Goa- An alternate state of mind

Goa is a destination whose name itself has been used, misused and often abused by many. It is the so-called party capital, hippie holiday destination (Although Gokarna and Hampi are now giving it tough competition) it’s the millennial’s place to go to when you just want to chill, it’s a place to tick off your bucket list because of course, shame on you if you haven’t seen Dil Chahta Hai! That movie literally put Goa on the heart map of every young Indian.

I’d been to Goa when I was 3, so I don’t remember anything apart from making sandcastles and underground sand tunnels with my dad on the beach. 19 years later, my friend Jeanne, who lives in Panjim, called a bunch of us to visit her for her birthday. Richa, another friend of ours who is from South Goa, was already there. Tanishqa, Delice and I went to Goa from Bombay.

If you know me or have read any of my blogs, you know how much I love reading about travel, maximizing on my travel plan and exploring as much as possible when I’m travelling. I like to completely immerse myself into the culture and the vibe of the place I am in. I like balancing touristy things with lesser known hideouts and hidden spots. I love it when people have the same travel style as me but I’ve obviously had my share of holidays when my co-travellers had a completely different approach than me. Since this was more than a normal holiday, that we planned, we did have more local experiences since we stayed at Jeanne’s place, interacted with locals, we also had some restrictions in terms of time and places we could visit. Add to that the fact that not everyone had similar ideas of travelling and exploring. But the ingredients to a holiday are great experiences and important lessons that each trip teaches you! 

On the first day, we landed in Goa early in the morning and had breakfast at Jeanne’s house in Panjim. After we chilled with her family and her adorable dog for some time, we decided to take the Scooty and drive around some of the popular spots in Panjim.  We went to the Our Lady of Immaculate Church, which was quite pretty but extremely crowded and then went to the supremely popular Black Sheep Bistro for lunch. I would surely recommend this restaurant for a good meal with cocktails; do try their Feni cocktails if you go there!

We then went to Cafe Bodega, an artsy cafe, which is housed in the Sunaparanta Centre for Arts. The ambiance is lovely and so are the desserts! After filling our tummies with lots of good food, we went to Fontainhas, an old Latin Quarter in Panjim, where we had booked a walk with this company called Make It Happen. Our walk leader, Lata, took us on a 2 hour tour of the area, showing us the prettiest homes, quaint bakeries, beautifully maintained art galleries, charming chapels and ended it with a live music performance. She also gave us postcards that we wrote to ourselves and she posted them to us. Make It Happen also gave us fridge magnets as gifts. I would totally recommend a heritage walk of Fontainhas with them. 

Tanishqa, Delice and I then chilled at Bombay Coffee Roasters in Fontainhas and enjoyed some delicious coffee, after which Jeanne came and took us first to Joseph Bar, which is essentially a tiny room filled with drinks and stools outside, on the road, where patrons drink. It was a really unique experience, one that very few people know about. We then went to one of Jeanne’s relatives’ home in Fontainhas which had been one of our favourites during the walk. 

At night, Jeanne’s entire family came over to bring in her birthday. it was so much fun with them and it was a really nice experience for us, since we were not used to seeing an entire family bring in a birthday at midnight. It was a very interesting and endearing memory.

On the second day, we had our first difference of opinion. Richa and Jeanne were going to get decorations done for Jeanne’s birthday party. I wanted to go to Calangute and Baga Beach and either Aguada Fort or Chapora Fort. Tanishqa didn’t want to do sightseeing and wanted to do the decorations and Delice was interested in going to the beaches and getting lunch there but had no interest in going to either of the forts. For about an hour, none of us did anything, just subtly kept on reiterating our priorities, like little kids. I was initially annoyed because I had come to explore Goa and it was disheartening to see that nobody else had that as their priority. But then I realized that making a sour face will only spoil my time and a part of travelling is reaching a mid-way and that everyone has different ideas of a good time; and sometimes doing what everyone enjoys doing. So Delice and I took the Scooty, went to Baga Beach, had lunch at Britto’s, which was pretty good and despite my low expectations, I really liked the food and cocktails there. The beach was average, much like the beaches in Bombay, but all in all, it was a good experience. On the way back, Delice and I stopped at a random field to catch the sunset. It was so pretty and peaceful and is one of my favourite parts of the trip, because these are things you do not expect, they just jump on you and that makes it even better.

The next day was the day of Jeanne’s party. Since we would have had to start getting ready for the party early,  we kept the day light. Tanishqa, Delice and I visited Miramar beach which is a 5 min walk from Jeanne’s home. It’s not a beach thronged by tourists so it was very well-maintained and clean. We really liked the beach and jumped and played to our hearts’ content because there was barely anybody there. What I love about beaches is that once you’re near a beach, you resort to your most childlike instincts and for some time, forget everything and just have fun without the fear of judgement.

We came back to Jeanne’s partially drenched and quickly changed and went to this beautiful sea-facing restaurant called Leda Seashells for lunch, accompanied by Richa and Jeanne. It has to be the most stunning restaurant I visited in Goa. The food and cocktails were really good, even by a vegetarian’s standards. After lunch, we took a million pictures by the sea, it was that pretty!

We later dressed up in our costumes and headed out for Jeanne’s birthday. Honestly, I never thought of myself as a costume party person but it was so much more fun than I imagined it to be. We played games, danced and ate so much. This made me realize that it had been ages since I’d attended a birthday party that involved something other than going to a pub or a fancy restaurant. I felt like this was one experience that I would have maybe never thought of, but one that I absolutely enjoyed.






I dressed up as the birthday girl herself!

The next morning, we all woke up late and were slightly tired because the party went on till late. I honestly had very little expectations for the last day because by then I’d told myself that everyone was on the trip for different reasons and so I was happy with whatever everyone wanted to do. But the moment I was ready with lowered expectations, I got rewarded; there’s this fort in South Goa called Cabo Da Rama which I really wanted to visit. Everyone immediately agreed to drive down to South Goa to visit it. We stopped for lunch at this place called Da Tita’s, which had delicious pizzas, I’d totally recommend it!

Cabo Da Rama has various points that one can walk to and since Richa is quite familiar with the area, she took us to the points that most tourists don’t know about. It was as mesmerizing as I’d hoped. We walked to 2 points, the first one gave us a lovely view of the fort and the sea and the second one was a walk down the fort to a point where the rocks met the sea. Richa begged me to not write about the place in my blog because for her, as someone who calls Goa home, the influx of tourists and the residue that they leave is a serious problem. This made me think about how we as tourists really need to stop treating Goa as a storage bin for our carelessness and our lack of responsibility. We need to acknowledge its beauty and do as much as we can to preserve it.

