How Safe is Hampi for Solo Travelers

How Safe is Hampi for Solo Travelers

Hampi is recently declared the 2nd must visit places in India according to the New York Times and everyone is curious to visit this Unesco world heritage site. Before planning for a trip, let’s find out all about Hampi espacially, how safe is Hampi for solo travelers.

Hampi Karnataka was always on my bucket list. So, recently when I got a chance to visit the place, I grabbed it at once. I booked a single lady seat in KSRTC bus, packed my backpack and started off. I got a very good deal in a hostel and quite impulsively booked it.  I was sorted but life had something else in store for me. Next morning  I realized my hostel was near Gangavathi (around 30 Km from the main city) and to top it all, there was a transport strike for the next two days.

Isolation

It was a quiet and serene place. There was rocky dry terrains on one side, paddy fields on the other and a narrow road dividing the two. I spent the entire day reading, finished off my freelance works, strolled around on foot. That evening I went to a nearby sunset point. After a long time I could witness how the environment around changes with the setting of the Sun, The sky dimed down, the greens looked greener, the breeze suddenly felt much cooler and birds start chirping louder. It felt as if every element of nature is declaring the end of a day its own unique way. My chain of thoughts was broken by a squirrel. It was looking at me very curiously. Guess I was invading its space and it didn’t like it much. I decided to walk back to the hostel and resume my work.

Hitchhiking for the 1st time

The next day was mad, I had no clue how to go to the city. No buses or auto and the scooter rent was way beyond my budget. So I decided to just start walking. The map showed 2 hours walk to the city. But fortunately, I didn’t have to walk much, a local gentleman was kind enough to drop me to a nearby city from where I got a vehicle to the Vijay Vittahala temple. The place is famous for Musical pillars and the Stone Chariot. The aura of this place takes you to a different era. The Vijayanagara Empires of the 13th century though vandalized heavily by Mughals, still managed to stand tall and proud, reminding us of our royal heritage.

The experience was truly magical. The day was almost coming to an end and I was thinking, how to go back to my hostel. Just then, the gentleman called me to inform that he was heading back home and  I could join him if I want.

I didn’t give a second thought before saying yes though I was quite skeptical. Did I do the right thing?  Will it be safe to travel at sunset with an unknown person? But I decided to take a chance, I had my Swiss knife in my pocket and was refreshing all self-defense techniques I knew.

The journey started. The sun setting on the other side of the Tungabhadra river was a treat to the eye. The gentleman started talking about his family, how he couldn’t adjust to the city life in Bangalore and decided to return back. The fear that I had, in the beginning, was mellowing a bit now but my hand was still holding the swiss knife. He dropped me safely at my hostel and left. That half an hour ride, I was dealing with all sorts of emotions. I was scared, anxious, vigilant, guilty for being scared, empathetic and astonished by the simplicity and helpfulness of the locals. I just thanked him and wished him all happiness in life. That night I was awake for a long time gazing at the star-studded sky and listening to the sounds of darkness.

Last day in Hampi

Next day I decided to leave the hostel. The strike was lifted but there was no sign of a bus. I was lucky that a middle-aged man stopped by and agreed to give me a lift.

 He was very happy to know that I can speak Kannada.  He was curious to know about my native Kolkata. Later he told me all about the significance of the place, the local temples and how Hampi has changed over time.

We reached Virupaksha Temple and offered our prayers. Then he said,

“I would have loved to show you around but I had to go back to my wife, she is very sick. I never leave her alone at home for long.  Every morning I  come here to offer prayers for her recovery and return as soon as possible.” 

 His commitment reassured my faith in relationships. I guess his company taught me a lot about love, companionship, and faith in almighty. I just thanked him for his help and started walking.

The Little Soldiers

I decided to have a cup of tea before starting to explore this part of Hampi. There I met two very enthusiastic kids, they were excited to show me around. I couldn’t ask for more. Starting from Sasivekalu Ganesha, Kadalekalu Ganesha, Ugranarasimha Temple, Krishna Temple, Krishna Bazar, Queens Bath, and Bhojanshala. They showed me all the places possible and their energy was infectious. Later we all had lunch together and I promised to come back and meet them soon.

