I marvel at the amount of memory we have made together in a short stint of 2 years of school, every morning Facebook reminds me of you, in utmost primacy. I chuckle for the dreams centered around us cynosures, that we will change the world, we will write never-heard-before verses, make the world a better place to live. they are fraught long in daily rush to catch the bus to work. Long buried are promises to write letters to you from Delhi, Bombay or Bangalore as I make do with screenshots these days, and bug you to be present in Whatsapp, for it is more instantaneous. Screenshots tell you of the boys, food, new places and new dresses, all of it since I know you know me. You will know what I shall tell you. But then, Dyuti…Dyuti, they still make songs in this world that which deserves to be written in a letter, for a mere share will not enough to contain her legacy. And who else I shall write a letter to, apart from you?
“If I hear of your arrival
I will spread a carpet of flowers under your feet
spread flowers, spread rose flowers
I will sacrifice myself at the dust of your feet
bring me the glass so I may lose myself.”
This Dari poetry of Khayyam rings a bell in you mind? Let me remind of the naive girl, who had a penchant for singing, met this poet at a midsummer night in the dreamland of Kolkata. As we were rolling our weed joints at your place with a bottle of Feny by side, she told us the story how her love unleashed as she sang Paimona to the lover, while rest of the world took a breather. Did you know they ran away from the city in sometime to make a small home by the river in Shantiniketan? The euphoric song, now backdrop of their daily chores from the royal courts of Afghanistan, adopted in Bengali, calls the rain to beckon with an unheard of melancholy.
Let me share the link with you before you get tired of my rant.
I was smitten by the peacock green cover at the first glance. You see the woman dancing on her whim at the end of pregnant horizon? I love her. What beautiful voice of Murshidabadi opens the track with an array of melody. Pair that with Lagnajita, an already famous name in Bengali arena, you will groove to the tunes.
Dyuti, also I would like to mention, this song reminds me of you, not because the credit title has your namesake individual, but the soothing melody makes me feel home.
Let me know when is a good time we shall have a sleepover at your rooftop, on a Sheetolpati, tuning to Mono Aji till dawn while we discuss our regular existential crisis.
Yours truly 🙂
[Mono Aji is an independent project by Dyuti Mukherjee and Ritam Sen. It is a Bengali rendering of the song Paimona by Omor Khayyam. Various artists have dedicated precious time for the project for the love of indigenous music and not remuneration.
Added are the subtitles to the music video of Mono Aji. So if you are like the song but do not understand words, just click on the subtitles/caption option in the bottom right corner of the video and you are good to go.
In case anybody’s thinking of downloading, the song is available at just INR 15 (<$.5) from the link below. Do buy if you liked it.
Independent music needs your support.]
“People will travel anywhere for good food. It is crazy.”
Nestled between the mighty mountains of Western Ghats and sparkles of Arabian Sea waves, the land of Kerala will entice you with abundance of blended food culture from ancient Syrian Christians, Muslim traders from Arabian Peninsula and indigenous Hindu heritage. The haven for one and all, Kerala flourished an exceptional realm of liberty, peace and plenty to be experienced till date.
For a Malyali homemaker, collectibles for a wholesome meal are scattered across 600KM coast line, apart from the grandeur of spices, gentle banana leaves, spikes of curry leaves and creamy coconuts from the backyard. An astounding dexterity is what with which she will prepare the food, which even the restaurants these days have learnt to ape well, for our good fortune.
Be prepared for the extravaganza
Coconut oil is used in abundance for all preparation, Biryani being only exception.
Don’t expect to taste the glory with spoons for the food here expects you to touch her supple skin of drumstick or roasted meal or the fine style of de-shelling from seafood while morsels tell you the historical trail of its being.
The state generously serves beef, pork, mutton, squids, fishes of coastal origin, crabs, even rabbit along with poultry and duck. Vegetarians, don’t be disheartened since Brahmins eschew most of the meaty stuff only to indulge in Rasam, Dhosa, Idli and Vegetable curries. I loved their drumsticks, personally, even though they do get carried away with the same.
