Kerala is alive and kicking!

Trips which are not planned are the best because the whole process then becomes about discovering!! And, we just went with the flow – booked our tickets last minute, booked a hotel a week before leaving and we were all set…to visit Kerala (Kochi)! Honestly, we were a little unsure if we should visit Kochi after the devastating floods but, we were pleasantly surprised to see the city so alive!! By the end of the trip we were quite happy with our decision.

Cochin, another name for Kochi means “like-China”. When the Chinese migrated there in the 14th century, they thought that the region resembled China and therefore they named it Cochin. We were quite intrigued by the history of this city. It was invaded time and again by the Portuguese, then by the Dutch and finally by the British. It was not just the invaders, but because the city was an important spice trading center, it was also often visited by the Arabs, the Jews and the Chinese. The city thus has had an influence of many cultures.

We arrived at Kochi on a Saturday morning and took a cab directly from the airport to Fort Kochi (which was 1.5 hours away from the Kochi airport). Infact, we were ferried to Fort Kochi while we were in the cab. This was quite fascinating! The name ‘Fort Kochi’ is derived from ‘Fort Emmanuel’ which was the first Portuguese fort built in Asia in that area.  But we could hardly see any remains of the Fort now.

That's how we were ferried to the other side

We stayed at the Towerhouse (a Neemrana property) located at the Vasco da Gama (Fort Kochi) square and that’s where you get the best view of the famous Chinese nets that were introduced during the 14th century. After settling down, we picked up the map and zeroed down on places we wanted to visit. Though local transport was easily available, we decided to walk around Fort Kochi. The weather was lovely and every place we wanted to visit was approximately 1-2 kms away.

Since it was a three days trip we decided to stay in Kochi and not venture elsewhere. People advised us to travel to Munnar, Alleppey, etc but we decided not to. There is a lot you can do in Kochi.

So here is my take on what you should not miss during a visit to Kochi:

  1. Trying the local food and cafes – We tried a variety of food during our stay and everything was just perfect. We tried the fish wrapped in banana leaf with rice at a local restaurant at Fort Kochi. We tried some lip smacking biryani at Kayees Rahmathullah near Mattacherry area. Kashi Art Café (at Fort Kochi) had a great vibe. As you enter you will find a lot of interesting artefacts. On another day we discovered this small but cozy café named Fusion Bay, which served local food. We were so hungry and ended up finishing everything we ordered. We left the place with a big smile. This place is a must visit!Local food
  2. Visiting the Kerala Kathakali centre – if you want to get introduced to Kathakali as a dance form (an important part of Kerala culture) then this place is a must visit. It was a great experience for us. The intricate make-up was done right in front of us. We were also given a translation of the story which was presented that night and it helped us understand and enjoy the performance better. It was an overwhelming experience!
  3. Taking the ferry ride/boat jetty to Ernakulam – Although it was a nightmare because we had to stand in a long queue for almost 1.5 hours to buy the tickets, by the end of the ride I realized it was all worth it. The sunset, the waves, the glimpse of the INS ‘Vikramaditya’ made it worthwhile. It was all so serene. Serene views
  4. Indulge in some shopping – Since Kochi has been at the center of Indian spice trade, spice shopping is a must!! We bought some very aromatic spices from the local spice market at whole sale price. Most of the spices are grown in Kerala so there is no way you can miss the spice shops. We also picked up some Kerala cotton sarees from Jayalakshmi (located at MG road in Ernakulam). Spice shop
  5. Witnessing fishermen at work – While walking around the streets, we also spent some time watching fishermen at work. They were using the Chinese fishing nets for fishing. Fishermen at work
  6. Getting to know the city by visiting the museums – There are quite a few museums in the city. We visited three –
    • The Mattancherry Palace (which is also a museum) – The Palace was built and gifted by the Portuguese to the king of Cochin around 1555. The Dutch carried out some expansions and renovations in the palace in 1663, and thereafter it was popularly called the Dutch Palace. This was the best museum because it had a lot to offer- information about the history of Kerala and its people, wildlife, culture, handloom, architecture and murals.
    • Indo-Portuguese museum – located inside the Bishop house. We got to see some old maps of Kerala which is of historical and geographical importance. This museum also showcased the Portuguese influence on the city.
    • Indian Naval Maritime museum – As we entered the gate, a gentleman told us that two sturdy bunkers to store arms and ammunition (built by the British) were after many years converted into this museum . While this museum showcased a lot of information about the Indian navy, do not miss the documentaries screened inside. You get to learn a lot about the Indian navy’s glorious past.
  7. Visiting churches, synagogue, beaches – During our stay we also visited many other touristy places. I’m listing down some of the names here.
    • Cherai Beach located on the northern tip of the Vypin island
    • Paradesi Synagogue
    • Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica – The Dutch invaded and conquered Cochin in 1663. All Catholic buildings were supposedly destroyed but the St. Francis Church and the Cathedral were spared. The Dutch made the cathedral their arms storehouse. Later it fell into the hands of the British who demolished it when they took over Cochin in 1795. One of the decorative granite pillars of the destroyed Cathedral is still kept as a monument at the Basilica premises.
    • St. Francis Church – The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama died in Kochi in 1524 when he was on his third visit to India. His body was originally buried in this church but after fourteen years his remains were removed to Lisbon.
    • Jewish cemetery and Dutch cemetery – Although you won’t be able to enter the cemeteries but you can definitely get a glimpse from outside.

