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Varanasi – Photo Journal

Varanasi – Photo Journal

Varanasi is the soul of spiritual India and one of the oldest living cities in the world. It embodies the brilliance of human existence and co-existence. Where else can one witness contrasting religions co-existing, Varanasi – the capital of Hinduism is home to an equally large population of Muslim weavers producing the highly coveted Indian fabric called Banarasi fabric or Banarasi sarees. Where else could one possibly witness the burning of dead bodies by the ghats of Ganges. A Hindu saint, a Muslim weaver and a stray dog can be seen sitting beside each other on the ghats with silent harmony, such is the spirit of Varanasi where each human being is equal just as nature would wish for it to be!

One would either absolutely love the complex organised chaos of Varanasi or totally hate it. The essence of this city will rip your soul, the raw scenes of the bodies burning on the ghats will churn your brains inside out and compel you to re think about life and your existence. I have shared a few random photos from my time in Varanasi, it is better seen than spoken about!

Preparation for the Evening Aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. The famous evening aarti takes place on this ghat only starting at around 6:45pm every evening, essentially is it a form of worshipping the Ganges.

Many vendors can be seen selling flowers and diyas on the ghats, a diya along with flowers is usually sold for Rs 10, it is holy to light the diya and set the leaf bowls afloat on the Ganges hoping it will fulfill whatever one has wished for which lighting the diya.

The evening aarti in progress, its a magical and soulful experience t witness 7 pandits performing the evening aarti, all in sync with each other. The atmosphere is electrying with holy chants and the harmony of all the people there clapping together in tune with the chants.

Watch the Aarti:

Varanasi illuminates the moment the sun goes down, starting with the evening aarti and hundreds of diyas afloat, Ganges turns into a dancing beauty shimmering through out. The best way to indulge in this time is by a boat ride which will take you along the ghats. The boat men are usually well versed with the history of the ghats and double hat as a guide as well. For foreigners, my tip is do not settle for anything more than Rs 300 for a boat ride on the Ganges.

Manikarnika Ghat is one of the most famous Ghats is Varanasi, it is believed and it is true as well that the fire of this ghat never goes down, there is some human dead body being burnt here throughout the year. It is a unique, life changing and raw experience to witness performance of Hindu burial rituals in such close proximity.

At Manikarnika Ghat, clicked from the boat.

Varanasi is equally calming in the morning, the air is fresh and it is beautiful to watch the locals offering prayers in the Ganges and taking a holy dip. At Dashashwamedh Ghat in the morning, the boats are parked by the ghats awaiting to take tourists on boat rides.

From the boat:

The famous Indian local barbers, one can be seen below in the photo, sitting like a king while he waits for his next customer.

The one most popular visual from the ghats of Varanasi is that of a ‘sadhu’ drapped in saffron, I clicked the sadhu with the perfect pose! 

This below is the backside of Brijrama Palace, said to one of the oldest landmarks of the city perched on Darbhanga Ghat, the palace which is now one of the most expensive hotels in Varanasi at approx. Rs 25,000 per night dates back to 1812. It also has one of the oldest elevators installed in India in 1915.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most important and oldest temples in India with a dome still made of gold. Although photography is not allowed in the old Kashi Vishwanath Temple. There is now a newly built Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the sprawling Benaras University. 

Chaotic street traffic of Varanasi  – Nothing can get more thrilling than this, not even a good roller coaster ride :

Any trip to Varanasi is incomplete without indulging on the super delicious food on offer. Below is a drooling Maharaja thali, although this one is vegetarian, still it is one of the best thalis I have ever had at Kaiser Palace – Hotel Surya.

Do not, I repeat do not miss out on having the utterly rich and yummy milk based desserts and drinks, such Kulfi, Lassi, Rabri, Dahi and many more.

The best way to end a delicious meal is by buying yourself a what they popularly call in India ‘masala’ a form of digestive that can be found in several forms such a tiny bullets or flavoured or softened betelnuts, etc. Buying some as a souvenir is always a great idea.

Last but not the least, interested in shopping or  not, it is still worth visiting the local shops in dingy alleys selling stunning intricately woven Banarasi fabric and sarees.