The Malabar Coast with settlers from Arabian trade following spice route is often full of the aroma of a close cousin of Yemeni Mandi, infused with generous mix of condiments, known as Malabar Biryani from Mapilla homes, later popular as Thalasserry Biryani, a ubiquitous rice dish across the state as well as the southern part of India. Served with date pickle, raita and coconut chutney, again a fusion of West Asia and Kerala, coastal influence ensures the Biryani to contain prawns and fish as well, unlike the traditional northern counterpart, full of meaty affair.
The best Biryani I had at Kozhikode, at the Malabar Biryani House.
Don’t forget a cup of warm Sulaymani in any tea shop, a sweet black tea with lemon. The name is believed to have been attributed to this simple drink by the Sulaymani Bohras, a community from Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Syrian Christians’ Egg Roast and other delicacies
The Syrian Christians are among the world’s oldest Christians (legend tells St Thomas, the Doubting Thomas of the Bible, had inspired the religious sense for them). So there were Christians in Kerala while in Europe many were still living on trees. Syrian Christian cuisine is rich and varied and uses pork, beef and other ingredients you don’t always find in other Indian cuisines.
The best legacy of Christian cuisine in my opinion is Egg Roast. While roasting is a common practice for all meat choices, Egg Roast stands apart for the love-story it plays with caramelized onions and spikes of curry leaves.
Rapsy restaurant in Munnar had served me this dish, enthralling my Munnar nights.
Fort Kochi is another wonderful destination for Syrian influenced coastal food.
Do pay a visit to the Ginger house for a breakfast of Appam and meen molee.
Another must mention is the appam and beef Estew, almost playing the role of a comfort food.
PS: I know few people who live on a comfort food diet of coconut oil and rice.
Plan a trip to Kerala in august-September if Onam, the grand harvest festival is in your mind, when the apparition of king Mahabali rises from the deepest of blue to visit his beloved subject rejoicing the spirit with the quintessentially grandest feast of the world, Onasadya (Sadhya is the platter served on banana leaves, a traditional Hindu practice). My choice from a Sadhya spread is the quirky dessert of Daal Payasam, sensuous bonding of milk and lentil.
Our Place and other wonders of the hills
Legacy of British colonial rule remains in the food of hills decked up with coffee and spice plantation, serving as quick summer escapades. The hills have called back expats and chefs, one of them being the owner of Our Place, the best cafe in Thekkady. The Irish chef only cooks food basis on prior reservation while his Bengali wife will play the role of an amazing host.
Opposite to that is a restaurant, blame my poor memory that I forgot the name, that serves the best Karimeen in the entire Kerala. They marinade the fish in fiery red sauce and steam it in banana leaf.
Must try coastal delicacies
Anything with Seer fish, it has an exquisite flavor
All roast items, specially the rabbit curry and beef keema. (Roasts are best served in Tody shops)
Meen Molee with Appam
Karimeen steamed in Banana leaves
Pomphret and squids
Nothing is more pleasurable in the whole world than eating good food followed with talking about it. Whet up and follow this ready reckoner as you have already got a snippet of what Kerala treasures for you.
Usual harbingers of Kerala Monsoon is steep price-drop in airfare to the land while mushrooms sprout in abundance in nooks and corners of Konkan coast. I had the good fortune of visiting most parts of Kerala in sunny genial days of December holidays, Wayanand being a road trip from Bangalore by August end, as the rains were waning away. I would recommend Kerala Monsoon to everyone if your childhood memory reminisces the movie Bombay and Arvind Swami humming “Tu hi re…” as waves of Arabian break against littoral lighthouse. A cup of brewed “Kapi” ( how we say coffee here), a laptop to work and a homestay in the Silent Valley forest; pretty much sums up small pleasures of life.
