When you think of Mumbai, you think of traffic jams and teeming slums, of roads chock-a-block with people, of sultry humidity and general chaos. You think of Bollywood and industrial tycoons, of the super rich living alongside the poor, of a city that never sleeps. But if you thought that this is all there is to Mumbai, you’d be wrong.
A graceful arched window of a Church in Colaba, Mumbai, India
There’s a softer, gentler side to the city as well – tree-lined roads, mansions and apartment buildings that speak of old money, and a blend of Gothic, Victorian, Art Deco and Indo-Saracenic (a blend of Islamic and Hindu architectural styles) architecture. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Fort and Colaba area in South Mumbai.
Gateway of India, Mumbai, India
We started our exploration of this area from the Gateway of India and the Taj Hotel after a hearty brunch at Le Pain Quotiden. Built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary, the Gateway of India is a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture. Many elements of the arch and the design of the windows are derived from Islamic architecture, while the pillars are reminiscent of Hindu temple design. We were lucky to find the area relatively less crowded, which gave us a lot of time to take pictures and generally explore the place.
The iconic Taj Hotel at Mumbai, adjacent to the Gateway of India
From there, we started walking along the lane behind the Taj, with our necks craned upwards looking for interesting window and architectural details. The road is tree-lined and quiet, the buildings are old and regal, and for a while, you can almost forget that you’re in Mumbai – it could be any old European city.
An old, elegant window perched above a busy, bustling street in Mumbai
We traversed a path through Colaba, Colaba Causeway and Fort that day, with no real fixed agenda. We were just a couple of walkers, roaming around the area and exclaiming over the architecture. Why we were in architecture overdrive is still a bit of a mystery to me, but that day all we had eyes for were windows and doorways and turrets and spires. Maybe it was the juxtaposition of those old, elegant buildings with the bustling metropolis that had grown around it – but the memories I took away were of an older, more genteel Mumbai than I remembered from my stay there 10 years ago.
An old colonial building that now houses a cool junk jewelery store – Aquamarine. Mumbai, India
Of course, being girls, our trip couldn’t be complete without some shopping now, could it? There’s no better place to pick up cheap nick-knacks than at Colaba Causeway (in that area, at least). You’ll find some excellent junk jewellery, footwear and leather goods at prices that will delight your pocket. If you are on the look out for something more exclusive, make your way to Aquamarine at Colaba, which stocks some really cool (though pricey) junk jewellery.
I hate despise detest hate really really hate don’t like summer – never have, never will. At least as long as I live in Delhi and have to endure 45 degrees of heat with gusts of hot wind thrown in for free.
But as much as I may hate summer, there are barely any a few moments I’d can stand like to revisit.
Like a friend’s impulsive decision to gift herself a puppy on her birthday, which falls in April, right at the beginning of summer, before the fear of being roasted alive in the heat becomes a reality. That impulsive decision led to an impromptu lunch plan that allowed me to meet her adorable golden retriever as a pup before he became big and huge and all dog-ey. I’m not a huge dog fan, as I suppose you can guess. Pups though, I love.
As the mercury rose and it became impossible to even stick my hand out on the balcony (don’t ask me why I would want to that, I’m sure I won’t have an answer!), I spent all my weekends laid up in bed or curled up on the sofa with the air conditioning on, reading like there was an imminent ban on books. I must have read about 25 books between April and July, and then I wonder how come I have nothing to blog about except book reviews and, let’s see, even more book reviews!
The other thing I really like about summer is ice cream. There’s nothing like a large scoop of the delectably creamy, cold, sweet, flavorful stuff to cool you from the inside-out on a hot, sticky summer night.
And when the heat became too much to bear, this year, I switched loyalties to roasted corn on the cob. Why, you ask? Because a friend told me that she was eating one every day hoping to please the Rain Gods. What’s the connection? Damned if I know! If eating an ice cream everyday would make it rain, I’d do that too, and to hell with my waist line!
