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A Travel Blog from India: March 2013

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Food Safari - Bhatkal Biryani

We Indians love Biryani. 

Whether it is Hyderabadi or Chettinad or Calcutta or Ambur or Dindigal etc. I had not heard of Bhatkal Birynai - pardon my ignorance - till i  read this article in "The Hindu". 

This is what Wiki say about "Bhatkal Biryani".

Bhatkali biryani is a special biryani savoured in all parts of coastal Karnataka and forms an integral part of Navayath cuisine. The Bhatkal's biryani evolved from the Bombay biryani which was further refined to give a distinct color taste and flavour. Bhatkali biryani can be of various kind, which include biryani made from either mutton, fish, chicken, or shrimp. The biryani is quite different from others across India in that the onions are used in larger proportions compared to other regions. The dish is cooked with the meat and onion based sauce being at the bottom of the cooking pot with a layers of rice on top, the rice and meat are mixed before serving. Local spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon are used to get the distinct aroma. Served with Bhatkali kachumber. Bhatkali biryani is one of the most common wedding meals in Bhatkal and surrounding towns like Honavar, Murdeshwar, Manki, Shiroor, Byndoor, Gangolli, Kundapur all the way till Mangalore."

I am not sure whether they also make Bhatkali Veg Biryani for veggies like us to savour.
Nevertheless, enjoy the Food Safari article in "The Hindu" on Bhatkal Biryani here.

In search of Bhatkal Biryani

.........and stop over at Bhatkal for a plate of Biryani when you travel in Coastal Karnataka next time.



Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Road trip Vignettes - Madikheda Reservoir, Shivpuri

Plusses of a road trip is the freedom it gives to enjoy the journey at your own pace. Many times we have noticed that journeys are more interesting than the actual destination itself. When these vignettes are captured on the lens, they remain cherished memories forever. We will share some of these in our blog and hope you like it.

During our fortnight long Central India Road trip from Bangalore, we covered many interesting places. Some of them are well known and some of them we had not bargained for. 

It was in Sept - Oct 2011. This was the year of bounty rain fall in Central India. After many years of drought, the reservoirs were full and it was green all around. Having served in Jhansi during my Army days, i know how hot and arid these regions are.

When we left Jhansi to Udaipur - a last minute change - we never bargained for an excellent road. A green and beautiful landscape complemented it. 

As we crossed Shivpuri bye pass, we saw a vista of backwaters of Madikheda reservoir. The reservoir was full to the brim and the stems of the dried trees submerged in water made the place look surreal. We stopped for few minutes to explore and click some pictures. 

Next time around, if you are travelling from Jhansi to Udaipur or Kota, make a stop over at Shivpuri to visit the well maintained cenotaphs of Scindia Dynasty. Also make a trip to serene Madhav Sagar lake and visit the George Castle built by Scindia for British Emperor George V who never came to stay there.


Friday, 22 March 2013

Skywatch Friday - Nagara Fort, South India

If you travel in Western Ghats during monsoons, the overcast sky with heavy clouds leaves you with a surreal experience. Sometimes it scares the hell out of you. 

When you have a lovely fort with waterbody in the foreground and greenery all around, with a heavily overcast sky, it can be unmatched. 

Nagara fort in Tirthahalli district in Karnataka, South India is one such place.  It is small fort built by Nayakas who ruled this part of the country in 16th century. There are still ruins of old palaces in this small town. 

Nagara Fort 

If you want to explore Western Ghats of Karnataka, you look at the following post in this blog


Thursday, 21 March 2013

India Travel Stories from Others - Arun's Payana to Red Hills

"Payana" in Kannada, the South Indian language means travel.

Arun lives by the word and is a quintessential traveller. Getting out of his comfort zone in Bangalore to explore the country. There are so many places close to us which we miss them out. Arun makes it a point and takes us to those places through his blog.

In his own words.....he wants to visit most of the paces in this exciting country as soon as possible. 

God speed to him.

And of course continue to share his experiences with others.

Here is his post on "Red Hills" the beautiful get away near Ooty in South India as he is floored by the European countryside charms of the place.

Please read on and here is the link

Red Hills - A Slice of Europe near Ooty

If you want to read more on Red Hills and Ooty, please look at this post in this blog here.

Ooty - A quick Escape to Red Hills


Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Food Streets of Indore

Welcome to the "Foodies city – Indore" or "Abode of Gourmets - Indore"

We would have loved to see such welcome board while entering Indore during our Great Central India Road Trip. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any. But that didn’t reduce our enthusiasm for culinary adventure in the Holkar city.

One of memories of my stay in MHOW in 86 was the delicious and sinful Kulfi an old man used to bring to our barracks on his Lamby immediately after we returned from lunch. I am not sure if he is still alive or if his family still continue in that business. Entering Indore kindled my memories of roaming around in Rajwada/Sarafa snapping up gol guppas, tikkis etc.

