Monday, October 15, 2012

Summer Break at Kausani ....continued....

The plan for next day was local sightseeing around kausani. We did not want it to be too hectic but instead relaxed few hours. The first stop for the day was Anashakti Ashram where Gandhiji had stayed for 3 weeks. It is a small quaint ashram which is very peaceful and quiet. it has a beautiful mountain view surrounding almost 180 degrees. You can spend hours just sitting here and soaking in the peace and beauty of the surroundings.  There is a guest house also in the same campus and it can be pre-booked. This ashram was just next door to the hotel and subsequently we went and sat there and took a walk around in the next 2 evenings as well.

The next stop was the home of poet Sumitranandan Pant ji - who belonged to Kausani. It has been converted into a museum.

The next stop for the day was a place called Bageshwar which is a confluence of 3 rivers. There is a temple there where there is a big fair during makar sankranti. It is almost equivalent to kumbh mela of the hills. The cab driver gave us an option to see it from near or from a height where the confluence of the 3 rivers is visible clearly. We decided to enjoy the view from hilltop instead from the ground level. The view was simply too beautiful. We enjoyed spending time there. There was a small temple at the hilltop as well where we prayed briefly. it was a quite place with not too many people around - there was only a lady praying there who spoke briefly to my mother. It was the mysticity of the surroundings that got my mother the devbhoomi uttarakhand.....the lone lady may have been one of the divine beings....who knows ......

The next stop from here was Baijnath temple which is 9th-10th century temple complex. Like all the places around, it is also tucked in the middle of nowhere but almost intact. The priests actually offer puja as well there and we also offered our prayers. The best part of the place was a fish tank full of fishes of different sizes starting from huge to small. It is considered auspicious to feed the fishes there. Here there were quite a few tourists who were enjoying feeding the fish.

The next logical step for the day was definitely lunch and we were off to a small local eatery for the same. We had some freshly made dal, rice, roti & potato curry. It was a simple but really tasty meal.

It was back to the hotel after that and some afternoon nap. Post that it was time for some tea and snacks and sitting in the balcony enjoying the view. Even dinner was enjoyed on the balcony and post that it was time to retire for the day.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Summer Break at Kausani

This time I planned for a slightly longer and relaxed summer getaway ....Well don't start jumping into conclusions - it was not a month long break. It was just that instead of the customary 3 nights I planned for 4 nights instead.

I was looking for a peaceful place away from hustle & bustle and maddening crowds which are so common in summer travels to hill stations. After quite a bit of research on internet and considering multiple options, I zeroed upon this place called kausani. The important inputs on this place were that it is hometown of the famous Hindi poet Sumitranandan Pant Ji. Also, Gandhiji had visited this place - and overstayed his planned tour by 2 weeks. The tour plan included choosing a hotel and getting train tickets booked. After some more research online, I selected Hotel Krishna Mountainview which seemed like a decent choice, mostly going by reviews on tripadvisor. I booked both ways Shatabdi tickets to Kathgodam as well.

Then on the designated day we reached Anand Vihar station (yes, the Kathgodam shatabdi starts from here and not from New Delhi) early and boarded the train. The rake was pretty old and not too inviting - but we did not have a choice. The journey was good as usual - like any Shatabdi journey - with regular supply of food & beverages !!!

Once we reached Kathgodam, we need to take cab to reach Kausani. Cabs are easily available - there were lots around as Kathgodam is the central point from where people travel to lot of different hill stations. The rates are standard - and it was the same as I has researched on internet and also checked from the hotel. The cab that we decided on was a brand new white Alto. The driver told it would be almost a 5 hour journey - though I expected it will be shorter. It was pretty hot at Kathgodam but we expected it to get cooler as we went higher in the hills. We started the journey and started moving towards our destination. Though we were getting into the hilly terrain, but somehow the heat refused to subside. Both my mother and me were feeling extremely uncomfortable due to the heat induced nauseating feeling. We are not in a position for taking any lunch and decided to have some soft drinks only. My father had some lunch as he was feeling hungry.

Post the lunch stop, it got more uncomfortable going through the winding roads in the heat. Somehow the weather refused to cool down. So to make us feel better, we requested the cab driver to switch on the AC - which immediately made us more comfortable. It was strange that the AC had to be put on in the hills as well - that tells a lot on the vast climatic changes that are happening across our planet. The cab driver, being a local was mentioning that it is due to dwindling greenery and cutting of more & more trees, it was getting warmer every year.

