tirumala Venkateshwara temple in Tirupati, Andra Pradesh is one of the famous shrine all over India with lakhs of people visiting the temple. One has to wait in the long queues for 3 to 4 hours to get a quick darshan of Lord Venkateshwara.

Palacio Do Deao, Goa

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A rainy day!!! Not worth visiting the beach nor any pub during the off season at Goa. So what? Goa has much more than Beaches or Pubs or Restaurants. It’s the Greenery and of course the old Goan Heritage.

Palacio Do Deao, I have been researching about this place for quite some time and never got an opportunity to visit for obvious reasons. We always find joy in North Goa and South Goa is often skipped from Schedule. Very few people know, one can have a relaxing vacation in South Goa than North.

And it was this monsoon, we take time off for Goa and it’s purely South Goa. Moreover, we had two birthdays to celebrate in a week and Palacio Do Deao is the finest place to celebrate a special day.

While in Goa, I called Ruben for an appointment on a Monday. He said he would call me back after some time and when he called after some time he suggested if we opt for Thursday instead of Wednesday. I had planned a birthday surprise here and I informed the same to Ruben. He did not confirm on the same day but he called me on Tuesday asking us to be there at Palacio Do Deao at 12:30 in the noon. I was so excited for I was longing to visit this place for a long long time.

Here’s my experience about the delicious meals made by Celia and the cordiality of Ruben.

We took the help of Google Map to locate this place and while google was directing I was wondering if this place will be good enough as it was amidst the Quepem junction. But as we parked the vehicle in front of THE Palacio Do Deao, I was awestruck, so elated seeing the palace coming to life with beautiful gardens and artifacts around. As we entered, there was a beautiful alter (as this place was built by a priest and the first mass of Quepem took place in this palace itself) and heartwarming smile of Celia.

When we reached Ruben was out for work and the day being Wednesday, their weekly off; he had scheduled all his personal and professional work on that day. I still feel sorry for interrupting their weekly holiday. Celia asked us to go around the palace and wow what a place they get to live in. It’s an architectural marvel, lovely interiors, amazing collection of antic artifacts, and beautifully carved furniture’s. I must say our ancestors have really worked hard and what we do is not appreciating their creation and just going with the easy work, template based designs and machine made works. Earlier, people have really created wonders with detailed work may it be architecture or furniture’s or jewelry or anything.

After walking around the palace and the beautiful garden we entered the boulevard for our lunch. Celia got us a Kokum Mocktail a simple but tasty drink which we had in the boulevard overlooking the beautiful garden and bird house. And then followed by amazing culinary creations. Everything served was so perfect and authentic. I bet no restaurant will serve such an authentic and delicious traditional food. Five on Five for everything served and extra extra stars for the Pumpkin Cheese Pie. Yummy!

I do not remember the names of the dishes served, but the taste is still lingering my taste buds. We had prawn rissoles for starters along with green salad, stuffed squid preparation, and cheese balls. Each and every plate was designed and placed professionally with so much love and care. We then continued with the tomato soup, needless to say; it was delicious. Then comes the king of our meal “Pumpkin Cheese Pie”. I loved it, and I wish I could prepare that dish the same way how Celia would make. Sigh! For main course, we had Chicken Xacuti, Prawns and Ladies Finger Curry with Brown Rice. Oh my God! Did I forget the grilled whole fish – Red Snapper, fresh catch from the nearby Kushavathi River. White wine along the meal was savoring. To end with, we had caramel custard and then a cup of coffee. I was surprised, this 5 star meal experience did not cost much. Because everything served was of top quality and no compromise in quantity too. I was relieved when Ruben handed the bill box, such a worthy meal it was. It was one of the best meals of my life I had so far.

I have no words to express my gratitude to Ruben and Celia for the great work they are doing. The restoration of this amazing place is done so well and is maintained with so much love and care. So is the food which is prepared for the guests who come here. Purely home-cooked Goan-Portuguese cuisine prepared with the touch of love. I really have no words to express the bounty of this place, one should go there without any second thought and feel it for once.

To conclude, Ruben took us around the Palace explaining the history and how they restored each and everything within to resemble how it looked earlier when it was built. Great job both of you Ruben and Celia. Thank you!

Do book in advance. Ruben and Celia were so kind to accommodate us even on their day off.

Address:

Opposite Holy Cross Church,
Quepem, Goa (South Goa)
Landline: 0832 266 4029
Mobile: +91 98 2317 5639

Note: The appetizers like Kokum Mocktail or whatever you order, Wine or other drinks do not come with the base package price, they are charged additionally, but reasonably priced. 🙂

Few of the images from our visit.