Suddymoody tips

  • Try getting an Ayurvedic healing massage – During my search for good Spas I came across some names which might be useful to you – The Fort Ayurveda spa, at the Fort House hotel in Fort Kochi, Ayurville, Agastya Ayurveda Massage and Wellness Center on Princess Street. I did not try any of them so please do your research well before going for a massage.
  • Visit Spice bazaar on Broadway. Broadway is opposite to marine drive (Ernakulam). Though you will find spice market in Fort Kochi area, those might be expensive. Jew town also has a Spice market.
  • Do go for the ferry/jetty rides but to avoid long queues make sure that it’s not a national holiday or during peak hours when people use ferries to commute the most!

Goa, the place for every season

Candolim beach
The connect with Goa and the ocean!

I have visited Goa eight times in all. This may not be a big deal for many but I also know people who have never been to Goa. So this post is an attempt to help them make a plan. Goa is beautiful in every season so you need not wait for a December. I have been there in winter, summer, spring and monsoon!

I am a beach person and hence visiting Goa has become almost like a yearly ritual for me. I feel a connection with the ocean. The vastness of an ocean amazes and scares me at the same time. It amazes me to witness that at one moment the waves are wild and the next moment it’s all calm. It gives you many life lessons.

My first ever visit to the city was in 1999. This was during a school excursion when we were visiting Mumbai, Pune, Lonavla and Goa. This was also my first ever trip with my school friends and my memories are still very fresh. This trip was during the new year’s eve of the millennium year. It seemed as if everybody was in Goa to celebrate the New Year. It was over-crowded. It was supposed to be fun but I hated Goa then and only because of the crowd. During that visit, I tried ‘feni’ (a local drink made of cashew); again I hated it because I tried it neat. It was quite bitter in taste. We visited the ‘Basilica of Bom Jesus’, a beautiful church which is a UNESCO listed world heritage site. It is located in old Goa and holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier (one of the greatest Roman Catholic missionaries of modern times who was instrumental in the establishment of Christianity in India).

Old Goa
Basilica of Bom Jesus

I left Goa that year to not return ever, but who knew that from the next visit it would become a ritual?

The next visit was an offsite trip arranged by an organization I worked with in 2010. Employees from across India came to Goa for this trip. Day time was dedicated to presentations, case studies, learnings and conversations. Evenings were reserved only for fun! During this visit I started exploring Goa in its real sense. We visited shacks at the Anjuna beach and Baga beach. We tried sea food and drinks. By the end of the trip I had bonded well with my colleagues across India and with GOA!

In 2011, I returned with my school friends. This was a fun trip. I drove the scooty for the very first time. Exploring Goa on a scooty is the best thing to do. Every lane has shops which offers scooties on rent. Just make sure you carry your driving license with you. Other than scooties you also get four wheelers on rent. It’s not a great idea to hire taxis (with drivers) as it’s costlier and you are dependent on them. I tried the local curry dish ‘Vindaloo’. It’s quite popular and you can find both veg and non-veg variants.

2014 onwards I visited Goa every year with friends. And with each year I have realized that my bond with Goa has deepened. That year I visited Goa with 20 friends and it was one hell of a trip! We stayed near Candolim beach in North Goa. We visited Fort Aguada (popularized by the movie ‘Dil Chahta Hai’). This Portuguese fort was built in 1612 to guard the city from the Dutch and the Marathas. The fort also has a light house standing tall. Entry is free of cost and you should try to visit it in the morning to avoid the heat during the day.

