I ate this in Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Ahmedabad is a place for foodies. There is a restaurant or snack shop every hundred feet, The food is rich and inexpensive. Fresh Ghee, butter and cheese are part of almost every receipe. Ahmedabad aka Amdavad is a abode for those with sweet tooth. Those exclusive snack shop always leaves me confused with options. And Paan shops with options like singoda paan, chocolate paan, dry fruit paan etc., has left me speechless (It was quite stuffy in my mouth).

Gujarathi Thali

There are many restaurants that offer meals like this, which is the only option and there is no À la carte at these places. Usually there are many items in a thali which cost betweem 200-300 INR, the wonderful news is everything is unlimited. I also had a thali with less items and unlimited quantity for just 50 INR.

atithi

pakwan

The colorful lot

manek chowk

pav manek chowk

Gujarathi Snacks manek chowk

khamand

Paan ashok a/c pan shop

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Gandhinagar – Gujarat

Gandhinagar is very sparsely populated. There are few place inside city to be visited and many place at around thirty kilometer radius. I had boarded on a overcrowded Jeep from Taltej, Ahmadabad. The jeep drove through S.G highway, a wonderful road which took only 25 minutes on a 21 km stretch to reach the destination.

I have arrived at Akshardham, a prodigious structure of architectural value and artwork stood majestically surrounded by sheltered corridors which made it look like a palace. It’s the holy place of SwamiNarayan temple. The temple has preserved scientifically treated cloths, hair, nails, tooth, utensils, bed etc. of Swami Narayan, The whole temple premises is surrounded by wonderfully maintained garden. Mobiles, cameras and any other electronic devices are not allowed inside temple premises which can be saftely deposited in the designated place. You will probably thank for not taking in your mobile and camera after you visit.

There is an exhibition in the premises, tickets can be purchased at INR 50. There are five halls, the first hall will welcome you with a statue of man carving himself symbolising “Man is the maker of his own happiness”, and next hall will give the experience of arduous travel Swami Narayan which lasted for seven long years with artifial hanging bridges, rain forests, then a movie on the Indian Culture, geography, and travel of Swami Narayan, and finally with wonderful depection Ramayan with life sized effigies.

Outside of the premises is full of small shops food, pani-poori, Gujarati costumes and lemon soda.

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I hired a rickshaw to Adalaj to visit the step well (“wow” in gujarati) and Trimandir

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The step well is an architectural marvel. There are five stories in the building, water can be accessed at any level, and each story has a parapet wall at floor level which will let access to any part of the well.

and finally Trimandir

Auroville, India

Auroville, near to pondicherry is a place to explore and experience culture, people and life as a whole. Unity and peace is the mantra here. Auroville itself is made of many settlements. I had packed my bags to Auorville for a weekend. I had already booked my guest house: Samarpan, is run by a wonderful Donata and Stephano with her very old mother. They came to Auroville 8 year back from Italy, who is more Indian than me; she said “I love the place, the people and their shit” pointing the beach where villagers come for defecating.

Samarpan guest house is just in the beach, with wooden cottages and studios. The cottages are facing the sea, witnessing everyday the divine sunrise which decorates the orange sky. I hired a scooter which is economical and convenient way to visit around. I was served with Idly, toast, pancake and fruits for breakfast.

view from cottage

I relaxed watching the sea with my Kindle.

evening

To visit Matir mandir next day, booking must be made at the Auroville information center after watching a video. It’s handy to have an Auro card which is like a debit card. A free pass can be got to visit the Matir Mandir viewing point.

map

Savitri Bhavan, Solar Kitchen and Kala Kendra are few must visit places. You can make the most of the experience if you plan you trip according to Auroville’s events. There are many cafes and restaurants around, all these places are different in their own way. We can get fresh pizzas and I loved the yummy chocolate cake made of wheat and chocolate balls at “Farm Fresh”, which is few hundred feet away from Auroville Bakery.

Auroville is a place for architects. Building are unconventional, beautiful and eco friendly. I visited a project: houses built by volunteers just by scavenging. I saw some one made a stool with tetra packs. It is also possible for anyone to become a volunteer by applying through Auroville’s website. To get the story: talk to people, everyone there are very polite and good.

You might be tempted you live back if you are deep in your mind frustrated with living the mechanical life and living in the traffic.

