Friday, March 9, 2018

Amritsar: A Kulchalicious trip

ONE DOWN! Visiting the Golden Temple of Amritsar was one of the top places in my travel list. Places to visit nearby Amritsar. We started our trip with Dalhousie. There's nothing much in Dalhousie. You can visit Khajjiar and Chamera lake and enjoy the weather.
Khajiar, Dalhousie
Khajiar, Dalhousie
Chamera Lake, Dalhousie
Check with the flight rates and it is absolutely okay if you just visit Amritsar in three days trip. Book hotels nearby golden temple as it will be convenient for you to visit the temple whenever you wish to. We had booked Ramada Hotel for around 2.5k pppr which was really best price through Makemytrip app. To get the real essence of the beauty of Golden temple, you must visit the temple in the daylight and night. Read before visiting Golden Temple. It will be better if you visit the temple on the first day of your visit to Amritsar. This is because, there are many things to do in around Golden Temple. So if you plan to visit it later there are chances that you might get tired or bored of the food or place before eating in Langar. There are all kinds of shops nearby temple where you can bargain and get at a better price than the shops. You should walk around the area near Golden temple and Jalian wala Baug. It is amazing in the dark with lights all over the  roads. It is a scenic place and there are benches in every nooks and corners of the road to relax in the evenings especially for elderly people. You can buy sweets like chena murki and Jilebis from Gurdas Ram Jalebi wala. DO NOT BUY dresses from Sandeep Di Hatti. It is just ridiculously expensive. You can get dresses of same quality from shops nearby temple at cheaper rates. They will stitch patiala, churidaars, cigarette pants etc. for us in a day. Remember, we had loose motions and vomiting on our last day of the trip due to indigestion. So be careful with the water you drink and food you eat. Avoid too many butter clad kulchas in your trip.
Golden Temple
Things to remember in langar:  
- Accept the rotis with both the hands 

- The hot rotis are severed as much as you want and the volunteers keep making several rounds.

- After you are finish your food, spend some time watching the way the food is prepared and the dishes are watched; found it very interesting. You can take part in being a volunteer and/or make monetary offerings that can keep the langar offering food to all.

For Foodiesss:
Kulcha land which is near Amritsar airport is famous for Kulchas and Lassis. Kesar Da dhaba, Brothers and Bharawan for lunch/dinner.

Next to kulchaland there is a Pan wala. He has some crazy options of Pan like rasmalai pan and chocolate Pan etc. 

Lawrence road for aam papad chat. 

Grab some Amritsari masalas for you. Amritsar is definitely a heaven for food lovers.:p
Wagah Border

Kulcha Thali

Gurdas Ram ki Jilebi

Lassi, Malai maar ke

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


In India, there is a myth that anybody who is attending Vipassana is not mentally sound. That was when everyone was asking me what motivated me to attend vipassana at a young age. Is age really a factor when it comes to meditation? Meditation is a part of life. Even our mind needs fresh air. We relate Gautama Buddha's Dhamma to a religion called Buddhism. After attending the course I realized that Dhamma is not related to any particular religion but it shows a way to live a peaceful life.
I had applied in the month of April 2017 for the course in September at Borivli pagoda Dhamma on this link. Sometimes your application might get rejected as they accept limited number of applications for a course. I got the confirmation two weeks  prior the course date. I hesitated initially to register as I  was just married and the course is of 10 days executive course i.e. I have stay away from my family out of contact for 10 days. My in-laws always support me for whatever passion I have. Everything is free from registration to stay. The  registration form is simple and precise.

The location is just near Essel world, Gorai. This center has several branches and details you can find the details on the website. We have to carry our clothes with us and thats it. I had to reach there by 4PM on the day of the course commencement. It is very far and very remotely located. It is better to travel during daylight if you are alone(females). It took me nearly two and a half hours to reach the place from Powai. Best transport advice would be going by bus to Borivli station and taking a ferry to Essel World as in peak hours it might take forever to reach the destination. You can walk from Essel World to the location. The way to Pagoda is like a  forest as it was a part of Sanjay Gandhi National Park. As I reached there I was welcomed  by the heavenic view of Pagoda. Our meditation center was ahead of the actual pagoda. To meditate inside pagoda you need to first undergo the 10 days course. After reaching the center we had to fill a  form. We had to deposit our valuables and anything related to any religion,  mobile phones,  laptop, etc. and Rs. 300 for laundry service which is  optional. 