During a few of my visits, I also went to the Saturday night bazaar (flea market) in Arpora. You will find all kinds of things in this night market (it starts at around 6 pm and is open all through the night) from food to clothes to live music. We also went to Curlies which is a popular shack on Anjuna beach. Aviation enthusiasts should definitely visit the Naval aviation museum. Its located quite close to the airport and showcases a collection of vintage and current aircraft. You can also buy some souvenirs for friends and family back home.

By the end of these trips, I have realized that there is something for everyone in Goa! You can plan a trip to just party in Goa, try club hopping, or you could opt to beach hop, or you could just go there for a relaxing weekend and, take walks in the lanes, eat yummy food and drink to your heart’s content. I am sure nobody has ever come back from Goa without having a good time!

suddymoody recommendations and facts:

  • When in Goa try fish and pork dishes
  • Do try the grilled/masala king fish
  • Trying Port wine is a must
  • Visit Curlies at Anjuna beach before the sunset. You will get to witness a beautiful view of the sunset on your approach to Curlies
  • Stay in North Goa if it’s your first visit. That’s where all the action is (if action is your thing J)
  • Don’t drink and drive! Rules have become stricter – but not just because of rules, na?
  • The cashews there are not cheap but of good quality. You can take some home for your friends and family
  • Vagator and Arambol beaches are beautiful
  • Shacks on the beaches can charge you more but it’s worth it because of the view
  • You can try the Goan pork sausages. You will find it in the bigger departmental stores if you want to carry some home
  • For good food you can visit Fisherman’s cove and Fat fish
  • You will find many vegetarian restaurants too
  • Goa airport also serves as military airbase (air station of the Indian Navy)

Mystical Banaras!

Banaras (now known as Varanasi) as a city, although a little congested, is quite mystical. I visited the city in February, 2017 and was quite charmed by its beauty. Here is why…

The city supposedly has 88 ghats (an area with steps which lead to a river bank) all situated next to each other on the banks of the river Ganga.  Each one of them has a history and mythical tales related to it.

My parents and I reached Banaras on a Friday afternoon and then visited the Dashashwamedha Ghat (the main ghat in Banaras) to experience the evening aarti. Though the aarti usually starts at around 6.45 every evening (it also depends on the time of sunset), one should ideally reach there at least half an hour earlier to ensure a comfortable spot to get a closer view of the mesmerizing aarti. You can also opt for a boat ride half an hour before the rituals start to get a glimpse of the neighboring ghats and to witness the aarti (which usually lasts for around 45 minutes) from the boat. The view is exhilarating. We were so charmed by the evening aarti that we decided to attend the morning (before sunrise) aarti too the very next day. And I’m so glad we decided to do so. The ghat got its name ‘Assi’ (as in the number 80 in Hindi) as it is the 80th ghat in Banaras. When we reached at 5 in the morning, we saw a smaller crowd (in comparison to the evening aarti crowd) and we were mighty pleased. We got the best views and could move around easily to click pictures.

What we did next was the highlight of the trip – we decided to go for a boat ride! We settled for a one hour ride starting from Assi Ghat to Dashashwamedha Ghat. On our way there we crossed many other ghats. Our boatman was quite chatty and shared with us a lot of information. We crossed the Chet Singh Ghat which looked like a fort. It looked quite different from the other ghats we crossed. We could see the sunrise from the boat and the view was heavenly!

After the boat ride we got down at the Dashashwamedha Ghat and headed for the Kashi Vishwanath temple. The narrow lanes at the Ghat led us to the temple. The darshan took us around 40 minutes as there were quite a few devotees waiting for their turn. We went back to our hotel to catch up on some sleep after a consuming morning.

Now that we were done with the major sight-seeing (we also visited Sarnath and Banaras Hindu University the next day), it was time for shopping for the much-popular Banarasi sarees and duppattas. While we did a lot of window shopping in the main market areas, our driver took us to this industrial area where there were many wholesalers selling Banarasi duppattas and sarees where there was a lot more variety and cheaper options. You may want to bargain at some of these places. I also checked with the shopkeepers if we can visit the factory, and much to my delight, we were taken to one of them! Artisans sat there patiently working on the sarees.

 

Banaras city
Dhamek Stupa

After the half day indulgence in shopping we left for Delhi!