We stopped at Cavelossim Beach for a while and then drove back home. We ate a simple but yummy meal at a food truck near Jeanne’s home and headed home. At night we stayed up talking about basically everything and joking around with Jeanne’s younger brother who we basically thought was our baby brother by the end of the trip.After the successful all-nighter, we took our flight next morning to Bombay.

My trip to Goa taught me so many things. It taught me that every person sees a holiday differently. For Tanishqa, listening to music in Jeanne’s home and the costume party were the highlights of the trip. For Delice, Brittos and roaming around Panjim and the seafood were very memorable. I loved roaming around Fontainhas and Cabo Do Rama and chilling with Jeanne’s family; and for Richa and Jeanne, the fact that we went to Goa and they could take us around to their favourite spots was very important. I realized that complaining about something is NEVER going to make it better. Instead, the best thing to do in any situation is to understand what other people are saying and reaching a consensus. I also realized that for Jeanne, coordinating everyone’s to-do lists, especially mine, was a task, and she did it to the best of her ability. She was a lovely host and if I could visit her again in the future for her birthday, I’d do it, without a second thought.

The trip also taught me that Goa is what you make it to be. It has something for everyone, for each personality, for each interest. We spent 4 amazing days in a place known to be a party hub without visiting a single club because none of my friends are huge fans of drinking. We ended up eating lip-smacking food, visited beautiful churches, walked through idyllic settlements and ended up having such indelible memories. Goa is a place that makes you want to slow down, take in everything and appreciate it. It leaves you happy, relaxed and nostalgic. Goa is a state of mind that you’d want to be in now and again. Be Khanabadosh and visit Goa and tell me the million ways in which it stood out for you.

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Why not Bhutan?

No matter how much travel, regardless of how many trips you take, a holiday with your friends which is completely planned by you is something you look forward to and something you want to make extremely memorable. We spend months saving for that one special trip for our closest friends and we want it to be just right.

The truth though is that like everything else, travelling is also far from perfect but it’s the imperfections that make every trip different. My first international trip with friends or our ‘grad’ trip as we called it, the one I had been wanting to go on since a long time, was a trip with my 2 friends from from school, Smin and Nupur. We were meeting Nupur after 3.5 years and this was a holiday we had saved up for, but it took us a long time to decide where to go. We wanted the destination to be just right, something that catered to all our interests and something that fit out budget. To be honest, we randomly came up with the idea of travelling to Bhutan and we did beat around the bush quite a bit, thought of other places, but ultimately, Bhutan was the only place we didn’t, or rather couldn’t filter out.

This was my first international trip with friends, without any adult supervision and so we had to book flights and accomodation well in advance. Bhutan is incredibly cold during the winter and everyone told us it would be tough to go around so a certain amount of planning was required.

Most of our plan was easy since we read about the permit process for Indians, but one thing no site mentioned was the amount of time it takes for the permit to be processed when you enter Bhutan by road, at Phuentsholing. We chose to go by road instead of flying directly to Paro because that way we’d save almost 10K on tickets. We’d read everywhere that the permit can be easily obtained at Phuentsholing and that it’s a quick process; but we ended up waiting for 6 hours, due to which we ended up wasting a day. After removing the travelling time, we had 5 whole days to do what we planned on doing in 6 days, but because all of us were very clear about wanting to do as much was possible, we managed to do almost everything we planned on doing.

We took flights to Bagdogra, from where we took a car to Phuentsholing. After obtaining our permit, we headed to Thimphu, then to Punakha, then to Paro and then came back to Bagdogra.

There’s one route that a lot of travellers use when in Bhutan for a week, which we used as well and built our itinerary according to that.

Our brief plan, was as follows:

We flew from Bombay to Bagdogra, rented a cab and drove to Phuentsholing which is the border town in Bhutan. We had a lovely dinner at Asian Kitchen in the main market after which we went to Kizom cafe for desserts.

On the second day, we went to the Regional Immigration office in Phuentsholing to apply for the permit that Indians require to travel in Bhutan. The permit issued here is only valid for 7 days and for the ares of Thimphu and Paro. If you wish to stay for any more time or visit any other place, you need to apply for an extended permit at the office in Thimphu. We’d read online that obtaining a permit at Phuentsholing was a hassle-free process and that it’s very quick, but we actually ended up waiting for 6 hours to obtain our permit. We ended up leaving for Thimphu at 3pm instead of 10 am and wasted an entire day in just travelling. We visited a monastery in the centre of Phuentsholing before leaving. We braced ourselves for the cold weather in Thimphu and reached at around 8pm. We’d booked a stay in the campus of the Royal Thimphu College. The rooms were lovely and the campus is beyond beautiful. We ate a delicious dinner, walked in the campus in our layers and just admired the stars.

Since we’d wasted one day, we had just 1 day to see everything in Thimphu and it being the capital, there were lots of things to see and do. But the 3 of us resonate so much with Bunny from YJHD and so we knew we had the energy and the enthusiasm to see as much as was possible. Some of our top experiences from Thimphu were:

  • The Buddha Dordenma, which is the tallest statue of Buddha seated. We reached there early so that it wouldn’t be crowded and it felt so peaceful and serene.
  • We visited Memorial Chorten which is one of the holiest places of worship in Bhutan. The entire Chorten was decorated and it look extremely colourful. We went around the chorten like the locals and even went inside the chorten.
  • Weaving occupies an important part in Bhutanese culture and the National Textile Museum describes each weaving style beautifully. Our favourite section was the weaving room where there were girls from the age to 7 to 20 weaving beautifully. The experience was incredibly enriching and something I’ll remember for a long time.
  • Zombala is an Asian restaurant in Thimphu city which has amazing food, we couldn’t get enough of this place.
  • We visited the post office in Thimphu and got personalized stamps made, which we stuck on postcards and posted them to our families.
  • The Takin preserve is where Takin, the national animal can be spotted. The visit was slightly disappointing and this place can be skipped if enough time isn’t at hand.
  • The Jungshi paper factory is a small space where you can witness the entire process of paper manufacturing from start to finish. There’s a shop which sells handmade paper products that’s attached to the paper factory.  We splurged to our hearts’ content.
  • The Taschicho Dzong is the administrative headquarters where the evening march can be witnessed. The Dzong opens in the evening because during the day it is used for administrative purposes.
  • We ended the day with local beers from a bar in the city and headed back to the college campus for a good night’s sleep.
  • The next morning, we headed to the Simply Bhutan museum in Thimphu, which is an incredible cultural experience, one I’d definitely suggest to anyone who wishes to understand the nuances of Bhutanese culture.
  • Bhutanese wine is incredibly cheap and delicious. We sampled some peach wine and absolutely loved it!

