Kerala:A place you should never miss

My trip to Kerala was one of the memorable journeys i ever had. Its one of the most beautiful places in India. My travel was not like a backpacker’s one, so i was not able to cover many places there, but i tried to visit at least the important ones.

We had gone with a package tour from KTDC under which the travel, stay and food was completely taken care by Kerala tourism. Our trip comprised of Munnar, Kumarkom, Trivandrum  and Kanyakumari.

Our first stop was a waterfall, on the way to Munnar, which was quite a site, but after a long train travel and a ghat journey I was not able to enjoy it much. But its like the first tourist spot to see.

cheeyappara waterfalls

Then the next stop was the heavenly Munnar. Though i find all the hill stations same, 😛 be it; Gangtok, Darjeeling or Shimla , Munnar was my personal favourite. It was cool, serene and beautiful. In Munnar we visited Mattupetty dam, Echo point,Tea Plantations and Floriculture center. Out of these places only Mattupetty dam was quite a site, rest of the places could have been ignored. But two things which should not be ignored in Munnar are the Elephant ride and visit to Punarjani village. This is what happened at Punarjani village.

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The price tickets ranged from 200 to 300 depending on the seating place, like a movie theatre,but trust me even if you take the 200 ticket and sit in 300 row, no one will know :). The Elephant ride was 500 per person and it was the most majestic ride i ever had. You should not miss them.???????????????????????????????

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We then reached Kumarakom which is the back waters area. We were staying at waterscapes resort which actually is made inside a bird sanctuary, so you see the Sanctuary for free :). But more than birds we saw water there. The place looked like this. I just remembered “water water everywhere but not a drop to drink”,

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The resort was really well made, and was completely made on water. So there was back waters in the front, there was a swimming pool next to it and it was pouring heavily :). In the night it got really scary. There is a boat ride which is arranged by the resort folks but its not worth how much they charge. You can go out and hunt for boats and we finished our ride in 500 bucks. On the boat ride, we saw many houseboats, and after a point the fish stink of the water was unbearable and i wanted to go back to place where there was not so much water. And as i was thinking this, our boat stopped midway, but thankfully after a few prayers it started and we reached back safely. 🙂

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Our next destination was Trivandrum where we saw Kovalam beach, Napaier Museum, Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple. I love to say Kovalam in the special mallu accent :). It is indeed a nice beach. Napaier musem, was a huge mistake to visit. To visit Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple , women should compulsorily be in Sarees and men should wear only dhotis. And in that temple, everything is so commercialised that i hardly felt it to be a sacred place.

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Our final destination was Kanyakumari, one of the most sort after places in our country. It is a temple town is what i felt. The process there is to take tickets and stand in a huge queue. There is boat ride waiting which takes you to three different places with halts in between. It was so hot, that i could hardly enjoy the place, but i did see the three colors of water which is the meeting point of three bodies of water and is quite a remarkable site to see.

The food in kerala is not something i relished. I liked the fish there, but otherwise the rice was just not edible for me. But i have heard that food there is really tasty, so may be i missed out on the good places. So thats for you to try 🙂

But Kerela is indeed god’s country country.  Nature is at its best there. And the people came across as friendly folks, though understanding malyalam is quite a task :P.

I wish to see Rajasthan next 🙂 , till then keep i hope you enjoy reading my other blog posts 🙂 here

Photos not to be used for reproduction

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skyscanner- Your best buddy for planning trips

This post is a part of Skyscanner travel wizard activity at BlogAdda.com

“I haven’t seen everywhere but it’s on my list- Susan Sontag.”

I would be lying if said, I have travelled the world or I have seen a lot of places or I am an ardent traveler. In fact I have never travelled alone till date to any place outside my state. I have never been allowed. But to travel is a hidden passion of mine which I unravel only to a few. I have always wanted to pack my bags and just go. I want to go to Cherrapunji, Goa( yes sadly I never went to Goa), Jaipur, Italy, Paris, Egypt, Netherlands, London, and it is an endless list. I know reaching all these places will take a while but I make it up by reading about these places(I secretly wanted to be a travel guide, I imagine myself on a open top double-decker bus with a map in my hand and telling people about the history of the place),or by watching shows on TLC or just making castles in air about visiting these places with friends who are as crazy as me. I want to wander and not be lost at the same time. I am such a poor planner, that I am scared to even order in a restaurant on others’ behalf, forget planning a trip. . I am perceived as a very coward sort of a person, who would never take risks in life but I only wish I could just set out on a journey with no date of return. But like always blog adda is here, for a new adventure this time, and yes planning a trip, though a virtual one, is no less than an adventure for me.