Subtle and pain staking process of weaving a Banarasi saree:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My experience of visiting Varanasi was like a roller coaster ride – thrilling, sometimes a bit scary, mentally and emotionally consuming and definitely one that I will never miss for anything else.

Review: Hotel Surya, Kaiser Palace, Varanasi

Varanasi is the soul of spiritual India, it is one of the oldest city in the World. When I was planning my trip to Varanasi I was sure I did not want to stay right next to the ghats, I was looking for a heritage place rather. Usually heritage accommodation in Varanasi is expensive given the tourist inflow. Although I was lucky to have some credit point on MakeMyTrip App which I wanted to use.

Upon some research I found this beautiful heritage property Hotel Surya, Varanasi – Kaiser Palace, a small palace from the 1800s converted into a hotel and booked it.

The heritage building
Hall way of the heritage building

Pros:

Price: After discount Rs 1500-2000 per standard double room. It is definitely value for money.

Location: Location is at Cantt. area at approx 5kms (30 mins due to traffic) from the Ghats of Varanasi. But very close to the Railway station which is a plus, also pretty close to Sarnath since the location helps skip the city traffic. Getting an auto the ghats is not an issue as there is a auto, taxi stand right opposite the hotel.

Stay: The old heritage building is well maintained, rooms are spacious, clean and well maintained equipped with tea maker and hot water. Although the standard rooms donot have a mini freezer. Do not forget to ask for a lawn facing room while booking.

Standard room
Standard room
Hallways of the heritage building

 

Pool: Pool doesn’t have the cleanest water but not bad enough to not swim, drinks served at the pool which is a plus.

Pool and some Mojito

Food:  The hotel has 1 restaurant and 1 cafe and 1 bar:

Canton Royale – a fine diner (do not forget to enjoy a great Maharaja Thali here, I had ordered a vegetarian thali and this was one of the best I had). A good meal without drinks would cost around Rs 2000 for two.

Canton Royale
Vegetarian Maharaja Thali

Magi Ferra Cafe – A cafe and juice bar, a cool setup with a relaxes ambiance.

Sol Bar –  I loved the Sol Bar, colorful, vibrant and a great place to chill after a tiring great day of sightseeing.

Breakfast: Do not miss the breakfast here, it is served in the heritage building and the spread is pretty decent, great enough to start off the day!

Breakfast area

Cons:

The only con is that since the place is away from the Ghats its takes enough time to and fro, around 30 mins each way, costing Rs 100-150 per trip. Also since the hotel is located in cantt. area among other posh hotels, there aren’t any road side restaurants or eateries around the hotel for cheap meals, of course I wouldn’t suggest eating  all meals in the hotel if you are on a budget. So we made it a point to eat well before we came back to the hotel for the night or pack some food rather.

Overall, if you do not want to stay in the busy city of Varanasi this is a great place away from the noise for sure!

 

An Evening in Colombo – Photo Journal

Sri Lanka was a surprise package for me, especially so because I did not plan too much around it, it was more like an on the spur plan. Turns out the country does have a lot to offer! Apart from other places I had a short time in Colombo, Some of the highlights of my stay in Colombo in pictures.

Gangaramaya Temple, Colombo: A must visit place in Colombo, the Temple of 1000 Buddhas – Gangaramaya Temple, Colombo.

The Temple of 1000 Buddhas, at Gangaramaya Temple, Colombo
Inside Gangaramaya Temple
Inside Gangaramaya Temple

Inside Gangaramaya Temple

Interesting looking men at Gangaramaya Temple
Luckily found some preparation for a wedding setup going on inside the Temple
Some stunning piece inside the Temple
Yes! unfortunately these are Tusks on display (Elephant teeth)

Streets of Colombo:

A road side shop in Colombo
Interesting looking pickle on sale at a roadside shop


Galle Face Green, Colombo: 
The part of Colombo best to spend a carefree evening after hopping around touristy places. Overlooking the ocean, it is a perfect spot to try some delicious sea food and watch a beautiful sunset.

Seafood at Galle Face Green
Seafood at Galle Face Green
My dinner for the night!
Sunset at Galle Face Green

 

All photos are clicked from my mobile phone so pardon the quality 🙂

Experiences from Sri Lanka – Which I will remember Forever!