Then I started roaming around Hippie Island where I met a shopkeeper who was kind enough to offer me to keep my backpack and take it back later.

Is it for real? How can people be so helpful and loving? My inner instinct tried to scare me but his concern melted my heart. I sat with him for some time and helped him convince the foreigners to buy clothes from his shop. The rest of the evening in a rooftop cafe, talking to a 19-year-old traveler from Netherlands who I met in the cafe. We started talking about our cultures and perspectives on life. It was quite interesting to see how people of different age group hailing from two extreme corners of the world can have similar thoughts on life. 

Later I took my bag from the shop, thanked Uncle for his help. The love that the people of Hampi shown me was beyond my expectations. The trip, which I thought was a bad idea on the first day gave me so much love and affection.

I guess this detailed description proves how safe Hampi, Karnataka really is for solo female travelers. So take my words, you are never ready to travel solo till the time you finally go for it.  But be vigilant and safe. Learn some self-defense techniques, keep a swiss knife or a pepper spray with you always. Keep your family member or a friend updated about your locations and most importantly have faith in your self. You just need to take the 1st step, then there is no looking back. You will return home with a bag full of beautiful experiences and exciting stories to share with the world.

If you want to know more about my solo travel experiences please visit

Varkala- the hidden treasure of Kerala India

Vattakanal- ‘the Mini Israel’ in South India

To know about my solo venture to Northeast India please visit Sikkim- the land of mist & mountains.

To know  about the culinary cultures of Bhutan click The taste of Bhutan

We also have a delicious spread for you from the beautiful city of Coorg- The Scotland of India

I am always eager to know about your stories be it travel stories or stories of your life. So please write to me whatever you want to share. I promise to come back soon with other exciting travel experiences with you.

Till then stay happy and keep traveling!

Lots of love

Sreya

 

 

Varanasi- a self discovering journey to the Spiritual Paradise

Varanasi- a self discovering journey to the Spiritual Paradise

Varanasi, Kashi or Benaras

-a city with different names but the same deep-rooted emotions!

Varanasi is the land of Ghats, the city beyond times and the city that has created the maximum amount of curiosity among local as well as international travelers. Varanasi attracts thousands of travelers around the worlds every year. Some come here for a religious retreat, some to rediscover themselves, some for moksha, some to find the true meaning of life.

The morning view

There are many unique ideologies engraved in Varanasi that creates curiosity among people of India and abroad. The concept of Moksha, Mukti Bhavan, Aghori Sadhu are among the few. So if you are planning a trip to Benaras soon and want an idea of what to expect as a traveller in Varanasi, you are at a right place.

Things to do in Varanasi

  • Explore the Ghats of Varanasi on foot or boat ride

A trip to Varanasi is incomplete without spending time along the Ghats of the Ganga. Walk along the ghats, go for a boat ride early in the morning or during sunset. Varanasi looks the best from the boats. Boat ride may cost you somewhere around Rs.150- Rs 200 per person. Do not miss the morning ritual called the Ganga Arati at Assi Ghat and evening arati at Dashaswamedh Ghat

The Sunrise

Sit on to Ghats of Varanasi for some time to have an exclusive experience of the Ganges.

  • Travel to Sarnath and Ramnagar Fort

If you have a day or two extra with you to spare, do go out and visit these historic places around Varanasi.

  • Go around and visit the Temples of Varanasi 

There are many small and big temples in Varanasi. Kashi Viswanath temple, Sankatmochan Temple, and Durga Temple being some of the most famous once. Do visit these temples if you want to know more about the religion and cultures.

Anchored Boats

  • Visit the Manikarnika ghat and Mukti Bhavan 

According to popular Hindus belief, people who are cremated after death at this Ghat gets freedom from the cycle of rebirth and get the ultimate Moksha. Hundreds of lifeless bodies are brought here every day for the last rituals. It is also said that many people understand that their time to die is near and they come away to Mukti Bhavan and wait for their time.

