Chandni Chowk, Jama Masjid & the New Delhi metro enroute to Karim’s

Before we move forward, here is a confession. I am not the world’s greatest fan of mughlai food. As Mohit observed, at times mughlai food seems rich & heavy just to be rich & heavy – and not because it adds immensely to taste. The last time I had wandered around the Jama Masjid area was about 20 years ago on one magical Ramzan evening just as the food stalls were getting busy. And i decided to go back again to see whether I could rekindle romance.

Nope. Karim’s was a sore disappointment. While the Burra did hit a couple of high notes the general sense was of let down. Maybe I ate the wrong stuff or maybe the place is over-rated now. Dunno. But, I did find a small place in Chandni Chowk that served ‘soth india dishes’ including Dosa and Chewmen. So that made up for it.

The highlight of the evening without a doubt was the New Delhi Metro. This is one of those rare times that an Indian will find it in him to praise anything contemporary over the ancient (for, who can argue with stuff so old nobody really knows anything about it). And I must thank Mr Sreedharan and his team at the Delhi Metro for this (and, I suspect Sheila Dikshit, the Chief Minister of Delhi, who, from all accounts is a lady determined to leave a lasting impression on Delhi). As any of us who have lived in Delhi can say without an iota of doubt, if a Metro rail can work in Delhi it can work anywhere else in India. It does & so it can. As I watched, the doors opened & closed automatically at every station and the world’s second most unruly crowd got in & off demurely. Atta boy ol’ S!

The Jama Masjid & Chandni Chowk area reeks of history (and a lot more, but that is par on course for all our cities). I am told that there a number of ‘walks’ you can do to get it all in. What I missed however was a good walking map. Wonder why no one has done one.

Legship, Sikkim

The gang at HolidayIQ has been busy discovering little-known tourism destinations across India. Amazingly, we have almost 500 Indian tourism destinations now and most of the small, new ones have been discovered by travellers who have asked us to add these destinations to the site.

Consequently, I have now discovered a new game for myself. Everyday I give myself an unlikely alphabet and find destinations I never knew about. It is a lot of fun actually.

My alphabet for today was ‘L’ and discovered ‘Legship’, which is quite an intriguing name anywhere & in India, is pretty crazy. Evidently, it is a small village near Pelling in Sikkim and you go there for the Kirateshwara Mahadev mandir, Phur Cha Chu sulphur baths & the Rangit Water World.

However, there is no word on how it acquired such a fancy name for itself.

Read more here.

Weekend getaways from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata and 10 other Indian cities

HolidayIQ has just revamped its weekend getaway section. Now one can find weekend getaway destinations as well as weekend getaway resorts/hotels by distance from each of the top 17 Indian cities.

Click here to see the new pages:

Weekend getaways from Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata

Weekend getaways from all 17 cities

St Mary’s Island near Malpe beach, Udupi, Karnataka

Here are bunch of photos of St Mary’s Island, taken by my photographer-friend Nagesh who has roamed this coastline since his childhood (and who is, incidentally, shooting India’s first fully digitally shot movie). Since¬†they are such lovely snaps, I decided to let the story follow the photos.

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As I wrote sometime ago, if Karnataka gets its act together, it has everything going for it to emerge as India’s top tourism destination. Here is more proof.

St Mary’s island is a little slip of land about 30 minutes out into the sea from Malpe Beach in Udupi. As you can see in the photos, God certainly let loose on this one; it is gorgeous and I can say this with the certainty of someone who has seen a fair number of beaches and islands across the world. The island is full of crystallised basalt rock, a unique rock formation found in very few places in the world, the most notable being the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. And, the sea between the island and the long curve of the beach at Malpe is placid and gentle (or at least looks that way).

As I stood on this little island last week, it was clear that it is crying out for a bit of tender, loving attention. Continue reading

Agumbe, the tallest & wettest place in Karnataka

agumbe-mist-on-hills-karnataka-photo-picture.jpg(Agumbe photo courtesy : JP)

Last week I discovered Agumbe (pronounced Aagumbe). A quick one hour drive, straight up over 14 hair-pin bends took me from the coastal city of Udupi to the heights of Agumbe. And guiding me to Agumbe was the man who is most likely to put Agumbe firmly on the map – Jai Prakash, known to all and sundry as JP.

