Travel

Goa 2016: quick tips for a great vacation

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My sixth trip to Goa happened to be the best ever. Though we went during off-season, it was a better time to be here than December for New Year’s celebrations. Hotels rates are lower, beaches are cleaner and we saw lesser traffic, people and pollution. During our 5-day trip to celebrate our anniversary, we tried out different restaurants by the beach, rented a scooter for two days, got an awesome massage that undid some knots in our muscles, gambled a bit at a casino and just walked around the place. Here are some tips to make the best of your trip. 

Pack less than half your limit when you leave home. There is a hundred percent chance you will bring back loads of tshirts, cashew fenny bottles and memorabilia. Though our combined limit was 30 kilos, our luggage weighed only 16 when we checked in at the airport.

Walk as much as you can. Considering your appetite will swell here, walking between 6-8 kilometers a day will keep the metabolism burning off the indulgence. Beef, pork, sea food, mutton, chicken dishes and other local food goes really well with the weather. So does the local beer- Kings.

Converse as much as possible. Get chatting with people while you are here. You should get some tips from their experience. We got the idea of hiring a scooter from a couple who took the table next to us at the Sunny Side Up restaurant in Candolim beach. Scootering between beaches made our trip so much more enjoyable. We rode around 60 km between Fort Aguada, Candolim, Anjuna and Baga beaches. Our steed was a Honda Activa. It’s also easier to chat up with anybody because Goa is inarguably a happier place than any city you’re trying to get away from.

Carry cash. Most of the shops may not accept cards and that’s the charm of the place. For instance, you will need cash to buy petrol in plastic bottles from local shops – for your scooter! That’s because the few authorized petrol pumps are way too far from the beaches. Tent shops selling interesting tshirts will take cash.

Carry beach footwear. Pick up floaters, Crocs or anything that’s waterproof. You never know which beach you may turn towards- which is the whole point of being here.

Keep a cash and time limit for the casinos. If you recall the line from the Ocean’s Eleven films- the house always wins. That is true. Keep a time and cash limit, and walk way from the tables. Deltin Royale is an addictive place.

​​Lastly, don’t haggle with locals. If you don’t agree with someone’s rates, talk to someone else. You will get what you want. A few greens are not worth arguing over to mess up your vacation. 

Enough talk. Now go have a great time.

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Kolkata 2016 in pictures 

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It was 2010 in Kolkata and I didn’t know what to make of this city- which is capable of changing, and yet remains the same. People are peace-loving, approachable and love a good chat on politics. Infra has improved. Flip side is – pollution is up and cleanliness needs to be high on the agenda here. Yellow cabs, hand-pulled rickshaws and trams are still around. I had to make my customary trip to KC Das- a famous sweet shop on Esplanade crossing.

Science City needs an overhaul. This meseum and exhibition ground has so much potential but has now been reduced to a selfie-zone for picnickers. Hope to see some change there in my next trip to a great city.

Street food is the best thing here. Avoid hotel food as much as possible. Be out there savoring the works of geniuses on carts and roadsides. Enjoy rummaging through second-hand books stacked on narrow footpaths.

It’s a quaint city to get away from everything, yet being in a city.

Mode of transport remains the same.

The life is on the streets. You can enjoy a walk with so much going on with yellow cabs, red cop cars and a city painted in blue – a show of power by the ruling party!

If you are making a trip to Kolkata, just enjoy yourself and don’t think too much about what local residents complain about.

Neemrana fort palace, Rajasthan

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Way back in 2007 when I drove past Neemrana towards Jaipur, my friend and I tried a stopover at the Neemrana Fort Palace. The palace has limited rooms and is a heritage property, and we were not allowed in without prior booking.
Cut to 2015, my wife and I are here with much planning. The place is beautiful. The food is organic and there are no TVs in the rooms. The property is on various levels since its on a hill side. Our room was on the 9th ‘floor’, so we walked up exploring the palace. It’s so heartening to see the staff maintaining the beauty and grandeur of this lovely home of kings. Perfect!

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Here’s a glimpse of the experience-

Delhi to Bangalore roadtrip in 3 days with Devinder Singh

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Delhi Bangalore roadytrip
Delhi Bangalore road trip

We drove 2400+ km in 3 days through Gurgaon > Udaipur > Mumbai > Bangalore in a brilliant Fiat Punto. It’s a 90hp diesel with 190mm tyres. On day 1 we did 600 kilometres, day 2- 800 km, day 3- 1000 km. Devinder was returning home from a Bangalore > Bhutan > Delhi trip. I hopped along for the last stretch. From Bangalore I took an overnight bus to Calicut, Kerala.

We left from Gurgaon at 8:30am. Filled up diesel in the Fiat Punto. Stopped for lunch before we reached Jaipur.IMG_4216

Roads in Rajasthan are mostly complete on the highway. The drive was fantastic.
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Devinder Singh has the stamina and the courage for long road trips. The Fiat Punto keeps pace with him.
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Udaipur lake palace area is beautiful. We stayed at Aashiya Haveli. One night during off-season cost us Rs.1400.

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We spent the evening walking around the palace. We reached the ticket counter quite late but we could buy tickets for Rs.30 each and walk around.

PANORAMA UDAIPUR CITY PALACE EVENING

PANORAMA UDAIPUR CITY PALACE OUTSIDE

PANORAMA UDAIPUR CITY PALACE

The sound and light show starts at 8:30pm
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Day 2 – 6a.m. at the Udaipur Lake palace is a beautiful experience. It’s quite and serene here.