Sadhus

It may sound quite overwhelming in the beginning but the ease with which they accept death as a part of life is just amazing. After a walk along the Manikarnika ghat, I realized death is the inevitable truth of life and life is too short to be wasted on unnecessary things. Honestly, I started valuing life much more after this trip.

  • Walk through the gullies of Varanasi

Varanasi gullies are home to some colorful shops. If you are up for some shopping, this is the place for you. From Benarasi saree, scarfs, earrings to colorful bangles, pan masala, beautiful little souvenirs and what not.

What to eat in Varanasi?

The variety of food available here will blow your mind for sure. Benaras is famous for Lassi, Kachories, Paan, Thandai, Tea, Rabri, and Sweets.Some of my recommendations would be:

  • Blue Lassi, Pehelwan Lassi and Baba Lassi for refreshments
  • Try Bunny Cafe if you are fond of Japanese or Korean food
  • Kashi Chat Bhandar and Ram Bhandar for some delicious snacks (tomato chaat topping the list)

One of the common refreshments of Varanasi is the Bhang Lassi. Try it at your own risk as you may get very high especially if it’s your 1st time. Avoid it if you are traveling solo

Where to stay in Varanasi?

There are a lot of options available. You will get hotels which may cost you anywhere around Rs 1000 to Rs 2000.

There are many backpackers hostel around Varanasi
Some renowned once are Zostel, Bunked up Hostel, Chatter Box Hostel, Hostel Lavi. These hostels are quite affordable.
I stayed in Zostel and Bunked up hostel. Both were safe and well maintained and safe. The advantage of Bunked up is, its very near to the ghat. So do check this place if you want to stay near the ghats.

peace

How to reach and move around the city?

Varanasi has railway station as well as an Airport. So you can reach here by train or flight. From Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport an Ola or Uber cab would cost you around Rs.400 to Rs 500. The airport taxies ask around Rs 800 to reach the city.
You can explore the city on foot or take a rickshaw. You need to negotiate with the rickshaw pullers a lot. The other option is to take shared autos. They can drop you to those important junctions like Godowlia, BHU Gate, Lanka etc.
Keep the GPS handy to have a hassle-free travel.

That was my travel story of Benaras. Please do share your experience and if you want to know things to go in Kerala please visit Varkala- the hidden treasure of Kerala India or Vattakanal- ‘the Mini Israel’ in South India

To know about my solo venture to Northeast India please visit Sikkim- the land of mist & mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A backpacking trip to Kerala-Gods own country

A backpacking trip to Kerala-Gods own country

The tea gardens of Munnar, the unique blend of Indo-Dutch cultures of Fort Kochi, the beautiful cliff beach in Varkala or the soothing backwaters of Alleppey. God’s own country has more to offer than what you could imagine. But I have come across many people who have an idea that Kerala is quite a costly travel venture. So I want to take you for a ride to the backwaters with a budget much less expensive than most of our weekend food or booze bills.

Things to do in Kerala

Take a backwaters trip for a day in Canoe or Kayak

Alleppey is the land of Houseboats and backwaters. But to be honest the per day rent of Houseboats can create a huge hole in your pocket. What if I tell you that there is an option where you can enjoy the same view that you can get from the houseboats but at a much lesser price. That the canoe trips. Here they take you in boats inside the small creeks to get an insight of the beautiful life of the locals. This includes a walk and interaction with villagers and a meal in your host’s house. Kayaking is similar to that of a Canoe but here, you need to sail your own boat.   You will be experiencing the peace and tranquility of nature alone or with your partner. The only requirement to enjoy kayak ride is good swimming skills and some Kayaking skills.

Relax and enjoy the Sunset at Alleppey beach

Alleppey is beyond doubt a back water’s paradise but don’t miss a chance to spend an evening drenching yourself in the most fulfilling feeling. You feel like the sun is taking away all the pain and sorrow that life has given you while sitting on the other side of the sea. After a tiring day, when you sit back and relax on the warm bed of sand and look at the sun it really feels that life is making up for all the hard times it has given you time and again. It is the most soothing feeling on earth.

