Category Archives: Trips

How to Make an Itinerary

The Plan

The summer of 2017 – Nam and I were planning our first long vacation together. We were looking at 13 days in the first half of June. After working out multiple itineraries, we settled on Eastern Europe. We wanted to experience the best of what each place had to offer. This meant staying with the locals, having the best of the local cuisine, exploring the small lanes by foot and travelling light by public transport across cities – in other words, backpacking! The way I see it, there are two types of backpackers – ones who go where the roads take them and others who research and plan well ahead. It is difficult to be the first type when you are a working Indian and have less than 15 days of vacation (sigh!). Also, I prefer to be second type – it ensures that you do not miss out on the top experiences. In fact, I enjoy planning trips almost as much as the travelling. Continue reading How to Make an Itinerary

One of the most stereotyped cities in India

One of the popular discussions in college was – which city would you like to live in and work? A more popular one was – where you would NOT like to live. And the answer almost invariably used to be Chennai (the word would be uttered with a nightmarish expression). The reasons ranged from the heat to the smelly beach. I’ve lived in Chennai for close to a year in the past. Yes, it’s really hot. And yes, the beach is kinda smelly. But I never felt a kind of repulsion as I saw with a lot of my friends. I guess it has to do with the stereotype where every city in south India is Madras and every south Indian is a Madrasi! So when I got a chance to work here for a couple of weeks, I decided to take a look again. And here’s the Chennai I got to see. Continue reading One of the most stereotyped cities in India

Backpacking in Lanka

One random weekend, Pilla, Mehta & I were chatting on our group and we realized that we’d never gone on a trip together. So we started planning for the weekend of 15th August. Potential destinations – anywhere in the southern half of India qualified as the three of us were sitting in Cochin, Hyderabad and Bangalore. After much debate, we zeroed in on Ooty, Pondicherry and Kodaikanal. And then, we went to Sri Lanka! Continue reading Backpacking in Lanka

Weekend Escape – Hogenakkal Falls

It was one of the weekends when Spilla was here for his project. We decided to rent out a car and go for a drive somewhere nearby. After a lot of research and debate, we decided to make for Hogenakkal Falls which was on the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. We first tried Zoomcar but couldn’t get the car we wanted. Then we decided to explore other options if available and found Carzonrent who also offered self-drive cars. We did a quick check of how much the rates added up to with the distance and mileage and found that for longer drives, Carzonrent made much more sense as it was the cheaper option. We booked a Swift for our drive on Saturday.

Continue reading Weekend Escape – Hogenakkal Falls

The prequel – A Tale of Six Islands

The previous diary that I wrote of North India, had 6 parts and I decided to shorten the next trip’s account to make it reader friendly. This will be a story of 6 islands – in three parts. A trilogy is the safest bet, at least in movies – LOTR, Matrix, Bourne, Oceans, Toy Story. The only thing that works for me with more than 3 parts is Federer’s Grand Slam victories. I wouldn’t mind seeing him win a 100 times!

This part is the prequel – the one where the story takes off.

This story starts off in a supermarket where we are holding tubes of sunscreen like monkeys holding an iPhone. SPF 20, 30, 40?!! Having no clue about the technicalities, we made a rational decision like a manager – after trade-offs between the price, brand and SPF level, we picked out a few. Pleased with ourselves, we returned to college. (We later found out that our choice hadn’t really been the best one! :P)

We were a group of 11 – six from our hostel wing and five adopted members. We started our trip with steak burgers at Downtown Café in Calicut. Super Yum! We then headed to the railway station to catch the West Coast Express to Chennai. It felt like a really short trip with time flying as we played bluff and mafia.

We were welcomed the next morning at our very own Mehtaji’s home with delicious grilled sandwiches, bhel puri and sweets. I had taken on my usual role of the money bank with my camera bag acting as the ATM. We booked tickets for the movie Queen, which had recently released. And missing movies in Chennai would be a crime, given the cheap ticket prices. We checked-in for our flight the next morning so that we got window seats. All planned and set, we walked to the Marina beach. Right next to Mehtaji’s home was the main office of AIADMK (a prominent political party). The shops near the place had small photos and frames having Amma’s photo – like you get the ones for Gods near temples. Chennai is indeed different!

At the beach, we shot some balloons (with those moong dal bullets), discussed the atrocities of the college admin while sitting at the shore (will never get tired of doing that), ate a sub (chicken ham with loads of mayo) and went in for the night show at the nearby theatre. The movie was delightful and kinda fit in with what we were looking for – a last big escapade to enjoy a long trip without having to worry about deadlines or leaves.

The next morning we took taxis to the airport. We spent some time doing bakar and cracking some very punny jokes – couldn’t help it with so many Mallu’s in the group. Soon, we were on our way to Port Blair as the rickety Air India flight took off to cover the 1200 km over sea. So as promised, this prequel is where the story literally takes off. Stay tuned. Click here for Part One of “A Tale of Six Islands”

Down the Beas to the City with a Plan!

We wake up early the next day. The hangover of the snow experience is still there and it is something which I will never be able to forget.

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This day was to be spent exploring Manali with its temples and monasteries and of course the “Maaaal Road” (read Shimla to understand what Maaaal Road is 😛 ).  We first go to Vashishta Muni temple. The temple is a wooden structure with a slate roof.

 

 

There is a hot spring gushing out near the temple which has been converted to a public bath. ImageThe water was pretty hot indeed. However I was hoping to see more of an open hot water spring. But there is no “pool” as such. There are pipes which carry the water out of the mountain. Not entirely “natural”! 😛

Continue reading Down the Beas to the City with a Plan!

The Summer Capital of British India

ImageThe best thing about the road to Shimla is that the climb is not a painful experience. Travelling to the hills in India may not always be pleasant – going from Kozhikode to Wayanad in Kerala can be the most nauseous drive, thanks to the myriad hairpin bends and the crazy buses. Given that Shimla was more than 3 times higher in altitude than Wayanad, at 2400m, I kept my poly-bags ready. Our driver, Kalyan Singh was a Himachali through and through and the most talkative person I’ve seen. That’s what keeps him going without getting bored or sleepy – alertness is something which is really required in such treacherous terrain or the vehicle may casually slip down the slope (we saw quite a few such vehicles during the trip). This guy was a good planner and had packed these polybags before we left Delhi, as Himachal was a plastic free state. He knew the roads and mountains really well – something I relate to – remembering routes and places.

So let’s come back to the present. Continue reading The Summer Capital of British India

From the Capital to the Majestic Himalayas

ImageDone with Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri, we move on to the next part of our trip – Himachal. I was quite excited as this was one state I’d always looked forward to visiting. This too was part of an organized tour by Panicker’s Travels. We bid adieu to the India Gate which we’re passing by for the umpteenth time. Delhi had been good to us – the summer heat hadn’t set in yet. Continue reading From the Capital to the Majestic Himalayas