I visited the beautiful island country, Sri Lanka last year December 2016, being from India I was very curious to find out being a neighboring country how different could we possibly be. Well, now I can say we are very different temperamentally, yet so similar in several ways. When we talk or write about a place we usually end up talking and discussing about the places, food and culture. What we miss out is talking about the experiences and encounters with the people and the locals of the place. So today I feel like writing about my experiences with the locals of Sri Lanka, of course not all are great, but few which are, they have really touched me in a special way and I think I will always mention (I still do) these while talking about my stay in Sri Lanka.

Sigiriya

The amusing obsession with Age: This is not really a situation I can classify as good or bad, rather it is plain amusing. I am 29 years old and as per normal society standards (that’s what most people say, I personally don’t believe in society) I do not look like a nearing 30 year old I am often told, not only by people of my country but in general by human standards (so I am always told). But I faced the most profound situations of being reminded that I do not look like my age almost 90% of the time I interacted with a local in Sri Lanka. Not sure if it is treated as an ice-breaker (quite interesting if it is) in the country, but I can almost count several instances where after a quick ‘Hi’, ‘Hello’ the very next line to me was ‘How old are you?’. First 2-3 instances I was baffled, in my mind I was thinking ‘Really?what kind of a question is that!’, but after, I started enjoying it and I used to give hilarious replies, like I am 35, with 2 kids (I am still happily not married with no kids) just for the fun of it. I am still intrigued if it was just me or if there is really something to this. Nevertheless! Very amusing I must admit!

Sigiriya.

As peaceful as can get: Well this might be a relative observation given that I belong to India. India is the epitome of chaos and craziness and every tiny situation is usually addressed with enough drama and noise, especially road and traffic situations. I happened to be a part of a road situation in Sri Lanka and the parallels of a similar in any country (rather any country) would be very different I am sure. So one of the days in Colombo I had taken an auto from my hotel to the railway station. During this ride, we happened to stop at a red traffic signal, unfortunately when the signal turned green due to some reason the auto ended my mildly brushing into a passerby on a cycle (no one was hurt). The events that followed after were thoroughly amazing! the auto driver realized that he had brushed into a cyclist and both of them started talking in a straight face manner in their local language. Very soon the traffic police intervened and after a short discussion us and the cyclist drove to the closest market and to my utter amusement I saw the auto driver got down, signaled me to wait in the auto, went to a local road side shoe store nearby, bought a pair of slippers and gave it to the cyclist. After this we were back on track and soon I was dropped off at the railway station. So! was this how a road rage situation is handled here?? i would infer what happened was that the cyclist must have demanded that a pair of slippers be bought for him and so it was agreed. I could imagine a similar situation in India where such an incident would be noisy with people hurling abuses at each other or even fists. Though I am not really very surprised, since being a Buddhism dominated country it is just befitting for the people here to be so tolerant and non-violent. Either ways I hope the peace remains and spreads on to its neighboring countries as well.

Dambulla Cave Temple

A helping hand: How often does one have the privilege of feeling cared for or to have someone go above the ordinary to help you. I was fortunate enough to have this experience. We had booked a taxi to Nuwara Eliya and during our way back we were discussing our plans of travelling to Sigiriya via a local bus the day after . The driver happened to overhear us and asked us about our plans, upon knowing he was really worried and was trying hard to convince us that going by bus was not a good idea. Later after dropping us back, he called up and arranged for us to go to Sigiriya in a taxi that was going there to pick someone else up for an extremely reasonable price. I couldn’t be more thankful to this find gentleman for taking the initiative and pain to arrange this for us without us even asking for it, just so that we could be safe. The world could use more such heroes who find the safety of others as their responsibility. Blessings to this man!!

 

Koh Phi Phi & Phang Na Bay

Koh Phi Phi Island & Phang Nya Bay

 Well if you are in Phuket for a short stay and do not take these 2 tours, you are surely missing out on a lot of nature’s versatile creation.

One of the days during our stay in Phuket we opted for the Koh Phi Phi Island tour, we had already booked the tour from an agent in the airport for a good bargained price. The day to Koh Phi Phi began really early, the tour guys arranged for pick-up and drop to our hotels, the pick-up happened at 7:00 am, too early after a mad night at Bangla Road. With swollen eyes and an empty stomach and several pick-ups later we headed off to the pier where our speedboat was waiting for us.

