And Tripoto says ‘Happy New Year’

As I sit in a shack in Goa and type this, I am thrilled to announce that Tripoto, one of the premier travel blogging and planning platforms in India, has selected KatchuTravels in their “20 Best Tripoto Itineraries of 2016”. Do hop over #15 to view the article written here. This post talks about exploring the monsoons in Goa, through their rainforests in the Bhagwan Mahavir National Park. Looks like its entertained 23,000 people to get inspired to travel so far, so that feels heartening.

Here are a couple of images from the post.

 

Goan Rainforests in the Monsoons. Shot at Bhagwan Mahavir National Park
Goan Rainforests in the Monsoons. Shot at Bhagwan Mahavir National Park
Trekking through the railway tracks in Goa on the Dudhsagar Waterfalls Trail
Trekking through the railway tracks in Goa on the Dudhsagar Waterfalls Trail

#TravellerStories-05- Of Emptying the Arabian Sea and other stories

This edition of the #TravellerStories features Mandar Malshe, who builds software for a living for the oil and gas sector and being as gentle as he is, loves Kalariyapattu.

Why the need for such a series like TravellerStories? We hear so many travel stories, but we’d be able to appreciate the travel stories at a relative level, only when these same questions are put to people at different place, we’d probably have a sense of awe towards how geography and history places a bias on our thinking. So these are nice postcards that you want to quickly rummage through, over an evening snack. Yes, just meant over tea and biscuits.

A) Where are you from and what do you do for a living?

I am from the beloved, crowded, beautiful, bustling ‘Aamchi’ Mumbai. However, its been 7 years since I haven’t lived more than a week there; as I have moved around Chennai, Bangalore and now – London. I earn my livelihood working with an IT firm, managing large IT/Infrastructure projects for oil and gas giants

Mandar Malshe

B) What’s the most cliched thing that outsiders say or feel about your city/country?

All of my ‘phoren’ friends and colleagues feel that Indian food means spice! They think we have a template which we apply to all dishes that we prepare, and this is – Onion, Ginger-Garlic paste, Coriander powder, Cumin powder, Turmeric, Curry leaves and of course – Red Chili powder and Green chillies; and voila! – an Indian dish is ready. I have tried many times to steer folks towards a coconut rice or a ‘Puran poli’, but guess the votes have been already cast.

C) What’s that one dish travellers should try out at your city and where?

Since I have lived across multiple cities, I would say :

  • Pav Bhaji @ Sardar, Tardeo, Mumbai
  • Prawns @ Mahesh Lunch home, Juhu, Mumbai
  • A variety of seafood and meat platters @ Bon South, Bangalore
  • And of course – Vada pav and Misal – Anywhere in Mumbai !

D) Reg exploring places outside your city, which is your favourite place (and why)

I love to visit Kerala, whether it is Waynad, Munnar or any other place. It’s always a treat to enjoy the local cuisine and the lazy afternoon rains. This time, on my visit to Munnar, I enjoyed some cultural shows such as Kathakali and the oldest Martial arts form – Kalaripayattu

E) Of all your travels on work, which city charmed you the most and why?

I loved the small, but neat and elegant setting of Singapore. Its hard to fathom that the entire country is just around 700 sq kms! Due to unavailability of land, they have come up with ingenious ways to save space. Despite this constraint, it’s a paradise for tourists who wish to experience the grandeur of Universal studios, Underwater aquarium and Tussad’s museum, without spending the big bucks to travel to the US or the UK. Crime is very low – in fact I didn’t see a single policeman on my travel (except at the airport of course!); and barring 1-2 sections of the city, its spotless clean!

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F) What is the craziest thing you have ever done while travelling?

This is actually with a fellow college-mate– We had decided on a roadtrip over a weekend; but hadn’t decided where we would want to go. We just packed an overnight bag, got in the car and put in the GPS – ‘Places 200 kms from Bangalore’. We zeroed in on Sakleshpur, a nice hilly region near Hassan. We enjoyed the local cuisine and the next day decided – We want to go to a beach! On we drove towards Mangalore and directly landed on Ullal beach; but not before we emptied the Arabian sea of all the seafood it can produce

Chilling in Agonda(Goa)-Part 4

Chilling has become synonymous with Goa over the years. So, I pick Agonda, a beach destination in Goa this winter to catch up on some peace, and work on some of my assignments in my swimming trunks from a beach view with a milkshake in hand. Sounds like a plan? Here’s Part 2 of “Chilling in Agonda”

After our time at Honeymoon beach in Part-3, where we did not get down, we proceeded to the next beach called Butterfly beach. Enroute was a small slowdown of the boat at a couple of rocks. Our Boatman suddenly got quizzical and asked me what that shape looked like, since I had a camera on my neck. I did not see any pattern emerging, and no amount of trigonometry or geometry could help me at that instant. I was torn between spotting dolphins on either sides, and his question kind off caught me off guard.

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And then when he went around the next rock, that looked like a turtle, and it turns out that when he asked me the question, he could see the second rock, while we could not based on our positions in the boat. A bird was perched on a spot where it wont be disturbed.

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Some of my friends on the boat were waiting for the ‘promised land’ to arrive. Kaustav was already relaxed and still looking out for dolphins that cared to say ‘hi’. None did. We met Kaustuv( A solo traveller from Pune), during a dinner at a restaurant in Agonda. Shyam, is a known friend, who lives in Bangalore, so it was easy to hop in for him, while Veeranna was holidaying with some known friends on the Hampi-Gokarna-Goa circuit, when I asked him to come over using a night train. He nearly got off at Loliem ( A station before Cancona), but could not find any trace of humans to ferry him, so he came 15 hours later, after having to go to Madgaon and then find his way to our cottage.

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And then we saw ButterFly Beach from the distance. It seemed to have deep tow, with a huge slope. It is not easy for non-swimmers to spend time in the water, purely because of the way the water swells, near the coast. The beach looked pristine though being surrounded by mountains. The only way to reach here is the boat, and that’s what Google will tell you. What Google may not tell you is that, there is a secret path from Agonda Village right into this beach. The locals were reluctant to talk about it, since it endangers their livelihood, but an auto-driver agreed that there was a path, but it was laden with cheetahs. Whether the Cheetah part was true, I am not sure, but it makes for a fascinating trek and discovery to Butterfly Beach.

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We spent time looking at the high cliffs surrounding the beach, and marvelling at the isolated patch of sand in the wilderness. Collecting Shells, watching the sky above, climbing the rocks to pose- ‘These are a few of our favourite things’, that we ended up doing in the 20 minutes that were there.