We both believe in "eating local” wherever we go. We love local cuisine and believe that it does not make sense to eat Masale Dose in Delhi but Paratha in Paratha Wale galli. We had done some research on what was to expect on our plate in Indore  – unfortunately we had only one evening – and wanted to make best us of our time. Sarafa Bazar and its mouth watering chats, was to be our destination for the evening.

We checked into the hotel, freshened up and got into an auto rickshaw. I don’t want to take out the Scorpio after seeing the traffic and also for the fact that Sarafa bazaar has narrow lanes which will not help either. Also, driving in city by asking locals for directions is a painful exercise.

The hotel security got us a rick and our journey to “Gourmet land of Indore” starts.

We had already prepared the list to savour while in Indore.
  • Coconut patties at Vijay Chaat
  • Ghamandi Lassi
  • Shikanji
  • Bhutte ki Kees
  • Kachoris
  • Gulab Jamuns
  • Jalebis
  • Garam Badam Milk
  • Yam chaat
  • Poha – Jalebi
  • Saabudana Kichdi
  • Egg banjo
A short drive from the Lemon Tree hotel brings us to Sarafa Bazar. It is 8 PM. Eateries are getting set up. The legendary food streets of Sarafa Bazar become alive after 8.30 PM when eateries are set up on the road after the jewelry shops are closed. These eateries continue till wee hours in the morning. To give a perspective, this possibly rivals Paratha Wala gulli and surroundings in Old Delhi.
The evening scene in Sarafa Bazar
The variety on the plate is mind-blowing – all kinds of chaats, kachoris, dahi vada, hot jalebis, Gulab jamuns, malpuas etc etc….. But there is already action and the aroma of kachoris is inviting. I look at my list and see Vijay Chaats in the Chouraha of Sarafa bazaar. Our journey begins here.
Vijay Chaat House
I ask the cook who is frying a small ball sized item. It is deep fired like “Pakodas”. He says it is “Coconut patties”. Yes! This was the one we wanted. We ask for two plates of patties. Served in leaf bowls  with mirchi and sweet chutney, it melts in your mouth. Brinda wants another plate and I go in for hot kachoris. The kachoris are crisp and taste good with chutneys.

We strike conversation with Vijay Sharma standing next to us, He is an Indori but who has business interests in Bangalore. He travels to Bangalore every month and loves Masale Dosey in Udupi Krishna Bhavan in Balepet. We tell him what we are after. He asks us to try Dahi vada at “Joshi Dahi vada” which is possibly the best. This is the season of Bhutta, the fresh corn. Indore is famous for Bhutte Ki Kees and Vijay ask us to taste it in Joshi Dahi vada. This is the intelligence we gather from locals which could not be found in our research or on “Highway on Plate” book. Thanks to Vijay, lest we would have missed out the famous Dahi Vadas of Indore.

Joshi dahi Vada is few steps away from Vijay chaats. We walk down the road and see eateries being set up. We notice a halwai and ask what halwa is in kadai. He answers “Moong dal” and we order a serving! Prepared in “Desi ghee”, it is sinful.
Moong Dal halwa flanked by Rabdi on the left and Gulab Jamuns on the right
Another busy stall
We reach Joshi dahi vada and Joshi saab is sitting in the middle and distributing dahi vada like an assembly line. There is already a crowd. We tell him that we are from Bangalore. He welcomes us in Kannada! I am surprised and ask him how does he Kannada and he says he has picked few words from friends.

He explains why his “Dahi vada” is not like others. The vada is not oily, soaked in water and dahi is really thick. To top it all he has a secret Masala powder which he sprinkles on the vada adding to the taste. He throws the dahi vada bowl in air to prove how thick the dahi is and ask us to watch if there is any dahi spills over. We don’t notice any.  He gives us two plates of Dahi vada and it is delicious. It is also very filling. We then ask for Bhutta Ki Kees and finish off that as well. This is the first time we are eating it and it tastes good. The sweetness of fresh corn mixed with mirchi and lemon gives a sort of Katta – Meeta taste which leaving a tangy feeling in the mouth. We bid good bye to Joshi saab – an amiable and talkative man –who will gift us a packet of his secret Masala to be carried back home!!
Joshi Dahi Vada stall
Joshi saab demonstrating
We are now on the lookout for the famous Shikanji of Nagori sweets . We meet the owners of the stall and they say that this is not the season for Shikanji and is prepared in Summers. Bad luck. We gulp couple of Gulab jamuns and jalebis on the way and now on the lookout for famous “Ghamandi Lassi” of Indore. We check with people around and they suggest us to go to the outlet near railway station. We catch an auto and move towards railway station and there we are in front of the famous shop. The menu is varied but we settle for special Lassi. 
The famous Ghamandi Lassi
The Lassi is served – thick with malai. The quantity is huge and Brinda could drink only half.