Call your close ones for the last time before you submit your phone for 10 days. You get your room keys and snacks for the day. Have sufficient snacks as there won't be dinner. You will get a full-fledged room with everything required for day to day life. A washroom with buckets, a dustbin, a bed, rope to dry clothes and a washbasin. We were given brief introduction to our schedule and course that day.

Every  morning we could hear a wake up bell at 4.30AM. We have to move to the meditation hall on 2nd floor with a dupatta for females. We have to sit in dhyan till 6.30 AM. At 6.30AM we get a proper Indian breakfast with tea, coffee and fruits. You will get vegetarian food and there is a separate section for less spicy and Jain food. Till 9AM we break. Again from 9AM to 11AM meditation. At 11AM proper Indian lunch followed by meditation from 1PM to 3PM in our personal cell(small cells allocated to us to meditate). Lights out at 9.30PM. There is one male and female instructor to guide us. Apart from meditation hall, males and females do not share any area of the center. And yes, we cannot quit the course in between unless we have a genuine reason. The  premises are very clean. There is a pretty lush garden area for walking. We can brisk walk and not jog or run disturbing others. The entire course is just a silent meditation with no eye contact and exchanging smiles. No entertainment of any kind. No pen no paper. We must not use scented stuffs. On the fist day of the course you can ask them to get anything you require during the stay incase you missed anything to carry. In  the evening, we used to watch videos of Goenka Guruji's  teachings in Hindi and English.

  1. Cannot eat food whenever we want.
  2. Out of contacts with family.
  3. No communication or eye contact.
  4. Getting up at 4AM and meditate without falling asleep.
Have to concentrate on our breathe and not on the thoughts occuring in our flickering minds.
On  the second last day we can break our maun vrat. We visited pagoda and entire campus. We got our deposited belongings back. That day we came to know that we had a scientist, a retired surgeon and renowned Singer Kavita Seth with us in the course. There were many couples too attending the course. It is not easy as many people tend to quit but it is not difficult though if you are determined. You should continue  meditation after the course as well to retain the effect. 

You  start to think positive and find positivity in things. The attitude of the world towards us depends on our attitude towards everything. No one can become Buddha in 10 days but everyone can attain mental peace by meditation to some extent. They teach you to understand your life by concentraing on your breathe and sensation on your body. I was never a spiritual person nor I am today and this course has nothing to do with spirituality. In our hectcic life our body too has a right to have peace. We live life for others, can't we just  give 10 days for ourselves? How to find solution for every problems in our life and how we are the ones to create problems which never existed by negativity! Instead  of pointing at others try to make yourself perfect. This is Dhamma. My course ended with Singer Kavita Seth's voice singing ......... Kehta yeh pal, khud se nikal, Jeete hai chal, Jeete hai chal!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Namo SriLanka

Budget: 1,20,000 INR for two persons for a luxury/honeymoon trip
1 INR=2.38 LKR

Month: December. It was drizzling and weather was pleasant.


There are enough ATMs in Sri Lanka accepting international cards. You can go for forex with Thomas Cook. Please avoid using exchange booths around airports as their charges are quite hefty. Get a Religare insurance of USD 25000 for Rs.390 premium by comparing rates on Policy Bazaar. For Sri Lanka, apply visa here of USD 20. You will get online approval in a day. Through PS travels, Lionel we had rented a Toyota Prius for our entire trip. 

Hotels and Itinerary:

We could not cover North Sri Lanka, disputed territory. My first trip overseas. We booked a direct flight to Colombo. The security check in process is at a snail's pace at Bandaranaike International Airport. We found our escort, Alex was waiting for us with ribbons and garlands to welcome us at the airport.

Reach Kandy from Colombo Airport.
             Places must visit : Sigiriya, Dambulla caves, Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, Temple of the Tooth, Gems factory, spice garden, Batik center. 
In Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage you can find orphaned baby elephants drinking milk and lazing under the sun after a bath.
Temple of the Tooth

Gems factory
Spice Garden
Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage
  • Villa tea fields - Nuwara Eliya(2 days) : The place is very silent with wooden structure and no televisions in the rooms. Google map may show the longest route to this hotel. The staff gave Sri Lankan tea powder as souvenir. There is an Indian restaurant named Sunrise nearby. Spend the evening relaxing or cycling.