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While clicking photos for everyone, as is the rite of passage on any trip, I managed to click a decent one of myself, thanks to Veeranna. I thought the rocks in the background, with the coast being a level above made for a good frame.

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Kaustuv and Shyam, managed to find some peace up in the cliffs, but the boatman was’nt quite at peace with himself. He had another boat trip in 15 minutes, and we were about to mess with his next slot. So, I had to coordinate it and get the 4 of us back to the boat. A couple of more hours of lazing around, would have seemed the best thing to do on a beach like this. This beach is remote and there is nothing to eat, so its advisable to come were with food (and please bring a dustbin bag to put the waste inside and dispose at the right places on the mainland)

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It was 10 minutes to go, and Dinesh took off, seeing calls on his mobile.

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We just managed enough time for a quick selfie with all of us, while Dinesh was still speaking on the phone assuring his customer, that he was just around the curve of the beach. We were done! We were to go back and chill on the beach, have breakfast and start back home, with memories of a paradise called Agonda!

 

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Chilling in Agonda(Goa) -Part III

Chilling has become synonymous with Goa over the years. So, I pick Agonda, a beach destination in Goa this winter to catch up on some peace, and work on some of my assignments in my swimming trunks from a beach view with a milkshake in hand. Sounds like a plan? Here’s Part 2 of “Chilling in Agonda”

Continued from Part-2. Check Part-1 here.

I happened to find out through Facebook-Nearby that a couple of my friends, were nearby. I chatted with them, and invited them to come over. What followed was a raucous dinner replete with tales from a converted local (Rahul), who runs a shack at Divine Guest House. Rahul-The shack manager was from Delhi, and was bored with his day job as a call center executive, and was enchanted by the coastline of Goa on a holiday, that he decided to stay back. He told us that he is looking to make 4X gains from his business of running a shack. He feels that though more tourists come to North Goa, there is higher competition between the hotels, so one doesn’t make as much money as in South Goa, where there are lesser tourists, but people who end up spending more. Rahul had spent 2 years at Palolem, and has just moved a beach above by moving to the peace of Agonda. I asked him what does he do for a break? He said there is no holiday for him. It’s 7-8 months of work, and then a 3 month holiday where he goes home and also plans his breaks. In Goa, when he gets time, he takes his 2-wheeler to explore smaller villages. One such place he told was about Cabo-De-Rama fort, which is usually deserted and so is the beach below. The local villages  do not want any restorative work at Cabo-De-Rama fearing for tourist invasion of their privacy.

Rahul Rana of Divine Beach Resort in Agonda giving us some local stories
Rahul Rana of Divine Beach Resort in Agonda giving us some local stories

After a couple of hours of lounging on the beach bed, taking in the moon-light, just as I was about to tread back to my room at Jardim-A-Mar, I noticed a couple from Bangalore trying to enliven things at the beach, by floating a lantern in the sky. The yellow light against the dark sky provided a great visual.

I went over and told my friends who were staying across 2 different places, that we would need to get to the other end of the beach and ask for Dinesh. We would need to start at 5:45 am. Having slept at 12 midnight, I kept an alarm for 5:30 am, just to check if I had all of the right material required for the boat trip. I needed charged batteries for low light shots on my SLR Camera, and my beach bag of items. I started with my friends and we went in 2 batches, in order of laziness

The beach was yet to be kissed by the sun, so the twilight was ruling the roost, and with the right combination of White Balance, a beautiful sight played out as we walked to find Dinesh, the boatman.

Agonda Beach in Goa, as viewed from the Arabian Sea
Agonda Beach in Goa, as viewed from the Arabian Sea

I called Dinesh, Dinesh called me, and this cycle happened a few times. I would wave out, he would wave out, but we still didnt see each other. I pointed out to shack names, tree formations, rock formations and still I could not spot him. But after a painful 15 minutes of searching, we spotted each other. We got into the boat, and settled into our positions as indicated. Dinesh was fuming. We started off on a bad note. The agreed 800 Rs for the boat was now 1600 Rs, and Dinesh said that we had delayed him, and he had an another appointment at 7:30 am, so he said he would shorten our trip. The morning was precious, and I let go of the bad vibes by focussing on the boat and the expanse of the Arabian Sea.

 

Aye Aye Captain- We sail to Sea. Agonda Beach in Goa
Aye Aye Captain- We sail to Sea. Agonda Beach in Goa

The sea had a few boats around, I could see layers of plastic floating in the sea. It pains to see educated people dump plastic into the sea. Why on earth would they even bring a disposable plastic on a boat. Like the Christina Aguilera number “I am in a genie in a Bottle”, I hoped a genie would come and clean all the plastic and make Goa beautiful all over again.

I am a genie in a bottle baby-Arabian Sea between Agonda and Palolem beach
I am a genie in a bottle baby-Arabian Sea between Agonda and Palolem beach

 

The main agenda was to go slowly in the waters to see if the dolphins came out for some fresh air and jumped in front of us. The more our boatman tried searching, they would get scared of us, and go away in another direction. But we did spot a couple of them. I thought it would be fun, if one could follow the dolphins, if I had a drone. That would not disturb them, and we could also get good footage of Dolphins.

Dolphin Spotting near Butterfly Island in GoaDolphin Spotting near Butterfly Island in Goa

The sun was shining in all its glory, and I was seeing how the wooden rudders sleekly cut through the waters, against the golden haze of the sun, so as to smoothly take on the might on the sea, scything like knife on butter.

 

And the Boat Sails on-Agonda to Butterfly Island
And the Boat Sails on-Agonda to Butterfly Island

Our first stop was Honeymoon Island. I was told couples could get off here and spend some time in privacy. But I would not recommend this place so much based on an outside visit, since there are so many boats that come here and the water tide is also high. Maybe I should try spending a day here to see if the disturbance is actually as high as I imagine, but it certainly is no Robinson Crusoe type island. I have earlier seen such facilities offered in Lakshadweep, where couples are taken to an island with packed lunch and are picked up in the evening. It makes it beautiful in Lakshadweep because of the peace in the islands, and also because of the regulated tourist traffic. Honeymoon Island- Add to Wishlist

Part-3 ends here, and in Part 4, we shall see Butterfly Island, Turtle Rocks and the route back to Agonda.

Honeymoon Island in Goa
Honeymoon Island in Goa

 

 

 

 

 

#TravellerStories-04-Of Binge Drinking and Missed Flights!

This edition of the #TravellerStories features Rohit Das, who teaches students on how to binge drink and miss flights. NO- I was joking! He is into discovering new ventures for his employer in the corporate world, and is a passionate traveller who documents scenery on his camera. Do hop over to his Facebook feed to see some sublime shots.