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Bengre Beach and Riverside – Mangalore

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This time when I visited Mangalore for Independence Day and this Independence Day was well celebrated with Family, Friends and Sea shore.

Where is Bengre?

Bengre is a small island in Mangalore city with few of the Mangalorean population staying there.

How to reach Bengre?

There are two options to reach Bengre.

  1. Via Passenger Ferry which ferries passengers from Dakke (which is Harbor or Mangalore’s Fishing Dock) to Bengre.
  2. Via Taneerubhavi Road, the road which is used to reach Taneerubhavi continues till Bengre. There are few buses from this route or you can use private mode of transportation.

We opted to use the ferry from dakke. In fact, dakke was Mangalore’s first port which later moved to the current Mangalore Port in Panambur. Still, we find few goods which are operated at Dakke. Then the fishing dock is still functional here as it is convenient from this location.

The ferry charges are 5 rupees per person, once you get into Bengre, you will not find any Restaurants or Malls, and rather you find petty shops all over.

To reach the Beach or the Golf setup area, you need to walk few kilometers passing the village. We used the short cuts, visiting one of our friends relatives house and then to the beach.

Honestly speaking, the beach was very dirty as it the end where river meets the sea called Mouth, and no one visits this beach except the villagers. Moreover, it was rainy season and all the garbage from all over Mangalore is collected in the shore. One old lady was collecting the firewood’s from the garbage from the shore but no one bothers to clean other stuff. And Sea wouldn’t keep anything for itself.

But the feel was good. We spent some time near the beach, though we could not get into the beach. And the shore is very shallow and it is not suggested to get into the water.

From the shore we walked towards the golf setup which is in conflict now. The look and feel is like Marine Drive expect for the crowd. The place where River and Sea meets, they have placed tetrapod’s near the edges. We clicked few photographs and watched the locals fishing with fishing rods and they were getting good amount of fish. We watched the sunset and headed back via the ferry to Dakke. The boat ferries until 10:00 at night.

Few flicks from Bengre:

Fresh catch by the locals

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Black and White Family!

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Around Dakke Fishing Dock and Bengre

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Tetrapods

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Martins Corner, Martins Comfort, and Sunset Beach

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WoW..What a combination Food and Shelter are the main ingredients for a traveling soul. In Goa, choosing a good place to dine and best place stay from thousands of options is a hectic task. Because you don’t want to spoil your vacation and waste your time browsing through the list of places and reading the reviews.

However, I give my fellow readers my two cents on a place to eat and a place to stay. Martin’s Corner and Martin’s Comfort named after Martin, who first started a small restaurant in the South Goa with just 4 tables and his wife cooking the food is now a place where superstars come and savor the authentic Goan cuisine. Our Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar frequents this restaurant and they have named a dish after his name.

The success of Martin’s Corner helped them to launch Martin’s Comfort where people can stay in a three star environment. When Food and Shelter is at one place and South Goa known for its calmness less crowd with unexplored places around what else do you need to unwind on a vacation.

Martin’s Corner:

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This is a very famous restaurant in South Goa and if you think it’s hyped over, then you might be wrong if you are a hardcore seafood lover. Martin’s Corner was in my to-list for a very long time. This monsoon when we decided to explore South Goa, finally we could visit this place. Most of them would say, what’s special about this place, it’s become commercial and all that. But I would say the ambiance and price here is commendable even though the place is one of the most famous restaurants frequented by celebrities. While we visited Martin’s Corner, the south movie star Nagarjun had come to dine with his family.

The food which we opted was awesome and the day we went to Martins, they had this singer with guitar singing songs at each table. WoW, that made our day.

I would recommend their Prawns Pulao and Tender coconut shuffle.

As we stayed at Martins Comfort, we frequented her for Lunch, Dinner all week.

Martin’s Comfort:

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We visited south goa during this June and initial couple of days we stayed somewhere else in South Goa and we happened to find Martins Comfort while we decided to have our lunch at Martin’s Corner. We got a good deal and we checked in here. We were very comfortable with clean and large room at the first floor. The room service was neat and prompt everyday. Martin’s Corner is just opposite to the hotel.

Only negative here is the breakfast. Most of the items are make to order and when there were minimal guests they wouldn’t spread the buffet. The attendant who was in charge of breakfast was a bit indecent. He would serve the same eggs or toasts which was served to some other table and untouched.