On the outskirts of Thimphu is the Dochu La, which is a pass where 108 stupas have been built and where you can see the 7 highest peaks of Bhutan from. A sizeable part was covered in snow and the views from Dochu La were mesmerizing. We climbed to the temple at the top of the complex and there was a room where we could see the mountain peaks clearly with the help of a telescope. All in all, Dochu La was one of the best parts of our trip.

We then bid farewell to the capital and headed to the ancient capital of Bhutan, Punakha. It may seem more rural and sparsely populated in comparison to Thimphu, but it has so many experiences to offer:

  1. The Suspension Bridge is beautiful and offers thje best photo-ops
  2. River rafting in Punakha is a lovely experience and gives you crazy views of the valley
  3. The Chimi Lhakhang Fertility temple and the walk to the temple is one of the most amusing and memorable walks you will have as it is filled with penis/phallus figurines of all shapes and sizes. (Chimi Lhakhang is known as the divine madman and was the one who enlightened and educated the Bhutanese people about the power of sexual intercourse, hence penis figurines are considered to be extremely auspicious and are openly displayed in the area)
  4. Khamsum Namgyal Yulley Chorten is a short hike and will prepare you for Tiger’s Nest.
  5. The Punakha Dzong is a sight to behold and is my favourite Dzong out of the ones I saw!
Punakha Dzong
The hot stone bath in Punakha

We stayed at a traditional Bhutanese homestay for 2 days, wherein we had home-cooked meals, ate breakfast with a view of the mountains and also indulged in a hot stone bath, a Bhutanese tradition which is known to soothe your joints. The stay was slightly expensive for a student budget and our hosts overcharged us for quite a few facilities but since Punakha has less options for accommodation, we were prepared for it, rather, we didn’t have any option.

After experiencing the mesmerizing beauty that Punakha has to offer, we headed to Paro, which was our last stop. Although Tiger’s Nest and the hike were the main reasons we visited Paro, we wanted to go around the city on our first day. By then, we had seen quite a lot of places that were examples of traditional Bhutanese architecture and so we weren’t amazed by the architecture in Paro. The culture, when compared to India, is not as varied and so we did not love the Dzong and the museums in Paro as much as we loved them in Punakha and Thimphu. Regardless, some of the main attractions in Paro are:

  1. The Tiger’s Nest, which is a 6-8kms trek round trip. It is quite a steep trek but totally worth it. This was definitely the highlight of our 2 days in Paro.
  2. Paro Dzong(Rinpun Dzong)
  3. The Airport view-point( Paro is one of the most difficult airports to land in, in the world)
  4. Chele la pass(This requires a special permit, the same as Punakha, since it is outside Paro) We couldn’t visit it because it was blocked due to snow but we heard great reviews about it.
  5. Apart from all these attractions, there are a couple of good museums in Paro as well but they aren’t as great as the ones in Thimphu and so we decided to skip those.
  6. Namgay Artisanl Brewery has decent beers, if you want to kill time and enjoy beer-tasting
Outside Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Halfway to Tiger’s Nest Monastery
Paro Dzong

After spending 2 days in Paro, we returned to Phuenstholing on New Year’s Eve. We visited the Karbandi Monastery on the outskirts of the city on our way back. In the evening, we walked over to the Indian border and went on a street food crawl where we hogged on momos for INR 20 a plate, panipuri and a couple of other Bengali versions of chaat.

We returned to the Bhutanese side at night and entered a bar next to our hotel. Phuentsholing isn’t exactly the best place to go pub-crawling and the bar was quite average. We ended up having a few beers and while we were walking back to our hotel, outside on the porch, we saw a group of 2 girls and their guide listening to a song we really liked and we sat with them. We ended up playing many songs after that, singing at the top of our voices and that’s how we brought in the new year. Now that I look back on it, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The entrance to the Karbandi Monastery
Bringing in 2019 with people we met outside our hotel

The next morning, we were pretty exhausted, but we got up early and left for Bagdogra in a cab. We got on our flight and flew back to Bombay.

Over the years, I’ve started hating going on holidays where you go via travel packages. I knew people who paid travel companies upto 70000 for a trip to Bhutan, along the same route we took. We ended up spending 38000 for 8 nights in Bhutan, including travel, accommodation in decent places, food, flight to and from Bombay and everything else. This also including the cost of river rafting and a hot stone bath in our homestay.

We could only do this because all 3 of us were on the same page and wanted to make the most of the holiday and make every rupee count, which is why it’s really important to travel with people who are as enthusiastic and as forthcoming as you.

Adding the links of all the Airbnbs/hotels we stayed in here:

Travel is a trend now more than ever. With flights getting cheaper, hostels and Airbnbs popping, it’s so easy to plan international trips. But in planning elaborate holidays to different parts of the world, we often forget the gems that are lying so close to us. When we were planning this trip, people asked us “Why Bhutan?” so many times. It was hard for people to believe that we would want to spend 8 nights in Bhutan. But for us, it wasn’t just about entering a country, ticking some things off a list and leaving. We wanted to fully absorb the culture, do everything we possibly could and leave some extra time for any spontaneous outings. Now I’m not romanticizing the beauty of the country. We did get our overdose of the architecture after the 6th day and we did have a problem finding good vegetarian food at 1-2 places and we were extremely annoyed of Indian tourists being loud and irresponsible everywhere we went; but all these things are a part and parcel of travel. The thrill of river-rafting through Punakha valley, the serenity of living in a homestay in Punakha, the joy of completing the Tiger’s Nest hike, the goosebumps I had at Dochu La and the welcoming vibe of Thimphu city, all these are experiences that I’d never trade for anything. So by the time the trip ended, we had an answer for all those who asked us why to chose to travel to the land of the thunder dragon, the last Shangri-La

” Why not Bhutan?”

Go to countries and places that are closer to you, read about what other people have done but if you feel like it, go offbeat and do what you want to do. Define your own travelling style and find people that match it. Be Khanabadosh, become one with the place you’re travelling to and you might just end up coming back a tad bit wiser than you were before.