Why the need for such a series like TravellerStories? We hear so many travel stories, but we’d be able to appreciate the travel stories at a relative level, only when these same questions are put to people at different place, we’d probably have a sense of awe towards how geography and history places a bias on our thinking. So these are nice postcards that you want to quickly rummage through, over an evening snack. Yes, just meant over tea and biscuits.

A) Where are you from and what do you do for a living?

This is a question that has confused me at many levels for a long time! And here’s why. I am a Bengali who was born in Chennai (with strong roots there) and brought up in Delhi. Growing up, these three axially different elements made for an interesting concoction. The confusion put aside, I was very clear from an early stage that I wanted to get into the corporate world and focus on building new things. I am fortunate to be doing what I like for a living. I currently am the New Ventures Discovery Leader of a large multinational with presence in 120+ countries.  

B) What’s the most cliched thing that outsiders say or feel about your city/country?

Delhi is my home town. It is interesting to note that whenever outsiders refer to Delhi, they have one of two distinct views depending on what part of the world you’re in. The South Americans, for example, think of Delhi being a really hip and chic place with a splash of the more traditional India thrown in. The second, which is probably a wider view, considers Delhi to be a mix of fast moving madness where the rich and poor seamlessly coexist.

C) What’s that one dish travellers should try out at your city and where?

If you are a non vegetarian, then you have the try the ‘Mutton Korma‘ at Karim’s in Jama Masjid or the ‘Kosha Mangsho’ at the West Bengal stall in Dilli Haat. For vegetarians, my recommendation would be to try the ‘Chole Bhature’ at Evergreen restaurant in Green Park.

D) Reg exploring places outside your city, which is your favourite place (and why)?

There is a small pub in central London called Ye Olde Mitre that I absolutely love. I try to visit that place every time I am there. It is 400+ years old and still has a very traditional English charm to it. Their stout beer on tap is to die for. 

Ye Old Mitre Pub in London. Rohit Das is 2nd from right and 3rd from Left.
Ye Old Mitre Pub in London. Rohit Das is 2nd from right and 3rd from Left.

E) Of all your travels on work, which city charmed you the most and why?

My absolute favorite place in the world is a place just outside of Reykjavik in Iceland called Hafnarfjordur. It’s a small town of about 25,000 people but still one of the top three populated cities of that country! The place is really out of the world! I was so taken aback by the beauty of that place and its breathtaking landscapes that I decided to buy a serious camera after that.

Reykjavik by Rohit Das
Reykjavik by Rohit Das

F) What is the craziest thing you have ever done while travelling? 

Have an insane and totally out of control beer drinking competition with a bunch of Aussie rugby players, land up in a hospital ER and then miss my flight back home the following morning!

Travel Postcards #5

This edition of the Travel Postcards takes you to Coorg in Karnataka.

“This series, called the Travel Postcards are basically the short story version of a single frame. Some tales are told between 2 sips of your juice. These are those tales. Not too long, Not too short, a little context, a little perspective and yes, they do act as a pill, that you can pop up for some travel inspiration”

It’s 6:15 in the morning. That’s what the clock says. It’s chill and dark, and there’s no reason to get up. Maybe I could go out there and capture the sunrise, waiting for it to come. Maybe!

I snooze the alarm, hoping to get up in the next 120 seconds. Just that 1 second was not 1 second in that comfortable state of sleep that I was. A sudden premonition of a missed sunrise, woke me up with a start, and when I looked around, the windows had light passing through, and I had overslept. I quickly opened the door and took out my phone (S7 Edge), and saw this scene outside the house. I immideately snapped. I did not have the time, for taking my SLR Camera out of my bag, fix the right lens, and wait for a frame. The frame was outside the door, and said a fleeting goodbye before the sun chose to go higher! I thanked providence for the oppurtunity and went back to sleep next to my son.

Behind me was the Nagarhole National Park, and in front of me was a coffee estate in a little village called Balele. In the midst of nature, I was staying at Jagale Home stay, pristine for its location, food and its wonderful hosts Pavita and Ramesh. Do read Part-1, Part-2, Part-3 and Part-4 of the stay

Waking up to a Coorgi morning at Jagale Home Stay
Waking up to a Coorgi morning at Jagale Home Stay

After a while, I got up, the scene was normal but not surreal, but I learnt that it maybe worth it to get up early on holiday. Learn more about the trip to Coorg in Karnataka later this month.

A splending morning at Jagale Home Stay in Coorg
A splending morning at Jagale Home Stay in Coorg

Chilling in Agonda(Goa)-Part II

Chilling has become synonymous with Goa over the years. So, I pick Agonda, a beach destination in Goa this winter to catch up on some peace, and work on some of my assignments in my swimming trunks from a beach view with a milkshake in hand. Sounds like a plan? Here’s Part 2 of “Chilling in Agonda”

Continuing from Part-1

After a heavy breakfast at Fatima, I looked around to see what’s there. I saw a little Goan place, that had the words Peace Love and Music, and had quite an interesting cosy scene in the evenings. That kind of a place, that seems just right with a few people for conversations over food. I have not tried it yet, but I plan to do it the next time, I am back at Agonda.

Peace, Love and Music in Agonda(Goa)
Peace, Love and Music in Agonda(Goa)

The big landmark in Agonda is the St Anne’s church there. The Church is bang in the middle of a T Shaped junction, which pretty much is what Agonda is all about. Its a small village, with some vegetation on the left and right of the church, which is parallel to the beach, and a road opposite the Church which leads into the road going to Khola, Chaudi and Palolem. This is the main bus stop and expect to find an ATM (HDFC) here and all the contacts for Auto’s and bikes on rent. It’s a small village so you are bound to bump into the same set of people. I met a couple of my facebook friends who were nearby and asked them to come over, and met a solo traveller from Pune over dinner. You’d see all of them in Part 3 of the Agonda Travellogue.

St Anne's Church in Agonda (Goa)
St Anne’s Church in Agonda (Goa)

I walked a little further into the village, since the HDFC ATM was not functioning. Goa is largely a cash based economy in the beach shacks, with very little connectivity in beaches that are not completely on the main tourist circuit. I was told there was an SBI ATM in the distance, but I could not spot any. I found a beautiful Goan house, surrounded by the trees, and stood admiring it. Maybe next time I visit Goa, I should find a place like this on AirBnB, which is a house tucked into the village, away from the hustle and bustle of the new age Goa.