“What next ?” I ask Brinda.
“I am full, let us go back to Hotel”
“What about Egg Banjo and Badam milk”
“No space baba, let us go”
“Let us try “Poha –Jalebi” for breakfast tomorrow”
“Ok, let us go now”

We don’t do justice to Indore.

We don’t have time to go to “Chappan Dukan” another foodie area. We may have to come back for completing the unfinished task. I am not sure how famous is Indore for Non veg items. Being veggies, we did not explore on this.

For veggies and lovers of chaats, Indore is THE CITY.  


Friday, 15 March 2013

Monsoon sky from Kundadri, India

If you want experience what rain fall is all about, you should travel to Malnad region of South India during monsoon.

Rain for days lash this region during monsoon  The water falls come alive and there is greenery everywhere.

The sky is overcast and when you go on top of a hill like Kundadri and look down, it is some thing you cherish forever.

For more details on experiencing monsoon in Western ghats, please look at the following posts.

Monsoon drive in Malnad

Monsoon in Western Ghats - An itinerary to experience it


An Afternoon in Allahabad

Kumbh Mela in Allahabad has just ended. We could not go there due to some pressing commitments in Bangalore. But reading about Allahabad and Kumbh also brought back fond memories of our visit to the city in 2011 as part of Great Central India Road trip in 2011. 

We passed through Allahabad while driving from Khajuraho to Varanasi. We reached Allahabad by 3.30 PM. Crossing Naini Bridge over Yamuna brings us into the city. The only place I remember from my first visit to Allahabad in early eighties – I was selected in the Services Selection Board for Army here – is the Civil lines where we used to hang out when we were waiting to complete our medicals. 

The agenda in Allahabad was to visit Prayag, Anand Bhavan and the famous All Saints Cathedral. As we enter, we could foresee what was in store as far as traffic is concerned. Narrow roads with all types of vehicles jostling for space with no discipline whatsoever seems to be the norm. You are in Uttar Pradesh. I had to reconcile myself. Now, I have to ask someone for direction and i am not prepared to take the Scorpio on a road which is not wide enough.

Since we hadn't eaten anything since morning, we wanted to have a good lunch and i knew that Civil lines would be the best place. I pull the vehicle onto the side on seeing someone who can answer my question. I get down from the car and go near him. He looks a pucca “Allahabadi”. Here is how the conversation goes – my first experience with eastern Uttar Pradesh.

“Bhai Saab, civil line kaisa jana hai” (brother, can you please tell me direction to civil lines?)
“Seedha jaake dhaine mudiye” (Go straight and turn right)
“Shukriya, Anand Bhavan ka rasta kaunsi hai” (Thank you. Can you also tell me how to go to Anand Bhavan?)
“Kya hum ko gayide smajthye hai kya?” (Do you think i am your guide??)
“Aisa nahi bhai saab, hum log naye hai….is liye” ( It is not like that, bro. We are new to city....)
“jaayiye jaayiye, ek gayide rakhlijiye!!” (Get last and get hold of a guide)

Encounters of Eastern UP kind!!

Looking at the traffic and the chaos on the roads, we drop the idea of going anywhere except Prayag and Anand Bhavan. We have some biscuits and cup of tea and head to Prayag.

Prayag or Triveni sangam - confluence of three holy rivers - is one of the holiest places for Hindus. This is the place where Hindus come to immerse the ashes of the dead and perform “Shradh” (rituals) or simply to take holy dips. The sacred Kumbh mela is held every 12 years on the banks of the Sangam.

The Kumbh mela grounds are vast. Due to rains, we could see puddles of water at different places. As we drive towards the ghats we see dirt all around. This place just stinks with no one caring for the its cleanliness. This does not stop the devout coming in hordes for conducting rituals or to take holy dip. We could see bus loads of people from nearby or faraway villages getting down and moving towards the river.  

We park the car and walk to the ghat. There are no steps or ghats here like in Banaras or possibly they are submerged. The ghats are nothing but a mess of mud.

The river is wide and we could actually see confluence of two rivers due to colour difference – Yamuna is gray and Ganga is lighter. The boat boys come running to us asking us whether we want to go for boating in the river and see “Sangam”. We book a boat and hop on to see what happens at sangam. We take a boat ride and You can join us on it........here are some pictures.

And quiet flows the Ganges.....
A fake sadhu posing for pictures for few rupees!! Notice the filth all around.
The Ghat with Naini bridge in the background
Boats waiting for its customers. In the background is the fort built by Mughal Emperor Akbar .
Sangam - The confluence of three holy rivers - The place where rituals take place.
Families busy in performing rituals for the dead
Devotees taking holy dip in the Sangam after completion of rituals
Another family going in the boat towards Sangam
We finish Prayag and now move towards Anand Bhavan. This is an imposing building. We do not go around to explore in details as it is already 5 PM and we do not want to get stuck in the traffic.