 

Exploring the over-explored?

You know those kind of places that become a rage and everyone starts visiting them and then within a short span of time they become obsolete and aren’t considered as ‘happening’ anymore? Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar top the list of those kind of places in Maharashtra. I know tons of people in Bombay who’ve never been to either of these places but whenever asked if they want to go there, they’ll say, “No way, that’s so overdone.” As I’m an aberration and tend to think differently than the majority in most cases, especially when it comes to travelling, these 2 places had been on my list and when I had a 2-day break, I convinced my sister to come on a short trip with me.

Panchgani is a 6-7 hour bus journey away from Bombay and there are plenty options. Accomodation and food are easily sorted in both Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar. The only logistical issue is that in Panchgani, at several stretches, there are no sidewalks or footpaths and cars are driven at full speed on narrow roads so one needs to be careful. Nonetheless, as we went during monsoon, we loved our long walks.

We stayed at Zostel Panchgani, which was our first Zostel experience. We took a private room which had a beautiful view and was totally worth the money. The service could be quicker and their breakfast was average but the property is lovely and definitely worth a stay. (It is 3 kms away from Panchgani market)

The highs and lows (mostly highs) of our trip are as below:

Day 1: We reached Panchgani in the afternoon. Left the Zostel by around 3 pm and started walking towards the main town. The entire area is lovely to walk through and you’ll find yourself stopping frequently to capture the views around you. After hot chocolate and a bite at Ravines, a celebrity-frequented hotel, we walked up to Sydney Point. From the point where the trail starts, it’s an uphill walk of not more than 30 minutes. It was the least crowded point of our entire journey, with barely 5-6 people at the top and the views were brilliant. Imagine walking uphill with the wind blowing in your face, it leaves you overwhelmed in the nicest way!

We then hired a cab from the market and proceeded to Devrai Art Village, which is housed in a bungalow. It showcases and sells work of local artists from all parts of the country.  It is beautifully maintained and is a must-visit for anyone who loves art and culture.

We had an early dinner at Lucky’s, one of the oldest cafes in Panchgani. The food is soulful and completely value for money; a meal for 2 came up to 120 rupees. The highlight of the meal was the pizza and the special Irani chai.

Day 2: Post breakfast, we checked out of the Zostel and hired a car to take us around the rest of the spots in Panchgani and Mahabaleshwar. We visited Table Land and Parsi Point but both of them were too commercialized, the latter was extremely disappointing because of the excess of food stalls and gaming spots. These were okay, could be skipped. Panchgani has over 20 designated viewpoints but many of those offer more or less the same view and so it is best to pick a couple of them and explore those or go offbeat and discover your own trails. Our favourite spot was Sydney Point so the rest seemed very average by comparison.

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We then headed to Mapro Farm in Mahabaleshwar where we had a hearty lunch with a view of the farms, tried various fruit squashes in their shopping section and stocked up on strawberry jam and Falero.

We’d read that Venna Lake is the place to end your day in Mahabaleshwar with and so we decided to go boating. I have to say that it is worth every penny. There were very few people in the lake, it was beautiful and extremely calming. The serenity soothed me and that is one experience I’d definitely go for again. Our guide was extremely friendly and offered to take pictures for us as well.

We still had 3 hours to kill before our bus to Bombay, so we went to Le Meridien in Mahabaleshwar and indulged in one of their spa sessions which was heavenly! It’s a lovely property with extremely efficient service, definitely worth splurging on. After our incredibly relaxing massages, we got our daily dose of caffeine from their cafe which was quite impressive, although very pricey.

Le Meridien was our last stop after which we boarded our bus back to Bombay. On the way back, I wondered why Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani are often looked down upon. Our 2 day getaway completely rejuvenated us and we thoroughly enjoyed every moment spent there. We got out of our Zostel, walked around and embraced the immense natural beauty. This short trip made me realize that this new wave of ‘going off the normal path’ and ‘being different’ has led to certain classic destinations being forgotten. But the beauty of these destinations can only be discovered when you let yourself free from the notion that a particular place is overdone and actually connect with the place.

I’m the person who went on a proper 3 day trip to Lonavala 3 years back and explored places beyond Tiger Point. I’m the kind of person who went to Daman and loved the fortified areas as much as I enjoyed the beaches. I believe that more than what a place offers you, it’s your perspective towards a place that determines how much you get out of it. Over the years, Panchgani has just become as place where people come and chill in villas and barely get out and explore the outdoors. But our short tryst with these 2 towns taught us that when it comes to travelling, some places never go out of style.

Go to Panchgani-Mahabaleshwar, walk amidst the lush greens, eat soul food, lose yourself amidst local artwork or immerse yourself on a calming boat ride. Explore the unexplored with nothing but optimism and I promise you, you will learn a thing or two about yourself, about life. Be Khanabadosh and take the plunge.

 

How to hog healthily- A guest post by Tarini Tripathi

You like to go out? But want to eat healthier? Is that even possible? YES, IT IS

The increasing need for a better lifestyle requires a shift in the way we eat. Recently, importance has shifted from exercise to the need of a healthy balanced healthy diet.

Eating out is a big part of our lives, it’s convenient but it can be a tough choice when you want to lead a healthier life. Until sometime back, even I didn’t know how to eat out without feeling bad about cheating a bit. But with some basic and easy tips, even eating out can steer you to a better-balanced diet.

Pick a few of the following and try it out next time you go out and tell me how it goes:

  1. Drink MORE water: Drinking water before and with a meal, especially if you drink it instead of sugary drinks, helps reduce your intake of calories and added sugar.  You can add lemon, mint or cucumber to your water to make it taste a bit more interesting.
  2. Eat MINDFULLY: Mindful eating means making conscious choices about what you eat and giving your full attention to the eating process. Take the time to savour the aromas and flavours of your meal. I do struggle from doing this as well
  3. SLOW DOWN: Chewing your food thoroughly and eating slower makes you feel full more quickly. You don’t need to count the number of chews, but try to consciously eat slowly and savour each bite.
  4. Ask to Make A Healthy SWAP: Everyone knows that vegetables are healthy, but did you know at restaurants you can ask the waiter to swap out part of your meal, such as fries or potatoes, for extra vegetables or a salad. You’ll boost your vegetable intake and cut your calories in the process
  5. Ask for Sauces or Dressings on the SIDE: Sauces and dressings can add a lot of extra fat as they are oil based, so ask for your sauce on the side. Keeping it separate will make it much easier to control the amount you eat, allowing you to adjust the amount you have.
  6. Avoid EMPTY CALORIE drinks: “Empty calories,” such as carbonated drinks are said to reduce the consumption of foods that contain essential nutrients. If you want to make a healthy drink choice while dining out, stick to water or unsweetened tea.
  7. Another good idea, is to lean towards Mediterranean, Mexican and Japanese cuisines. These tend to be healthier than other cuisines because of the ingredients used and the way the food is prepared.