Also, there was no free Wi-Fi, while most of the places offer free wi-fi.

Overall, it’s a cozy comfortable place. I do not know how it would be during season as the rooms are closely connected. But I’ll definitely come back here during the monsoon.

Sunset Beach:

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The Sunset Beach with few minutes’ walk from Martin’s has become one of my favorite beaches. Loved this beach the moment I stepped in. As it was monsoon season, hardly 3 or 4 people were there and some people fishing. I liked the serene long beach, which is absolutely not crowded. I believe even during season very few people might visit this beach. I could be in solitude enjoying the waves, completing a novel, sometimes few drizzle to refresh.

To me, South Goa > Bethalbatim was a complete package for a perfect vacation.

Weekend @ gOa

Like always, it was an unplanned trip. Vacation at Goa was on my to-do list for a long while and last weekend we made it to Goa. We checked if we could get a decent accommodation before we book the tickets. We zeroed Calangute as our Destination for stay and we had a contact of Mrs. Lobo who lets her property for stay. We called her and got our accommodation confirmed at Casa Soriano.

Opting for Mode of Transport:

On Thursday night, we plan for Goa and started looking for Train and Bus reservations. Train timings were not favorable though through Tatkal we could find seat availability. Through Bus, we preferred Kadamba Travels (Govt. of Goa) or KSRTC bus. However, Kadamba was all full and KSRTC had seats in a special bus with price hiked from 1300Rs. We scrolled through Redbus.in and opted for Paulo Travels. Again, this was an extra bus and the fare was 900Rs.

Paulo Travels-Service:

The TV inside the Bus did not work and the staffs were fine. The bus started from Bangalore (Race course road) at 10.30 PM and we reached Goa (Panjim) at 11:30AM.

Stopped for Dinner at around 12:30, food was not that great. For Breakfast, the bus stopped near Ankola and we did not opt for any breakfast. The coffee I had was pathetic.

Travel:

The journey was good; we enjoyed the scenic beauty after Ankola. It’s was a pleasure to travels in the coastal areas.

Arrival at Goa:

It was very bright and sunny when we arrived at Goa. We were dropped near the Panjim bus stop. As we got down the bus, we walked down and agents started asking us for Taxi, with options to rent a bike and car. We wanted to have breakfast first and then decide on all other things. We had breakfast at a restaurant called “Ruchi”. We had Poori and it was good.

Renting a Bike:

As we came out, we found lot of options for transportation within Goa. At once, we thought we would reach Calangute and then hire a bike. It was wise on our part to rent the bike at Panjim and travel to our destination. We started bargaining on the rent. They have varieties and Honda Activa is the most preferred bike by the tourists. We too opted for Honda Activa and they charged 400 Rs for 2 days. We had to keep the original Pan Card as a security and copy of License before they handover the bike to us.

I was tempted looking at the Royal Enfield. However, they were charging around 600 per day for Royal Enfield Bikes.

Petrol:

We have to fill the petrol on our own cost. Moreover, the petrol price in Goa is just 58 Rs wherein the Petrol price here in Bangalore is 78 Rs.

Directions towards Casa Soriano – Calangute:

We had an awesome bike ride towards Calangute. From Panjim we drove towards Mapusa city and took a left to Calangute. You have directions all over, so you would not get lost in the city. Once we reached Calangute beach, as per Mrs. Lobo’s directions we spotted Mr. Bhandarkar’s statue. Took a left from there and we took the immediate left beside the Hotel Electric Cat. In just few meters, we reached Casa Soriano.

Casa Soriano:

Mrs. Lobo and her son Michael was there to welcome us. They had an ancient house and they had built the holiday home with few rooms beside their house. Mrs. Lobo handed us the key to the room. I would not say the room was great but it was what we needed: a place to dump our things and sleep for a night. We were charged 1200 Rs for 2 days.

Our room was facing the road, had a small gallery, a small wardrobe and mirror. There is no safety lock on the wardrobe and we did not need either.

Note: Mrs. Lobo does not take bookings for less than 2 days.

About the host:

Mrs. Lobo and her family were welcoming and approachable. The hospitality was good and she would guide us if we wanted to check about visiting some places. Also, she asked us not to stay too late at the Saturday night market as it is not safe to drive too late.

Site Seeing Day 1: North Goa

Calangute Beach:

The weather was hot and we wanted to refresh and get into the beach. We had lunch, spent sometime at Calangute beach. The beach is just 3 minutes from where we stayed. We did some photo shoots, we wanted to go Parasailing but we though it is too sunny and dropped the idea.