Goan House in the Woods-Agonda(Goa)
Goan House in the Woods-Agonda(Goa)

For some body who is used to being stuck in a traffic jam in either Velachery, Jubilee Hills or Tin Factory every week, seeing this sight of a bike breezing through an empty road in Agonda’s main market road was such a pleasant sight. This side of South Goa, Palolem is the new Calangute/Baga with tons of day tourists and big cars crowding the entrance to the beach. Try staying in Agonda and visiting Palolem.

No Jams, No Honking! Shanti in Agonda-Goa
No Jams, No Honking! Shanti in Agonda-Goa

Meet Sudeep, our hotel go-to-man at Jardim-A-Mar who entertained us with some stories. Sudeep is a traveller from Nepal who believes life is a trip, and he loves the concept of staying away from home every 3-4 years at a different place. One way to understand people, cultures and the world, given that he is passionate about giving people a great experience. Sudeep told me to try out the early morning trip the next day to go see the Dolphins. So he gave me the number of Dinesh-7798215322, the boatman who would take me out.

Meet Sudeep from Jardim-A-Mar in Agonda-Goa
Meet Sudeep from Jardim-A-Mar in Agonda-Goa

I settled by the cafe for a lunch. Given that eating food on Goan beach shacks is easily a 2 hour relaxed affair, I sunk into the menu card at Jardim-a-Mar to find my friend and I, a Mushroom Masala and a Ceasar Salad. We being vegetarians, went for the familar fare, along with some cheesy fried bites and French Fries. The food and the ambience is relaxing and peaceful, and the crowd also an eclectic bunch of people, who seemed to be here for the quietness and stillness, as opposed to being a noisy bunch. The only hitch we had in our rooms, was that the fan was slow, and with a mosquito net the air circulation was not very strong. Beyond a point, it was endured and we slept. This however, was not solved during the time we were there, leaving a sore point on our otherwise relaxing trip at Jardim-A-Mar. The Wifi was painfully slow, but that is not something I expected from them on a beautiful beach in Goa, and that is largely a function of the infrastructure available in such remote areas. The available wifi is being shared between all the users, and so will end up being slower than 2G. So dont expect much from the Wifi. Agonda has very poor 3G connectivity on Airtel and Reliance Jio does not even show up here. Palolem’s main beach and even Cancona island has excellent Airtel 4G connectivity.

I went back to sitting on the beach, and playing in the waves, and saw the coastguards combing around Agonda. A couple of them from the beach, and one in the sea, who was zipping over from one side to the other. I would have loved to know a little more about them and their lives, but that’s for the next trip, since I had to get back to work on my laptop. I had promised myself, that I would get a huge chunk of pending personal work done on this trip.

The Lifeguards in action in Agonda Beach-Goa
The Lifeguards in action in Agonda Beach-Goa

A walk every now and then on the beach never hurts! Lesser footprints in the sand, means that this beach is mostly yours. I am hoping it stays that way.

Lesser footprints and even lesser digital footprints
Lesser footprints and even lesser digital footprints

And I’d love to show off my new beach slippers, bought for the trip! After a bike trek all the way outside the city to Decathlon, in the city I live, it was worth the effort to show off 🙂

Showing off my Tribord slippers at Agonda (Goa)
Showing off my Tribord slippers at Agonda (Goa)

Hold on for the third part, where I travel to the nearby butterfly island, honeymoon island and talk with the sea! Aye Aye Captain!

Chilling in Agonda(Goa)-Part 1

Chilling has become synonymous with Goa over the years. So, I pick Agonda, a beach destination in Goa this winter to catch up on some peace, and work on some of my assignments in my swimming trunks from a beach view with a milkshake in hand. Sounds like a plan?

When you go on a holiday, its always between that seemingly binary choice between a mountain and a beach. I love the hills, but there’s something in the sea and the sand that draws me. Over time, I have travelled well enough to transcend beyond the binary choice, in being able to pick a beach town, that is adorned by hills. Yes! A beach holiday by the hills for company. I’ve seen it in Arambol, Kerim, Cola, Agonda, Kudle, Paradise Beach over the years, by the Konkan sea side. This time, I pick one beach on that route and add a third dimension (Palm-Tree Garden) to make the sea-side romance even more irresistible.

Wake up to the sea view in Agonda (Goa)
Wake up to the sea view in Agonda (Goa)

Its 7 am. The sun’s rays are making its way through the thatched huts in equated installments. That’s how nature nudges you to wake up, after ensuring you sleep very well with the lullabye of the sea waves crashing against the shore. I take up the cue to maybe just check out and open the door. I am quite surprised that at 7 am, I have braved the morning chill, and have stepped out of my mosquito net bed to open the door. That transaction, back in the city would have come after 4 missed snooze alerts, and a lot of resolve to get to the door. I went and sat in the portico, and took in the scenery of the palm trees that was playing bouncer to the morning sun. Greenery everywhere, a blue sea in the distance, and a hammock was laid out between the palm trees. The morning was appetizing in a while. My inner self was checking twice to see, if there was any hooter or horn sound around. It was just the ruffling of leaves and the chill morning breeze that was playing cupid with the early warmth of the sun.  The folks at Jardim-A-Mar were not yet up, but they had planted enough trees for me to feel wanted and connected. Like a bank fixing an ATM for customer service, these guys had fixed these trees and some art installations that welcomed you as you walked across the resort.

Wake up! Chill out! Sussegaado!
Wake up! Chill out! Sussegaado!

Life was playing out one frame at a time. I liked the slowness of life that had the word ‘P E A C E’ all around the house. The sea was slowly retreating back from the beach, after a few hours of ‘making hay’ while the moon shone. The beach had become a little bigger and was sloping towards the sea. Its this little slope on a curved section of the beach that adds to the romance of a peaceful beach life.

Taking a sunrise walk along the expanse of Agonda Beach in Goa
Taking a sunrise walk along the expanse of Agonda Beach in Goa

I decided to take a walk and explore the curves of Agonda beach. The sun was shining through the palm trees, and painting a surreal picture of the place. It was like ‘Photoshop’ hour, where the actual scenery is assisted by external elements. This scene would be there for a few more minutes, and I decided to bask in the beauty of enjoying the sun’s rays. I walked in the water, trying to play if the water would come up to me. I saw it like a series, I won some and lost some, but when I lost, the chillness of the water would make me respect the warmth from the sun. The water from the sea and the sun, came together to make it an eventful morning for me.

Feeling the morning sun in Agonda (Goa)
Feeling the morning sun in Agonda (Goa)
Kissing is always a good way to start the day in Agonda (Goa)
Kissing is always a good way to start the day in Agonda (Goa)

I walked over to the side of the beach, and saw that the morning sun had settled. The morning walkers were out, doing the same routine as I was, but a digital camera lesser.