Suddymoody quick facts:

  • Banarasi sarees are obviously made in Banaras. Banarasi sarees are made with a lot of silk and heaps of skill. But these days you can also find Banarasi embroidery on other fabrics too. It’s about the style of weaving. So don’t be surprised next time if the shopkeeper shows off an Organza Banarasi saari.
  • Depending on the intricacy, one Banarasi saari may take an artisan almost 15 days to a month at least to complete.
  • A Bengali bride generally wears a red/maroon Banarasi saari on the day of the wedding.
  • You will find that a lot of people in Banaras are Bengalis or can speak Bengali. Supposedly the city is also known as a mini-Bengal.
  • Masaan – a Bollywood movie (released in 2015) which received international appreciation too was based and shot in Banaras. The movie captures the city’s essence beautifully.
  • Do try the street food and famous Banarasi paan.
  • Banaras has also been a home to many widows who have been abandoned by their families. They come to the Holy city to attain moksha (or because they have nowhere else to go). Most of them are left to beg for their daily food.

The charming city…Kolkata

I keep going back to Kolkata as (No prizes for guessing! No I am not from Kolkata. But like most Bongs I have family in Kolkata :-D) my sister lives there. But that’s not the only reason. Each time I go back, I find something very charming about the city. But, just as my romance with the city begins, something tells me not to tread that path. I guess I share a love and hate relationship with the city!

Kolkata is a very vibrant city. You come across people who are always on the move and in contrast there are people who you see are just lazing, playing cards or carom. The streets are always bustling with vehicles, trams, and street hawkers. There are sweet shops and food joints in almost every lane you pass by.

Food is another major pull-factor for me to go back to the city each time. Right from the puchkas (golgappe/paani puri) to aloo chop to Chinese food – everything is just out of this world! I would recommend ‘China Town’ for authentic and cost-effective Chinese cuisines.

As much as I like the city, there are certain drawbacks too. I feel the city is too crowded, life in general moves at a slow pace, traffic is pretty bad all the time and most of the times the weather is humid.

My love for Kolkata has developed over the years. From not wanting to go to the city at all, to visiting the city every 6 months (on an average), I have come a long way!

Some things that really stand out are…..

  1. Passionate people – People in Kolkata are passionate about a lot of things. They can talk endlessly about literature, culture, food, and football! During the world cup season (and otherwise too), every person (from kids to adults) talks and discusses about football with much passion. During my most recent visit, I got into a conversation with a cab driver who was dropping me off at my sister’s place. All throughout the way he kept talking about the world cup. I was happy listening to him till the time he said ‘bolun to didi Argentina harlo keno?’ (please tell me sister why did Argentina lose?). And I had no answer (as I don’t really follow football). I thought he is going to judge me but I played along ;-).
  2. The Ganga boat ride – Two years back I had visited Kolkata with a group of friends. I was entrusted with the task of taking them around the city (because they assumed, being a Bong, I will be an expert city guide ;-)) and that’s when I got to actually explore and know the city. We visited the Victoria memorial and walked around the streets. We took the tram ride (for the first time ever) and I was quite excited about it. I made them have all kinds of Bengali dishes which they quite liked. The main attraction however was the boat ride on the river Ganga. We took the ride from Princep ghat. During the ride, we could see both the Howrah Bridge and the Vidyasagar Setu with the sunset as the backdrop and it was a breath-taking view! You may bargain for the ride if you want. But, by the time you finish your ride I am sure you will end up tipping the ‘majhi’.
  3. Street food to go with the ‘bhar er cha’ – Every time I visit the city, I make sure I don’t miss out on the street food and the tea served in clay cups. This is a must have for all tea lovers. The tea tastes even better when served in these cups. And with the monsoons setting in, this is the ideal time to grab some cutlets, pyaji (onion pakoras) and tea.
  4. Visiting ‘Kumortuli’ before Durga puja – I had read many articles about this place called the ‘Kumortuli’ in Kolkata but it’s altogether a different experience when you actually visit this place. During your visit, in those narrow lanes, inside dilapidated houses, you will come across several artisans/traditional potters working hard to give shape to Durga Protimas (idols) of all sizes. In case you have any queries for the artisans, please wait for their tea breaks. This is where all the idols you see at the Puja Pandals come from. Depending on the time you visit this place (closer to puja or much before puja) you will witness the different stages of the idol making. This is a paradise for people who are into photography. Even amateur photographers like me would get beautiful shots from one such visit!