India to Paris
Given a chance to plan my dream trip with 1 Lakh rupees. I would choose the heaven of love, Paris. I thought planning it would be a herculean task, but I finished it in a short while with Sky scanner. You have almost everything on the site, just name it for your trip and you will find it. So I came up with the below Itinerary , a very rough one though and realized, that I chose a pretty expensive location to go.

So all I did was searched flights from Hyderabad to Paris(round trip- though if I got a chance I would never come back ;)) and a range of flights popped up(from 45k to 80k). So I picked a marginally cheaper one which came in about 48K.
Then I searched for a hotel in Paris, which would ideally be located somewhere in central Paris, and as I was searching a flight, I got a popup, hotels in Paris, and one click on it and I was seeing a range of hotels there. Since I would mostly use the hotel just to freshen up and spend the night, I was preferably looking for a hostel sort of accommodation. And I found Le- regent hostel Montmartre which is near Gare Du Nord. One night stay with complimentary breakfast is 1690 only. From the reviews it was rated 7, which is good enough. And yes, from review, to map, to price, of the hotel it is all at one place in the site. I am really amazed as to how much information is so well organized on the sky scanner site. So my trip can last for a max of 2 nights , 3 days, so I would spend 4K on my stay.
There is another interesting feature on this site is it helps you book cars for hire with a driver. It is always more comfortable if you are travelling in your own car, you can stop wherever and whenever. You just have to mention for how many days/hours you want and your drop and pick up location and voila you get the prices. So if I take a hire car, which is actually pretty suitable given that from the hostel , all the places are in about 10-15 km, it would be a good deal. So I could hire a car for two days, and it would cost about 10k.

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With accommodation and transport ready, we just have to decide on the places. I would definitely want to see Eiffel tower, Louvre, Avenue des Champs Elysees, and also take a short city tour. The entry tickets at all of these places will come to another 15k. And not to forget the lunches and dinners are not complimentary and I would want to try French cuisine. Yet another 5-7K.
With about 10-15k in my kitty, I would shop    and save a little for getting mementos for friends back in India.
Ha, I just blew 1 lakh, so easily. I almost felt like it was a real plan and I would leave for Paris very soon. Thank you Blog adda for this wonderful experience.

Happiness is about small things and how simply you taught me.

I am writing about #MyRoleModel as a part of the activity by Gillette India in association with BlogAdda.com.
This blog post is dedicated to a very kind human being whom i met and interacted for a very short time.

Very recently I had gone to Kerala and we had advanced bookings for car and hotel. We were supposed to be picked up from the railway station and the same care was supposed to take us all the places in Kerala.

We were very tired after the train journey, and to our bad luck, the car had not come. We were calling all places to find out where the driver was and when we called him we realized that the driver was waiting at some other station for us. We took it for granted that he was lying and was probably picking someone else up. The station was a small one, so there was no proper place to even sit. We were very annoyed and after a long wait of 2 hours he finally came. My dad was waiting to scold him, but as soon as he came, he smiled. And his smile was so genuine and his sorry was so  heartfelt , that our anger just dropped and we could hardly say anything apart from “its ok”. Later my dad got a call from the authorities who told us that they had sent the driver to the wrong station.

Unlike most of the drivers who are very rash and frustrated about driving , he seemed to enjoy it and was very soft spoken. He had a very strong Malayalam accent in his voice, so it was a little difficult for us to make out what he said, but no matter what he said, he would always smile.

He was financially not very well off at all, he told us he had been to gulf and was planning to go there again till his 4 year old daughter told him, “daddy you would anyway be driving the car there why not drive it here and stay with us.” This made me feel why so many of us migrate, when they can stay here with their family and be much happier. I always used to fight with the cabbies in my office and tell them to drive properly, but this journey made me think otherwise. For most of the time we were travelling and when sitting in an AC car doing nothing can be so tiring, how difficult it is for someone to drive continuously. It is important we try and understand someone’s trouble in life and behave with them keeping in mind all of that.

He would take us on roads, where the view can be good, so that though we see less places we still would cover as much as possible. He skipped all places in Itinery which were not worth seeing and showed us better places. He seemed to be a very loving family man, and he told us that wherever he went around Kerala, he would get something back for his children, because he could not afford to show them these places. Happiness is about small things.