And then driving through the winding hilly roads, we finally reached our destination. On the way we passed through Almora and saw the road towards the Ramkrishna Mission. We decided that on the way back, we will stop by here - as it was also the Guru Purnima day.

We were feeling very tired and unwell by the time we reached the hotel. The cab driver offered a 4 day package wherein he would stay back and take us everywhere that we planned to visit during our stay in Kausani. That we we will be saved of the hassle of looking for a new cab everyday and definitely it made business sense for him.

We decided that we will do local sightseeing, go to Ranikhet and visit Almora while returning. I had earlier planned to squeeze in Nainital if possible, but going by the long tedious journey from Kathgodam to Kausani, we decided to just take short trips & relax rather than long travels by road.

We checked in to the hotel and just crashed in after freshening up. After few hours of sleep, we got up to have some dinner and then retired for the day. The view from the hotel balcony was just beautiful with greeney all around but due to being tired, we could not enjoy it on day one.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Winter Favourites....

It is winter time and markets are full of fresh green lovely vegetables. Some of the all time winter favourites are cauliflower, peas, carrots, beans etc. And what better way than a vegetable pulao to enjoy the freshness & goodness of these vegetables !!!

Today evening while shopping for veggies, I planned to cook vegetable pulao. But then, the traditional vegetable pulao with khara garam masala & zeere ka tadka seemed too boring and much-used. I was looking for ideas for something different - something with a little south Indian flavour. I googled for the same without much success. Then I decided to try & create something new.

The result was pretty good and hence thought of recording it & sharing it here. For all Indian women (& men), the measurements are not fixed & rigid my any means - they are just indications. Please use your understanding & sense of cooking to decide on measurements.....Thats what I generally do, except in cases where I am trying to cook something authentic or traditional...

Try this out & create your own variations....with other vegetables, chicken, shrimps.

Veg Pulao with Southern Twist

Cauliflower : 1/2 mid size
Beans: 25-30
Carrots: 2 Medium sized
Shelled Peas : 3 handfulls
Wet Masala:
ginger : 4 inch
Green Chillies : 4 mid sized
Coriander seeds : 1 teaspoon
Grated Coconut : 1/2 cup
Dry Spices:
Mustard seeds : 1 1/2 teaspoon
Curry Leaves : 10-12
Mace : a little
Urad Dal: 1 teaspoon
Chana Dal : 1 teaspoon
Dried Red Chillies: 4
Basmati Rice: 1 1/4 cup
Lemon : 1/2
Grated Coconut : 1/2 cup
Refined Oil: 2 tablespoon
Sugar : 1 teaspoon (optional)
Salt: To Taste

1. Wash & soak basmati rice for 10 minutes & then drain
2. Cut all vegetables into small pieces.
3. Grind together all ingredients of the wet masala with a little water to a fine paste.
4. Heat refined oil & add all the dry spices one by one.
5. Once spices release their aroma, add the vegetables & fry for 3-4 minutes
6. Add the Wet Masala & fry till the moisture has almost evaporated.
7. Add rice & continue frying till all the moisture has evaporated
8. Add water to about 3/4 inch above the level of rice.(Or use your own measurement method that you use for pulao)
9. Bring to a boil & add salt. Add sugar depending on your preference
10. Cover & cook till rice & vegetables are cooked & all the water has been absorbed.
11. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on the pulao.
12. Mix lightly with a fork.
13. Spread Grated Coconut on the pulao.
14. Serve with a simple raita.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Busy days in 2011....

It has been a extremely busy year so far....Lot of activities on both professional and personal front. God has been very kind and I am so grateful for that. I have discovered "Secret" this year, all thanks to persuation by my friend N. I have read it many times and have been following it precisely hence.

Major learnings: to be ever grateful for what God has bestowed on us. Though I always felt grateful, but the joy of expressing and feeling gratitude is immense. I have learnt to really appreciate all the joys of life, big and small, and genuinely feel the gratitude.

The other major learning is believing firmly in your dreams, knowing that they will realized in right time, keep faith, and express gratitude for them. The power of attraction and the knowledge of secret can do wonders in our lives.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Holiday continued......part-3

We were up and ready pretty early (by weekend standards), all dressed up and ready for all the excitement ahead. We took a ferry to hongkong and walked quite a bit to reach the ferry station for Macau. I was aware of Macau as the gambling capital of Asia, if not of the world - but had not really given a thought as to more details. Found that Macau is actually an independent country with immigration process carried out at the entry and exit points. It is an island with a portuguese origin similar to goa, with predominantly chinese population.