I am sure you must be wondering being a Bong and while talking about the Bong city, I did not mention about sweets at all. This is because I am one of those rare bongs who has a missing sweet tooth hence I don’t enjoy talking about it too.

More pictures…

The 8 best pictures from my Bhutan trip!

Bhutan, as you must have already gathered from my previous posts, has truly been inspirational to me. Every morning during my trip, I was excited to wake up to enjoy the beautiful view from my window.

During the 7 days trip I took more than 100 pictures (couldn’t resist) 😋. All of them have  a different tale to tell.

So here are the top 8 (couldn’t stick to just 6 this time as there are many good ones to choose from) pictures from my ‘Bhutan 2018’ album.

Hope you enjoy going through them and their tales 😀

Picture 1: This one was taken when we were leaving the Paro museum. There were these three little girls oblivious of the surrounding (onlookers), enjoying each others company and the games they played. The world seemed wonderful for a few minutes as I imagined myself to be one of them (a happy little girl). Those moments gave me an overwhelming sense of happiness… and I had to  capture it.

Picture 2: This was taken on the last day of our Bhutan trip. Hence it is a significant one. We woke up to a scenic view after a very rainy night. We could see the beautiful clouds trying to hide the otherwise noticeable hills. A feeling of nostalgia hit us while we sipped our coffee.

Picture 3: This was taken at the base just before we started our trek to the Tiger’s nest! This view almost made me quit the trek even before we started. The trek seemed an uphill task to me. But glad I could make it to the top and come back and wave a good-bye from the same point.

Picture 4: This is the night view of the Punakha Dzong taken on the second day of our stay at Punakha. I kid you not, I must have taken more than 30 pictures of the Dzong. From all possible angles, far and near, during the day and night…I left no opportunity whatsoever to capture this beauty. We could have easily gone back to our resort after a very hectic day (read sight seeing, rafting, eating), but we decided to stay back and wait for it to get dark and glad we did so! This is certainly not a view that should be missed 🙂

Picture 5: This is a picture of the suspension bridge at Punakha. While waiting for it to get dark (for the Punakha Dzong view), we decided to try walking on the suspension bridge. I went half way through the bridge and then I looked down! I couldn’t risk going any further and let me tell you that the walk back was quite scary (I am scared of heights). And then I saw this monk confidently walking on this very shaky bridge and coming over to our side. I admired and I clicked!

Picture 6: This was taken inside the Punakha Dzong. Amid the beautiful spring blossom, I saw some visitors approaching the Dzong. Among them was this fierce lady who came walking up the stairs. She looked a little run out but definitely not somebody who was ready to give up. So I clicked to refer to it on days when I feel a little worn out.

Picture 7: This is the nunnery at Punakha. We witnessed hundreds of nuns sitting in the prayer hall and praying and chanting together. What a lovely aura it created! This picture was taken right after the prayer services when we witnessed a sudden burst of red in an otherwise scenic but pale background. This was magic for me!

Picture 8: This picture is from our first day in Bhutan (Thimphu). We walked around the streets, we also visited the weekend vegetable market and we noticed happy faces all around us. No honking on the streets, no haggling in the market…it was indeed very peaceful. And then while crossing a bridge, we came across this dog. Nobody was shooing it off, no disturbances, strangely detached…it was definitely at peace!

 

The first 6 months of marriage!!

Disclaimer 1: Resemblance to any person, living or dead or to any actual events is purely coincidental 😉

I am choosing June to write this blog post because this is supposedly not the wedding season and my post would hopefully not directly or indirectly influence people who want to get married immediately ;-).

To begin, till the time you decide to get married you will meet all kinds of people who would tell you the pros and cons of getting married. People will tell you why it is absolutely necessary for you to get married. You will also meet people, albeit few, who will tell you that you can enjoy your life even if you choose not to get married. Finally, with a lot of help from your friends and family you decide that you want to bell the cat and get married. And then, you look forward to the ‘D-day’ and try and enjoy the customs and traditions, as much as you can. While all this happens, and before you realize it, you are married!!!

black chimpanzee smiling
Yayy you are married!!!

Months 1 & 2 (or as people would say, the ‘honeymoon phase’) – It’s all new and you are excited to experience it all. It’s a different feeling. You are trying to understand a lot of things at one go. There is too much buzz around you which doesn’t allow you to analyse things/situations. You come across to people as this very happy bride/groom who has always wanted to get married.

adorable animal blur breed
Awwww!!!