 After a complimentary coffee and snacks and a handful of ‘how not to die’ instructions in Thai-lish (Thai + English) language we were off to explore this side of the Krabi province, Koh Phi Phi is ideally a collection of 2 large and few smaller islands as told to us by the cruise guide.

One tip: The seats inside the boat are not allotted, it is on first come first serve basis, so if you are interested to not get charred and burnt sitting outside under the tropical sun, you might as well want to grab a seat inside the cabin area asap. I did the mistake of sitting outside for a better view and ride at the expense of my nose that got tanned severely.

The first leg of the ride is calm overlooking vast expanses of blue as far as one can see, just sea and the sky around and above, it is after a good half hour ride that we could start to notice the pinnacle shaped massive rocks protruding out of the blue, it does look like a place something out of Avatar.

 The boat stops at Maya Bay, popular for the shooting of the movie ‘The Beach’. Here usually they let us go snorkeling for a while with gears provided by them. Although snorkeling here was pretty disappointing as there was no coral nor much fishes around, maybe due to the disturbance caused by the boats. We were served juices and cold drinks in the boat, no restrictions on how many you have, water bottles were provided as well.

We stopped at Phi Phi Don for lunch, the menu comprised of noodles, soup, chicken for main course, vegetables stir fried and a couple of other items, washroom facilities and free water was available as well.

 After lunch and some more time we headed off to the Viking Caves and then over to the Coral Bay. We were given free time here to do as one wishes, while we were lazing around, we saw quite a many people with head down under water. We figured this place as the name suggests was famous for snorkeling, without wasting time we headed off to get our snorkeling gear.

 What happened after that was sheer pleasure, once we started to snorkel we realized this place was abundant with coral life and fishes of beautiful colors and sizes, the water level was waist high with a bed of sharp corals, so be careful to not set your foot anywhere without seeing or you might end up cutting your feet like I did. You can carry a piece of bread or fish food to attract the fishes towards you, something a lot of tourists out there were trying. The beauty of the underwater still remains alive in my eyes. What was lovely about snorkeling here was that since the water is waist high, its safe to snorkel on your own, there are no instructors to direct you or no time limit on how long you remain under water which was the best part.

As we headed back one of the helpers in the boat started throwing some food into the sea, until 2 minutes we could not understand why he was doing. Within 5 minutes we could see a fleet of huge sea birds, not sure about the name of the kind, following our boat and making sharp dives into the water, picking up a piece of food and flying away. Watching them was so liberating, it looked something like a scene out of a Jurassic Park movie.

After our journey back to the Pier we got dropped off back to the hotel, the tour costed us around 1000 THB per head.

Next day early morning we headed off to Phang Nya Bay, the main attraction being James Bond Island.

After a late last night we hardly managed to not miss the pick-up in the morning for the trip. Sleepy eyed and with an empty stomach we pulled ourselves out of bed and headed off to another day at the sea. Having slept on our way to the pier, we woke up directly at our drop off point at the pier. Luckily complimentary coffee and snacks was available as a relief. After a quick safety session by the leaders of the boat, we headed off into the sea. The sun had no mercy on us even early in the morning. We grabbed the front deck under the sun in the speedboat, although this time we were well equipped with loads of sunscreen. Few hours into the ride, we were wide awake, all the sleepy feeling was soon gone as soon as we spotted the rocks protruding out of the waters, quite similar to the scenes out of Avatar. A handsome layer of skin tan later we reached Panak Island, here we climbed into a canoe along with a guide who paddled us into dark caves and into hidden lagoons, the experience was spectacular, this was the first time I was doing something like this and it was such an adventure like experience. We were all handed a helmet with flashlights, it felt nothing lesser than a Nat Geo guy on cave discovery mission. Its fun when the othe canoes pass you by and usually gently nudge into each other, reminded me of striking cars in an amusement park.

We headed off to the world famous James Bond Island after this.

On reaching here first we noticed the 66 foot tall islet called Ko Tapu which seemed to be a tourist hit, as it was crowded with tourists posing for pictures in front of it.

