The City of Lakes – Nainital

Holidays and breaks have become a much needed activity in today’s time of rush and push. We all are competing with time and then we don’t have the time to sit back and relax. A holiday brings to you those precious moments to catch up on and though it may not give you back lost time but it surely refreshes you to handle more time consuming days ahead 🙂

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Such was my experience when we escaped to Nainital – The city of Lakes over a long Holi (the Festival of Colours) weekend with my hubby and daughter. We began our little holiday journey at 8:30 am on a Saturday as we had to come back by Monday evening. I must say the journey was quite a drive by itself. Half the roads are made and the other half are still being constructed. We had to cross 6 toll booths to just reach the foothill of Nainital. We went by the Moradabad-Rampur-Bilaspur-Haldwani-Kathgodham road, which, if I may mention is not worth travelling on. Though the road was sad but our little break at a restaurant just took our fatigue away. Punjabi Rasoi is a small restaurant or Dhaba located on the Rampur-Bilaspur road and served some really delicious and hot food accompanied with decent Tea. The rest of the journey was pretty rough thanks to the road but we finally reached our destination after 10 hours of travel at 6:30 pm. 

We checked into a small budget hotel The Savoy that offered a wonderful location advantage as it was situated close to Mall Road.  Though very small, but the friendly staff and the warmth exuded by them made us feel at home. we checked in, got ready and moved out to explore Mall road late evening. Though most of the shops were almost closing but the street shops and the tourists walking along the road were a delight to be a part of. We made a short trip to Tibetan Market which was closing too and then started to walk back. We had read about a restaurant “Machan” that served some delicious food and were eager to eat there but the wait was too long and we didn’t have the patience to wait. We then hopped over to another restaurant Royal Kitchen (If I am not mistaken) and were in for a pleasant surprise with their delicious Mutton Rogan Josh and tandoori roti’s (Indian Bread). After enjoying our scrumptious meal we headed back to our hotel to retire for the night. The walk along the Mall Road was simply relaxing.

Day 2 we started off early after eating breakfast and moved on to see some prominent tourist points of Nainital. We hired a Cab for Rs. 800 to take us around the famous points. Our first stop was the Snow view point in which we travelled through the Rope Way that gave us a breath-taking view of Naini Lake and the surrounding Pine tree mountains. After reaching the top we hiked a little to reach the actual point. There we were greeted with a throng of tourists that were looking through the telescope at the faraway mountain range- Nanda Devi. 

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Though very far but the view with the naked eye was simply mind-blowing. The snow-capped mountains just kept telling us to come there 🙂 For a little adventure you can also try your hand at Free Fall ride 🙂 From here we moved on to Lake View Point that gave a pretty decent view of the Lake itself. Our next stop was Maggi Point as we call it 🙂 since I don’t recall the name of that point. There wasn’t much to do there so we went on to Barapathar trekking site and then to Lovers Point / Suicide Point. The feeling of being one with the clouds just made our heads roll. A pretty great backdrop for some awesome pictures, Lovers Point actually sees a lot of newbies and love birds coming along. Our next and last stop was Khurptal which is another one of the Tal’s of Nainital. The view was simply breath-taking.

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After a tiring day of moving around and sightseeing, we decided to just take a quick whisk through Tibetan Market. For all those visiting from North India, its really not worth buying things here as they are overly priced. Even for normal tourists, I would advise that just carry one souvenir but don’t carry a whole lot stuff from here. Another interesting aspect of the market were the number of shops selling Candles. The streets were lined with many candle selling shops that actually showcased some amazing designs. A definite buy as a souvenir though. Our last stop was the Naini Lake, where my daughter insisted to go boating. There are government shops that sell the tickets so no need to worry about buying it through all the vendors and boatmen waiting to sell it. Just get in the line and buy yourself a ticket. You can choose either a Paddle Boat or Row Boat. The ride in the boat was relaxing with cool breeze hitting our faces and just making us breathe in some fresh air.