Baga Beach:

We then drove to Baga beach, which is 5 minutes distance from Calangute. You will find lot of shacks where you can buy drinks and relax on the sun beds. They charge 50 Rs per sun bed.

From Calangute, you need to take a left towards Baga beach. They charge 20 Rs for parking valid for 4 hours. We relaxed on the Sun bed for sometime and after sun set, we came back to the room, freshened up and started towards Mackie’s Saturday Night Market at Arpora.

Saturday Night Market:

Mackie’s Saturday Night Market is at Arpora and is just 3 minutes from Baga Beach. It starts from 6 PM and will be open until 03 AM. I always thought Saturday Night Market is very happening in Goa and you must not miss this one. I did not find any difference here. The Music was okay and the stalls had varieties and very expensive. Above all, they were targeting only foreigners on their shops and least importance to us Indians. 😦 I was amazed to hear almost all stall representatives were speaking Portuguese language.

We left early from there and started looking out for some place for Dinner. We had Dinner, wandered around for sometime, and got back to the room. We were so tired, did not realize how soon we got sleep.

Food:

Capricorn at Calangute

We had lunch at Capricorn at Calangute. It was a wrong choice as the Stewarts was only interested in International clients. Poor us. We did not feel like ordering anything looking at the waiter’s behavior. We were hungry to the core and the food was not that great. Better, avoid this place.

Britto’s at Baga:

Facing the sea, it is a lovely place for having drinks or a Candle light dinner. But it is always crowded.

Infantaria:

I loved this place and the food they serve here. It is on the left side of the road when you go towards Baga from Calangute. The service and food is great here. Try the Pork Vindaloo or Chicken Cafarel.

Drinks:

It’s better you get from outside than from the restaurants. However, Infantaria had an offer “Order 4 Beers for Rs 100 only.”

Day 2 – Old Goa and South Goa

We woke up, refreshed and started at around 8 AM. We walked through the Calangute Beach when there were fewer crowds. We had breakfast nearby and started towards Old Goa at around 8 AM.

It took an hour’s drive to Old Goa. I just loved the drive besides the backwaters, enjoying the cool breeze. As we reached Old Goa church, we explored the nearby places around the Church. Behind the church museum, we have the river backwaters, where we could enjoy the calmness of the river. Almost no one comes there and it is so serene over there.

Old Goa Churches and Panjim Church:

When we reached the church, the Sunday service was going on. Until 11 AM, no tourists are allowed inside the church. We wandered around and at 11 AM, we entered the church. The tourists were noisy for the church environment. People should learn to behave in religious places.

From there we drove towards the ruins of St. Augustine’s Church, where only a part of the tower is visible. And then we drove back to Panjim, entered the lanes of Panjim, admiring the Portugal Architecture. We stopped at Panjim church; however, it was closed at that time.

Miramar and Dona Paula:

We drove towards Miramar beach and planned to have lunch at Dona Paula. It is a very famous beach in Goa. After lunch, we drove back to Hotel.

Food:

Om Restaurant at Calangute:

Please avoid this hotel. I thought Rajastani’s are the best in Hospitality. But this person was so rude and purposely delaying.

Sea Pebbles at Dona Paula:

When you enter Dona Paula, it is on the left side. This place is not visible; you will have to walk inside through the Guest House.

  • Awesome food
  • Great view besides the sea
  • live song by Francis even during Lunch
  • Try Crab Xacuti and it’s mouth watering

Attention: Trap by Karma Royal Group

On Day 1, we met a representative, who handed us a coupon and attractive gifts were listed in that. One that tempted us was the Apple iPad. We went there and they wanted us to spend an hour visiting the Resort and all other facility. We did not have time for all that and we said we have to leave tonight and we do not have time. And then somehow they agreed to scratch the gift coupon and we thought we would get some gift from that coupon. All we got is $1000 Rupees worth stay at Karma Royal Group of Hotels. When we came back and researched, we got to know about their fraud and tricks used to trap people. Please be aware and do not waste your travel time in listening to their bragging about their resorts and tempting gifts.

Departure:

We checked out of the Hotel, spent some time around Baga, and then started towards Panjim. It took 30 Minutes to reach Panjim bus stop. We explored the lanes of Panjim and did some Cashew and Liquor shopping. Had Tea at Bengre Kamath Hotel and came to the Govt. Of Goa, bus stop.

We did not feel like coming back, but we enjoyed to the core even at the small stint.