Right across it is the famous rock jutting out of the green waters called the James Bond rock made famous by the scene from the famous 007 movie. We dint really stop here for too long, a few quick snaps later , which is difficult to manage as it gets crowded around the rock, we shopped a little at the local stalls around, it does make sense to buy a thing or two from the local stalls there as it is the source of livelihood for the locals there. We were back into the boat and headed off to the Naka Island.

Lunch was served in the mean while in the boat itself. Well the lunch episode is quite interesting, a good, tempting spread of food was laid out; noodles, a big sea fish grilled and dressed to perfection, vegetables, soup, desserts and quite a few other tempting items. Since we were to busy chit chatting, we thought to get lunch after 5-10 mins. It turns out that after 5-10 mintues, the food was gone, only the fish bones were left behind. The food was attacked by all our hungry co-passengers. Although we managed to eat, but quite a few items were not being refilled, like the grilled fishes. So bad luck for us, but good luck for you guys now that you know what to do..as soon as the food it laid out, go for it ;).

So we had to do without it. So yes, ‘when the food is served’ – Attack! 😉

Few snaps from the canoeing into the caves:

Assam – The hidden beauty of North East India – Photo Journal

Assam – The hidden beauty of North East India – Photo Journal

Having grown up in Assam, and having spent a considerable amount of my childhood there, I sometimes really miss the greenery, the clear skies and untouched beauty of  this north east Indian state. The beauty of Assam can only be witnessed rather than described, it is naive and simple. Even a random walk in a village is would to etch ones memory forever.

These are a few moments I captured from my recent trip to Assam and the simplicity in the beauty is profound, see for yourself!


Inside Rang Ghar in Sivasagar, said to be one of the oldest surviving amphitheaters in Asia built by the royals of Assam, the mixed hues of green and brown are enough to tell a tale about how old this place is.


Cannons used during wars of the Ahom Dynasty in Talatal Ghar, Sivasagar. So much of history behind these cannons, yet they have withstood time. 


Out on a walk into a village around Sivasagar, I happened to capture what I would call a perfect image of serenity. I still have it up as my laptop wallpaper, in someways the gradual mix of the blue skies into the green fields relaxes my eyes every time I look at this picture.


Some places are like hidden gems, and this is one of them. Tilinga Temple in Tinsukia is mystical in so many ways. Tie a bell, small, big, medium whatever size you choose and and it is said your wish will be granted. I was amazed by the sheer volume of bells that were tied, bells were dangling from everywhere I could set my eyes on.


Lord Shiva is widely worshipped in Assam. How could I not visit one!


If one have ever read a little about Assam, they must have come across Majuli, the largest river island in the World, and soon eroding.


The most popular way of showing respect to anyone in Assam is to present an Assamese gamosa (kind of white towel with red borders). I was lucky to witness one in the making by the locals at a village.


Kamakhya Temple is one of the most famous temples in India and strongly believed upon by the Hindus. In itself it is a tourist attraction too.


Kaziranga National Park, the world’s only sanctuary with the largest population of the one-horned Rhinos. A visit to Assam is incomplete without a visit here. The landscape inside is untouched and stunning!

As I was about to leave the National Park after visiting the lazy rhinos, I spent some time with this pair of elephants, the mother and the baby.


Assam is spectacular, and these memories and many more will always capture a special little place in my heart!

 

Quintessential Phuket

I remember watching the James Bond movie’ The Man with the Golden Gun’, and going all gaga over the location and the scenery. I wondered where on earth this paradise existed. Few years later the beautiful rocky pinnacle island became famous as one of the best tourist attractions. I have noticed that somehow when people plan on visiting Thailand on a budget trip, they usually opt for Bangkok and Pattaya. I guess they fail to realize what they are missing on by leaving out on Phuket.

We planned a trip to Thailand and reserved a good few days for Phuket. Having spent a few days in Bangkok we headed off to Phuket. We took an early morning 6:20 am Air Asia flight from Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok to Phuket, which was pretty okayish for the price we paid, we paid around 2500THB as return fare, the flight takes around 1hr 20mins to  reach Phuket. The view from the flight itself is mesmerizing, the bluish green ocean below and the greenery surrounding the runway is breathtaking and refreshing. The Phuket airport welcomes you with fresh blooms in every corner, its exactly what your sleepy eyes need, we left for the Bangkok airport at 3:00am in the morning, quite natural we needed this dose of freshness to get the day started.