Travel to Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi is just 1.5 hrs away from Alleppey. 1st of all the journey from Alleppey to Fort Kochi is along the seaside. So if you plan to travel on road, I recommend you to take the seaside route rather than the highway. It’s a journey that will be in your memories for sure. Fort Kochin has a lot to offer to the travelers. Be it the traces of unique Dutch cultures, walking down small lanes with cute souvenir shops to beautiful art cafes. Check out the Chinese fishing net on the beach which is a popular way of fishing in Kerala.

 Go for the cultural event In Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi is very rich in culture. Be it music, fine arts or dance. If you are in Fort Kochi, do not miss the opportunity to witness the Kathakali Performance ( the traditional dance form of Kerala). Here they try to tell you a story through dance and expression. They go through an elaborate process of makeup and dresses. They use only natural colors for face makeup and demonstrate every detail related to Kathakali. The ticket prices are Rs. 700 per person.

 Spend a day or two at Varkala

Varkala is a lesser-known cliff beach in Kerala that attracts a lot of international tourists. It is a quiet beach with many roadside cafes and a  laid-back beach vibe. It also is a home to a 2000-year-old temple and the spectacular Black Beach. To know more about Varkala, click Varkala- the beach life around a cliff.

 Travel to Munnar

Munnar is very famous for the extensive tea garden and the romantic weather. The greenery of the place will steal your heart. The stay in Munnar might be a bit expensive. So do your research well before heading to Munnar.

 Kerala is the ultimate destination for food lovers

Kerala food is one of the best Indian cuisines. Be it the seafood like prawns, squids, a variety of biryanis, beef roast, avial, fish polichetthe, puttu, appam, Kerala parotha and the list is just never-ending. The best place to have authentic non-veg food is the Toddy shops. Toddy is basically country liquor or fermented drink sourced from the Coconut tree. Even for the non-drinkers, Toddy shops are famous for spicy and authentic Kerala Food. Kayees Biryani needs a special mention for its authentic biryani, beef roast and sulemani chai (black tea) Try the famous ripe banana fritters also called Pazham Pori Also, try some kulaki sharbat ( a roadside mocktail ). Its tasty, refreshing and a unique combination of sweet, sour and spicy chillis. Its a party for your taste buds.

 

Hope this article was of some help to you. Share your travel experience with me in the comment section below. Do suggest the places I should visit on my next trip to Kerala. Stay along as I take you for another amazing trip to Sikkim 

Varkala- Offbeat beach destination of Kerala

Varkala- Offbeat beach destination of Kerala

Traveling solo is the most advantageous venture of life. Especially if you prefer going to offbeat locations. Traveling alone gives you time to spend with yourself. It gives a chance to be one with nature and understand what you want from life or what life wants from you. In this demanding course of life, you need to spare some time for yourself. If you are in any mood to take some time off and discover some hidden treasures of nature, Varkala Beach is the perfect gateway.

 

The sky and the sea

A beautiful place to unwind and be with yourself which is just 1.5 hrs away from Trivandrum. A small world of its own on the lap of a cliff. Its the perfect mix of blue sky, greenery and a massive sea. Its a world of its own and not like the travel destinations we are used to in India. It’s like a global melting pot were people from different parts of the world come and enjoy some time with nature. This place is unique,  it has the vibrancy of Goa but its way more peaceful. The most importantly, very few people actually know about it, so you can be assured of the peacefulness and serenity of the place.

 

Things to do in Varkala

Varkala is a place of rejuvenation, its a place where you rediscover yourselves or your lost talents that you didn’t have a rendezvous with, for a long time. Varkala will treat you according to your wish. If you want a peaceful laid-back vacation or you’re are more into the adventurous trip, the call is yours. The options are open to you.

1. Enjoy the sunset at the cliff

Sunset at Papanasam beach is simply beautiful. If you are a person with DSLRs chasing for perfect sunrise shots then you do not have to look any further. Spend an evening at Varkala beach and you will know what I am talking about.

 2. “Unleash the bohemian in you”

Varkala is among the few places that give you a chance to unleash your true self. You have ample amount of chances to show your hidden talent to the little world of Varkala. Some cafes let you decorate their walls and tables or play guitar and sing at their evening events. If you are extremely lucky, your talent can get you a cup of coffee, tea or even dinner for free.