JP’s story is atypical. JP hails from Udupi the charming coastal town in Karnataka. And for a youngster from a nice south canara middle class family, he landed the ultimate prize Continue reading

Sailing from the Dona Paula jetty in Goa

The Swift anchored in the deserted Butterfly beach in Goa

(The Swift at anchor in the deserted cove at Butterfly Beach, near Palolem, Goa)

Ashwin Tombat left a journalist’s career in (then) Bombay to settle down in Goa. And he confesses it has been a great ride. And now he combines his professional role as the Editor of Herald, Goa’s second most circulated English newspaper, with his passion for sailing as a coordinator for the Goa Yachting Association.

I have never sailed before although the idea has always held appeal. So, I took up on Ashwin’s offer to take me sailing. And on a fine, sunny afternoon last week, I joined Ashwin on his 20 ft sailboat, The Swift at the Don Paula jetty for what turned out a bad case of amour. The last time this happened to me was when I was 20 years old and as you would suspect it was a girl. This time it was the absolutely seductive charm of softly lapping waves, the breeze across your face and the companionable silence of men on a voyage of no purpose.

We set sail at about 2 pm and held course for the small & relatively less visited beach Continue reading

Daman & Diu

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(Daman & Diu tourism map, courtesy eindiamaps)

In my quest for little known destinations across India, especially beach destinations, I have been pondering about Daman & Diu. Since I haven’t got there yet, checked up the reviews on HolidayIQ for Daman & Diu. Here is the gist.

Go to Daman & Diu largely because it close to Mumbai and Ahmedabad. A big thing there seems to be booze, since it is surrounded by ‘dry’ Gujarat. Travel between Nani Daman & Moti Daman (the 2 parts of the territory) by boat. Check out the beaches. Although the beaches are clean, they are a bit muddy (not sandy) and so might not be great for the usual beach experience. Sea food is good.

There are 39 resorts & hotels listed for Daman & Diu, which came as a bit of a surprise. Cidade De Daman seems to be a popular place to stay.

Not sure this is getting me all excited. But, maybe I will keep it for a rainy day so to speak.

Click here for my posts on all beach vacations in India and abroad.

Click here for all posts on ‘Secret Indian Destinations’¬†

Wayanad in North Kerala

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(District map of kerala)

Wayanad is just getting noticed as a major Indian tourism destination. So here is some quick scoop on it.

Wayanad is one of the northern districts of kerala, on its border with Karnataka. It is hilly country with a huge swathe of plantations & estates (particularly coffee estates). The British were the first to really open up this land, laying a strong road network across the ‘high ranges’. The idea was purely economic – the British understood the need to have the roads to bring plantation produce down to the plains of Kerala from where a good railway system (again conceived and built by the British) would transport it in bulk to the nearest deep-water port in Cochin, another John Company creation, from whence it went to England and other parts of Europe. Continue reading

Tarkarli beach on the Konkan coast

Sindhudurg is the southernmost district of Maharashtra, just north of Goa. Sindhudurg is supposed to have some of the best beaches in India and Tarkarli beach in particular is mentioned by many as a particularly lovely beach to go to. Tarkarli’s reputation is one of clear waters that allow one to snorkel and scuba dive, which is interesting because to the best of my knowledge there is no other mainland beach in India that is good for watching the world underwater.

Goa does offer Scuba, but even the operators themselves agree that Goa’s murky waters are not the place for it. The best snorkelling & diving in India is in Lakshadweep, where Mitali & Prahlad Kakkar run Lacadives (the other option is to dive with Goa diving in Agatti Island; I have come across some vague rumours of safety here, so do check well before you go) . After that is the Andaman Islands, particularly Havelock Island. I haven’t been there and so do not have first hand experience – but many members of HolidayIQ swear by Havelock which is very reassuring.

Anyway, to come back to Tarkarli beach. I do know that a few years ago, a couple of well known boutique cruise operators (Seabourn, I am almost certain was one of them) had an interesting halt offshore at Tarkarli beach from where they brought guests by boat to the beach and then took them on a cycle tour of the local Konkan region. My impression is that this is not done anymore – certainly not at Tarkarli beach. Not sure why.

MTDC has a resort at Tarkarli beach, which has been reviewed and rated by many members of HolidayIQ. Everyone is unanimous in their opinion of Tarkarli beach. Tarkarli is an awesome beach and Continue reading