My first ever long term trip (2 weeks, not justified by international standard, I know) anywhere as an adult was Kerala; it retains a specialty designation for all the good reasons. As Sayantan and I explored the exquisite beaches, enthralling jungles, hibernating backwaters, drove miles in bright sunny days, cursed while stuck at traffic on hilly curve, tasted the spikes of coconut oil infused delicacies and made merry under the moonlit tree-houses, we realized all the reasons to name Kerala as God’s own country.
It is people that defines the appealing characteristics of a land. Kerala is a place where I have felt the safest till date. As a female Indian traveler it means a lot. People here smile innocence even when directing you to a nearby Todi shop or charging Herculean price while selling a piece of sandalwood. That remarkable indifference when the jungle guide told me he can fire only at air if confronted with an animal at the ungodly hours of night trails at Periyar reserve, I will treasure for this lifetime.
Forests: Silent Valley Jungle, Periyar Reserve forest (in my next life, may I be a tree in the reserve, I loved the place), Thekkady
Hill-stations: Indisputably Munnar, Wayanand
How to commute
Airports: Kerala has 3 working international airports, Kochi, Trivandam and Calicut/Kozhikode
By Train: The Great Indian Railways, enough said
By Bus: From Bangalore and Chennai multiple overnight bus journey brings in a pile of commuters everyday
Recommended length of stay
If you have the luxury of time, a good 3 weeks stay is recommended to assimilate the spirit of the land. A lot of tourist visit Kerala from nearby states as weekend escapades as well. I know a friend who frequent the beaches almost every other week, as mind-blown she is.
Experiences to cherish ( all IMO)
Be prepared for an extravagance of taste bud experiences. Use of spices, quintessential coconut oil, curry leaves and the beef will transport you to a unforeseen heaven quite frequently.
the Toddy shops: For the uninitiated, Toddy shop is the place where local made alcohol is served with a “chakhna”, a spicy accompaniment to uplift overall mood. Toddy shops can be overwhelming in shadiness.
Locals wear Mundu, a white piece of cloth, tied across waist and they take immense pride in their culture. Women will decorate hair with garlands.
The movie posters around the city are to die for. Mohonlaal is very famous but personally I loved the cute young guy with beard, trying hard to recall the name, will come back.
River Periyar and the jungle surrounding are ethereal. I will be dedicating an individual post on them soon.
All the temples will have elephants to your amazement.
Hotels: Budget hotels will be somewhere between INR 2000 to 5000(USD 28/71), with breakfast spread. Of course there are Airbnbs and home-stays, but I suggest do pay hid to previous travelers’ experience.
Meal: In a fine dine restaurant, a meal for 2 would cost INR 2000 (USD 28) with a mug of beer. Tody shops will help you fill up within INR 500(USD 7) with good dose of alcohol, again for 2 people. Then of course there are street food vendors and regular eateries.
Commute: If you travel by public transport, price drastically reduces, may be INR 200 per day. I mean exploring the city by auto, bus etc. If you plan to rent a car for a longer stay, travel becomes a bit easier and costlier as well.
Take insect repellent before venturing into the jungle, leeches, snakes, mosquitoes… the list goes on
If renting a car, get the deal cleared from the beginning.
Indulge in fresh fruit while visiting the damn but insist on them being cut fresh
Think repeatedly before trying Tody
Respect local culture, suggest not to wear dresses that may expose too much of skin.
How we did it
Day 1: Overnight bus journey from Bangalore to Kochi
Day 2: Explore Kochi, feast on seafood, stand hesitantly in front of Tody shops but did not enter
Day 3: Encounter with Arabian sea, meet the cab driver ho will take us for further travel
Day 12: Start for Calicut, experience a never ending car drive on a calm quaint state
Day 13: crash at the hotel of Calicut ( at least we did), have a great supper, go to a tody shop, finally
Day 14: Return home
(Pictures I clicked all by the previous Lenovo P780 and a Nikon P&S, pardon image quality. This is just an introduction to my loveslaborlost travel to Kerala. I will write more about each and every place, how I experienced and what I loved and loathed. Stay tuned.)