Recommended eateries:-

Coffee Temple Juice Shack Darjeeling Cafe Cafe Italiano Sky Lounge   The beach cafes are heaven for laid-back readers, writers, and observers. Doesn’t matter if you are interactive or introvert, you will get a corner for yourself according to your comfort zone.

best place to relax

3. Take a walk along the Black beach

White sand and blue waters might be enough to attract tourists. But as I said, Varkala always have something special to surprise you. As the name suggests its a pitch black beach, don’t worry its naturally black with crystal clear water. No dirt has contributed to its darkness. Do take a walk down the trails to have an awesome experience of the Arabian Sea.

4. Visit the 2000 years old Temple

I am spiritual but not religious. You will usually not find me recommending religious places on a to-do list but this place is different. If not for any religious motive, this place is a must visit because of the number of autumns it has survived. It is a 2000 years old temple which is popularly known as the (Dakshin Kashi) or(“Banaras of the South”). Do visit the place for some peace of mind, uninterrupted meditative time and if you are interested in ancient architecture. Just make sure you are in a traditional attire.

5. Local shopping and Ayurvedic treatments

Kerala is well known for its Ayurvedic massages and treatments. If you are looking for some relaxation, check out the ayurvedic centres and yoga retreats for some relaxations.

6. Visit Kappil Beach

9 Km away from Varkala is Kappil Beach. The best thing about the beach is that the road you will be traveling divides the sea and the backwaters. So the raging sea on one side and the calm backwaters on the other with the breeze swaying the coconut trees makes you realize the true meaning of God’s own Country. Do not forget to try the banana fritters and beef roast from the small shacks beside the beach.

 

Varkala is a unique place to spend some time with yourself for a few days. You will realize, India has some amazing travel destinations that can give a tough competition to those exotic foreign holiday destinations people talk about. Trust me after a vacation from Varkala you will know that sometimes you can enjoy offbeat destinations without crossing the borders.

 Where to stay

There are a variety of options to stay in Varkala from budget backpackers hostel to expensive resorts.

  • Vedanta Wakeup
  • The Lost Hostel
  • Shiva Garden Homestay

These are some of the budget stay places in Varkala. You can also get a lot of luxury hotels and resorts in Varkala

How to reach

Air – nearest Airport is Trivandrum from where you can take a cab to  Varkala

Bus– take a bus till Trivandrum and take a cab from there or get down at Kallambalam and take bus or auto.

Train– Nearest station is Varkala Shivagiri Railway Station.

That was Varkala from my side guys. I place that gave me wings to fly. Do share your story of Varkala with me in the comment section below.

To know about other places of Kerala click A backpacking trip to Kerala-Gods own country .

Come with me for a self-discovering journey to Varanasi

Get an insight of the life for travelers who prefer biking more than anything in life Discovering life from a biker’s perspective

-Sreya

Vattakanal- the Little Israel near Kodaikanal

Vattakanal- the Little Israel near Kodaikanal

Vattakanal is one of the most beautiful yet a lesser known weekend gateway of South India. Kodaikanal is popular travel destination comprising of  picture perfect tourist spots, expensive resorts, and always crowded with tourists. Vattakanal on the other hand is more of a  hidden beauty of nature, less crowded and always in a tranced zone .

Morning sky

About Vattakanal

Vattkanal is more of a Hippies Utopia. The moment you enter the city, you cutoff from the entire world. The misty climate, beautiful greenery, chirping of birds, thick floating clouds blurring your vision thats how Vattakanal welcomes you to its dreamy world. This is a place where you can leave the worries of your busy work life behind and be a wonderer even if its for just a few days. This place has an amazing vibe which unleashes the bohemian in you. The place may not have  5 star hotels or posh restaurants serving exotic food. But there is something in the simplicity of Vatta tat makes it so attractive  among international travellers.  Vattakanal  makes you high with life. You can actually smell freshness and peace. Vatta has a lot to be explored in a very small vicinity.

blue sky

The Little Israel in Vattakanal

True to its name, Vattakanal becomes the temporary home for a lot of Israelis during the months of November to January.It is a popular destination among travellers from Israel who come and stay here for months. It is beautiful to see how people from different geographies come and adopt to our cultures. The ambience these cluster of travellers create in cafes, home-stays or on roadside just beautiful. The thick cloud rolling over the mountains, fragrance of eucalyptus enveloping the atmosphere, small little flowering creepers swaying with the wind and humming bids resonating with the music of nature takes you to a dream world far away from bitterness of reality.