Victoria Park
Sri Seethai Amman temple is a unique temple it has been made at the place where Seeta Mata spent her days in the prison of Ravana approx 5000 years ago. It is also unique in a way that it is one of the very few temples dedicated to Seeta.
The temple is located on Nuwara Eliya Kandy road very close to the scenic town of Nuwara Elia (8 Kilometers)
Post Office, Nuwara Eliya
Shri Bhakta Hanuman Temple steps
  • Dalawella beach resort - Unawatuna(1 day)
    Beware of jelly fishes! Unawatuna is one of the biggest tourist destinations in Sri Lanka and is the most “famous” beach in the country. It is a lovely banana-shaped beach of golden sand and turquoise water, surrounded by green palm trees!
Unawatuna Beach
  • Palm Beach Inn And Sea Shells Cabanas, Bentota - Bentota(2 days)
    Restaurants in Bentota:
    • Aida
    • Haus Athula
    Explore the beautiful Madu river through mangroves by boat of 900 hectares of which 770 hectares is covered with water and inhabited with 64 islands glide under the canopy of the forest tunnels

    There’s plenty more to do; quench your thirst with a refreshing drink of King Coconut Water and then proceed towards the Buddhist Monastery, see how Kraal fishing is carried out, how Ceylon Cinnamon is peeled and enjoy some ‘fish therapy’ as tiny red tilapias playfully nibble your feet at the ‘fish spa’. If it’s later in the evening watch the fishermen in their canoes lighting lanterns on traps that catch prawn and other shellfish. 
Madu River
Galle which looks like a white city is a pearl of Sri Lanka. Get yourself the poses to get clicked here.
TukTuks on Galle Street
Galle Street

Statue of Buddha at Kande Viharya Buddhist Temple
Turtle hatchery, Bentota
Local Trains, Colombo
Monitor Lizard on the way to Colombo
Highways developed during tenure of the former President Rajapaksa

Gangaramaya Temple

Around Colombo:
  • Odel house of fashion(where you can buy garments at much cheaper rates)
  • Ministry of Crab Restaurant, an initiative by Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Dharshan Munidasa
  • World Trade Center
  • Pettah Flea market
  • Temple of Sri Kailawasanathan Swami Devasthanam Kovil 
  • Premdasa stadium
  • Barefoot shop
  • luv sl shop
  • Yala national park 
  • Colombo fort   
  • Seema Malaka temple
  • Dutch hospital 
  • Keells supermarket 
  • Spice Coast Restaurant (slow service) 
  • Bu Ba pub is famous for its nightlife.
Sri Lankan Thali(L), Noodles(R)
Hela Bojun - Must visit place in Kandy where you can enjoy all Sri Lankan snacks under one roof

(Top L)Durian, snacks...
What/What not to eat/drink in Sri Lanka:
  • Hoppers
  • Avoid Kottu
  • Durians and mangoes
  • You will get lots of bananas here but no banana chips....strange na!! 
  • Beer: Tiger, Lion, Anchor
  • Tea is not good   
Facts about Sri Lanka:
  • Hotels mostly have accommodation for drivers. So check before booking whether the hotel is providing driver accommodation. 
  • Wearing helmets is mandatory for pillion passengers too.
  • Flaunt your long skirts as women wear skirts mostly.
  • Do not buy corals as they can be fake. 
  • Buying cars are expensive in Sri Lanka as they are mostly imported from other parts of the world.  
  • People in Sri lanka are very friendly and they respect tourists. They are weak at English. How can I forget our driver's, "Sir, Madam, please get out", whenever he wanted us to get off from his car after reaching destination!
  • You will find railway tracks besides beaches. 
  • Stop an autorickshaw in Sri Lanka by calling "TukTuk".
  • Throughout the trip our driver called us Mumbai Indians :p.
  • Install PickMe app to hire taxis in Sri lanka.
  • We saw the world's tallest christmas tree in Colombo on Dec'16.
  • Sri Lankan notes are quite colorful.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