Have you read about the must haves about Kerala cuisine? Read here https://orangewayfarer.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/foodtrip-kerala-trail/
I would love to hear your feedback. Do let me know how you are planning your trip to Kerala and surroundings.
The otherwise nerdy town of Bangalore, thrilling newcomers with the advent of a posh pub every other weekend, celebrates Ramadam in unique style though. While I hail from Kolkata, feasting on iftari was strictly restricted to friends at office and neighbors. “Have you been to the Mosque road?”or “Let us plan Mosque road this weekend” entered my dictionary after I started living in Bangalore.
I intend to write about the visceral road of Kormangala housing Mc D, Truffels, Tibet Mall (all of them near and dear ones to a Christite) that connects 80 Ft road to Sony Signal. For a month it will host the Iftar party every year, before Eid beckons. For the ones who love food, it is a place of absolute ecstasy.
Best alternate: Mosque road, for obvious reasons. I will be visiting the place this weekend and stay tuned for my mosque road blog. I have been there, religiously for past couple of years, and it is bigger and better.
The street comes alive. You see people with bright smile, exploring, wondering, marveling. Food is what brings all of us close, makes us laugh, love. That, IMO, is the best part of Kormangala iftar experience.
All the kebab spread are cooked in front of you. While they may not maintain the hygiene you practice at home, they do try their best to serve you good food.
A spread of meat, one gets to gape for all the correct reasons. Mutton, chicken, beef (even in this turbulent time), tittr ( a small bird for the starters), camel, seafood- you name it and get it. Rev up! Inch closer before your meat gets cold.
[Probably the last time I am relishing red-meat like the way I am doing now. Blame goes to Uric acid et al. Must say, for all those in Bangalore don’t miss on the feast, it is a sin to do so. Reserve a evening for the coming weekend, remember it will only last till the Moon takes her Eid shape.]
Indian peninsula is 7500 KM long, or so I hear. The Bay of Bengal at one side and the Arabian Sea at the other, young us learns about Indian beaches from Geography as well as Literature classes, a point of fascination of our poets. I have had the good fortune of visiting some of the famous beaches of India. The detailed but non-exhaustive blog post is an ode to the tropical beaches that had given me solace at some point of time.
Things to remember before visiting beaches in the country
Gorge of seafood but make sure you see what they are cooking, should be a fresh catch
Bargain as much as your heart wants
Do not venture into the sea while drunk, coastal guards in India? I never spotted any
Expect to stand in queue wherever there is a ferry ride
In general, people understand English here
Smile at sighting anyone hostile ( chances are you still are in danger, just a few degrees lesser of the same)
Indian society is a conservative one, few beaches in Goa and Kerala are safe to be sporting a Bikini, otherwise, expect a lot of frowns
Tortoise is an endangered species and Indian law does not permit killing or eating them, please don’t hog on the creatures, they kill them during hatching time. inhuman, IMO.
A balmy childhood from this densely populated state will ensure you frequent trips to Digha as quick escapades. Puri beach from neighbouring Odissa is considered to be a holier than thou vacation spot. Mandarmoni has come up recently with many a resort dotting the vast sandy beach, however, the place is a threat to natural sustainability. I have visited all of them while few other features in my must-visit list:
Digha, West Bengal
To understand how beautiful Digha really is, please watch the movie starring Uttam Kumar, “Bikele Bhorer Phool“, an morning flower, blossomed in evening.
These days, it fell prey to endless footfall, the sea beach is dirty beyond imagination, sand dunes are quickly receding with construction work etc etc.
Why you should visit Digha?
A real quick gateway from Kolkata. 4 hours by state transport bus, many of them run from Kolkata Dharmatala or Durgapur Citi center. May opt for the new train “duronto” from Howrah station
On the way, have a break at the kolaghat bridge. Once famous for Hilsa fish, it hosts a bunch of Dhaba these days.