Anand Bhavan - Birth place of first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru
We say bye to Allahabad and continue our drive to Banaras through the narrow roads of the city till we reach the highway.

Recommended - Allahabad is a place which needs to be experienced by staying there at least for a day. Apart from the Sangam, the place was the cradle of India's freedom struggle  Allahabad is also known for its famous university and well maintained Mughal monuments known as Khusro Bagh. 


Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Heritage Walks in Mysore

I always wondered as to why there were no walking tours in a Heritage city like Mysore in South India. There is so much to see in Mysore if you move away from the regular tourist spots. 

We have done walking tours in Old City of Ahmedabad and Pondicherry. Of course our own Bangalore Walking tour by Arun Pai.

I came across this walking tour in Mysore by a bunch of youngsters who love Mysore and its heritage. They are doing a great job in show casing the city to discerning visitors. They also cover Sri Rangapatna. Apart from Walking tours, they also arrange Jeep trail and Bicycle tour as well.

Gateway to Mysore Palace (Photo Courtesy - Nathan Winder)
Central Food Research and Training Institute - Another Heritage building
Here is the link to their website for more details..

So, next time when you visit Mysore don't miss out joining one of these tours. 

You will be richer with experience.


Friday, 8 March 2013

Skywatch Friday - Jog Falls, India

When Jog falls comes roaring down the hills in Western Ghats in monsoon, you can not see the sky.

The area will be mist filled and you will see an array of beautiful rainbows. You can see the glory of the falls when the mist clears. This is only during the monsoon months of July and August.

On other months, it is trickle down the huge rocky precipice. With blue sky in the background it is still beautiful as water tumble down.

Jog Falls is second highest water fall in Asia after Nokhakali falls in Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India.

Jog Falls - Picture taken in March 
Jog falls in monsoon - where is the sky!!
When the mist clears.........the falls at its glorious best


Thursday, 7 March 2013

Road Trip Vignettes - Arabian sea near Ankola, Karnataka

One of the pleasures of going on a road trip is the freedom it gives you to stop, explore and enjoy road side vignettes in a diverse country like India. These can be miles and miles of yellow spread of mustard in North India in winters or countless water falls while driving in Western Ghats during monsoons or fields filled with beautiful sun flowers in spring. We have stopped and enjoyed these beautiful moments in many of our drives.

Last week we were driving in Coastal Karnataka. If you are a roadtripper like us, driving on the West Coast in India is a pleasant experience. The rivers, estuaries, the hills and the mighty sea.......all add to the beauty of the place. There are many pristine and unexplored stretches of sand on this route - hope they remain same - which make West Coast such an eye candy.

One place we always stop and never get satiated is the stretch of road between Ankola and Karwar. This is a small distance - 15 KMs - of hilly terrain with curvy road with amazing sights of Arabian sea. Sadly, the Navy has constructed a compound wall all along the highway which obstructs the  beautiful view. What was being enjoyed while driving earlier times has to be done now by stopping and peeping! There are still some places where the Navy has not cordoned off and you can enjoy the sights from there. 

Here are two pictures we had taken while going to Goa last year. 

So, next time when you are driving to Goa from Bangalore, stop for a minute and enjoy these sights.

If you are looking a Driving Holiday in Coastal Karnataka or Karavali as it is known, please look the following post in this blog


Tuesday, 5 March 2013

India Travel Stories from Others - Sankara on Leh Palace

Sankara Subramanian C is a free spirited traveler, Travel blogger  Motor cycle junkie, photographer all rolled into one. In short, he just want to be "On the road" with his Royal Enfield! When he is not on the road, he pens his experiences in his superb travel website.

Sankara is truly at home when he is on the road meeting new people and making acquaintances, exploring places, forests, wildlife, cuisines, cultures, languages and its history. 

Sankara is an ardent motorcycling lover, wildlife researcher and enthusiast, keen bird watcher, hiker, explorer, photographer, videographer and an avid reader.

Here is one of Sankara's stories on Leh Palace in Ladakh. This is an old palace being restored by Archeological Survey of India. It is located in the city and provides a panoramic view of Leh city. 

Entrance to the Palace
Read about Sankara's story on Leh place here 

If you want to know more about Ladakh/Leh and want to plan a trip there, you are welocme to visit the posts titled "Ladakh Diaries" in the blog. 

Here is the link - Ladakh Diaries


Friday, 1 March 2013

Skywatch Friday - Virupaksha Temple, Hampi

Hampi is an amazing place. The ruins, the river and the rural ambience captivates you.

We were in Virupaksha Temple when we were in Hampi few years back for Hampi Utsav. Here is the picture of the temple tower towering into sky.......

If you want more details on Hampi, you can explore the posts on Hampi in this blog.