We would always take him for lunch and dinner wherever we went , and he was so touched by all of it, that he narrated to us incidents of how other passengers would not even think about the driver and not even offer him a chai(tea).

I have learnt now that no matter what you do, however big or small your job is, it is essesntial that you do it with utmost sincerity and perfection. One should have patience and perserverance in life. One should be content.  He would never be late. He would never ask for any tip or  chai paani. He was a man with a lot of self respect. All in all , he made our trip a memorable one. While leaving my father offered him money and told him to buy something for his kids, his eyes gleamed and i could see he was very grateful to us though we hardly had done anything for him.

PS: His name is Sameer, and he is a good man. 🙂

Malaysia..Here I come

I am participating in the MalaysiaJao Blogathon Contest in association with BlogAdda.com.

 

The Petronas twin towers stand tall on my bed side table and is the first and last thing i see everyday. Surprised?? well it is small souvenir my friend bought me from Malaysia. Going to Malaysia has always been in my bucket list and the list of places to see there remains endless.
I still remember seeing the tourism promotion ad of malaysia, and the truly asia sounded like tumi esho(please come in bengali) and i always was touched by the fact that the ad is in bengali. Later of course i realised that it is truly asia after seeing pictures and videos.
If i had to make a checklist of five things i wish to experience in malaysia would be

Petronas-Twin-Towers-MalaysiaAwe- I wish to look up at Petronas twin towers in kualalampur, which are one of the tallest towers in the world, and that too in the night. I somehow feel the it will be the most beautiful sight my eyes could possibly have. It is architecture to marvel at with a bridge running between them and i want to go up to the highest floor and feel like the tallest person on earth 🙂

Tioman_islandFeel Mesmerised- I want to witness the beauty of Tioman Islands. I got so lost in the scenic pictures of the islands, that may be if i reach there, i will be make time stop and be caught in that beautiful landscape. Wiki tells me that we have monitor lizards roaming at all places. Sounds scary but also fun.

Kuala-Lumpur-Bird-ParkVibrant– Seems like all colors of Malaysia are captured in Rainbow Lorikeet of Taman Burung Kuala Lumpur,(Kuala Lumpur Bird Park). I have always been a keen bird watcher and what better than getting to see close to 200 types of birds at one place.

Dragon_BoatsDragon Boats– There is another place with beautiful architecture and amazing events, that being Penang islands. They have a large number of monuments of historical relevance, colonial buildings, and heritage sites. Also not to forget dragon boat races also happen here 🙂 Sounds so exciting.

And finally i wish to have some

malacca-malaysia  Peace”  – Before i bid goodbye to Malaysia, i want to visit Malacca which is home to a huge number of historical monuments, churces all emanating rich culture of Portuguese, Dutch and British. It seems like pondicherry(puducherry) to me. I want fall into the arms of this  serene place. And who knows i might just get lucky to see the kite festival here.

Well, it almost feels like im writing this post on my journey back from Malaysia :). Signing off with nostalgia.

The train affair ;). Episode I

Right from my childhood,train journeys have always been dear to me , be it “Chai –Kaafeee” , “Samosa, Vada, Puri” , the noisy chatter of the co passengers, all of it just adds to awesomeness of the journey. But one thing had changed from my childhood, since i had started travelling alone, I would see more co passengers giving stares and “not so friendly” looks at me. Initially things were uncomfortable to me but then I learnt to get used to it like other grils.

But the coin always has two sides, if you are getting a hint of what i am trying to arrive, just like I looked pretty to a few pair of eyes, some guys looked handsome to me too ;). And sometimes its just the way they spoke, that charmed me or it was plain looks.