Since they had lesser distractions from technology, they decided to entertain themselves, by starting the day on a good note. Here’s wishing the couple a love filled day and a romantic life ahead. Seeing this was so nice to start the day, after having got used in the city to wake up to a newspaper that reports about war, deceit and crime. I really don’t see why Public Displays of affection are so frowned upon, in a world in search of peace and love.

 

Relaxing on Agonda Beach (Goa)
Relaxing on Agonda Beach (Goa)

A little further down the beach, a few folks were out to interact with the sea. A young girl in her yoga suit, curving her body to practising an asana, a boy in swimming trunks contemplating life, and a family that chose to enjoy the ‘out door’ pool by choosing to sit at the edge of where the waves were starting to hit the coast. Agonda was a different world away from all the party noise at Neptune Valley or Leopard Valley, which were the noisy party hotspots in this part of Goa.

While the breakfast was served at my restaurant, I decided to walk to the village to try and see what’s available for breakfast to get my fix of exploring the village. The beach was parallel to the road where the market was an it was just a walk across any of the coastal beach huts by the trees into the area adjoining the church, and I came by a little canal, that was surrounded by trees on both sides. I wondered how nature had designed these trees with just enough leaning and angle to sound so cool, and bring in so much greenery into the village.

To get to this place below, point your lat longs to 15.0415,73.9891

The backwaters in Agonda (Goa)
The backwaters in Agonda (Goa)

I settled on Fatima’s Corner for my breakfast. I had basically got a little bored of seeing menu’s that no way resemble an Indian menu, [though the food at my place (Jardim-A-Mar) was top-class and had an excellent menu, it was a little too expensive for a breakfast. The lunch there though was fabulous and that is reviewed in Part-2]. I settled for some Aloo Parathas, Banana Milkshake and Nutella laced pancake. Guess what, I was not done yet. I even managed some more place in my tummy over the course of a 2 hour breakfast. My morning had a oxymoronic feel from being eventful and peaceful at the same time! My Agonda holiday was going in the right direction.

A great place for an economical breakfast-Fatima's Corner in Agonda-Goa
A great place for an economical breakfast-Fatima’s Corner in Agonda-Goa

 

Do stay tuned to Part-2 coming up shortly!

 

For the Love of the Konkan!

I got off the bus, after a rather loud and unpleasant shriek by the conductor. I was in the Konkan railway heartland and “Udipi, Udipi, Udipi” was repeating right in my ear. I got up like the bus was on fire, and quickly swooped down, with my bag and slippers to get out of the bus. The conductor smiled and goaded the driver to move on, while I stood visibly shocked from his way of waking passengers on a sleeper bus. I was lucky that I had my bag all sorted, so I did not leave behind anything in the bus. I stretched my body and looked around the junction. It was morning already. I still had an hour before I boarded the morning passenger train from Mangalore that would stop at Udupi. I proceeded to walk over to the nearby Sri Krishna Temple, and take a walk around the temple town.

Kartik Kannan starting his trip at the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple
Kartik Kannan starting his trip at the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple

The temple had quite a stream of visitors, and the flower sellers were out in full numbers. I was taken in by the old-school throwback to the way place was. I looked around for some small eateries and found none near the temple complex, so walked a bit further back to the bus stand to find some ‘Udupi Restaurant’ that I have seen all along in Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai. I found one, but it was quite costly to find ‘Udupi Food’ in Udupi. After taking a quick parcel, and charging my phone, I took an auto to the Udupi Railway station which was about a couple of kilometres but since there is no real meter system, the auto person charges surge pricing always. 80 rs from the Udupi Bus stand to the Udupi Railway station, which is 60% more than the overall train ticket, I was about to buy that would traverse 200 kilometres across the Konkan Coast. Drat, That’s the thing with local transport in a tourist town!

Flower Seller at Udupi's Sri Krishna Temple
Flower Seller at Udupi’s Sri Krishna Temple

Once I reached Udupi’s Railway station, I proceeded to wait for the train, that never seemed to come. Then there is always this confusion on which direction I had to go, if the wrong direction train shows up at the right time. I had a train going to Kerala show up on the other platform, and then I realised that its not going towards Mumbai/Goa. I was on a ticket from Udupi to Madgaon, with the freedom of getting off anywhere I chose before Madgaon. That’s the carefree freedom a 50 Rupees ticket buys you.

Waiting at Udupi Railway Station
Waiting at Udupi Railway Station

One thing I noted at Udupi and with other stations on the Konkan Railway was that most stations seem to have a ramp that goes up on both sides, instead of steps. This is inclusive for old people as well as disabled people. I am not sure, if it was designed that way, but I could see these similarities in these small and scenic railway stations on the Konkan coastline.

Sloped walk way all over Konkan Railway Stations- Udupi Railway Station
Sloped walk way all over Konkan Railway Stations- Udupi Railway Station

All of the small stations on this stretch have shelters like the one below. It has a structure that means that each one sits facing each other, and the benches are pretty old school. I find this quite cool over the waiting rooms with power supply. There’s a sense of feeling special in these roofed shelters. Udupi is one of the bigger stations after Mangalore, and is a stop for the Rajdhani express. So planning your holiday works better if you are boarding your train at Mangalore Central/Mangalore Junction/Udipi. For the religiously inclined, the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple and the Kollur Moogambika Temple are your point of calls in this area.

The simplicity of railway shelters at Barkur Railway Station
The simplicity of railway shelters at Barkur Railway Station

 

The passenger trains find my fancy, as it slowly cuts across the length of Karnataka, transitioning into Goa amidst the scenic vistas outside the window. This train, that I board is called the Mangaluru-Madgaon Passenger (56640) and is usually very slow between Mangalore and Udupi, lazing its way around the first 70 kilometres. So if you miss the train at Mangalore(6:10 am), you can still catch a fast bus to Udupi and hope to catch the train there, which usually comes at 8:15 am(scheduled at 7:30 though). The train fills up between Udupi and Kundapura, so if you board at any point after Kundapura, your chances of getting a seat is usually dependent on someone getting off in a nearby village. In Udupi, you just have enough time to barge in and find the vacant location. If you do get a window seat, latch on to it like your life depends on it, since that is your passport to fantasy in immersing yourself in this rugged and serene landscape.

 

All aboard on the Mangaluru-Madgaon Passenger (56640)
All aboard on the Mangaluru-Madgaon Passenger (56640)

This is a relatively new route, and is not frequented much by people, except those travelling from these villages or from Mangalore to go towarsds Goa/Mumbai. The rail track was opened for general public from the 26th of January, 1998 as part of the then newly formed Konkan Railways headquartered at Navi Mumbai, with 738 kilometres of rail connecting Mangalore and Mumbai through Goa. Pre 1998, People n Mangalore had to find a bus to Bangalore, and a train from there connecting to Davenegere-Hubli-Belgaum(Belagavi now)-Pune-Mumbai. Go down to the bottom of the post to see some links/resources talking about the history of the Konkan Railways and some early travellogues maintained.