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As the night approached we decided to try our luck again at Machan, but this time around too it was heavily packed. So we gave up and decided to explore another part of the market- Bada Bazaar, which is the main market of Nainital. This is built all on a slope so be ready to climb a bit. Our little sojourn through the market got us to a very charming and quaint Bakery and Patisserie – Sakley’s. Their chocolate cakes are just a mouthful and worth trying. They simply melt in your mouth 🙂 The setting itself was very English and gave us an old Nainital charm. So next time you are there, do try this simply delicious bakery. After eating so much we really needed that walk back to the hotel and Mall road gave us another opportunity to enjoy the fresh air and cool breeze. A piece of advice, whatever the season, do carry some woollens as it is cold round the year atleast in the evening.  

Our trip ended on the day of Holi i.e. 17th March and we decided to leave early so as to come back to Delhi in time. This time around we took a different route via Ramnagar-Kaladungi-Bazpur-Kasipur-Delhi that was excellent except for a 3 km route through one small village. The greenery around us through our drive and the highway was simply amazing. Without stopping we made it back to Delhi in 6 hours on a simply marvellous drive and lots of fun with my family.

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If you are visiting Nainital it is great to book your tickets in advance in a good resort as it is usually packed in season time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leisure and Pleasure – Pondicherry

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A beautiful escapade by a friend of mine – Harkishn Mourjani (harkishanm@gmail.com) to Pondicherry described in his own words 🙂
Have a read…


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DAY 1 – Arrival at Pondicherry

Early morning at 5:30 on reaching Pondicherry, I woke up to a sleepy city where communicating is very difficult and the rickshaw drivers are waiting like scavengers to pick on you. I wanted to head to “Le Café” a 24 hour cafeteria which was one place I was keen on seeing. Hopped on to a bus and reached the café before sunrise to catch a glimpse of rock beach and the promenade where one witnesses people of all ages coming for chats, chai and walks.

On first sight the promenade boasted of hotels and government offices (incl. Customs & Excise, DTDC, etc.) and the hotel rooms averaging from 5000/- to 20000/- per night. However after scavenging the area a while, I found a guest house belonging to the Aurobindo Ashram which was cheaper than expected and luckily there was a room available!

Pondicherry is divided into two parts first being the French colony and other the local colony. The French colony gave me a feeling of being in French cities with colourful entrances, wooden doors and French windows. These lanes also had buried within them bistros, boutiques and cafeterias’ which could easily be ignored as just houses round the corner. The colony had lots of French residents and a few locals. The serenity and peaceful ambience of the colony made me feel totally at peace with myself, unlike places like Goa where you witness an influx of foreigners and is too crowded and commercialized. I took a map and started exploring all the streets in the colony and I was falling in love with the golden architecture and ambience of the place. There were some abandoned houses, broken hotels, construction sites,  all giving a feeling of old places closing and upcoming of new places. The museum is a nice place to visit which depicts lot of coins, artefacts, carriages, weapons, etc. which any museum would have, sadly photography is banned. The visit to the museum can last for maximum half hour, not more. Every city has an MG road, so does Pondy, which was a typical commercial street having vendors for household items, hardware items, etc. and like any other commercial street with local brands and branded showrooms. Sunday markets on MG road is a different sight where local handcart vendors display their items for sale from scrap vendors, clothes, utensils and pawn dealers selling old currencies.

The most populated stalls were of old electronic goods where people flocked hoping to get their hands on working electronic items. ” which is incidentally a boutique for clothing, shoes, accessories and precious stones. The chef Vani was a French lady who prepared lovely salads and sandwiches which more than satisfied my hunger and provided good ambience.

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Day 2 – Auroville

I had heard of Auroville of being a nice place and pictured it in my mind as a place such as South Goa. But what sadly the place lacks public transport. The Ashram has shuttles in the morning and evening at specific times and on missing the same be prepared to shell out 400/- to 500/- bucks to the rickshaws. The Matri Mandir is the main attraction which sells a unique A golden dome has been made on top of a place through which sunlight comes inside and is channelized through some process and meditation inside is considered as an out of the world experience. Sadly appointments have to be taken in advance to enter the meditation room and its very disappointing if you do not get entry. However, as luck rides at times, April and May are off seasons and there can be a chance of getting a pass in the next 2-3 days. Auroville is spread over 5000 acres of land which they intend on making into a Unity park in phases over a period of time. There is a tie up with people and guests houses can be booked online. However, there lies no connection in booking the guest house and getting permit for meditation.