For the folks in Mumbai, here are 7 restaurants, where you won’t have to pick the healthiest off the menu but choose among them.  

  1. The Bombay Salad Company
  2. Sequel
  3. Subway (provided you don’t put too much sauces on)
  4. The Village Shop
  5. Flax
  6. Bonne Sante
  7. The Herbiary

I bet you’ve heard about the new fad about “Superfoods.”

Here’s the internet’s definition:

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But my definition is “everyday vegetables and foods.”

People usually associate superfoods with exclusivity and the fact that it is expensive, but on the contrary you can find superfoods in your local bazaar for a cheap bargain.

Here are some superfoods you may have not known about:

  • Broccoli
  • Indian Basil Seeds- the thing at the bottom of a Falooda
  • Beetroot
  • Millet
  • Barley
  • Coconut- the whole package
  • Ginger
  • Haldi
  • Carrots
  • Flax Seeds
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Buckwheat
  • Almonds
  • Sweet Potato
  • And my favourite of all- Cashew- a good substitute for cheese. Yes, CHEESE

But something to keep in mind explained by Alison Hornby, a dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association (BDA), is that, “No food, including those labelled ‘superfoods’, can compensate for unhealthy eating.” Your body will adjust with consistency and discipline. These foods can all be tasty as well as healthy if you prepare it in the right manner.

Lastly, I feel that fitness and health is 80% food, exercise just gives you a reason to replenish and fuel your body with the right food. Your aim should be a Super Diet. That means maintaining a healthy, balanced diet that includes fruits, veggies and wholegrain food. If anything comes in a package it’s probably not good for you. But in our busy lives cooking everything at home can be difficult. Therefore, slowly try to meal prep and make conscious choices about the food you eat outside.

Take your first step at home by making an easy and healthy mac & cheese. The recipe’s below!

HEALTHY MAC AND CHEESE

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 maggi vegetable stock cube
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard (optional)
  • 4 cups wheat macaroni pasta 
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Oregano (optional)
  • paprika, for garnish
  • Parsley or basil, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Soak cashews in the ¾ cup of  hot water for 10 mins
  2. Prepare the pasta according to package directions. 
  3. While the pasta is cooking, combine the soaked cashews with the water it was soaked in, lemon juice, salt, stock cube, chili powder, garlic, turmeric, mustard and any other flavouring you want to add. Then add it in a blender and blend until silky smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add 2-4 more tablespoons of water and blend again. 
  4. Keep the sauce to the side, and once the pasta is “al dente”- tender-, drain and rinse it, then return the pasta to the pot and stir in the sauce.
  5. Season it further if required and EAT IT before someone steals it from you!

There’s one thing you should keep in mind, eating healthy should not stop you from exploring restaurants, you just need to make small decisions about what you’re going to eat. All the food you eat can be tasty as well as healthy and taking small steps can lead you to a more healthy sustainable diet!

#NotAChickTrip

If you’ve been following my recent Instagram and Facebook posts, you must be familiar with the hashtag and the fact that I went on a lovely trip to Coorg some weeks back. Coorg is a region which will give you natural beauty, immersive cultural experiences and quite a few monuments as well. I went on this trip with 3 people, all quite different from each but with the same love for travel. Aditi is my former roommate and loves relaxing on vacations and is admittedly high-maintenance. Delice and I attended college together and she’s the most talkative person you will ever meet and is the only person I know who is both terribly naive and immensely wise at the same time. I met Richa through Delice and while we were in college together, we became close after the trip; she’s incredibly adjusting and always up for new experiences.

Our day by day itinerary is as follows:

Day 1: We took a flight from Bombay to Bangalore, reached Bangalore in the evening and checked into Hotel Kadamba Guestline, which is right above Kengeri bus terminal, which is where buses to Coorg start from.

Day 2: We took an early morning AC bus to Madikeri. It takes 6 hours to reach, including stops and tickets can be booked on the KSRTC website 1-2 days before the journey. We reached Madikeri by lunchtime and checked into our hotel. Our hotel staff suggested that we cover the local sightseeing circuit in Madikeri that day since we just had 4-5 hours at hand. This circuit includes:

  1. Abbey Falls
  2. Raja’s Tomb
  3. Madikeri Fort
  4. Omkareshwar Temple
  5. Raja’s Seat

Out of all these spots, I’d only recommend Abbey Falls and Raja’s Seat, the rest are mediocre. Abbey Falls is a good sight but since we went in April, we couldn’t witness the waterfall in its full glory. What stood out that day was Raja’s Seat. Tip: Raja’s Seat is a sunset spot so by the time you get past the garden and reach the spot where there’s a railing in front, you’ll realize that the area is very crowded. If you walk to your left for a minute, you’ll find a very simple trail which, if you follow for 10 mins, you’ll reach a spot away from the crowd, where you can enjoy the sunset in solitude. The trail is not tough at all and should definitely be taken if you wish to get away from the crowd.

We made a quick stop at Beans N Brews for coffee. We ended our day with a meal at New Paris Hotel in Madikeri. It’s a simple place with delicious biryanis and hot lemon tea, which is a Coorg specialty.

Day 3: We woke up early to go to Mandalpatti for sunrise. It is roughly 25kms from Madikeri so you need to take a jeep but you can hike the last couple of kilometres. Mandalpatti is not very crowded, there were barely 10-12 people in the whole area when we went, so the whole experience felt surreal. On one hand we could see the sun rising and on the other hand we could see the clouds coming through the mountains. It was beautiful. I’d suggest sitting here for some time and enjoying the calm.

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We’d booked a coffee tour in a town named Siddapur, which is an hour from Coorg for that day. Since we wanted to travel like the locals did, we took a local bus that was available at the Madikeri bus stop. It took us an hour to reach Siddapur from where we went to Kasturi Estate by auto.