The ride was sophisticated and very fast, cutting through the choppy waves of sea. I as usual, was not too comfortable - a little nauseated, and preferred to close my eyes and sleep through the around-an-hour long journey rather than enjoy the views !!! The formalities over, we walked out to be greeted by a bevy of travel agents advertising their services. We spoke to one, and negotiated what looked to us to be a decent deal. Of course, N had done all the research work previously and had a fair idea of what should be good. We had a car to us, which would take us to a few tourist spots in Macau and finally drop us at the grand venetian for a taste of the "real thing"!! The first stop was at Indian restaurant, which was nice and crowd free. It was good to have a light Indian meal.

The first stop in our city tour was the Cathedral - one of the few remnants of the Portuguese past of the island. Lot of photos, with some generous support from fellow tourists for group photos, later, we were off to a walk through the macau square. There was just too much of crowd around - had to almost jostle for a walk around. This place has a very european look & a mecca for shopping. We could see equally enthusiastic tourists and locals enjoying an afternoon out.

The next stop was A-ma temple, which is said to be the earliest surviving temple in Macau, dating back to pre-portuguese days. This is dedicated to the mother goddess, revered by the local fishermen. I could relate it well to the Indian heritage - the tradition of worship of mother goddess which has continued to this day in the same form. There were two interesting things that definitely merit a mention. One was the wishing tree - where you can tie your wishes and hang them. You may ask - whats so special about this - don't we tie strings in many of our temples and dargahs with our wishes? Only thing different was you don't keep your wish in your mind while tying the strings, but you actually write it down in a paper attached to the string. And others can actually go and read others wishes !!! Isn't a little more privacy required between god and us :-)

The second one was a bowl of water, which when rubbed strategically on both sides with wet hands generated some kind of vibration in the water. It was interesting to watch though the significance was not clear as it was not written and neither anyone was around who could explain this in English.

The next stop was Macau tower - we went up some 60+ stories to reach the top. The view from all sides was amazing....I had the opportunity to visit few of such towers before - the Eiffel tower, the Sydney tower etc, and all of them were amazing experiences...This was also another of those, and the amazing skyline of macau made this extra special. But there was something else that I never realised I would be affected by - a fear of heights....The viewing deck has a part made of glass, through which, when we look down, we can see the ground. There were enthusiastic groups of tourists, capturing the great view. But for me, things were pretty different. Once I looked down, I started feeling extremely uncomfortable, and the dizziness continued all the way till the end of the evening. Lesson learnt - never ever try to look down from these kind of heights again, however tempting the view may be.

There were other exciting activities on on the tower including sky walk and bungee jumping. Going by my experience with heights a little while ago, I am sure the farthest I can actually go is to cheer the people who have courage and adventurous spirit to attempt these activities. We had some great photo sessions near the base of the tower, with the setting sun in the backdrop.

The final destination of the day was Venetian, the biggest casino hotel in Macau. By the time we set off towards this place, the lights were on in the city. The great hotels and casinos were decked up in all their finery. It was as magical as a view from a fairy tale....

Venetian is a huge and highly imposing structure from outside. We walked in soon, and after some coffee in starbucks later, we walked into the casino. I have seen casinos before in Johannesburg, but this one was particularly huge and dazzling. So many games, and so many people, blowing away so much money in each instant!!! You need to see it to believe it. We spent some time around the tables trying to understand each of the games, and once we did, it was fun watching. We also thought of having some and invested HKD 50 each, and we lasted for a total of around 2 minutes !!!

After casino, we decided to have a walk around the hotel, and discovered the beautiful shopping arcade, with all the world's designer brands. Venice has been re-created here, along with the trademark canals, where one can even enjoy a gondola ride!!!

Another exciting session of photography later, we were all ready to call it a day. Venetian buses run every minute to the ferry, and we got into one of them. And then it was back to Hongkong on the ferry...

End of a exciting but memorable day!!!

Holiday continued......

Finally we were at the busy commercial area of Nathan Street where N's service apartment is located. She was there to receive us. A short walk to the apartment later, we were finally comfortable after a not-so-long-journey as such but tiring, as it was preceded by a long day at office !!!

N is a perfect host - in spite of her really busy schedule at that time, she had prepared food for us !!! She had to rush to office soon. We made ourselves comfortable, freshed up, had a lovely lunch, rested and all recharged to be back to our "tourist" avatar!!! All dressed up, we were out in Nathan street soon, checking out the plethora of outlets with highly attractive wares on display !!! Initiated photo sessions (one of the main objectives of a holiday is to share the views and go back in time later), and enjoyed coffee at Starbucks.