Really, and I repeat, really cheap sea food is available on Digha street. Gorge on pomphret, prawns, cashew nuts or typical Bengali fish meal.
If you are a fond of jaggery, the road is a mine for you. Stop in front of any of the village houses and buy a bottle of it, don’t have to worry about chemical, they make it for their own household. Most organic way to buy jagerry.
When you should not visit Digha?
Any of the national holidays. I went there during new year and found the sea waves receding leaving used condoms on the shore.
during Puja? no, not at all…
Why one should visit Deegha at all?
It is cheap-max
It is a proper beach, unlike nearby Mandarmoni
If you want to observe local life, Deegha serves the purpose. I saw a family enjoying picnic, carrying a chicken with them and beheading it in order to xook. Just beside the cooking place
A lot of decent staying option
(Note: Do visit Kopalkundala temple, if you know what I mean!)
Puri (from Odissa but most popular among Bengalis)
No Bengali has lived a life that has not taken her to the night train of Jagannath Express. A prolific place during Rathyatra, Puri hosts a dangerous sea beach that takes a toll every year from the alcoholic enthusiasts. legend has it Sri Chaitanyadeb walked straight into the sea, in a trance, only to be engulfed by the gushing waves.
Don’t forget to eat crispy Khaja from Katatua’s shop, Kakatua is a beautiful white bird and one of the species is chained in front of the shop. We buy them in bulk and distribute to the neighbors once back home.
Puri had been once an interesting spot for honeymooning. An ethnic made up Potua village is a tourist attraction these days, trying to revive the art of potochitro (a style of handpainting that details tales of Mahabharata or Ramayana).
Check out their Sambalpuri and Katki selection of fabric. Coloured and designed to perfection with the intricate stripes.
Take a day’s trip to the ancient Konark Temple where they had worshipped the Sun with piety. A bit more time in hand, visit Bhubaneswar, the temple city will charm you with age-old structures. ASI has done a commendable job at protecting heritage.
Mandarmoni has come up to be an easy alternative to Digha. Somewhere, 40 km from Digha sea beach, Mandamoni is dotted with resorts, Rose Valley is the most famous.
The beach here is calm, infamous for notorious car races at night. Hotels and street food are a tad overpriced. The beach looks incredible during sunset.
Don’t forget to go for a boat ride during high tide with the locals when visiting Mondarmoni.
(I will be making a full-fledged blog about Mandarmoni pretty soon, stay put)
Let us quickly come down to the southern part of Bay of Bengal. Pondy, rechristening her with the adorable name certainly sets expectations high!
A 3 hours drive from Chennai city, Pondy also hosts an airport. Alcohol is cheaper than other states, Pondy being a union territory. A lot of budget and luxury accommodation is available with an array of choice of food. Do visit paradise island, it is a short ferry ride from main land, however gets heavily queued up during peak time.
Pondy serves as a weekend gateway from both Bangalore and Chennai. The charm of vintage yellow tiled French villas and aurobindo ashram, with sumptuous French food add to her glory.
If travelling by own car, you may consider visiting Mahabalipuram beach as well.
Mythology has it the land of Kerala was created as frustrated Parashuram, after killing his mother with an axe, had threw to towards the sea. Kerala stands with the sea of Arabia to her west with beautiful beaches dotting coastal line. My next visit has Varkala and Kovalam among them.
We visited the beach after the new year party eve was over. I remember the sunny landscape, scarcely crowded, overlooking a blue water mass of Laccadive Sea. Though Aleppey is more of a lagoon and houseboat town, don’t give the beach a miss, especially on a tranquil morning. Must see? The lighthouse that did not let the sailors drift away.
Volumes have been written about Goa, volumes will be written about Goa. The tiny state facing Arabian Sea bears legacy of Portuguese colonial rule. Beaches galore, delicious food is served on the beach side shacks, alcohol is less taxed, hence cheaper, mornings are full with activities, water sports, illusive Dudhsagar trekking, river cruise, flee markets every corner, ample supply of weed; once a Russian settlement, Goa now is a must do plan for every college friends group.