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Roads in Rajasthan are excellent. The drive down the highway towards Mumbai is very pleasant but it gets hotter in the noon. Temp floats at 43 degrees.
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Leaving Udaipur and stopping at a local dhabba for breakfast.
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Driving through Gujarat was a flat and dry stretch. Most restaurants here are called either ‘Decent’ or ‘Honest’. We had lunch at ‘Decent’ restaurant.
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We stayed the night at a friends place in Bandra.

Day 3. In the morning we blasted out of Mumbai in a hurry since we had to clear 800 kilometers that day. A cat was waiting on top of our ride.

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Heading for Pune Expressway.
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Pune Expressway is one of the best kept roads in India. The highway is wide and there are least chances of bicycles and dogs jumping out from either sides. We belted the Punto to 150kph for a few seconds.
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The heat catches up with us. It is close to 40 degrees.
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Entering Karnataka. The climate gets cooler and greener. Haircuts get more interesting.

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If you have time, ideally go to Goa from Mumbai. Since we have to rush, we drove staight from Mumbai to Bangalore in the same day, which was 1000 kilometers.
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Suvarna Vidhana Soudha on the way to Bangalore — at Belgaum, Karnataka.

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Overloaded truck with a bad hair day spotted near Kohlapur
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The weather improves in Karnataka.

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Stopping at a Kamat Upachar restaurant. We also found nitrogen for the car tyres in Kohlapur.
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We stopped for dinner at Devenagree. This little town has a restaurant called Sriguru Kotureshwara Butter Dosa hotel. The place is crowded and after you get a seat, there is a 20 minutes waiting for your dosa. All that is served is a butter dosa, coconut chutney and a dollop of mashed potato. 
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In Bangalore at the Big Brewsky micro brewery in Serjapur. Awesome place.
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Took an overnight bus to Calicut, Kerala.

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Went out with my cousin to buy fish at Puthiappa Harbour.

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The distance one has to travel for that feeling of the ocean slipping under your feet.
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Rock texture at Kapaad beach, Calicut.
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15-day old kittens in the ancestral home.

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Chakki is the family pooch.

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Green landscape with coconut trees with a Luxury car ad tossed in. Thats Kerala in a snapshot!

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Wacky trip ends. I take a flight back to Delhi.

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The whole trip took 8 days.

McLeodganj 2015

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McLeodganj nun
This lady was spinning the prayer wheel in the main McLeodganj Buddhist temple. I pulled out my camera and ran up to face here. She looked up and smiled at me. Next thing she made me go around this temple. This was the most spiritual experience I had there. Click here to see the complete collection.

Ushering in the new year had to be different this time in some way and the call came from good old McLeodganj, Dharamshala. Our friend Ani planned out much of it and we decided to spend a long year-end vacation in the small Tibetan

Arjun Kariyal Photography
Kid and monk talking. McLeodganj has a photo opp at every corner. All you need to do is click.

town. It was bitterly cold in Delhi and the BholeNath Volvo drove all the way from Delhi to Chandigarh at 30kmph. Bus journeys have become very comfortable lately. Our previous trips were to Manali and Beawar in Rajasthan. Though the roads have not changed much, these Volvos have made road travelling a pleasure. Some of them have free wi-fi on board which sadly work only sometimes. The plug points next to every seat are thoughtful though. There is a stopover at a roadside dhaba typically.

Some brilliant coffee art happening at Cafe Moon Peak, McLeodganj.
Some brilliant coffee art happening at Cafe Moon Peak, McLeodganj.

We reached Dharamshala early morning and checked in at Zambala Hotel. The rooms were nice and the washrooms were clean; which is all we really needed since we spent all day walking around McLeodganj. One of Ani’s friends runs Moon Peak Restaurant so we had breakfast there. The guys who run this joint make amazing coffee and their creativity shows on top of the coffee they leave with the Hershey’s and cream. The one thing we noticed around here was the peace between dogs, monkeys and humans. The local mutts were dozing off in the winter sun, inside restaurants and all over the streets. None of them were barking or fighting at all. Too much peace.

Red Bull cans separated from other trash on the trek to Triund, McLeodganj
Red Bull cans separated from other trash on the trek to Triund, McLeodganj

By day three we had scanned much of the streets and cafe’s here, so we figured it was time to stretch our ligaments a little more. We walked down to St. John’s Church on day two. We had heard much of a trek to Triund- a snow covered peak 7 kilometers further up. Though my wife and I are reasonably fit and run regularly, this was no cake-walk. On the 31st morning we started to trek up. The road disappeared in a few hundred meters and it was more like what we see in The Lord of the Rings as we trekked over stones and rocks. There was a path but it narrowed in most places and got steeper as we reached the top. Most of the trekkers were in their early 20s so this was clearly going to be good workout. Half-way up there was a cafe which served a bottle of water and Coke for Rs 50 each. What was delightful was that the trekkers and locals had separated the waste in metals, plastic and organic in three separate bags. There was this pile of Red Bull cans separated from the other trash.

its the last kilometer that is the toughest. There is a tendency to ask people returning on how much more to go for the top. The standard response was- ‘Oh just a little bit more but its worth it.’ We reached Triund top by 2pm. It was cold but pleasant up here. We met Vijay who we chatted up with at Moon Peak restaurant. The three of us had tea up here, took some selfies and headed back to town. Here’s my 360 degree Photosphere from Triund.

We met Sami Siva, who’s works were pretty awesome actually, and that includes his cooking. We later met at Hotel Tibet for lunch where the Tibetan chopseuy was the most delicious non-vegetarian meal I had had in a long time.

I decided to carry my camera with me despite the bulk. Its a Canon 500D with a Tamron 18-270mm lens- my best travel kit yet. Here are some photos taken in that blissful one week. This was one sketch I made while I was there.

Happy New Year!

Arjun Kariyal McLeodganj sketch
Arjun Kariyal McLeodganj sketch