Kasturi Estate is run by a lady named Kushi and her family. Kushi also runs this organization/collective called The Giving Tree, which aims at promoting sustainability and spreading the importance of giving back to the environment. She offered us spiced buttermilk, fresh mulberries and bella Coffee, which is coffee with jaggery, another Coorg tradition. Being there, in that vast, green estate was the closest I’ve felt to nature. Kushi also told us about the man-animal conflict and the need to be aware about the problems the environment faces. I’d definitely recommend this coffee estate tour.

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Kushi suggested that we go to this place called Porcupine Castle for lunch. She said it had great views and was a good place to chill. Since there were not many other options in that town we went there. The restaurant only has a buffet which does not have even 1 local dish, the food that was available was horrible, the view was mediocre and the price was steep- 750 plus taxes for the buffet that did not include a single beverage. This place was a total rip-off. Post this, we boarded a bus to return to Madikeri.

In the evening we went to Ainmane, which is a beautiful cafe in the Madikeri market. Their coffee menu is huge and you can customize your coffees, they sell great varieties of dark chocolate and their ambiance is amazing. They also have good snacks and cookies. We ended revisiting this place and it was one of our favourites.

We went to Coorg Foodlands for dinner. It was a decent place that served local curries and Akki Roti, which is a roti made from rice.

Day 4: I woke up early in the morning and went for a walk by myself. Madikeri is very green and you can spot beautiful, colourful flowers all over the city. I enjoyed the walk because the weather was perfect, it was crowded and I could walk in and out of any lane. At one point, I reached a dead-end where all I could see was banana plantations against the backdrop of the mountains, engulfed slightly in fog. It was one of my favourite experiences of the trip.

Once everyone woke up, we went to Dubbare Elephant Camp. It is 1.5 hours away from Madikeri and the elephant bathing process stops by 10 so you need to leave early. Once you reach there, you have to cross the river, which in April was like a stream. It’s a 20 min walk because there will be a lot of people, and most of the rocks are stable. Once you reach the other side, you can see the elephants, ride on them and take part in the bathing process. Since we weren’t aware of the time restrictions, we couldn’t make it in time for the bathing but nonetheless, this was a good experience.

We made a quick stop in between to try quad biking, which was a thrilling experience and one you should definitely try, if you haven’t already.

Post that we went to the Tibetan Colony in Kushalnagar, where we feasted on thukpa and momos. The area is worth walking around and has some interesting memorials of the Tibetans’ struggle.

We then went to the Namdroling Monastery, which is a huge monastery in Bylakuppe. It was beautifully maintained and very peaceful. Again, this is a place where you need to sit down and take in the vibe to enjoy the experience.

If you’re hungry or thirsty, make a quick stop at Buddha Cafe nearby, like we did. The place has amazing smoothies and coolers.

We reached Madikeri at around 6pm and suddenly decided to visit Raja’s Seat again. Since that was a Saturday, by the time we reached the hidden spot that we’d discovered previously, we realized that it was also super-crowded. Since the experience wouldn’t be as great with the crowd, 2 of us took a completely different route, a slightly steeper one and climbed for 10-15 mins till we reached a point where we had a good view. At this point, my jeans were dirty, I was sweating and my hair were a mess but I felt so happy. The satisfaction we experienced at that point was incomparable.

We went to Fort Mercara for dinner and feasted on mushroom curry, rice hoppers and Akki roti that night.

Day 5: This was meant to be a day for souvenir shopping and relaxation before we left for Bangalore but I randomly suggested that we go to Mysore since it was on the way to Bangalore.

There’s a lot to do in Mysore but the places we could cover in 4-5 hours were:

1)Chamundeshwari Temple

2) Mysore Palace

3) St. Philomena’s Cathedral

All these 3 places were beautiful and although it was very hot and the places were super-crowded, we loved them all.

We stopped at Vinayaka Mylari in Doora in Mysore. I’d read a lot about it and was dying to go there. The place is as simple as it can be but the dosas are as delicious as they can be. We feasted on Mysore Sada and Mysore Masala dosas. They are undoubtedly the best I’ve had in my life. This is a humble family-run establishment operating since 80 years. Must, must visit!

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We reached Bangalore in the evening and headed to Caperberry in UB City Mall to pamper ourselves after the hectic day. The service was excellent, the vibe was cosy and the food was lovely! They have a great cocktail menu and this was the perfect meal to end our trip with.

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Logistics:

Take a flight from Bombay to Bangalore (Round trip 5-6K) or to Mangalore(Round trip 7K)

Buses from Bangalore to Coorg cost approximately 1.5K Round trip. We chose Airavat buses and were satisfied with the service.

Zostel Coorg is a great stay option, so are AirBnbs and Coffee estates, depending on your budget. The hotel we stayed in wasn’t up to the mark, but if you’re going to spend most of your time outside, go for a basic hotel in Madikeri.

Meals in Coorg are not expensive. Apart from the one bad meal we had, we had most of our meals for approximately 200-250 rupees per head. Go for authentic local places and visit as many coffee places as you can. ‘

Autos work in Coorg and you can easily bargain with the auto drivers, although most of the drivers we had quoted fair prices.

What to Eat:

Coorg is famous for pork curry which my friends loved. I’d suggest mushroom curry, bamboo shoot puffs, lemon tea, Akki roti and rice hoppers. And the coffee, I couldn’t get enough of it.

Where to Eat:

New Paris Hotel, Fort Mercara, Coorg Foodlands, Coorg Cuisine. We’d read a lot about this place called Capitol but it look slightly dingy and unwelcoming and one of my friends was apprehensive so we decided to skip it.

More spots:

Chelavara Falls, Iruppu Falls and Haringe dam.

Our trip was beautiful and so memorable. It gave me experiences that taught me so much, like being proactive when it comes to preserving the environment. But a great reason why this trip was a success was because my co-travellers were up for almost everything, adjusted with each other and respected each other’s wishes.

Here are their takeaways from the trip:

Aditi: I had my apprehensions before the trip. I’m not very adventurous but after Coorg, I’m a new person. I did everything I was worried about like hiking, eating at places I’d never imagined and staying in hotels I otherwise wouldn’t stay in. I came back a stronger person and I have to thank the 3 ladies with me who made it all possible. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. Now all I want is to find a new place to explore!