The evening plan was to visit the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront for the world renowned "A Symphony of Lights" light and sounds show. The view at the waterfront with the hong kong skyline, with numerous tall lighted-up buildings was breathtaking...there are very few similar spectacles I have experienced before. And the show, was simple amazing. It is a memory that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The rest of the evening, we took a harbour cruise, which took us around for a enthralling experience for around an hour. We were on the open deck, taking in the views and the lovely breeze....Such a welcome change coming from the hot arid plains of North India!!!

The plan for next day was to take the cable car to lantau island and visit the giant buddha. It was me and U as N again had to cancel her leave due to an unforeseen emergency situation at work. Armed with printed instructions prepared by N from her research, we were off to explore. The first hop was train to reach Tung Chung, and then cable car. The Cable Car journey was the best I had been to so far - the earlier ones being the one at Haridwar, in Science City in Kolkata, to Sentosa Island in Singapore. The cars were pretty big, with seating for 8 people, which helps to get into a "community" feeling !! Otherwise hanging in a box, from a wire, some hundreds of feet above ground, does give some initial jitters to "normal-hearted" people like me !!! There was a looooooong queue and a consequential looooooooooooooong wait before we could be on-board. The moderately hot (in 30s Celsius) and considerably humid weather made it pretty difficult though...

Finally the wait was over, and we were on board, and all then it was pure magic. The views around were breathtaking...the changing landscape - from cityscape to mountains to water bodies....the airport, the harbour - we could see it all. And then we could see the Giant Buddha...and as we came nearer, it emerged in its full glory...Lot of pics later, we reached our destination and took a walk around the Ngong Ping Village. We took the 268 steps to reach on top, and spent time absorbing the lovely views around !!!! The humidity did make the climb little difficult - but the excitement of discovering new places makes these little discomforts utterly insignificant.

We rested a while in the cool shadows around, visited Po-Lin monastery, enjoyed a leisurely lunch and then were on our way back. One very interesting find here was the giant sized incense sticks that were being offered !!!

Then it was time for the evening shift of fun!!! N was back from office and we were off to the Temple Street night market. Fun place for lot of knick-knacks and a heady dose of bargaining. The bargaining mode was mostly calculator, where the buyer and seller would sequentially put up their offer and finally the deal happens at the most mutually agreeable price point. Reminded me of Bangkok - where we had use exactly the same mode of communication. Its amazing how supposedly inconsequential fruits of technology has enabled the phenomenon of global village.....enabling global trade and tourism!!! Some shopping and a lovely dinner at one of the street kiosks later, we were done for the day...

Next in agenda was Macau - and we were all excited in anticipation!!!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Holiday !!!

Just back from a quick Holiday in Hongkong. Why Hongkong of all places for a holiday, before the more popular destinations like Malaysia? Well, my friend N is there on a short term assignment, and from the time she came to know of it (that was quite a few months back), I had an open invitation to visit !!!

I had the same in mind, but no confirmed time frames. Around a month back, more serious thinking around the dates started, and also scouting for fellow singles (females only of course !!!) began. I was the only one who was confirmed and of course N, as we were visiting her. By the way, N is my classmate from college (of the long lost days of yore when I was actually that young). We hoped to see 2 more classmates, but none of them could make it due to different circumstancial issues, though they were eager to join. Finally I had company in another friend, U, who is an ex-colleague, and was my travel-mate in my first (the only one before this) foreign holiday in Singapore !!!

Only thing that required to be done in advance was ticketing as no Visa is required for 14 days - and our plan was for 5 days only. Oops I forgot the most important one - asking for leave from office and actually getting approval - that is the always the toughest part of any holiday project. These 2 taken care, I was able to concentrate on the finer details like some shopping for the travel.

Finally the day was here and we rushed from office to home and to airport, and finally boarded the flight. It was little scary for some time after take off as we felt that the aircraft was not gaining height at all. Air travel has become a little jittery last few weeks after the Mangalore mishap - with near-missed reported almost everyday. However our apprehensions were put to rest very soon and all was normal. Well - normal only from the safety front - otherwise it was pretty chaotic. We had a BIG group of people travelling together as a part of a some travel agency organised trip - and it was one of the most unruly, irritating & annoying group of people I have ever seen. And unfortunately, we were among the very few who were sandwiched in between the group. They managed to delay the flight & trouble the cabin crew so much that they stopped responding to any calls from this area of the airplane !!!

The journey from Airport to Kowloon island in the bus was amazingly beautiful - passing through mountains, bay, bridges & lot of greenery.