It’s a story when I had aspirations of being a journalist or a reporter for The Hindu but all I ended up was being a Freelance writer, life is unfair, yes because though I had a degree from a premiere institute of Journalism, all I could manage was a job in FreeCons, a consultancy firm which gave ad reviews and also punch lines to a lot of popular brands on their website. They had hired me for creative wiring but I wanted to be heard. Though I was being heard but wanted it to be through my mouth, expressions and not a mere group of words on a website. But god had other plans and I had a stammering problem since my childhood and my mother was scared of any medical treatment, thinking my voice might get impacted more. So I never got a chance to speak I public.
Anyways I had gone to Gurgaon to attend a conference of big brands on their advertising theories, and FreeCons needed a review a.s.a.p. I needed to travel by train to Hyderabad and it was in the April month. My allowances did not let me afford an AC coach but I personally liked sleeper since I could peek out of the windows and get into my virtual world where I was speaking on the National TV on a burning issue. Well in the real world I was not talking but it was burning. I was too early to the station and was among the first to get into the train. The train seemed to be sending fire waves across to my face, I was just sipping my coke when he stepped on my feet and I shouted, and then realized his suitcase had crushed my feet. I did not even look at him and shouted “ Are you freaking BLIND”… and while I was telling that the coke in my mouth was kissing his face.
So eventually I was feeling guilty and I apologized but that creature did not even bother and just dragged his suitcase and kept it under the seat. He had a window seat and after locking his stuff he disappeared. When he came out of the rest room after washing his face, I really got a chance to look at those sharp features and his spiked hair and his dusky complexion. Yes he looked handsome. But now he was not even going to give me a second look, due to what had happened. May be after one’s break up one realizes that he/she is not the one anyone would like to go out with. And also every guy I saw I somehow felt he is exceptionally good looking. The train had started and my coach was full till then, there was another girl sitting diagonally to him and both of them passed glances on each other. My chances were even less than half then. But then I felt he was very rude to even deserve me. We all feel it about the other person when not given the due importance. The girl started a conversation with him after waiting long enough for him to start. I told you right he was rude and carried a big ego. Thanks to her I came to know he was working at an investment firm in Hyderabad and had come to Gurgaon to visit his parents.
I felt a little happy that may be I will get to see him again in Hyderabad. But eventually realized I was building castles about a guy I did not even know and looked more than good to have a girlfriend. All of us are in a relationship these days. At least most of us. I soon took out my book, my best company and plugged in my head phones and got immersed in the book.In no time I had slept on the book. By the time I woke up to my surprise he was looking at me and the moment we were eye in eye he immediately moved his gaze away confirming he was looking at me from quite some long. At least that gave me some peace that I was still good to look at.


The next morning I woke up by 5 unable to sleep anymore, twisting and turning on the sticky seat. Railways should cover up all their seats like the ac coaches. He was still asleep and he had changed into a bottle green t shirt and shorts. He still looked good but after admiring him for sometime I came back to reality. Soon I fell asleep again. And in no time it was 9:30 and the train had reached Hyderabad. I quickly took out my slippers and found a sticky note on it. I pulled it out and saw “SORRY  “ written on it, i turned it and saw “Karan” written on it. Probably his name.
When I got down at the station I was waiting to get a look at him and I saw him at a far off distance, I gave him a faint smile and could not see his reaction since I did not have my spects on. He walked away and the bottle green color got lost amidst different colors.

Image courtesy:http://www.smileecards.com/card/sticky-note-i-m-sorry

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Paradise Lost and Paradise Gained

It was peak summers of 2009 in Hyderabad, 480 Celsius was a normal temperature one would expect then. People were getting baked inside their homes without an AC, which is still a luxurious need in India and people who were out were getting roasted, so no matter where one was, it was getting very difficult to stay in Hyderabad. So my family and I thought of running away to a distant land, where it was snowing, and the options were within the country and hence were limited. We were considering hill stations in north east and yes Kashmir was not even an option. So after a lot of research we finally settled on Gangtok.