(Note: it doesn’t work – monsoon didn’t start in earnest until last week, and we’ve been stuffing our faces with corn since about a month.)
When all else fails, I just hightail it out of Delhi. Last year, I took off to New York, and I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with this vibrant, energetic, crazy city.
I evidently went nowhere. Which is what leads to a totally snarky, bitchy blog post.
Recently, I wrote about how app papers are cannibalizing print newspapers, focusing on the US perspective on the newspaper industry and the monetization of digital content. At the back of my mind I was already wondering about the relevance of that trend in the Indian market.
I believe there are a few factors that set the Indian newspaper market apart. First is the low literacy level in the country, due to which newspaper penetration is low. But as literacy rates improve, so does the market potential. Tied to that is the fact that only a small percentage of Indians have access to technology. Case in point is internet penetration, which stands at just 6.9%, implying that a huge part of the Indian population is still reading the printed paper because they do not have access to an internet connection.
Second, unlike in the US, we don’t have to go to a newsstand to buy a copy of the paper every day – the paper is home delivered at no extra cost to subscribers. With that model, the number of people opting out of receiving a newspaper is limited. Moreover, newspapers are very cheap – the monthly bill for one newspaper rarely exceeds INR 200 (and that’s on the high side). It’s no wonder then that since the past few years, circulation figures of most Indian newspapers have grown by about 5% per year.
Further, the editorial integrity of print in India, and the trust that print brands are able to command vis-à-vis other media, is very high. India also has a large number of established print brands compared to the US America, where there are only really two big print brands.
Add to the mix the large number of regional languages spoken across the country, with newspapers available in all of these languages. In fact, according to the Indian Readership Survey (IRS), the Hindi-language Dainik Jagran has the highest average issue readership of 16,393,000, significantly more than the average readership of the top English-language newspaper Times of India, with 7,471,000 (figures for the second quarter of 2011).
Moreover, when it comes to the app story, just 10% of mobile phone users in India have a smartphone.
Even the recent introduction of 3G services is unlikely to make a major dent on the Indian newspaper industry due to all of the factors above. After all, with strong brands, high editorial integrity and nominal pricing, the likelihood of new media impacting core readership and threatening the value delivered is marginal.
Nevertheless, the industry cannot ignore the trends in the developed market, as it is sure to become reality in the years to come.
I for one am not likely to pay for access to news when there are so many free (and excellent) alternatives available out there.
What’s your take? Would you pay to access paid news content online?
This weekend, I had an opportunity to attend a book launch by of one of my favorite authors – Wilbur Smith, who was in India to launch his latest book Those In Peril.
The author related a number of interesting experiences from his visit to India, including the fact that he loves the traffic! Baffling, isn’t it? Until he delivered his next line: It is just like a video game; except here, if you lose, you die.”
Having visited the country numerous times, he says he thinks India as “almost a neighbor, with just a little sea between us!” When asked if he would set one of his books in the country, he referred to The Quest, one of his ancient Egyptian novels, in which his character Taita visits India to gain knowledge and wisdom. However, to weave a love affair with the country in print, the way he does with Africa, he says he’d have to “spend a lot of time here, at least 50 years, but I fear I’m running out of time”. That just explains how much research he undertakes for all of his novels.
Wilbur Smith signing copies of his books for fans Image via Wikipedia
Remember those bushmen that feature so prominently in some of his novels? He wrote them in after meeting them briefly during an excursion in the African jungle.
In answer to a question about how he manages to write so many novels (33 and counting) and if he’s ever faced writer’s block, he said that a writer’s life requires a lot of discipline as it’s easy to get distracted and do inconsequential things around the house. As for writer’s block, he said: “There’s no such thing as writer’s block. If someone says they’re suffering from writer’s block, it’s most likely cowardice.”
Very true, isn’t it? And it applies to most situations in life where we feel blocked – more often that not, we’re just scared of the unknown.