Soothing climate

 Vattakanal Climate

Vattakanal is mostly cool, misty and there is mostly a chill in the air all throught the year. Summers are pleasant but comparatively crowded. If you want to experience the bliss of solitude, September and October is a good time. There is less of tourist, chill in the air, quite foggy, cafes are comparatively empty. On the other hand, if you are an extrovert who loves to go out to party or interact with new people, December is the time for you my friend. It’s that time of the year when many people from Israel come hear to spend there Christmas and New year. This is the ultimate time for exchange of cultures and exploring a totally new world. Vattakanal is quite crowded during New Years and it’s recommended that you book your hotel well in advance if you are coming in the month of December or long weekends.

Early morning

Things to do in Vattakanal

Vattakanal is a beautiful biodiversity hotspot of southern India which is not very known to people. The 1st impression might not be that impressive keeping in mind that everything would seem to be starting and ending on a narrow small road. But once you will take a walk through the street you will discover the true meaning of nature. It has just the right mix of everything to satisfy the soul of a traveler. Breathtaking view, Foggy weather, Comforting Cafes, Cute Churches, Warm People, Company of lovely furry dogs if you are lucky. Yet some of the “not-to-miss-spots” are

  •  Dolphin’s Nose  Vattakanal

I am not a huge trekking fan.Moreover, every hill station has a dolphin nose spot.For me, it was nothing but a hyped up place to attract tourist but a chat with the owner of “Cafe above and beyond” told me the real meaning of Dolphin Nose. Dolphins usually come out of water for oxygen thus the Dolphin Nose is the place where you get the purest air in the area. This chat changed my mind and I decided to walk downhill to check the place out. It was a half an hour trek and I was quite skeptical to walk alone but then I met a huge furry dog, who showed me directions and give me company. He made sure I was not left alone even for a moment. That furry mate whom I met on my way, walked all the way down and come back with me. It was an amaizng feeling that will stay with me for a long long time.

  • Vattakanal Water Falls

A 20 min walk can take you to this pretty little waterfalls, which is quite a nice place to visit especially if you are visiting Vattakanal after monsoons. There are small shops there for some tasty snacks and refreshments as well as some local fruits.

local market

  • Eco-Point

A 10 min walk from Dolphin’s Nose can take you to Eco-Point for a much better and close few of the mountains and a place where mountains echo back what you say when you shout aloud. A place that revalidated that nature loves you. Also worth mentioning Avocados if in season are an added gift.

  • Kodaikanal City Tour and Shopping

You can go for a city tour to Kodaikanal and see the Kodai Lake, Pillar Rock, Coakers Walk, Pine forest. Do some quintessential shopping of natural oil, dry fruits, homemade chocolates etc.

Places to hang out

Tea and the view

The small cafes at the hillside are to die for. They offer you the best of tea and snacks I was in love with the cafes. The best part is you can be painting, singing, playing music, writing or just enjoying nature. The cafe owners are very nice and helpful. You can also strike a conversation, make new friends and get new company for the rest of your trip. My recommendations are:

  • Altaf’s Cafe
  • Cafe Above and Beyond
  • Selva

Vattakanal Homestay

There is ample number of Hotels, Resorts, Homestays in Vattakanal. The cozy wood house will cost you around Rs.3500. A decent hotel can cost you around Rs 1000 to Rs.1500. I prefer staying in budget homestays. Homestay helps me interact with the localities and gives me an opportunity to look into their daily life, enjoying local food and makes me feel home away from home for few days. You can get home-stay at around Rs.400 per person. Some of the options are Edwin’s Cottage Vattakanal Ruban Cottage Kodai Haven Misty Dews Shafa Resorts While walking through the roads of Little Isreal I came across some French travellers. It is through a conversation with them that I got to know about IPC Church near Altaf’s Cafe where they allow you to stay in the church dorm for Rs 200 per day. A unique option if you are on an unplanned trip and you end up with no places to stay. Most of the homestays serve lunch and dinner on request which is charged extra. The simple chicken curry, rasam, and rice are delicious.