You speak more about the city that hosts “Gateway of India” only to realize you have actually said nothing. Mumbai Coastline looks the best, IMO, when your flight leaves for hometown.
Marine drive and sea link remains a wonder for me till date (theory of Marginal utility is yet to set in)
Laze around the Choupatti beach on a Sunday afternoon. Watch the sunset while the Sun goes own, the sky scrapers are lit up after a busy workday, and sip a hot cup of lemon tea.
From Mumbai, you may visit Daman and Diu or Tarkalli or Elephanta caves for a quick escape from city life.
[It is a pity I have started to blog so late. All these travels for the days, I don’t want to let them go futile. Conjuring up the snapshots of the major travels that have left a mark in my mind, I promise to elaborate more on each and every place ASAP, time permitting. while I have travelled extensively the southern part of the country, so many places are yet to be explored, let alone be the Himalayas, North Eastern wonders or the grandeur of Rajasthan.
I would like to thank my father, Manas Jyoti Chakraborty for clicking pics using the old reel camera (how I treasure them), Stabak Nandy for the snaps of Mandarmoni and Pondy. You may contact Stabak at https://www.facebook.com/stabakn
Do spare a minute to suggest a place you believe is an absolute not to be missed among the beaches of India… Cheers]
In India we often name our daughters “Maya”, a Sanskrit term for illusion. While googling Koh Phi Phi and Maya Bay, the irreversible feminine feel with stunning pictures of the bay had us drooling way too long. We actually extended our stay at Phuket for longer for this tour and how thoughtful of us, that we did so!
I didn’t watch “the Beach” (movie) ever.
I did watch the trailer of the movie.
I started watching the movie but fell asleep. -_-
Now that half a year over and I am contemplating on re-visiting Thailand, I am still not done watching “the Beach”.
Note: If you have not watched the movie yet, don’t bother now. Maya Bay is stunning as is, don’t even bother googling it’s images, you won’t believe the surprise until you have been there.
Remember what Sean told Mitty from the movie, The unusual life of Walter Mitty? “If I like a moment, I like to keep it for myself, personal.” An instantaneous reminder of the water body surrounded by cliffs on three sides.
We took a speedboat cruise on a choppy sea and reached monkey island at first.
I don’t know for what purpose people do it when they do it, but they behave strangely with the entire monkey clan of the island. Monkey will demand food, unless you provide, they might get dangerous. Keep Safe Distance, always.
Translucent water on white sand at one side, behind you men feeding the monkey, capturing selfies to frame the generosity, the island left me feeling uneasy.
Scuba on the way to Phi Phi Island!
Not more than 15 minutes at the island, the boatmen will sail you to a point, claim to experience the best of coral reefs exquisite, the coveted Scuba experience.
DO NOT dive unless you know swimming. I did and I repent to date.
Carry towel and swimsuit, rest of the diving gears they will provide with a life jacket.
The life jacket works (the reason why I am able to blog today).
Scuba was in many ways getting inside a humongous aquarium to take a glimpse at the best of vivid marine. The corals, the yellow school of fishes, often swimming by your side, a nervous curious self-reminding “I might drown, I might drown” and the moment is gone in a whiplash with frantic calls for help, arduous deal of diving by a know-not-to-swim girl.
They take you for lunch afterwards. Be careful of what you eat. The buffet spread was decent but compared to street-food of Thailand, it was just “decent”, pat for my generous self. They serve choice of stir-fried chicken, fish, vegetables with rice and soup as well.
Food is served at Koh Phi Phi Don, the mainland of Phi Phi archipelago, by local women who cover their heads and run the business of selling Sea-shells on the sea-shore, with ease.