Al the airport entrance!

 Pretty much like in India, in Phuket too inside the airport very soon we were surrounded by travel agents trying to strike a deal for the inland tours. After talking to a couple of agents we started to negotiate with an agent, we were correct in our decision of booking the tour packages from Phuket itself because as we had expected they were much cheaper than the ones online. After bargaining a little we striked a deal: 2 tours (phi phi island and James bond island tour) plus the airport pick up and drop free, seemed like a good deal. Our taxi was a sleek Camry, with a uniformed driver, fortunately he knew how to speak broken English which was a relief, he later told us that instead of booking our tours from the agent we could have booked one from the Thailand tourism office in Phuket, (so for all you guys reading this, its advisable to book your tours from the tourism office, cheaper deal). The way from the airport to the hotel  is gorgeous, big palm trees lining the smooth rippling roads, quite a splendid ride I must say.

Patong:

At the Patong beach during sunset with grey clouds in the horizon

 

A shop in Patong selling everything in pink

 Our hotel was in Patong, the prime area in Phuket. After freshening up we set out to explore the surrounding. The place is beautiful with wide palm lined roads, the hotels are spaced far from each other, hence not congested, the rippling roads and the greenery around, quite a delight. We started walking and it took us just 10mins to reach the Patong Beach, the beach road is lined up with numerous restaurants and bars, shops and flee markets, we planned to survey the entire market on foot in search of beachwear, well the choices are so many that it drives you crazy. What type do u want? Hot, covered, tiny, skimpy, one piece, 2 piece, its got it all, the shopkeepers are a little reluctant to bargain, but do give in after sometime, one con: no changing rooms available so buy at your own risk. We also found a few good souvenir shops selling massage oils, soaps and candles of very interesting shapes and sizes, if you know what I mean ;). If your heart is set on either of it, go for it since these kinds are available only in Phuket. We walked past the beach road into Bangla Road, in the day time it is like any other road with happy tourists and bars and clubs, but Bangla Road usually comes alive at night. It took us a good 3-4 hours to stop, check, buy and go around the entire market and back to the hotel. But I must say I was very pleased with the collection and variety of clothes and accessories Patong market has to offer as compared to Bangkok. Although keep calm as I found the shopkeepers sometimes being arrogant and rude. Another good thing about the place is it has 7-Eleven store at every kilometer, and its quite a life saver, for anything you need on the go.

 Bangla Road:

As the evening set in, we got all dressed up and headed off to Bangla Road, it is a straight stretch of road about a kilometer long I guess, and as expected it was booming with tourists and music, some playing live, some playing on the road. The place was bustling with energy. Everywhere you look there were pretty females all dressed up, standing infront of their respective bars or clubs with a menu in there hand, having heard a lot about Bangla Road for a lot of wrong reasons, I would like to mention that I found the place fun and happy. It’s a matter of choice, if you do not show interest I did not notice anyone trying to get too pushy, which was good. It’s a great place to go dancing and let your hair down. Almost all clubs have a counter in the front with females doing pole dancing, some doing rain dance. But yes, you cannot just walk into a restaurant playing music and get dancing, you are compelled to buy something, maybe a drink or too, if not there will be a waitress nudging you every few minutes with ‘what would you like to have?’. So either enjoy the fun from outside, or buy a namesake drink to have fun inside the clubs. Food and drinks are usually good and quite surprisingly you can bargain in that too.

As you walk further, you will be greeted with a huge walking street projector, which is quite a hit there, as you walk by it you can see yourself in the projector, pretty awesome it feels.

 Further ahead you will see an array of clubs lined up with really flashy pink, red and blue lights which is the Tiger Club, usually it charges an entry fee but has really good music and cheap drinks.

Tiger Club in Bangla Street

Outside we saw a small group of street dancers showing their moves, on the other side there was a ‘who hangs the longest from a pole’ gets a free drink, and a lot of people trying to earn themselves a free one.

As the evening turns to night, we saw a lot of lady boys dressed in cabaret costumes take to the street; they no doubt look very loud, extravagant and glamorous at the same time. Clicking a picture with them or of them is usually chargeable @ 10-20thb.