La Wah! Sa

Monsoon trip is a must every year!!!
Since years I had longed to visit Lavasa. It is nearby(2 hours) Pune but takes around 6 hours from Mumbai. For mumbaikars it might get hectic to visit Lavasa in a day without a stay in Pune or Lavasa. We had our friend in Pune, Karve Rd where we decided to spend a day before.
We had booked our hotel, Mercure Lavasa in the month of June for a stay in July(We found that the rates of the hotels decreased in July) through MakeMyTrip. We had hired a car for our three day trip Mumbai-Pune-Lavasa-Pune-Mumbai for 10k.(Contact me to enquire).
We left for Pune around 8.00AM on Friday. I was picked up from Thane and my friend from Powai. The route is via Bangalore-Mumbai Highway. The toll to enter Pune was 230 one way near Khopoli.
Pohe sambar
Misal Pav
Places to visit in Pune:
(Rs. 20 parking charges)@ Dagadusheth Halwai Ganpati Temple, Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwala(Buy Bhakarwadi. This shop at Deccan Gymkhana is open in the afternoon too), Kaka Halwai(Buy Mango mava katli, lasun chatni(garlic chutney), shengdana chatni(peanut chutney), papad), Tulshibaug(flea market where you will get a variety of bindis, hair clips, home appliances, etc.), Saras baug(garden). Saras baug is just an ordinary baug(garden) with a Lord Ganesh temple. All shops close between 1.00pm to 4.00pm. Dagadusheth, Chitale Bandhu, Kaka Halwai and Tulshibaug are all 1KM away from each other. There are many restaurants nearby temple. So after darshan we had our lunch. In the evening we stayed at friend's place.

Trekking places: Amby Valley, Malshej Ghat, Devkund Waterfall and Pawna lake

Snacks/Breakfast: Misal Pav, Sambar Pohe
Puneri Patya
Next morning we left for Lavasa at 8.00AM. On the way you could see waterfalls, dams, lush greenery and cultivated fields. It is a single road/ghat leading to Lavasa which is very clean. The sharp turns in the Ghats were fun. Lot of bikers come here for road trips. We could see Mulshi dam and Temghar Dam. Road takes you towards Temghar Dam after descending the Mutha Ghat. It was windy and raining heavily. At some places we could see nothing but fog.
Entry fee for Lavasa is 500 with parking and other discounts for 4 wheeler and ₹300 for two wheeler. Lavasa is a private, planned city being built near Pune. It is stylistically based on the Italian town Portofino, with a street and several buildings bearing the name of that town. Varasgaon Dam is a part of the other two dams in the vicinity. The other two are Khadalwasala and Panshet. Lavasa is still under construction. It is controversial for many reasons such as Environmental damage, hill cutting, Use of water resources which belongs to Pune city, Land acquisition issue etc.

Mumbai - Pune - Chadani Chowk – Paud Road – Pirangut – Take left at Ghotawade Phata – Temghar Lavasa Road – Temghar Dam – Lavasa Ghat road – Lavasa entrance Gate – Lavasa city.
Car Petrol: INR 1500/- 

We reached Mercure Lavasa by 11.00AM. We were lucky to get early check-in as rooms were available. Our hotel was 1KM away from promenade. We could hear the Temghar dam water flow from our room. 
Mercure Lavasa: Extra bed for 1750 including breakfast for the third person. No accomodation for driver. 

Suggestions & Facts:
  • Carry Windcheaters instead of umbrellas as the place is very windy
  • Foods are less spicy as they are prepared in European style.
  • Visit Lavasa in June or early monsoons to enjoy the place. During heavy rains you cannot fully enjoy the place as it becomes very windy and chill. 
  • We found that the rates of the hotels decreased in July. Check with MMT for prices.
 Things to do in Lavasa:
  • Karvi Spa, Dasvino Town
  • Segway(closed in monsoons)
  • Scenic place for photography
  • Minibus/Toy train (wheel vehicle converted in toy train)  to take city ride
  • Walk around promenade and enjoy the scenic view of Dasave Lake
  • Visit Convention Center
  • Rent a Tandem Bicycle and ride around promenade
  • There are some watersports activities in Dasave dam from morning till 5 pm(closed in monsoons)
  • There are lots of restaurants available such as The All American Diner(Liked Penne Pesto), Zodiac restaurant (4-star), 24 hrs. Coffee shop, Granma's Homemade Patisserie(Ice creams. It is fun to have ice creams in rains), Tabakh (Lebanese), Oriental Octopus (South East Asian), Past Times English pub, Chor Bizarre (North Indian cuisine) , Sub-way, Pizzawala(It is OKAY!), Brewberry's - Coffee bar and fast food outlet, Natural Ice cream etc.

Tandem bicycle for ₹200 for half an hour


It was a refreshing weekend. Thank you for reading! DO visit the place.