Locals tell me, Maya Bay is a stunner on a full moon night, provided you tag with them who arrange for a night stay at the island. With high tide, the water gets inside and covers up muddy patches. The 2004 tsunami had hit the Bay bad, wiping out modifications a movie set ushered. “What were you doing during that tsunami?”, I ask with wide eyes. The tsunami of 2004 taken her toll in India as well. A school student at that time, I remember newspaper headlines counting deaths on Konkan beach of the Indian peninsula. The lady says “yes, a lot of water”, and smiles. She survived the tsunami with a smile.
Jay knows for sure how to steer a boat. Jay, that’s what he said his name is, a boy in his early twenties and with aa rather deep complexion for a Thai and sharp eyes, is well versed with the English language and assured me “no-one has ever drowned from my boat”. He tells us the Bird’s nest soup, a delicacy for Thai royalty, is collected by the cliff-dwellers. Claim to fame for long-lasting youth, the Swiftlet’s saliva makes up those intricate nests. Jay tells us to hurry, seeing a dark sky, he senses the sea to gloom up. We enter Maya.
I was tired by sea-sickness, greasy food and a near-death experience from scuba never tried googling Maya beforehand and expected the least from the beach. Little did I knew about the best surprise from South-east Asia, quintessentially from the whole of Asia I have seen till date, was tucked inside.
The beach is dotted with boats and few vessels afloat their emerald green water. I wonder how long it will sustain the perils of human intrusion. Pristine is not exactly how you define Maya anymore, but stunner she is.
There is a national park sign beyond which you are suggested not to enter. People make merry on the water with white sand and rocky bed. Swimming is a dangerous venture here, I presume. One hour was not enough to endure her beauty, explore the caves and cliffs and bask in the shadowing sun. In the pressing itinerary, it was impossible to make another visit, but I strongly recommend people visiting Phuket, go and explore Maya Bay and only Maya bay is enough to succumb to Andaman sea’s erogenous beauty.
While returning there is a stopover at a small island. You may enjoy a sip of overpriced beer or two. You shall be back to the pier by 5 pm and requested to collect the shoes. Walk back home on naked feet otherwise.
€ At a glance
If there is a weather forecast, do not travel by speedboat. A real pain for 2 hours.
Love scuba and witness underwater life? this is your place.
Do not try to climb the rocks, I fell on one and broke my camera.
Do not eat much if the sea is rough. The journey will not be peaceful.
Please do not feed the monkey clan or try taking selfies with them while feeding them.
We paid 1200 Baht per person after a heavy bargain, end January, one of the better season.
My Pishai (husband of my father’s sister) gets irritated every time I demand a plate of Biryani. “Ghee jobjobe”(gentle pouring of Ghee, aromatic Indian clarified butter) rice is gonna be too heavy for the weather, you will fall sick; he will warn me. And I will become reckless and plan an imaginary friend’s meet. Haji makes incredible biryani in close vicinity. Which mad-hatter wants to give it a miss?
Life goes on. Sitting miles away from home, at the advent of Ramadan, end of calendar month when the pocket is showing me empty meagreness of life, I decide to cook it for me. I will describe the side effects of the decision and the cost-effective way we did it. Quantity exceeded our premonition and Dawat for friends was inevitable.
What is the magic of a Biryani?
For the beginners, assuming you are not Indians/Bangladeshi/Pakistani, Biryani is an aromatic rice preparation, prepared with choice of meat chunks. Often we Bengalis put in potatoes in it. Biryani itself is a wholesome meal, however, we had prepared Mutton Korma as an extra offering.
Claim to fame?
An assortment of rice and meat cooked together is age-old practice across tradition often resulting in stodgy outcome. Biryani stands out for the aroma infused in the rice grains while cooking it to perfection in “Dum” style. Accompanying mutton Korma is best tasted with beef but we have Indians generally don’t have access to beef in this turbulent political time. As a child born in Hindu household, our tastebuds are well conditioned with Mutton/goatmeat too. We really really love that meat, often more than the beef counterpart.