Murudeshwara, Karnataka, India

My new found love for coastal Karnataka has brought me here to Murdeshwara, known for Lord Shiva temple at the sea shore. The Shiva statue and 18 floor temple tower brings all the popularity Murdeshwara has. I had come from Bangalore to Murdeshwara via Mangalore. All along the way there were scenic backwaters what seemed to me is like a river. It is absolute scenic stretch of Gangoli beach; on the left is bright blue sea that extends beyond horizon decorated with whitish sand and stone wall and on the right is beautiful backwaters. I had reached around 10:30 after the bus had departed from Mangalore at around 6:30. This day I was sweating uncontrollably, humidity in the air made me notoriously sultry. First thing was to search for a hotel, hotels here are overpriced for what it offers. There are small houses that host travellers. I neither found anyone hosting on couchsurfing nor hostels. Most hotels were reluctant in hosting lone travellers due to some unfortunate incident, identification proof was mandatory at all hotels. I stayed at Dhenu Atithya, hotel gave me a decent discount since I was travelling alone. They have a restaurant attached at first floor of hotel and interestingly they perform “gou pooja” every morning where the guests are also invited.

123 feet Shiva Statue
123 ft Shiva

Aerial view of beach
Aerial View of Beach

The temple’s eighteen floor tower’s top can be reached using elevator by paying meager rs.10–This is probably the most important view to be experienced, it provides an amazing aerial view of the Shiva statue, beach and the town. The beach becomes interesting place by early morning; fresh catch of crabs, indian mackerel, prawns come from boat of all sizes, getting into sea waters is not advisable; beach is crab infested. You can stroll across streets to find small hotels who serve fish but they are only few.

Plan for Murdeswara, can be done along with Nethraani Islands and Gokarna.

Murdeswara town

Temple

Udupi, Karnataka, India

Udupi, a holy town famously known for Sri Krishna temple and its food. A clean town, which is around 400 kms from Bangalore, there are buses to Udupi, which go via Mangalore. There are abundant bus services from Mangalore which is around sixty kms away to Udupi. The temple which has an interesting history on how it was founded by Madhvacharya is five minutes by walk from the bus stand. Spirituality was already in the air, with divine fragrance and and the music as we approached the temple. You can find accommodations around the temple, prefer the mutt’s accommodation which is closer to temple, inexpensive and of good standards, we paid ₹750 for a non-a/c room.

temple

Udupi Cuisine, know across nation for its uncomplicated flavor without onion and garlic, food is served at the temple twice a day for lunch and dinner from where popularity of Udupi cuisine come from. It would remain incomplete without experiencing other Udupi recipes, prefer smaller traditional restaurants near by temple. did I say ‘Masala dosa’ originated at Udupi?

There is a strong urge within me to talk about Udupi girls, they are beautiful and they still posses the lost art of shyness and I shall end it here.

Six kms away is the Maple beach, you have abundant small buses from Udupi. Plan to spend a full day at the beach. There is a Mahatma Gandhi statue at the entrance, apart from couple of resorts and few small shops the beach is not much commercialized. There are few rocky islands near Malpe, there are boat services to these islands at nominal cost. St. Mary’s island is special because of its rock formations. Basalt, a type of igneous rock is in columnar formation, within the island there are columnar hexagonal formation. Island holds geological importance, also declared as a geological monument by Geological Survey of India. In the Malpe beach, you can walk little further to visit the shipyard, visitors are not allowed inside but you can see some of the shipyard by coming around to back side. There is also a port with hundreds of fishing boats anchored. By evening, beautiful sunset that anyone cannot afford to miss.

arriving at island

St.Mary's Island

Malpe beach

With a traveler spirit without a tourist attitude, Udupi has much to offer.

Himalayan Trek – Enroute To Yuksum

We reached New Jalpaiguri(NJP) after night long train journey, we arrived in Darjeeling express, which is perhaps the best train comparatively. NJP is the gateway to most treks in Sikkim. With the sight of many trekkers with backpacks and boots, spirit of adventure had already started seeping in. We had our breakfast at a restaurant called ‘Dadha Bhai’, While we just chose it for its name, it proved not bad.

As we started towards Yuksum in a TATA Sumo, our young driver Dillu impressed us in first meet. He also told a sweet lie that he doesn’t have Bollywood songs, and made us listen Nepali songs. We are glad he did it, now we know couple of Nepali songs and we enjoyed it.