All-in-all, it was a lovely evening, spent listening to the anecdotes of an author whose fans span generations!
Egypt. Venice. Turkey. The top three destinations on my must-visit wish list. Europe, Australia and South East Asia are some of the other places I want to travel to. The US has never been high on my list of priorities. Yet, for my first international vacation as an adult traveling on my own money, I chose New York City.
Why you ask? Well, my wee lil baby sister lives there and I have a US visa courtesy my office. The official trip fell through, but I figured the visa shouldn’t be wasted.
I managed to wrangle a 3-week vacation, and decided to spend that time in NYC, Washington and Orlando. I could have rushed through a few more places, but I wanted to soak in the atmosphere instead of checking things off an imaginary things-every-tourist-must-see-and-do list.
Picnic at Brooklyn Park
The differences between the US and India were palpable almost from the moment I got off the plane. Within the first few moments, I saw both the famous American rudeness courtesy an airport ground staff member who harangued a bunch of passengers who were standing unobtrusively in one corner and quickly filling out their immigration form, and American friendliness, as another staffer patiently explained the immigration process to an elderly man on a wheelchair who was evidently visiting the US for the first time.
Walking out of the airport, the first sight that greeted me was a line of yellow New York taxi cabs. That’s when the feeling of being abroad really sunk in, and the excitement mounted. So what if I never had New York City on my places to visit before I die list.
New York taxi cab
The wee sister lives in Weehawken, New Jersey. The cheapest way to get there was by the bus – the cab charges $40 from Port Authority, opposed to the bus, which takes $2.50 for the 7-minute ride – which we took from the Port Authority bus station. That was a bus station? It was HUGE! The advertisements called it a place to hang out and have fun…and maybe even take a bus. If you really wanted to hang out at a bus station, you could choose to go there for a meal, a quick coffee or deserts, and even to do some quick shopping! Plus, it was clean, and despite the huge number of people, it was quiet! A sharp contrast to Delhi’s main bus terminal (for inter-state travel), which is a huge, sprawling, littered cacophony of noise and smells.
Grand Central Station, New York
Being a tourist in a foreign land with a limited amount of money means that you have to do the unthinkable and use public transport. I rarely use public transport in India. My only experience is with the Mumbai local train, which most people in my adopted city of Delhi find nightmarish. I mastered the trick of using the local early on, though. Positioning. Position yourself in the middle of the crowd waiting to board or disembark from the train, and the mass of humanity will push you in the right direction. You really don’t need to do anything else. In Delhi, though, I either drive or call for a cab. So the thought of having to use the New York subway gave me the heebie-jeebies. Until I got to the subway station. And got into the tube. No pushing and shoving. No touching and feeling. Even if the compartment was crowded and there was no place to sit. What a revelation that was! If someone accidentally bumps into you they immediately apologize and try to create some more space. Which is so welcome after the uncouth Delhi men. Though that also means that I had to be careful about invading someone elses space. Stand too close (like at an arm’s length away from someone) to a person and you’re likely to attract dirty glances. In India, we’re used to this kinda closeness. To people glancing over your shoulder at the cash counter, for example, to look at what you’ve purchased. Or to just stare at you. Yeah, that happens a lot. You just get used to it. So being ‘invisible’ in the US felt…good!
Zumba class outside Macys, New York
Then there’s the politeness. Though my uncle, who has been in the US since, like, forever, calls it a ‘chocolate’ society, as a tourist, you’ll find that the people are friendly. And friendly starts from your bus driver. Who you actually greet when you get on. And thank when you get off. Amazing. Especially since I come from a country where drivers are transparent. Seriously. Though in the US, so are we women. The people may be friendly and polite and nice, but no one really looks at you. Even if you wear clothes that show more than they hide. No lecherous stares. No lewd comments. No sleazy men following you around. Liberating!