Richa: I had started the trip without any expectations and I think it’s the best way. It’s amazing how I have a different bond with all the 3 people I travelled with. Paripsa and I can connect on just about anything, look at each other and burst out laughing. I’m getting amused by how slow Delice can be at times but I loved her. I met Aditi for the first time on the trip but it took only a few hours for us to know each other well and we bonded on a completely different level throughout the trip. Right from falling while crossing the river in an attempt to help Delice to finding our sunset spot by going that extra mile to the spontaneous Mysore visit to the delicious food we had, this trip has given me weird, crazy and beautiful memories. I honestly cannot reduce this tour to a single memory because there were too many special ones.

Delice: Our trip was perfect because we did all that we could in the time we had. Coorg is a beautiful place but the people were a surprise for me! We met some really nice people along the way. The most mesmerizing moment for me would be the sunrise. Besides, I’ve never had such good coffee, that too repeatedly for so many days!

I’m the kind of person who will want to see everything I can. Even when I’m tired, I’m happy because that feeling of accomplishment, of satisfaction, of knowing the different things you’ve seen, experienced and learned is one that only travel gives. Fortunately, I was accompanied by people who were seeking the same feeling. As I write this, my palm is itching because I’m craving that feeling again.

What makes you happy, even if it tires you? It may be your work, food, a place or any form of exploration. Chase that feeling. Be Khanabadosh and visit Coorg, you might find that feeling there, just like we did.

What’s cooking: Baroda

Bombay has spoiled me in terms of its culinary scene. If there’s a place in India that has every possible cuisine served in 10 different restaurants, it’s Bombay. It has an establishment for every mood and every price range. So when I come back to my hometown, Baroda, I’m often disappointed by new outlets. While many places match restaurants in metro cities in terms of ambiance, they lag behind in terms of taste and innovation. Nonetheless, some places stand out, in terms of taste, hospitality and the vibe. Here are some of the places in Baroda that stood out for me:

  1. JJ’s Cafe:

I’ve been wanting to write about JJ’s since ages. It is probably one of the few hidden gems in Baroda and while I feel sad about letting the secret out, I believe this place deserves more appreciation. This is a tiny, hole-in-the-wall establishment in the Marble Arch complex that also houses Shades. It’s not a fancy place, there are just 2 tables for 2 people each and some bar stools. The food takes time to come since the owner makes it himself. There’s no AC, no fan, but I didn’t feel the need for either when I visited the place. The menu scores full marks on variety. I’ve tried their pasta, their egg dishes, their mains and their platter and I’ve loved all of them. To top it all, this place has a fab coffee menu which coffee geeks like me will fall in love with. All at an incredibly reasonable price.

A meal for 2 with a beverage each will cost around 600 rupees.

2. Ms Muffet:

Another hidden gem, this is a place you won’t find on Zomato. It is a weekend pop-up kitchen that is open from 7-10 pm almost every Saturday and Sunday. The chef is incredibly friendly and whips up the most innovative dishes that you will not find anywhere else in the city. Imagine Chhole Bunny Chow and authentic South Indian Sagu curry with neer dosa. The home that this is housed in very cosy and welcoming making it ideal for people who want a quiet, satisfying meal.

A meal for 2 will cost roughly 500 rupees.

3. Bawaz Cafe:

One of the newest addition to Baroda’s food scene, Bawaz is a place that will cater to the Parsi food cravings of the city. For those who miss Bombay and Pune’s dhanshak and kheema pav, this place is for you. It serves both vegetarian and non-vegetarian Parsi dishes. The interiors are incredibly informative and a lot of attention has been paid towards retaining the charm of an Irani cafe. The Irani chai and all the cookies/biscuits are must-haves at Bawaz.

A meal for 2 will cost 700 rupees

4. Elysian:

While Elysian does have good food(their cheese naan being my favourite), their coffee menu is so elaborate(Atleast 50 different coffees to choose from), you could have a 5-course meal that would only consist of coffee courses. From apple pie coffee to tiramisu coffee, they have it all. Since I come from a family that is obsessed with all kinds of coffee, Elysian was a hit and we can’t wait to try more from their coffee menu!

A meal for 2 with a coffee each will cost 1200 rupees.

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5. Daily Dose:

Daily Dose is an adorable bungalow converted into a cafe, next to Akota Stadium. It’s so welcoming, you won’t feel like leaving. They play old 70s and 80s songs here and that won me over. There’s a huge book collection so you read a book for as long as you want. The menu is very simple, I go here just for the vibe, but I’d recommend the iced tea since that’s what I’ve always tried here. While I haven’t seen a full house on any of my visits, friends have told me that they often didn’t get tables here since it was full, so I’d suggest going there in the afternoons when it will be relatively empty. But a visit to Daily Dose is a must.

A meal for 2 will come up to around 400 rupees.

I wrote this post with the hope that more places like these come up in Baroda’s food scene. At the same time, as customers, it is our duty to encourage new cuisines to prevail in the city, in all their authenticity. We need to open up our palates and our hearts to new cuisines, since these cuisines are the doors through which we can experiences different cultures and make Baroda a melting pot of cultural diversity. So the next time you go out, try a new cuisine, interact with the chefs and the owners, ask them about the origin of the dish and trust me, you’ll come out of the restaurant with more knowledge than you entered it with. Till then, be Khanabadosh and never stop exploring!

We’re all in this together

It’s the dream.

Going with your girl gang on a Himalayan adventure for 10 days. No supervision, nobody to stop you, beautiful views to wake up to and hot Maggi to devour in the mountains. These are your closest friends, your school friends, the ones who’ve seen you in those awful uniforms with oily plaits and who still choose to love you. I kind of miss the uniform but that’s not the point! It’s the dream to be able to go on a long holiday with your bestfriends.

Well, it wasn’t the dream. Far from it.

We were a group of 5. 1) Rajvi, who’s strictly an adventure lover, cleanliness freak and has certain expectations from everything, which, if they aren’t met, she will have no qualms in expressing her displeasure. 2) Priyanka, who doesn’t identify herself as an outdoors person; this was her first proper trekking experience which, it’d be safe to say, changed her perspective on many things. 3) Krishma- Loud, insanely amusing, someone who will judge people at first sight but will also love them unconditionally. 4) Smin, always speaks before thinking, loves nature and is always up for everything. 5) ME- I’m the kind of person who will want to do everything in a holiday and make everyone around me accompany me to all the places I want to visit. I’m a lover of packed itineraries and a full Bunny at heart.

All of us are completely different people with completely different opinions on everything. While we all enjoy travelling, we have very different ideas of it. We were also travelling with a group that was completely different from the kind of people we’ve encountered, so the degree to which each of us socialized with them was also different.