Teesta river

Almost entire length from NJP to Yuksum, we had beautiful view of the Teesta river. The clear blue water and beige shores are sure to mesmerize anyone. We stopped for lunch at Jorethang. Our driver suggested us a restaurant, ‘Walk In’ and it was worth the try. Jorethang

After a 8 hour drive from New Jalpaiguri (Near Siliguri) to Yuksum at around 5 pm, It was already pitch dark. We had our rooms reserved at a small hotel called ‘Pemathang’, a warm lady who also owns the place welcomed and served us tea. Soon, as we realized shops and restaurant pull down their shutters around 7 pm, we hurried to finish our dinner. We walked across to the Yak restaurant. We met an wonderful lady ‘Karma’ , who apparently lives up to her name. Looking at the our enthusiasm, Karma knew what she had to serve us, the Chhang, a local made rice brew served hot, served in a bamboo mug and straw, filled with millet seeds. The best part of the drink is, we just had to refill the beer with hot water. After a long day of singing and cheering, all we wanted to do was to hit the sack.

New Jalpaguri

Himalayan Trek – Yuksom – Dzongiri

As we gathered up after a quick breakfast, we introduced ourselves to pair of couples, Stanley and Mirca, couple from Czech Republic in their late fifty’s. Stan, six foot three and well built who was an software engineer from the FORTRAN era, speaks eloquent English with strong Czech accent. Mirca, a warm, soft spoken lady, a runner who completed a 50k marathon few months before we met. Stanley and Mirca run a cycling sport company back home. Hubert and Julia, from Germany, were full time backpackers. Hubert, when I inquired number of countries he has traveled, he thought for a second and said he doesn’t have any count. Attributed with natural elegance, Julia is second time in India for the year.


We headed towards the mountains crossing the village, as our climbing began and through the edges of the mountains, beautiful Rathong Chu was in the vicinity down the valley. A person, from behind me told “slow, slow, conserve energy” and after exchanging few words with him he walked past. Nima, come as a liaison officer representing Sikkim govt for a team going for an expedition. We reached Tshoka at round 6pm after 18 kms of trek that day. I had excruciating pain in my left knee due to over use of my left leg while climbing.

Next morning, we started towards Dzongiri. After few an hour of walking, I again stumbled Nima, whom I met a day back. We had a long conversation ranging from personal life, education, internet, climbing, high altitude sickness and many more.. Nima is a climber, mountaineer for past fourteen years and has climbed many summits. In the era where social media deserves status updates for our trivial actions and slacktivism , He is an accomplished climber, liaison officer, has been an sarpanch, also runs a small school. Nima, who decided to earn my utmost respect told “I am climbing Mt. Everest coming march”, that’s scheduled next month. This man’s simplicity and how he made things look simple made an impact on me. Our conversation lasted till we reached Pethang, which looked like I have walked into Europe.

We spoke to each person who were descending, and same was the case when we were down hill. Later in the afternoon we reached Dzongiri, which looked like a barren land, by early evening the weather changed, it was bliss to see snow fall for those of us not seen before. It’s said it is a good thing for the sky to clear. We barely slept that night. I came out that night at 2 am to see the snow blanket, the sky has cleared, it was a phantasmal beauty, stars looked closer than ever before I have seen. At around 3.30 am, we left up for the Dzongiri view point from where we can see kanchendzonga along with other smaller peaks. We walked across the ridge the gusty winds blew as powerful to push one down to ground, we had to sit or hold hands when winds blew. As the orange light hit peaks of the colossal rocks, pain, struggle to come up till here and perceived sadness of my life were nowhere seen. After spending some time at the top watching the sunrise and clicking few pictures we got back down to our huts.

At around 9 am, leaving back one of our team member we proceeded to Lake Laxmi, glass like tranquil water, calmness beyond silence. Prayer coins are found at the floor of the lake. At Dzongiri, as snow fall started remaining day was spent at Dzongiri chatting with our team members. Next day we came back to Tshoka, that night bringing the trip to a beautiful end, we sang songs together along with guide Nima Sherpa, yak person Gyalpo Bhutia, cook and the help whom we lovingly called ‘chotu’. Hubert, to my surprise asked us to sing Kishore kumar’s ‘chalte chalte’ which he said is one of his favorite.

Next day, at around 10 in the morning we started to Yuksom. With huge baggage of memories and experience we paced downwards. While the trip gave me time for self introspection, better understanding of my friends, these giant white mountains were unapologetic, disarmed my ego and belittled life.