New Yorker walking her dog, Battery Park, New York
Then there’s the sense of fun. If they like something, they’re vocal about it. Like on a Thursday outside Macy’s on 34th and Broadway, there was a free Zumba class. People kept joining in. Spectators watched. Tourists took pictures. And when they finished, everyone cheered and clapped and hooted. In India, you wouldn’t catch anyone doing anything like that out in public in the middle of the day. Ever. Nor would you find couples on the street or in the park, train, shop or restaurant smooching or hugging or publicly displaying affection. Not that it doesn’t happen at all, but let’s just say that it’s restricted to high-end malls and isn’t quite that blatant.
Hanging around in the park
Ingrained with that sense of celebration is a love for parks. For sitting under the shade of a tree (or even out in the sun on the steps of a monument) listening to music, having lunch, working, relaxing. Which is probably why you’ll find a small park on almost every street. With a Witch store selling sandwiches and coffee. And more often than not, in those parks and on the streets (and even inside stores!) you’ll find fashionable New Yorkers with their four-legged friends (almost always dogs). You can’t go more than a few steps without spotting a dog and its owner. And if you, dear tourist, want to experience what that’s like, you can buy yourself a dog-shaped balloon that skims across the road alongside or behind you. Yes, really!
Fashionable, vibrant, bustling, always-awake New York – you own a piece of my heart!
With the weekend rolling by and the mercury touching new highs, figuring out what do to over the weekend can be a chore. Although there are many malls that you can haunt, mall fatigue does set in, even for a retail junkie. Ahem! A visit to Culture Gully at the Kingdom of Dreams in Gurgaon is a fun way to beat the heat.
A faux beach created near the Goa and Kerela stalls
Everything at Kingdom of Dreams is large and grand, and the entry to Culture Gully is no different. The grand entryway, set inside a 20ft high golden lotus flower studded with tiny mirrors evokes images of the grandeur that must have been enjoyed by the royals in times of yore. Step inside the boulevard, and you’ll be forgiven for thinking that you are still outside and wondering how the temperature is so cool. The air-conditioned boulevard is topped by an atmospheric blue sky. Some skilful wizardry (read lighting and decoration) ensures that you get a feel of being in an open-air marketplace – the sky and lighting change throughout the day to closely mimic the outdoors.
Mumbai stall - the entrance resembles a Mumbai local train
Spread across 90,000 sq. feet, Culture Gully is a visual treat of theme restaurants and architecture styles from 14 Indian states. Each kiosk is designed to showcase the best of the state. The Punjab stall, for example, has a woven cot and truck parked outside the dhaba; you enter the Mumbai stall through a local train compartment, which is topped by the façade of the Victoria Terminus and Bollywood movie posters. Towards the end of the boulevard are the Goa and Kerala stalls, complete with a faux beach and a beach shack serving up grilled sea food.
Each state also has a handicraft store where you can pick up some cool souvenirs, ranging from earrings to clothes, coffee mugs to home ware, and glass bangles to branded diamond jewelry (go figure!).
On the second level, you’ll also find a fortune telling center, with tarot card readers, palmists and astrologists.
Walk around the boulevard and poke around the stores, catch a street performance, get your fortune told, get a family portrait sketched – there’s a lot for you to do at Culture Gully.
The stall selling kati kulfi
Once you’ve explored it all, decide where you’d like to eat – warning: it might just be a tough decision to make! With restaurants from all 14 states offering up local cuisine, you can choose to experiment or stick to what you know. The mutton biryani at the Lucknow stall, filter coffee at the Kerala stall and kati kulfi opposite the Punjab stall are highly recommended.
It’s best to get in early, as the place starts getting very crowded towards early evening.
If you want to make an entire day out of the trip, catch a show at Nautanki Mahal, which is currently playing Zangoora. It’s worth every penny! (Click to read a review of Zangoora.)