But wait…

Months 3 & 4 (I call it the ‘happy realization phase’ ;-)) – This is the time when the husband and the wife start doing ‘real’ things together – like grocery shopping, and taking decisions about regular stuff at home. And that’s when you start realizing that you are two different people, with different opinions, likes and dislikes etc. You realize that you are two different individuals with very different styles of dealing with issues and situations and it’s not as if the person can change overnight. In the first few months you are this very positive and ‘in love’ partner who only notices and focuses more on the likes, the similarities, and love… And during this phase you realize that managing a marriage is not an easy task. Sigh!!

blue geeen and orange parrot
Ooops we are two different personalities!

Month 5 (the real battle starts, and hence I call it the ‘bull fight phase’) – By the time you reach the fifth month you are over analyzing everything! You sometimes feel that’s it not easy remaining married and you want to just leave everything (and go to the Himalayas maybe). You are mostly at loggerheads with your partner. Neither of you wants to give in. So, you may as well, hold on and enjoy the bull fight!! Because winning this match sets the tone for the rest of your married life ;-).  Most of the times however, it’s a tie with either/both partners flying the peace flag.

brown bull on green glass field under grey and blue cloudy sky
Ready for the fight!

Month 6 (the ‘time-out phase’) – Hurray!!! You are about to cross an important milestone in your married life! By the time you reach the sixth month you are dead-tired with all the over-analysis and bull-fights. You now want to rest a bit and get ready for the next six months before you reach your second and possibly the most important milestone of your life ;-). You are also now aware of the likes and dislikes of your partner and hence you try and be reasonable (possibly because you want the same favour back sometime ;-)). My advice would be to…rest as much as you can, and get ready for the next phase but don’t you quit!!! It’s a fun game after allJ.

Disclaimer 2: The blog post is not intended to hurt anyone’s sentiments. Please feel free to comment or just join in to have a chat!

6 must-dos in Bhutan!

Hello readers! Hope my previous post was helpful to many of you. Thank you for taking time out and reading it.

Excited and motivated with the response, I am now sharing with you my second post!!

My obsession with the number ‘6’ continues. Another reason for this obsession is the fact that I like being an average human. That doesn’t however mean I am not ambitious :-). When I was in school, my mom used to tell me that if I studied a bit more, I had the potential to secure the first/second position in class. But purposely (and I am being very honest here), I used to make sure that I secured the 4th or 5th (position). This is because I did not want to take on the pressure of excelling each time. I was happy being an average student then. With time, I guess I’ve changed and become a part of the rat race ;-).

Now coming back to Bhutan…I really think that you should include the following in your itinerary. Please note that I visited Punakha-Thimphu-Paro only and the post is therefore based on my experiences in these places.

  1. Do visit the Thimphu central post office – You must be wondering why would someone suggest a visit to a post office!!! Yes, I am a little crazy otherwise but let me explain why. This is because you can get your customized stamps made at the Thimphu central post office. Select a picture and share it with the staff there and the next thing you see is your personalized stamps!! Now how cool is that?? I find the idea of receiving a post card (a handwritten letter) that too with a personalized stamp quite ‘nostalgic’. We actually used those stamps to send postcards to our family.
  2. Do visit the Punakha Dzong – it was love at first sight (literally) for me. The drive from Thimphu to Punakha is around 3 hours (with a break for lunch). I remember I was feeling miserable during and after the drive because of the hilly terrain (read motion sickness). So ideally, I should have rested that evening. But we decided to step out and I’m glad we took that decision. Our super sweet driver took us to the Dzong and what a view it was (I have posted a picture in my previous article). We couldn’t take our eyes off from that magnificent structure. Over the next two days during our stay in Punakha we tried clicking pictures of the Dzong from all possible angles (and I am not kidding ;-)).
  3. Do try river rafting in Punakha – This was not a part of our itinerary initially but I’m glad we did it. While gazing at the beautiful Mo Chhu river we saw a couple of rafts coming our way. Hence, we enquired and cracked a deal for the next day. So, the next day after our visit to the nunnery and the Dzong we went for river rafting with a few local people. It was fun interacting with them while braving the rapids. It was not as adventurous as the Rishikesh rafting but it’s a must do for first-timers, senior citizens and people who are generally scared about the idea of rafting.
  4. Do try ‘phaksha paa’ at the Damchen resort – People in Bhutan mostly eat red rice (locally grown there) and cheese-based dishes to go along with it. ‘Ema Datshi’ (prepared with just cheese and chilies) is a very common dish there. What I really loved was the ‘phaksha paa’ served at the Damchen resort. We were not staying there but would have loved to as it’s located near the river. ‘Phaksha’ means pork and ‘Paa’ is the recipe. If you don’t like pork, there is a chicken variant too for you. I like experimenting a lot when it comes to food (I also experiment quite a bit with by hair) so this dish I thought is worth mentioning here.
  5. Do go for the Tiger’s Nest trek – This particular activity deserves a separate post which I will eventually write. This is definitely a must-do for all people traveling to Bhutan. I don’t think travellers should care about the time taken to complete the entire trek but it is definitely a good idea to complete the trek! Trust me on this, the feeling of exultation after you complete this trek is beyond description! I have never ever trekked in my entire life and if I could complete it, I think anyone can. More details in my next post.
  6. Tiger's nest
  7. Exuberant!
  8. If shopping is in your agenda do shop at Paro – While Thimphu has many shops for touristy shopping, I would recommend you save your money for Paro as you will get lot more options there. There is a single lane with quaint shops all around. You may wish to bargain a bit. Some shops offer you a discount too. You can look out for baby yak stoles, beautiful masks, souvenirs (I personally like collecting fridge magnets). Happy shopping!!
  9. Paro
  10. The shopping street