The train slowly stops at Kundapura. I chuckle knowing that Hyderabad has a place called Kondapur, which is similar in pronunciation but world’s apart when it comes to beauty and peace. The train stops for a couple of minutes, and I walk down to check if there is something I can munch on. I am done with morning Idlis, and its well past 9 am now, and my stomach has its urges every now and then. I only find Lays and aerated drinks, which I dont drink. I would love to have tender coconut available, but I manage with a mango drink for the journey.

The railway stations are small, and have a a sense of memories. With 1 book shop,  1 waiting room, 1 food stall,  there are limited places to walk to and you register elements of the railway station better.

Minimalistic Railway stations on the Konkan Line- Stoppage at Kundapura
Minimalistic Railway stations on the Konkan Line- Stoppage at Kundapura

Once you are in the train, the greens around the railway track will consume you. The greens in the paddy fields, the greens in the palm trees lining the rivers that flow into the Arabian Sea, the greens of the little hills that the train cuts through. The greens basically talk to you, drawing you to think that keeping your face to the rail window was a full time activity. The real value of the rail ticket is the window seat, from which you will see how similar landscapes are in a place where eating customs and languages change.

The Konkan Greens outside the window!
The Konkan Greens outside the window!

If you have not got the window seat, another alternative could be the seat on the door of the compartment, which opens up a wider range of vision. Attempt this only when the train slows down or is going slowly. It is dangerous to sit near the door.

Footboard Seat on the Konkan Railways
Footboard Seat on the Konkan Railways

The villages by the Konkan, make you sitback and take notice as the palm trees, besides the greens mesmerize you into wanting to be part of the landscape. You keep building so many postcards in the mind, that at one point, you just want to keep coming back to visit this stretch. A camera helps you recconect to frames of what you saw while on the move, and helps you in planning the next trip. Imagine lagoons, tunnels, mountains, farms, paddy fields, quaint villages just keeping on repeating as the train chugs its way through the rugged landscape.

When the sun colours the green golden!
When the sun colours the green golden!

 

As the train passes through beautiful lagoons, you look at those little patches of green amidst the blue and marvel at the colour contrast. What if you could own on of these? Would you retire peacefully? I almost feel like saying yes, but my home loan EMI pops up like satan with a spear, and I get back to dreamily looking at the scenes outside the window. There are roads that cut through greenery, there are people walking on stretches where the morning rays of the sun merge with the green of the paddy and give it a golden glow and I wonder should I pull the chain and just wander into these villages and see them.

Lovely Lagoons by the Konkan Railway
Lovely Lagoons by the Konkan Railway

 

I am stuck to these blue horizontal bars, with my eyes looking at the villages outside. I keep taking my ‘commercial breaks’ by having conversations with passengers on the train. One thing about these second class compartments, and especially the ones where long distance train tickets cost less than a hundred rupees is that people are bound to speak to you, share their lives, their thoughts and even their food. In my case, after learning that I am a photographer, a couple of people asked me to take the window seats. I am indebted to them, as they parted with their window seats. They were middle aged men from a factory in Erode in Tamil Nadu, and were on a bachelor trip to Goa, and were excited about their first trip to Goa. The added fact that I speak Tamil in an unfamilar terrain across the Konkan, also gave me brownie points.

Grab that windows seat!
Grab that windows seat!

 

Every time a lagoon came, I’d freeze. I’d freeze since the frame was stunning. When you encounter a huge waterbody after seeing dense trees all around, all of a sudden your space in front of your eyes increases to take in the enormity of a tiny train trudging through the Konkan railway. The senses freeze and allow you to ‘screenshot’ the image into your mind, in the limited time that the trees get back into the frame. This was like your energy booster in the middle of a long journey. Every now and then, you manage to get back to the window, even though you see nondescript villages pass by, just for the fear of missing out scenery like this.

Freeze Please! Konkan Railway gem on display
Freeze Please! Konkan Railway gem on display

Villages pass by with orangish Paths, covering whatever is left of the road, being garlanded by tall palm trees. It looks like the tree is the parents and they are chaperoning the village from getting urbanized. They are doing a good job at it. Reddish brown tiles, and Green cover all around makes you feel like stress, urgency and a fast pace don’t really have a standing here. An old man walks along the mud path, like he must have for all these years, with a smile. Somebody in the train is playing ‘Malare’ on their bluetooth speaker, as the train ambles through Kundapura and Senapura.  The world seems more beautiful, with a mellifluos song, sung in sync with scenery that is shouting at you to look at it with its wares.

Scenic Rural Roads by the railway track in Karnataka
Scenic Rural Roads by the railway track in Karnataka

 

Seeing Trucks piggy bank on Rail wagons, made me google a bit to understand what this was. I found out that this was part of an Indian Railways scheme called ‘Roll-On-Roll-Off’, which was introduced in January 1999, a year after the Konkan Railways was open commercially.  This scheme helps decongest roads, as the trucks now travel on the rail network, resulting in a savings of 750 lakh litres of diesel fuel. The RO-RO concept was flagged off earlier this year in Bihar

Rail On Rail Off Scheme on the Konkan Railway
Rail On Rail Off Scheme on the Konkan Railway

 

Soon after crossing the mighty Sharavati river, Honnavar shows up. Its one of the bigger stations on this rail network, but a look at the local villages doesnt suggest that anything is any different. I wonder if the local economies and entertainment revolve around the arrival and departure of the infrequent trains at these stations. Bombay,but not quite Bombay, as latter has people’s life revolving around more frequent trains that is a maddening rush, but these stations along the Konkan, have a pretty laidback approach to life. I spot a little school near the railway track, and each time the train hoots through the treacherous terrain, the kids quite love the attention, and wave out to us. Simple joys and pleasures of life that have been numbed by living in an insecure city life. I question, why the damn life in a city, and why not a life earning enough to be peaceful and be grounded and connected to nature. The Home Loan EMI devil stares at me. I regret even posting the question and get back to engaging my senses with nature.