Located 10 kilometers out of Pondicherry down a narrow, tree lined lane punctuated on both sides with cafes and shops is Auroville, an experimental township founded by The Mother (Sri Aurobindo’s disciple) in the late 1960s. Her vision was to offer Aurovillans an experience of community living. Anchored by the Maitri Mandir (the soul of Auroville), a golden golf ball shaped structure, the community is currently home to about 50,000 people from 16 countries.
Cross-section of the inside of Maitri Mandir, visitor centre, Auroville
“Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.”
When you reach Auroville, your first port of call would be the visitor center, where you can read about its history and charter and watch a short movie on its philosophy and on the establishment of the Maitri Mandir. There is also a bookstore selling titles by The Mother and on Auroville.
On the way to Maitri Mandir. Want to see what the old lady looks like? Click on the image
Visitors are allowed to see the Maitri Mandir from a viewing point some distance away from the main temple. The walk to the Mandir is beautiful and peaceful, along a narrow tree shaded walking path. If you want to go in to temple, you will have to take an appointment after you have seen the Mandir. The Maitri Mandir isn’t a temple in the traditional sense, there is no religion followed and you aren’t supposed to pray. It is for
“those who want to learn to concentrate…No fixed meditations, none of all that, but they should stay there in silence, in silence and concentration. A place for trying to find one’s consciousness.”
The Mandir “wants to be the symbol of the Divine’s answer to man’s aspiration for perfection.” but I didn’t get that from its shape – a golden golf ball in the center of 12 petals. Ah well!
The Maitri Mandir, viewing point, Auroville
After we had seen the Mandir, we rode around through the township, though the best way to really understand what Auroville is all about is to stay there. Since that wasn’t happening on this trip, we thought we’d gather information and be touristy. 😀
Auroville is famous for its arts and crafts, incense, and organic foods. There are three boutiques in the complex, which sell a variety of products, ranging from silks, knits, and leather to pottery, metal work, and wood craft, to incense, aromatherapy products, massage oil, shampoos and lotions. All of these goods are hand made using traditional techniques that do not harm the environment.
An audio-video installation on sustainable energy, Auroville
When at Auroville, you should definitely have a meal at the café, which serves up organic food with raw materials that are either grown at Auroville or procured from nearby places, with a strong focus on sustainability. I had an absolutely fantastic fried fish and a yummy lemon cake. The thought of those dishes can still make my mouth water! We also picked up a plum cake from there, and it was one of the best plum cake’s I’ve ever eaten!
On our way back, we stopped at a cute open air cafe for a cup of refreshing lemon tea…then drove on back to our hotel…and spent the rest of the evening at the beach! Bliss…
As our flight started its descent into Chennai, I looked out the window and was mesmerized by the green and blue expanse I saw below me. Delhi seen out the plane window does have a surprisingly vast green cover, but the concrete jungle has very firmly gained the upper hand. From the air, Chennai looks gorgeous, with luscious greens and shimmering blues, and houses that seem to be sprinkled around sparingly.
Sunset on our drive to Pondicherry
The three hour drive into Pondicherry is very pretty, passing as we do along verdant green fields interspersed with still, blue backwaters. Through the tinted windows of the taxi, the sky took on a dramatic blue hue, and I wore down the battery on my iPhone, shooting multiple photographs of the setting sun.
Since we reached our hotel in the evening, and were pretty tired after a full day’s travel, we decided to freshen up and head to the beach – a mere 2 minute walk from our hotel. Pondicherry has a rocky beach, so instead of digging ourselves into sand we sat ourselves down on the rocks and watched the waves crash in – this was our evening ritual for the duration of our stay in Pondy. The Bay of Bengal is pretty rough and choppy, and the waves generally come in strong…but the soothing sound of the surf, the mesmerizing pull of the waves, the cool sea breeze, and the feel of sea spray on my face felt like pure bliss…I could spend hours just perched there on a rock, watching the world pass me by…lost in my own thoughts…
A man at the beach, watching the world go by
There are so many ways in which this trip was different from the rest of our annual holidays. Since we’ve spent a lot of time in Rajasthan, an element of familiarity had crept in to our vacations. This trip down south was like a breath of fresh air – everything was different, right from our mode of transport (flight vs drive) to the people, architecture, landscape, and language.