So, I reached the place at 9:00 am and found places offering sumptuoustoasts, coffee and pastries which highly priced as per French standards but it was worth the price in terms of quantity and taste. So one can spend 2-3 hours max and get done with Auroville as there is a bus departing at 11:30 am. The bus fare is reasonably priced.

Came back to pondy and again visited the French colony and on the way had fried fish from a local vendor selling rice, sambhar, rasam it was risky but too tempting as it was unbelievably cheap for a meal. I’d admit not visiting the local areas to explore more local delicacies as anyone would on visiting Konkan beaches but I guess I was more impressed and attracted to French cuisine and people.

Evenings I spent time walking along the promenade and lazing on rock beach, where there were numerous stalls of pani puri, bhel and other usual street foods. It was a sight beautiful as mornings where people would come chat, eat and wrap of their day.


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Day 3 – Paradise Beach, Auroville Beach, Alamparai Fort – Mamallapuram

Hired a bike at 250/- per day and deposit of 500/- for a visit to paradise beach, which was an absolutely mind blowing experience. It can be called a Virgin beach, as there weren’t too many people (being a weekday and Holi, which is not a public holiday at Pondy). A ferry takes you to the Island and on days where its populated the maximum time you can spend is two hours. Very nice place for couples to have a peaceful time and you can walk miles on the beach without being disturbed by prying eyes, population and other distractions. Sadly one place where you can buy snacks (highly priced as expected) and limitation of the items on offer. Also, the price per person for the trip being Rs.150/-  for parking but entrance charges and camera charges are all separate.

Took me half an hour to visit to the Ashram where a Samadhi has been prepared where people come and pay tributes to the great mind and visionary. Silence has to be maintained and there is a library and some publications on sale for general public. From there I drove back on the highway towards Chennai for Auroville beach which is close to Marti Mandir. It seems to be a place which would be flocked by foreigners, which is a kind of attraction; However, it was a major disappointment as the place had nothing to offer and there were no souls on the beach. The place was dirty and not much activity on the beach, so can be skipped if there is no transport.

Alamparai Fort is 50 kms from the city on the same highway ahead of Auroville, which is worth the visit as the ride is pleasant, the roads are fine and enough petrol pumps so the tanks can be filled when needed. There is no fort but what remains is a fort which was torn down by the British for some reason I don’t know. It was built as a fort to protect from enemies taking the sea route to enter the place. It houses a small dargah inside and apart from broken walls there is nothing else to offer. For people who are photography enthusiasts it’s a nice place to create a theme. The beach was very nice and only few local people were enjoying playing in the waters.

On returning from the fort I had to catch a bus for an 8 hour drive to Bangalore where there was border checking for liquor and other contrabands. So an advise for travellers, do not carry too much of booze as it can land you into trouble and the roads in certain stretches is very bad.

Overall a 2 day trip can cover Pondicherry and Auroville with places to eat and wrap up early every night!

(For all the travel enthusiasts, do try exploring this small yet beautiful beach destination on your own!)

I Am Dear!

I hear you say
Oh I really do
I hear my name
What should I do

At a distance when I see you
My heart pounds like a drum
I know it is you
Oh I know it is you

You cannot know what I feel
You cannot know how I feel
You cannot know anything about me
‘Cause you don’t feel the way I feel

Don’t come any closer
From within my mind shouts
I shudder at your approach 
But I will not bend down

I gain my strength from within
I know I can fight you back
I am not gonna relent
I will not take this rap

Go away you hideous monster
Go away from all of us
Your soul is destroyed
You are nothing but a poor creature

Life’s lesson I have learnt
I may not always be right
But I know I am not wrong
I want to see the sun today, bright 
I yearn for a day without having to long!

So don’t be afraid tender souls 
Don’t live in fear
Come out, say it loud and clear
You were, you are and You will always be dear!

 (Dedicated to all my friends who have feared life, people and situations sometime along the way. Don’t let your fears or people take control of you. No one knows you better than you and no one can fight your battles for you)