How to reach Vattakanal

  • By Air-Nearest Airport Madurai (120 km from Vattakanal, You need to rent a cab or luxury bus to reach from there)
  •  Train-Kodaikanal Road Railway Station ( take a bus from railway station to Kodaikanal City and then local bus or cab to Vattakanal)
  •  Bus-Kodaikanal is well connected with cities like Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata. It will drop you to Kodai City bus stand. From there a local taxi or local bus will reach you to Vattakanal commonly called Little Isreal.

I guess this is quite a lot of information for you to want to jump out of your bed, pack your backpack and just go out, explore. Hope you like it. I am always waiting to know about experiences.

If you want to explore some more off-beat places of South India here is Varkala for you.

For some amazing experiences come with me to Varanasi.

Lots of love

-Sreya

 

Sikkim- the land of mist and mountains

Sikkim- the land of mist and mountains

Born in WestBengal, Darjeeling & Sikkim was our frequent destination for the family trip from childhood. But I got to know the real Sikkim when I traveled all by myself. Traveling through those rocky roads alone, talking to mountains, letting your hair down and feeling the clouds kissing you. These are the feelings that bring you close to nature. It is just not a travel destination, it’s a soul-searching journey.Come discover the beauty of mountains with me.

Sikkim is the land of tough yet beautiful terrains

This little state of North-east India is the misty land of majestic mountains. The place that welcomes you with warmth even when the temperature is a single digit number. The only negativity you can find is in the temperature that may sometimes fall drastically. But the warmth of the simple Sikkimese people and their hospitality will keep you warm all through the journey. Its a place for everyone from filthy rich tourist to travelers with humble savings. A tiny state standing tall and proud on the lap of the Himalayas.

Sikkim has a beautiful spread to offer in a limited space. Every bit of Sikkim is beautiful. Wherever you lay your eyes on gives you a picture perfect view that can melt your heart in seconds. So better fix your priorities about the places you want to visit. Especially if you are on a time constraint.

The journey to reach Gangtok is quite beautiful

The travel from land to hills is a beautiful journey in itself. The beautiful Tista river on one side and mountains all over.  As the journey goes on, you feel the chill in the air. The pollution slowly reduces and what you are left with is purity. Its a long 5 hours journey but then you would not feel bored even for a moment. It can be a bit tiring but never boring. The food, the weather, the photogenic sceneries are just perfect to make you forget about your fatigue (if any). The steamy plate of momos and the simple yet delicious Thukpa are the popular dishes. After the quick lunch, you head towards the Gangtok Taxi stand. This is where you can travel anywhere around the small state in shared taxies or private taxies according to your budget, time and preference.

From the taxi stand, a Rs.20 will give you a seat in smaller cabs that will take you to the main city. You can also take a walk to your hotel in the main city if you are a minimalistic person with very little luggage.

Places to stay

There are many budget hotels in Gangtok. I would suggest staying in a place on M.G Marg. That’s the happening place of the town. If you are looking for Hostel, GO-HILL Hostel is a good option.Its budget-friendly yet cozy bed and breakfast option.
The entrance is a bit shady and it might make you question about the interiors but it’s totally a different world inside the hostel.The family stays on the same property and are the most lovely host you would meet. They are very helpful and accommodating. The stay ranges from around Rs. 450 per person per night.Which includes your morning breakfast as well

There are not many hostels in Gangtok so its recommended to book your bed in advance even if you are traveling solo.

Things to do in Sikkim

Sikkim is a state where beautify lies on every sight that you lay your eyes on. It has beautiful lakes, snow-capped mountains, Vally of flowers, Buddhist monasteries, spectacular ropeway, the local market for shopping, adventure sports like trekking, cycling, paragliding, water rafting.