The French side of Pondy has shaded streets, some of which are still cobbled, beautiful large colonial houses, a lot of boutiques and hotels, and it is fun to walk around to take in the architecture and poke around in the stores. While walking around, you’re also apt to notice a lot of statues dotted around the city. A famous one that you’ll not miss is a statue of Gandhi with four old temple columns around the image, located at one end of the beach. There are some beautiful statues in the oddest of places, like one of an angel on the rooftop of a house!
A statue shot through the open gates of a house
Since we had limited time, we hired a bike and went to the Aurobindo Ashram, which is in the French part of the city. Photography isn’t allowed inside, unfortunately, as they have a beautiful cactus garden, with some amazingly tall cactus plants. The Ashram houses the Samadhi of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, and is adorned with fresh flowers everyday. Devotees come in and offer up prayers and letters of thanks, which are collected in a little letter box near the Samadhi. They have a small bookstore where you can literature on Aurobindo’s teachings and philosophy. They have also preserved the drawing room where Aurobindo and The Mother used to rest, complete with Persian carpets, sofas and bookshelves.
The elephant outside the Ganesh temple blessing a devotee
In the next lane is the 300+ year old Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple. Dedicated to Lord Ganesh, there are 40 different forms of the deity painted on the temple walls. The golden and silver chariots at the temple that are used during specific ceremonies or for particular prayers were made from devotee donations. The main attraction of the temple is the elephant outside – once prayers are offered at the temple, devotees feed the elephant and seek its blessing. Parents make their small children sit on its back (with the mahout) for a few moments to seek its blessings. It’s quite a sight, as the elephant takes the food offered to it and blesses the devotees with its trunk!
One stark difference I noticed here was the relative lack of beggars outside the temple complex. Around most temples you will almost always be hounded by beggars, but here, there were just one or two people asking for alms, and no one got after us.
The museum at Pondy is also supposed to be really good, but it was closed while we were there, so we were unable to visit it.
If all the sight seeing gets you tired, hop onto your bike (or into a rickshaw) and go over to Hot Breads for a cup of hot coffee and croissants. Their choco Danish is excellent, and was my staple breakfast while we were in Pondy.
Sun and sand at Pondicherry
And if you really want to dig your toes into some sand, you’ll have to drive down toward Auroville – there are two sandy beaches there – The Auro Beach and Serenity Beach. You can take surfing classes or hire a surfboard and catch the waves at the Auro Beach if you’re so inclined. I’m not sure which beach we made it to, but our strip of the sand was almost deserted. The husband and I had a blast, standing ankle deep in the water, clicking pictures, soaking up the sun, digging for shells…Unfortunately, we discovered the sandy beach on our last day, else I’m sure we would have spent much more time there. Next time, I guess!
While planning our annual holiday this year, I was very sure of one thing – I didn’t want to go to Rajasthan yet again! Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the state! But that doesn’t mean I go there every year, right?
This year, I could almost hear the call of a cool sea breeze…of palms swaying in the wind…of lazing on the beach and unwinding…But Goa around Christmas/New Year is jam-packed with tourists, so we decided to head further south, to Pondicherry (popularly referred to as Pondy).
Sea views from the rooftop of the hotel
Ruled by the French until 1954, a canal splits this oval-shaped city into two – the French side (Ville Blanche) and the Indian side (Ville Noire). The Indian side of the city is like any other small town in the country – sleepy, dusty, and congested. Move into the French side, though, and you are greeted with cobbled, shady roads and sprawling houses, many of which overlook the beach.
We left Delhi on a cold, grey Christmas morning, and arrived in warm and sunny Chennai – the closest airport to Pondy – in the afternoon. A 3-hour picturesque drive later, our holiday had finally begun!