An image of one of the performers from far

We also found a lot of what should I call them , agents maybe who invite you to watch the adult, nude shows in their clubs, 1st 15 minutes of the show and a drink free. We too went into one, I would only comment that the show is very very interesting and weird at the same time, I would suggest my readers to experience it on your own instead of reading it 😉 Once in and one drink down they offered us a 2nd one for a whooping 900thb, shocked we started to leave and as soon as we got out of the club, a waiter ran after us and offered to reduce the price to 100thb for the 2nd drink. That’s the kind of bargaining that happens there, so next time before paying for something, give it a try maybe you will end up striking a really super deal.

For drinks and food we tried something different, there are many open pink vans selling drinks and food on the beach road, its fun to eat there after an exhausting night in Bangla Road.

One of the open pink bar van

The people are usually friendly and helpful. I must say that Patong has a good equation of people from all countries, quite a cultural mix. Upon recommendation we also went to Banana Club on the Beach Road towards Bangla Road, unfortunately we found it very disappointing, there is 200-300thb entry fee which covers a free drink or shot, but apart from that the club was totally empty.

The big banana in front of Banana Club

It seemed like entire Phuket had headed off to Bangla Road 🙂 No wonder its the most popular place in the city!

Asia Kitchen – Review

Lovely Asian food on a lazy Sunday afternoon

Kolkata has the best Chinese in India, hands down, there is no doubt in that. So how does a new join in town surpass that? Well in my opinion Asia Kitchen just did. It is a fresh take on Asian cuisine by the same chain as Mainland China but at the same time with its own uniqueness. I have been there quite a few times since it opened, a few other times I did go but the long queue drove me elsewhere. But finally when I did manage to find a place in the restaurant, I knew what the huge queue was all about!

The Space: The first thing that struck me the moment I walked in is the fresh look of the place. It is spacious, with a mix of dark shades and green. It has a brilliant open kitchen, something which is a new concept in Kolkata, not many places have such a fabulous open kitchen.

Food & Drinks: Let’s go back to the long waiting queues I was talking about, it is precisely the awesome food they serve that is responsible for the long waiting time. The place has an extensive food and drinks menu, with a fresh and self take on the Asian cuisines, the food really plays around with your taste buds. Thoroughly impressed!  Some of my favorites: Lotus stem with black pepper, Dynamite prawns – must have, Khao Suey – probably the best served in the city, Thai red curry – couldn’t find one flaw with this dish. Apart from this in general the food quality and quantity is really impressive!

Khao Suey
Dynamite Prawns

Whats unique:  I am in love with their dessert innovation, apart from the taste the way the desserts are presented is an absolute delight. Do try the ‘Baileys Irish cream stones’ just for the presentation, super unique.

Baileys Irish Cream stones

Watch-out: Be prepared for long waiting queues, especially on weekends. One major downside is that the waiters need serious insight and info of the menu, although the food is so good but because the waiters are unable to explain a certain food item and what it is all about, it is an utter disappointment.

Pocket pinch: I must admit the rate is reasonable, since although a dinner for 2 with drinks would be any where more than Rs 2500, but since the food is so good and so is the quantity, it kind of compensates for the money one is shelling out!

Monkey Bar – Review

Monkeying around in Monkey Bar – Kolkata

On a lazy Sunday afternoon me and my friend were walking around Camac street when we happened to see a board for Monkey Bar near the Fort Knox building. I instantly knew Monkey Bar is finally in Kolkata. I had been a great fan of Monkey Bar during my days in Delhi and couldn’t wait to get in there.

The restaurant is located on the 9th Floor of the Fort Knox building, The building has a very tiny lift that took me to the 9th floor and a big entry door to the Bar awaited us there. The moment I entered it was such a relief to see high ceilings and a huge sitting area unlike the tiny lift that took us up to the building.

The Space: The place is divided into 3 sections as such, one with high tables with a stunning view of the Victoria Memorial on a clear day. The other side is the normal table of 4s and 2s. And the more beautiful section is the outdoor seating section, it ought to be the best place to sit on a lovely winter afternoon. I loved how high the ceiling and the space is and how airy the entire place felt so high above.