I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have at least 100 moments of disagreement. At the same time, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the most memorable trips of my life.

We covered the Parvati Valley region, mainly Pulga, Kheerganga, Jari and Kasol. Taking you through the journey quickly below:

Day 1- Our bus to Himachal was from Delhi so we went from Baroda to Delhi and took a bus from there in the evening.

Day 2- We reached Bhuntar in the morning. From there we went to our homestay in Pulga by car. 2-3 kms before the campsite, we stopped and had the first bomb dropped on our head- we had to trek 2-3 kms with all our luggage. We’d all assumed that the trekking would begin once we reached the homestay, where we wouldn’t have to carry our luggage. As we toiled to the homestay, Rajvi and Smin carried all the heavy luggage and helped us reach the homestay ALIVE. We explored Pulga, a little village, half an hour from Kasol in the evening. It’s as uncommercialized as anything can get. Walking through the tiny streets and playing with the adorable dogs was Priyanka’s favourite part of the trip.

 

Day 3- We went on a hike that we were told was short, but for everyone except Smin and Rajvi, it was super-long. We hiked to the forest behind Pulga and although we were dead tired, it was beautiful. Clean, quiet and gorgeous.

Day 4- This was the day we had to trek 15 kms to Kheerganga. We’d been told that it would be very tough and I had a meltdown the night before, because I thought there was no way I’d do it. As we started walking, the only thing I told myself was that this was what I’d come for and I couldn’t just give up. It was a 6-7 hour long hike and much easier than I expected, except for the last hour which was too steep. We all had to encourage each other and shout words of motivation. But when we reached the top, Kheerganga was totally worth it. Words cannot describe the joy I experienced there. At night we all sat outside, without electricity, just gazing at the stars. Kheerganga was an experience we’d never forget.

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Day 5- We trekked back to Pulga from Kheerganga. We fell on our beds, cleaned up and dreamt of the night before.

Day 6- We again had to take ALL our luggage back through the route we initially came on. While it was still tough, after doing Kheerganga, we didn’t complain much for this short trek. We took a car to Jari, which is on the outskirts of Kasol. In Jari, we trekked downhill with our luggage to a guesthouse by the Parvati river. While I hated the downhill trek, the river view kind of made up for it.

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Day 7- We trekked uphill from the guesthouse and then went to Kasol. While Kasol was good, with its cafes and street shops, I felt that after visiting Pulga and Kheerganga, Kasol felt too commercialized and overrated. I forced the gang to go to the Gurudwara in Manikaran which although decent, wasn’t as great as I thought, but the chhole in a bun outside the Gurudwara was delicious. We hit a couple of cafes and then crossed the bridge to go to Chalal, a nearby village in search of a popular cafe called Cafe 9. We ended up getting lost but more on that later. We were also the last ones to make it back to the guesthouse that night where we enjoyed a bonfire.

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Day 8- While everyone else was relaxing that day, we again went uphill to hit more cafes and have a mandatory shopping session. We went to Bhuntar by car that afternoon and took a bus to Delhi.

Day 9- We reached Delhi in the morning and the public-transport lover in me dragged everyone to take a metro to Hauz Khas. Smin and Krishma ended up getting lost with their phones not working. Priyanka was dead tired by then, Rajvi was running around to find S & K and I was feeling a plethora of emotions at the same time. After everything was settled, we got a hotel, rested and had one of the most lavish breakfasts in HKV. The rest of the day was full of disagreements as well and I was amazed we didn’t kill each other.

Day 10- The tiny arguments continued till we reached home and we didn’t meet each other for many days after the trip because of several reasons, we all knew this was something that had to be repeated. A LOT.

A blog post of my first trip with my bestfriends would be incomplete without their experiences, in their own style. Since the trip taught us the importance if respecting each other’s idea of travel and fun, here are the #ParvatiValleyMemories from my favourites:

Priyanka- I have never been an outdoors person but the trek to Kheerganga was one of the best things I’ve done so far. The mesmerizing view and the feeling you experience at the top are worth the pain. The sound of the river was so peaceful. Apart from that, the dogs of Pulga were adorable. I could’ve played with them all day.

Krishma- When people tell you that going on treks changes you as a person, you believe them. And while it wasn’t exactly life-altering for me, it was pretty special. Trekking uphill with a backpack for 6 hours works entirely against my very grain, but if it means doing it with my best mates, I would do it again. EVERY SINGLE THING AND EVERY SINGLE TIME, without a doubt. That’s how special it was.

Rajvi- While we trekked to Kheerganga in hopes of enjoying the hot springs, we ended up not doing that at all and just chilling and stargazing. Travel is sometimes about keeping your expectations lows and taking disappointment as it comes.

Smin- The first highlight of the trip has to be the moment we reached Kheerganga after a physical as well as mental challenge. It wasn’t great or exotic but unarguably special, at least for me. The second is the day our inner Bunny was satisfied (We’re all huge YJHD fans) It was supposed to be a chill day but in a limited period of time, we explored Kasol optimally and the best part was our way back to our home-stay. We were tired, exhausted, falling, singing, trembling and slipping on our way back and the only thing our bodies demanded was rest but what mattered the most to me was that in that moment, we were HAPPY. The third highlight is about the pros and cons of being extremely adventurous and BUNNYish. We read on the internet that Cafe 9 is a must-visit place, it was far and isolated but remember Bunny? We had to fulfill our whims. So we ended up taking the road less travelled and realized that the cafe existed only in a parallel universe.We wandered for an hour but never reached the cafe, although the time  we spent searching for it and cursing it will be something I will remember.  All in all, a trip with your girlfriends is a must.  It gave me the kind of happiness I get when I see food. Only this time, the happiness was for my soul.

I think the ladies put it better than I did. It was incredibly difficult to make the trip happen with date and permission issues but I would go through all of that trouble anyday to be with the people who will always, always have a special place in my heart. Another important lesson this trip taught me that destinations hold within them a lot more than what they show. Kasol is known to be a stoner’s paradise and most of the people only visit it to procure marijuana and other drugs, but that was never my intention. I ended up discovering the beauty of a region that’s rarely acknowledged. Take a trip to Pulga for its warm people, for the dogs, eat the chhole in a bun outside the Gurudwara in Manikaran and sit by the Parvati river in Jari. But most of all, do it with people you love. Visit Parvati Valley with your tribe and have an experience you will want to repeat again and again.

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