The hotel we had chosen was on Rue Dumas in the French quarter, just one lane behind the beach. So though our room looked out onto the quiet, shady street, we had a lovely sea view from the rooftop cafeteria. A 2 minute walk took us to Goubert Salai, the seaside promenade, which during the peak season is almost always crowded with locals and tourists walking along the pavement or sitting on the rocks watching the waves crash in. During off-peak periods, I suspect the rocky beach, the strip of white sand and the pavement would be quite deserted, giving it the look of a sleepy French sea-side village.
Rue Dumas, Pondicherry
There isn’t much to do at Pondy, so you’ll never feel rushed or hurried. We spent all our evenings at the beach, sitting on the rocks, people and wave watching. We hired a bike and rode to Auroville one day, on another we took a day trip to Mamalapuram (Mahabalipuram), and on the third we visited the Aurobindo Ashram and the 300+ year old Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple (a Ganesh temple), which was in existence even before the French settled in Pondicherry (i.e. before 1666), and then rode over to one of the other (sandy) beaches around Pondy.
We found it a bit hard to find a good place to eat in Pondy, though. The popular names, such as Le Club and La Teresse, were disappointing to say the least. Le Club was over-priced, and their food was barely passable; the food at La Teresse was insipid. So, I chucked the travel guide aside and asked around for good places to eat.
Hotel du Park has excellent continental food (their Fisherman’s basket and grilled fish are excellent, as is the fresh fruit with ice cream and the divine chocolate cake) or try Le Rendezvous (it looked and smelled excellent, though we didn’t eat there as they had a 1 hour waiting for dinner!). I also heard good things about Don Giovanni, a pizzeria on the rooftop of Hotel Corbelli. If you want to sample some South Indian non-vegetarian fare, you can’t go wrong with Apichi– their prawn fry and lappam is like manna from heaven! For pure vegetarian South Indian food, you can try Surguru (opposite Hotel du Park) – I quite liked their dosas. Oh, and for a nice breakfast spread, you can head to Hot Breads (loved their Choco Danish!)
For someone who loves to travel, this year has not been too great. I’ve taken only two trips this year (boo!), with one to come in the last week of December (yay!).
So from the two trips I took in 2010, here are the 5 things I enjoyed the most:
McLeod Ganj, May/June 2010
This was the first time the husband and I traveled with friends; we generally travel alone. It was a different experience – we quite enjoyed ourselves.
Carpe Diem, Jogiwara Road – excellent food, a must visit at McLeod Ganj
Norbulingka Institute, Sidhpur – located about 7 odd kms from McLeod Ganj, it’s an excellent place to stay, even if just for a night. If you don’t want to stay far from McLeod Ganj, do visit the institute – they have a lovely monastery, a beautiful doll museum and artisans at work.
The Monastery, McLeod Ganj – courses are held here when the Dalai Lama is in residence. The thangka paintings and statues are magnificent.
Shopping – avoid the shops along the Monastery – they’re overpriced and rude. Explore the many tiny shops along the three main roads in McLeod Ganj, you’ll be sure to find plenty of treasures!
2. Silver shopping! We went to Johri Bazaar and explored the many silver shops there. Found one that had awesome, unique stuff – went back to him thrice!
3. Getting fooled at Johri Bazaar – and finding out and giving it back to the shopkeeper. That was fun! Once we got to know he sold us fake stuff, we went back to his shop, created a scene, made him give us our money back, and made off with the earrings we had bought from him to boot! Served the bastards right, I say! 😉
4. Discovered three excellent places to eat and hang out –
Flow at Diggi Palace – great ambiance, good food.
Clark’s Amer – rooftop bar – great drinks for cheap
Anokhi cafe – excellent range of organic tea, coffee, pastries, and sandwiches.
5. Late night talkathons over drinks and snacks.
I haven’t written up a blog post on this trip, but you can read more about Jaipur from an earlier post I wrote on my travel to this wonderful city.