Food and Drinks: Now coming to the main part the food and drinks, I was pretty impressed by the Kolkata touch in the menu, drinks like ‘Toast to Kolkata’ & the very hilariously named ‘Trump card’ really got me amused. Although I tried Mama’s Girl and Curry Martini,  I must say both were equally refreshing with the right amount of alcohol. They of course have the usual beer, rum, whisky as well but I was too tempted to try the new cocktails.

A lot of RED! Mama’s Girl along with other things red, pun intended!
A refreshing watermelon and cucumber cocktail!
Martini along with – Love what is says – Lime is the new Mustard
The must have – Med Platter

About the food now, just like the drinks, the food menu is very tempting too. I was so happy to see the variety of cuisines like Mediterranean, continental, of course Indian served with their own take added to it. I opted for the Med platter, a lip-smacking wholesome meal, their signature Futterfly, mushroom bruschetta and liver on toast. Does not just the sound of it water your mouth!

Watch-out for: I know that I have already said a lot of good things about the place (which they deserve), although a couple of things that did not please me much were, as the evening grew and more and more people started dropping by, the music decibel started going higher and higher, to the point where I was almost screaming to be able to chat with my friend. I should add though that when requested the staff did turn down the volume a tad bit, so that helps.

Pocket Pinch: I have to admit the hit on the pocket is on an expensive side. A meal for a couple with drinks would cost something around Rs 2000 plus.

All in all I think this place is one of those that the city had been waiting for a long time. And what more could we want than a lovely evening over looking the Victoria with amazing drinks and delicious food.

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What not to expect from the French colony of India – Pondicherry

India has a touch of so many worlds, it has got a place for all cultures, people and religion and it is always a visual treat to witness such an amalgamation. One such place is Pondicherry, after years of wanting to visit this place, last month (February 2017) I finally found myself in this tiny French colony of Pondicherry.
How to Reach: Best way to reach is to travel to Pondicherry from Chennai. Chennai is at a distance of approx 170 kms. By bus or car its takes 3-4 hours. Best and cheapest option is to travel by bus, bus tickets range from Rs 100 – 400 depending on the type of bus. For a more comfortable journey you can hire a car for an expensive fare of Rs 3000 one way.
What not to expect in Pondicherry: 
Well, to be honest when we hear about Pondicherry we picture pastel colored French buildings and architecture, lovely bakeries and a hip culture. Upon visiting this place I realized that this is only partially true.
This is not GOA: Sometimes Pondy is compared to Goa due to its beautiful beaches and influx of foreign tourists. But unlike Goa, Pondy doesnot have shacks like Goa, nor a late night pub or club culture. The beach side cafes and restaurants close at 10:00 PM dot. The ones not beach facing have a buffer of 1 hour and close at 11:00 PM exact.
‘Tiny’ French colony: The most popular part of Pondy is indeed very very small with a capital S. The rest of Pondy except Heritage town in pretty much like a typical, regular south indian city,  so do not expect an extensive French town full of beautiful buildings.
Early nights: Pondy is not the best for the lazy souls. The beach side restaurants shut down at 10:00 pm dot or else expect to be almost thrown out. If you wish to push your nights a bit longer past 10 pm, best bet would be to dine and wine at one of the not so beach side cafes\restaurants to be able to chill till 11 pm. But! Do expect an annoying waiter to be over your shoulder every 10 mins reminding you its time to leave once it is past 11  pm
Language problem: In case you are not  able to find a hotel or accommodation in Heritage town, be ready to struggle a bit, well lets make it quite a bit owing to the prominent language problem. Hindi and English are not commonly spoken except for specific areas in Pondy. I being an Indian had a tough time moving around in the city, imagine what it might have been for someone not from the country.
A teeny weeny bit less hospitable: Okay this is only my personal opinion and no one needs to agree with it, also maybe these opinions are due to specific experiences I had, but nevertheless somehow I had instances in restaurants and hotels where I faced some reluctance or lack of warmth while addressing lets say an issue I was facing. Maybe its the influx of foreign tourists and dollars that has attributed to this or something else I am not too sure about.
I would like to add that hope this post does not discourage anyone from travelling to Pondy, rather it should help you from getting disappointed by setting the right expectations about this tiny lazy extremely pretty French city of Pondicherry.