 

Some of the most beautiful places I had the luck to visit was:  Tsongu Lake, Nathula Pass, Baba Mandir

These are the places you can cover in a single day but you need to get permits to go there. It cost me around Rs. 450 for visiting these 3 places. ( Make sure you do not go on Monday and Tuesday because Nathula ( the Indo China border will be closed on these 2 days)

It was a shared cab so it turned out to be quite cheap for me. You can also rent the whole cab if you are traveling in a group.
Do not expect any fancy food on the way but the simple noodles and fried eggs are what you can get at the altitude of roughly 14000ft above sea level.
Once you are on the journey you would really understand the love of Maggie and Mountains.

If you think of spending a day doing the city tour Ropeway, flower show, a visit to Ganesh Tonk and Hanuman Tonk is a must. If you are lucky to get a clear sky, a trip to Tashi viewpoint will gift you the most heavenly view of the snow-capped white Kanchenjangha range.

Shopping In Sikkim

If you are into some good stylish leather boots, Jackets or 1st copy shoes, Kanchenjangha Shopping Complex also called Lal Bazar is for you. They have a variety of items for display but do bargain as they quote quite a high price.

Food

Gantok gives you a bouquet of options to choose from when it comes to food. From simple Nepali thali.Beautiful Italian cafes to simple yet authentic Tibetan food. Posh restaurants with awesome nightlife, music, and taste of exotic luxury cuisine to roadside eateries. It has all you want to treat your taste buds.

Tasting local food is one of the biggest agenda of my trips so I always go with the recommendation of the local shopkeepers or localities. Their recommendations never go wrong for me. And this time I try food in many small joints but 3 places just filled my heart and stomach without making a hole in my pocket

 

1)Taste of Tibet

It’s right on MG Marg and it is well known among tourist as well as localities. The two little girls I met on my trip suggested me the place. It was quite crowded but the food is delicious. You Must try the chilli pork, momos, and noodles. If you can handle spices, try the chilli momos there. The spices may hit you initially but if you can bear the heat, the taste will linger in your taste buds and memories for a long long time. Even when I am writing about it my mouth is already watering.

 

2) Hotel ShekMari

The next place I liked was Hotel SHekMari which is situated beside the famous People Tree in MG road. They have very limited menus but whatever they serve is hot, fresh, tasty and served in an authentic Nepali style. I tried their chicken and pork curry and can vouch for it. They also serve alcohol in case you need it to beat the claws of cold waves. A veg meal with a bowl of chicken curry will cost you Rs.150. The place may look a bit dingy but its worth a visit because of this food and hospitality.

3) Baker’s cafe

This is a place where you can sit for hours with a cup of coffee and enjoy the vibe. Baker’s cafe has a wide range muffin, pastries, snacks.They also have some homemade chocolate boxes, very creatively packed. My recommendation would be the Lava cake, Almond muffins, and the Pineapple muffins.

How to reach

  • Nearest airport- Bagdogra
  • Nearest Railway station – NJP
  • Nearest bus stop – Tenzing Norgay Bus stop

From the three places, you will be getting cabs to Gangtok ( which is the capital city). Cabs might be around Rs.2000 to Rs.3000. The best way is to share a cab with some other passengers. From Tenzing Norgay, you get shared cabs which will cost you Rs.250 per person

Place left unexplored by me this time

I didn’t have much time as I had planned to go to Bhutan the next day but a late night chat with my roommate and a fellow traveler whose I met in Go Hill told me of Gurudongmar lake, Lachen, Lachung and Yumthang and Zuluk. These are mostly trek destinations but you can also go in the cab. Provided you book and plan your trip in advance.The Sikkim Tourism office in MG road is there to help you out. There are many private tourism companies out there in MG road that can help you out as well.

These are also few of the places I would love to visit on my next trip to Sikkim. Do share with me your experiences of Sikkim and let me know if I have missed anything.
My short and sweet trip to Sikkim ended here and the next morning I headed toward Bhutan. My first road trip across borders.

You can also travel with me to Varanasi – the spiritual land of Ghats and much more