Apart from the fact that it was cold there, another reason was it was close to Kolkata, my hometown so we planned a visit there on our return. Since tickets were booked in the last moment we did not get AC sleeper class and were going to travel by normal sleeper class. And trust me, train journeys are to die for with so much of hustle and bustle around. The journey was a little long though, two complete days to be exact. It was going to pass by at least that is what we felt; we are born optimistic aren’t we? We boarded the train and from then onwards our bad luck had started, we were being welcomed to Hell. There was unimaginable crowd, and everyone wanted to get up first as though we the seats were unreserved, but may be they were. We found our seats and found that they were already occupied by an Assamese family. We politely showed them our tickets and they apologized and got up, and then requested, “can our children sit here, we would sit near the toilets, but let them sit here, we will take them once the TT comes and confirms our tickets”, we looked at the cute faces of the kids and consented to their request. This was our first mistake.
By the time the train started we were all sweating like hell, and the toilet smell was already haunting us, and the whole passage near the toilet was filled with students from north east, but at least by then the train had started. It’s a part of us to share snack items with our co passengers, and that’s what we did. We shared chocolates, soft drinks, and chat items with the assamese family, but unfortunately the children were not too accustomed to such food stuff and passed out on the seats itself, yes our back luck had crossed all leaps and bounds. Her mother was quick enough to clean everything and apologized to us, this quality of people is to die for. My family did not mind much because it was me who got soaked in the hot liquid. Anyways a day in the train had passed and nights haunted us the most. It was hot, the sleeper beds were sticky and not too comfortable and thanks to our railway minister then, Laloo Ji who had introduced the middle berth above the side berth. But the idea had soon flopped so the bed was there but was unused at least that is what we thought until people started demanding us to open them. We resisted, fought but they won.
The morning made me feel nostalgic seeing the tea waalas carrying mud cups, hawkers selling puri sabji, these little things sets train journeys and India apart from the rest of its kinds. The next day had a similar story and I had concluded that such a beginning to a trip was a very bad omen. We had reached Siliguri the next morning, we had a lodge booked there, and the cold winds were prevalent, which made me feel a little good. But the feeling that we are going to high altitudes soon and our car journeys are going to be across the roads with sudden twists and turns were giving me tremors. I forgot to tell you about my motion sickness and the weird thing that happens to me is I feel giddy, and my stomach churning inside but unable to vomit. But I had to go, so we set on our journey from Siliguri to Darjeeling. The beautiful sight around with greenery and only greenery gave true pleasure to our eyes. It was chill and we were mesmerized by the beauty around; Flowers whose colors could be new additions to an artist’s color palette. I was truly amazed and my weird feeling had disappeared but I was hungry.
Our driver stopped near a dhaba after a 2 hours of drive. We were greeted by people inside and we expected good food too. We wanted to try the delicacies there, MOMO was one of them. Momo’s are steamed food. I was very excited to see the way they looked, a white flower which has a lot of babies inside but was shy to open up. I put one whole momo inside my mouth out of anticipation, but my bad luck was still sitting on my head, it was not really delicious. I was carrying my Sony headphones so that I could listen to music and be lost in another world and not really feel dizzy while going up and down. But to my worst bad luck ever, I forgot the head phones at the MOMO station. Well but the only good thing which kept me going was that the distance to Gangtok was reducing. So we reached Darjeeling which was like a place we got in bonus while going to Gangtok, and thanks to the massive protests in Darjeeling conducted by Gorkhas who were demanding for a separate state GorkhaLand, somewhat like our very own Telengana protests. So the gorkhas were burning down houses and the tourists spots were no longer maintained, and the entry to many places was free of cost. But the only interest of ours was to see the sun rise at Tiger hills, and thinking about that heavenly moment gave me Goosebumps. We went to Tiger hills at morning 4 and it was chilling more than my deep freezer, and even a small uncovered finger was giving us shivers, we had 7 cups of tea each to beat the cold, each priced or indeed over priced at 10 per cup. But all in vain, since it was very foggy and the sun had risen after playing hide and seeks with us.
After all this happenings I really lost hopes about gangtok. We packed our bags and headed to our final destination Gangtok. The first lovable sight which enriched our minds and followed us till we reached , was the long, beautiful and never ending Changu lake, the sight of it took our breath away, we kept looking at it for atleast half our journey and wondered if this lake really would end. And then it was time for the second surprise, snowfall, yes when it was raining fire balls in other parts of India, and it was snowing in Gangtok, I had seen, touched and felt snow for the first time in my life and it was trance like. We were finally at a place, about 1700 ft. about ground from where we could see Kanchenjunga, and a lot of other snow covered peaks which we had till now seen only in pictures or movies. The view was a true pleasure to one’s eyes. We also saw a lot of Yaks but I did not dare to climb on them, given my phobia from big animals. One ride to and fro to the Devi temple at a higher peak on the yak would cost you `700.It was bargain able though since many were not risking their lives by sitting on that white fur covered animals and also the snow fall. The Lake around was covered with ice, such an amazing sight. Our final place to visit in the night was the Mg. Road, a very famous road in gangtok for its shopping spots, but more than shopping I felt I was in some foreign country, there were flowers in between the roads, the stonework on the road was mind blowing.
I somehow was feeling that it was after all not such a bad idea to visit the north east, the journey was not that simple but it definitely was worth it. In words of Sir John Milton “Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained” was what had happened. After all we had seen snow, we had made snowmen, we had seen one of the most beautiful lakes in our country, had visited tea gardens, and most importantly had dodged the heat of Hyderabad. Though all in all the trip was amazing I felt bad for my head phones and also for a very beautiful city Darjeeling which was being ruined by foolish minds, who were actually spoiling a major tourist spot after all toy train had started there the first.We humans complain, crib about bad things happening to us, but our ability to forget all of it upon coming across nice things really sets us apart as a race.