Serene views of a waterbody on the Konkan Railway route
Serene views of a waterbody on the Konkan Railway route

The names of the stations are in a shade of yellow, against the dusted white walls. It’s like the stations had a uniform.  The Konkan railways have numbered portions of the stations, with a white board showing the coach number. Since they have limited trains passing through, the vendors and the TT know exactly which coach stops. Maybe ‘Google Now’ can next tell me, to walk a 127 steps to the general compartment. Maybe in a few years on the Konkan Railway! The picket fences are the identity of the Konkan Railway, in the midst of the little greenery that surrounds it on the station. When I approached Murdeshwar, I could spot the giant Shiva statue right on the beach, from the railway track. This little village also has some Scuba Diving options near the temple complex.

Konkan's own style picket fences
Konkan’s own style picket fences

As the train moves on, the paddy fields are swathed over large expanses. There is so much open space, and it mildly manages to open up my constipated mind. Cattle has places to graze, children have places to play, the animals have a localized water body to quench their thirst and this is the normal world, we urban citizens seem to have moved away from. There are workers in the field waving at us, the children are playing cricket by a dilapidated wall for a pavilion, and the train keeps passing through vistas of endless greenery, lagoons and tunnels. Harwada shows up, out of the blue. I thought it was a stop for a signal, it turned out to be a railway station with no sign of a platform or maybe I didnt look harder.

Stopping by Harwada Railway Station in Karnataka. Wait is there even a platform here?
Stopping by Harwada Railway Station in Karnataka. Wait is there even a platform here?

The train passes through Harwada, and goes towards Loliem. Yes, a railway station that starts with LOL, which basically has a beautiful view of the Arabian sea meeting the Talpona River, near Xandrem beach. Once the beach names end with a ‘drem’ you know that the Konkan Railways has stepped into the wonderland called Goa. Loliem is the first station from the southern side.

Where the Arabian Sea meets the Talpona River in Goa
Where the Arabian Sea meets the Talpona River in Goa

The train ambles its way to the Cancon district, housing a railway station called Cancona. This railway station is where you get off to see the curvy palm linings of Palolem and the peaceful Agonda, Khola and Gajlibaga beaches in Goa. The railway station is scenic and is surrounded by hills. The station has autos and taxis that schedule their movement based on incoming/outgoing trains.

August-2008, my friend and I vacated our shack at Palolem during the monsoons, as it was dull, and a friend of ours called us to Candolim, so we went to Cancona station at 10 in the night to catch a train to Thivim. As soon as the autorikshaw left us, it started raining cats and dogs, and there was no one at the station, except the person manning the ticket counter. There was no way we could go back even if we wanted, since the station was in the midst of a mini forest amidst the hills. Since we were to only buy an unreserved ticket, my friend and I started to postpone buying our ticket for the midnight train. When we walked up to the ticket counter, we found out to our dismay that the train coming now was going in the opposite direction and our train was scheduled only early in the morning at 7 am. We had nothing to do at the station. We had a couple of hours of laptop battery, so we were watching a movie, sitting uncomfortably on the rocky chairs, while the mosquitoes sucked all the blood from two vegetarian tee-totallers, for a difference given the usual alcohol laced blood it must be used to stocking up on. We woke up groggy eyed, to see patriotic songs being played. It was India’s 61’st Independence day, and the station master was busy with preparations for the Independence day function. We got up, and feltwe had missed that 7 am train, and then we realised that the train was late, owing to the monsoon. We waved to the station master and went back to boarding our train, with memories of spending an independence day at a quaint railway station

An autorikshaw ferries passengers from Canacona Railway station in Goa
An autorikshaw ferries passengers from Canacona Railway station in Goa

The Kadamba bus stand as seen as from the Cancona railway station. Its about a brisk 15 minute walk to get to civilisation to Chaudi market. I liked what I saw, and felt that this was a good time to get off and explore something in these parts of the woods. So as all good things come to an end, my Konkan rail experience ends here.

The view of the Kadamba Bus station at Chaudi near Canacona Railway Station in Goa
The view of the Kadamba Bus station at Chaudi near Canacona Railway Station in Goa

 

Important Notes and External Links



Getting on this train

From Chennai– Board the Lalbagh express at 1535 hours and reach Krishnarajapuram in Bangalore by 9 pm. Uber your way to Hebbal to board the 22:00 Udupi bound bus, which goes through Mangalore. The train at Mangalore starts at 6:10 am, and arrives in Udupi at 7:30 am. So get off accordingly to go and board the train.

From Bangalore– If possible get on the 2015 KSRTC bus from Majestic Bus stand, and get down in Udupi at 5 in the morning. You would have enough time to refresh and board the train at 7:30 am.

From Hyderabad– Your only real chance is to board the bus from Hyderabad to Gokarna and then catch the train from Gokarna Road railway station, where a significant part of the journey is missed on the Konkan Railway route. Its easier to reach Goa than Gokarna, so that stat is a bummer, but you really dont want to miss this train journey.


Konkan Railway Reference Map- Use this map for planning where to get off in between or just planning your journey. Original Image here, but a short portion of it is shown below for consumption

Konkan Railway Map
Konkan Railway Map

Vignettes of North Goa That You Didn’t Know

There is always a sense of excitement when a trip is planned to North Goa, that never seems to die down with time. Goa to me means a melange of experiences across every village. In North Goa, over time, I have learnt to avoid Calangute and Baga, and seek greener pastures to discovering the Konkan Coastline that houses Goa. I have developed a sense of awe and peace for the northern most part of North Goa, and this photo story exactly talks about a few vignettes of North Goa, that your friends did not tell you about.

G  O  A

That place, which required a passport before the 1960’s to enter! *

That place, which feels like a trip to a paradise, without using a passport

That place that Lonely Planet said ‘Indians visit to escape India’

Usually when people say that the best place to visit in Goa is ‘North Goa’, what they really mean is that stretch between Candolim and Baga, with Calangute sandwiching it. Goa is best explored a little further north of Goa post the Siolim Bridge, if you are driving down, and post Thivim station if you are travelling on Indian Railways.

Hat Tip- Travel on Indian Railways. Its cheaper, quicker and more exciting to travel from the South all the way to the north. This would be from Loliem/Cancona from the South to Pernem in the north.

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If you did the road, the first point of call is the Morjim-Aswem-Mandrem stretch.This stretch of the beach has a few rocks by the beaches, but is extremely safe for swimming, as there are very moderate currents. The villages in this stretch are extremely scenic, and are often meant for postcards to be sent on Facebook back to your friends. If you want a secluded stretch with privacy, pick the huts at Otter Creek. I havent stayed there but I find it alluring to shed some currency on my card to reserve my stay there. The travel version of ruminating over an “Add to Wishlist”

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If you head further north to the extreme, you will come across a colourful hotel, that stays on a little hill overlooking the Arabian Sea. You need to get off the jetty at Kerim, and take the ferry to Tiracol village (named that way as the Terekhol river over looks it). The goverment ferry takes passengers free and charges for the vehicles, while the private ferry is smaller and quicker but charges quite a hefty sum. It is so peaceful trying to go on the ferry and floating slowly on the water. That is so ‘sussegado’, feeling the sun on your face, and taking in the pretty sights of the palm trees dotting on Kerim Beach.