And just to let you guys know…I am not getting any commission from the Bhutan King 😉

6 times I went ‘wow’ in Bhutan!!!

Hello readers!! How are you doing?

This particular blog (my first ever) is a result of my recent trip to Bhutan. You might wonder why I have chosen ‘6’ as the figure. Even if you aren’t, let me tell you that it’s not because my birthday happens to be on 15 and the numbers add to the figure 6 (I am not into numerology). But I chose the number because I always have the tendency to give a little more than required or requested for. Just a little more, mind you!!!

Honestly, Bhutan was never in my travel list. But now that I have traveled there, I would say that one must visit it. Following are my reasons, but you may happen to find yours.

  1. Ease of getting into the country and staying there – Bhutan is one among 25 countries (I am not sure if that’s the exact number, read it somewhere though) where Indian travelers don’t require a visa. They would just need an entry permit at no added cost. WOW! To top this, our Indian currency is acceptable everywhere in Bhutan (though most of them prefer Rs 100 notes). So no extra preparations required for visa and currency!
  2. The landing and take offs from Paro airport – You need to actually experience it! The pilot from the flight deck announces the descent; I start looking around and see beautiful and green terrains. WOW! I locate a river too and I keep clicking pictures. And suddenly from nowhere between the hills the airport strip becomes visible, not giving us a chance to spot it earlier. Paro airport landings are one among the difficult ones and definitely worth experiencing!
  3. The beautiful blend of the hills and the ‘CHHU’– Before you judge me (but I guess you may have already done that..) CHHU in Bhutan means river. I am a ‘water person’ and I must say that the rivers blended so well with the hills. Every place we visited (read Paro, Thimphu and Punakha), we found a different river. The best view during my seven-day visit, I thought was of the Punakha Dzong (fortress) located at the confluence of the Pho Chhu and Mo Chhu rivers.
  4. The people and their endless warm and loving gestures – On the first day itself we met this driver who took us around Bhutan. He was very patient and responded to our endless queries and requests. I was asking him about the local drinks people have in Bhutan and the very next day he got us a big flask of homemade ‘Ara’ (it’s a warm drink made of rice, maize and eggs). I guess because of these beautiful gestures I had tears in my eyes while I was waving good-bye to him.
  5. The massage after the Tiger’s nest trek – I am sure a lot of people have spoken about the trek to Tiger’s Nest (I know because I had done a lot of research before visiting Bhutan). The trek was worth every bit of pain I felt during the activity and post that too. However what is worth mentioning is the lovely, healing one-hour massage. I almost thought of hugging and kissing my therapist but I behaved myself and thanked her verbally. Do take prior appointments (most of the hotels and resorts in Bhutan have a Spa section) and thank me later.
  6. The ‘Oh so inexpensive’ local red wine and peach wine – When in Bhutan do try out the ‘Takin’ red wine and ‘ZumZim’ peach wine. The 750 ml bottle is just for Rs 250 (WOWWW!!). And if you intend to get some home, then please get me one too.