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Once you reach the other side, you need to walk up a couple of kilometres or take an auto rikshaw up the hillock to reach the place. This is a heritage hotel called ‘Fort Tiracol’, and has 7 rooms, each named after a day of the week. A review on Trip Advisor says ‘Friday’ is the best room.  If you are already staying elsewhere, you can always go there for the view and come back feeling energised. Walk up to the lounge on the terrace and sit there and soak up the views!

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This is the view of the Arabian sea, meeting the Terekhol River by the side of the Kerim Beach. I remember staying on Kerim beach in 2009. It is one of the quiet beaches in Goa, and I hope it has stayed that way. The mountains shown in the picture usually have paragliders jumping off to fly over this valley. The other side of the mountain has the Sweet lake beach and the main town of Arambol Beach. If you trek from Kerim, Arambol is 4 kilometres and a scenic 45 minute trek, and if you chose to flash your motored vehicle, its a steep 19 kilometres through scenic forests.

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When you come over to the other side to Arambol beach, you have just landed on a paradise, that is crowded but presents a beautiful experience to the eclectic traveller. Workshops, Music, Yoga and a serene beach. This is my favourite beach in Goa. Arambol to me represents a state of the mind, and is so different from the rest of the beaches, even though its very far away. This photo was taken from a hut right at the entrance of Arambol beach through the sloping market road in a place called 21 Coconuts inn meant for backpackers.

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Between Arambol and Kerim, if you trek the jungles, you will find a plateau which houses a couple of meditation communities called the Banyan and Mango Tree. You will also find a bunch of people enjoying the privacy by smoking marijuana.I had trekked once at 6 am to capture shots of the early morning sunrise, and I found this person smoking up at sunrise. I usually stay away from smokers, since I am allergic to cigarette smoke, but I saw lovely ambient light on this person, so I decided to brave it and take his shot. He saw that I was going on taking photos after requesting for him, so he decided that I should end up giving a ‘Dakshina’. One Laptop please he said, and I could not even ask him “Dude, What are you smoking”?

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As I proceeded down back to the beach, I saw a shack owner who had come to brush his teeth amidst nature. How privileged ae those who get to brush or bathe amidst nature like this. I loved it back in 1997 and 2004, when I was doing this daily on long treks in Himachal Pradesh. As I soak in that feeling, I am thinking when should I plan my next trip to this side of the world.

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*- Read this fascinating read on how Goa required a passport to enter back in the times by Scroll.in

#TravellerStories-03-Of Happy Pizzas and Other Stories!

Let’s meet Nikhilesh Murthy who is third on this series called  #TravellerStories. He’s a traveller from Bangalore in India  who blogs at about lifestyle and culture in various places. He is a marketer for an IT company in Bangalore. In this episode, we throw a few questions at him and find out what he likes and doesn’t.

Why the need for such a series like TravellerStories? We hear so many travel stories, but we’d be able to appreciate the travel stories at a relative level, only when these same questions are put to people at different place, we’d probably have a sense of awe towards how geography and history places a bias on our thinking. So these are nice postcards that you want to quickly rummage through, over an evening snack. Yes, just meant over tea and biscuits.

Nikhilesh Murthy saying Cheers!
Nikhilesh Murthy saying Cheers!

A) Where are you from and what do you do for a living?

For all practical purposes, I am a “Bangalorean”. While my roots are in Tanjore in Tamil Nadu, I only go there once a year to visit the family deity. I work in the marketing department of an IT company and am responsible for one of their technology functions. When I’m not doing that, I’m busy attending music shows or trying out new food at places across the city. I make it a point to take a few weeks off every six months and go travelling, some times on my own, sometimes thanks to work.

B) What’s the most cliched thing that outsiders say or feel about your city/country?

Most folks I’ve met are always surprised as to how I can speak English so clearly (and many times better than them). They also get surprised when I talk about world politics, western music, etc and don’t know too much about fixing computers. Many folks also get a bit shocked when I talk about bands like Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters, Black Keys  and musicians like Miles Davis or Jack White because their assumption is that we all listen only to “Indian music”, which is either Punjabi music ( an opinion of folks from the UK and Canada) or Bollywood music. I also enjoy living in hostels and travelling solo. So many of the local folk find it odd that I’m not sticking to the general impression they have that Indians (like the Chinese) travel in large groups and are quite loud. I wouldn’t completely blame them for that stereotype.

C) What’s that one dish travellers should try out at your city and where?

I always encourage folks to try out the famous masala dosa in Bengaluru. I’ve taken a handful of foreign friends to the Airlines Hotel ( but CTR in Malleswaram is the best). And they love that along with the vada. They find “the savoury peppery donut” quite fascinating.

D) Reg exploring places outside your city, which is your favourite place (and why) ?

I don’t think there is a single place as such that comes to mind. So many options – Mysore, Mangalore, Coorg, Chikmaglur just to name a few. Each of these are very different from the urban jungle of Bengaluru. Less traffic, more polite folks, a lot of nature to discover. And not to forget, great food. Just try the pandi curry (pork curry) in the average Coorg household or the ghee roast in a Mangalorean house to know what an array of flavours we have to offer.

E) Of all your travels on work, which city charmed you the most and why?

I was in love with New York for the longest time, but a trip to New Orleans changed all that. The culture and vibe of the city is very unlike any other US city I’ve been to. There’s jazz and blues at every corner; come night time, the bands play on the streets and people dance away. Not to forget the cajun styled food which offers familiar Indian flavours yet is completely different. The architecture of the old French and Spanish styled streets make for beautiful pictures. I was fortunate to be in the city during the French Quarter music festival. It was an experience like no other and is now the benchmark for what a music festival should be.

F) What is the craziest thing you have ever done while travelling? 

Most of these stories are best shared over a cold brew. To name one,  I would have to say that during my recent trip to Cambodia, eating a pizza topped with some unmentionable organic elements, which led to some embarrassing situations once the good stuff kicked in, was not one of the brightest ideas I’ve had.

Nikhilesh Murthy in Cambodia, trying to cover a sunrise at Angkor VatNikhilesh Murthy in Cambodia, trying to cover a sunrise at Angkor Vat

If you would like to be featured and tell your stories that may be of interest to the traveller community, do write in to us at Kartik@katchutravels.com