Make a paste of handful of almond and cashew nuts for Korma gravy
To start with Biryani
Basmati needs to be cooked for no more than 10 min, with a pinch of pepper, nigella seeds and few drops of white oil to ensure grains are not sticky. A well cooked Biryani is to take her pride in feather-like grains.
Spread the half cooked rice to cool, make sure it is not boiled already.
Temper few spoons of ghee with cardamom, cinnamon sticks and lobongo. Add marinaded chicken.
Let it cook, preserve chicken curry for later use in dum
Now comes the arcane part of layering. A good Biryani, by it’s own virtue, will appeal through every layer of rice, while supple meat pieces and boiled eggs will make way to your plate.
Make sure the protein part stays at the bottom of a heavy bottomed pan, top it up with rice, potatoes and eggs, sprinkle barista and saffron (optional, brings in the colors very well)
Put it on Dum.
For the beginners, dum is an ancient effective style of cooking that let’s the steam of a pot cook it’s containment to perfection, with not letting of the vapor evaporate at any cost. You need clay pot, flour dough and many other ingredients for that. In my mundane kitchen, I sought resort to an old 5 ltr pressure cooker, it is heavy bottomed, hence served the purpose well. I didn’t put it on pressure though, the lid it heavy enough.
Alternative way to cook it is to put the vessel on a pan bigger than that. The pan will be on flame and will contain water, thus preventing direct contact of rice-pot with heat. Add another vessel full of water on top of the lid to add more pressure and ensure no escape for steam inside the pot. End result will be as good, trust me.
Pro tip: unless there is a threat of burn it., A fowl smell, you may want to open the lid directly at the dinner table. A piece of art your biryani is, it will please everybody.
To cook Mutton Korma
(Feel free to replace mutton with your choice of meat, just be vigilant about ample cooking time to ensure meat is cooked to taste.)
Start frying onions, wait till they turn golden brown.
Add in tomato and green chili paste.
The oil stars to float and add it more tomatoes, optional, we had extra tomatoes and knew not what to do with them
Add in mutton sans marination liquid and frry for a while
Add marination and cover with a lid till the entire house/the area knows you are cooking mutton
Add in your nut paste and water if need be.
Health tip: cook it with white oil and top it up with ghee, but if you are generous do the whole business with ghee. I didn’t use pressure cooker to cook it either. You may consider that option too. Prepare an exotic Mughal dinner for friends and let me know how they liked it. You have another way to cook biryani? Please teach me.
If you are a DIY traveller, love to explore, this travel blog could be your ultimate guide to Travel around Thailand in two weeks within a budget. I was finishing the first year of management studies when I made my clandestine visit to the littoral land with my love of life. Probably that added to the visceral feel for the country I am cherishing till date. That story can wait, let’s hone into the quick pointers…
Flights: Air-Asia operates multiple flights every day from all major cities of India. Generally, the cheapest flights are from Kochi. Indigo operates from Kolkata and flies multiple times. It takes 3.5 hours to reach Bangkok, DMK airport
By Road: Words of an 11-day road trip is doing the round. Start from picturesque Manipur and proceed through Myanmar. It sure is an experience.
How I planned my travel around Thailand in two weeks?
I was lurking behind AirAsia website for a “cheap-cheap” deal. As soon as it came out, I jumped out to grab it.
On a serious note, the first time I travelled to Thailand (my first ever foreign trip), I got a deal for INR 7000 with a return ticket. September, end of monsoon season and Airasia promotion: all things gentle added up. I traveled from Bangkok. For the second trip, I was charged INR 12000 for round trip, end of January season.
AirAsia flies you till Don Mueang International airport(DMK). All you see around is Indian faces speaking your native language. For Subarnabhumi, which essentially is the new and biggest functioning international playground of the city, you should rely on other carriers.
From DMK, I use Uber, Airport Shuttle or domestic flights for internal travel.
Travel on weekdays, at an odd time. Weekends are expensive. Also, a 3 work day week is a treat, trust me.
Thailand internal travel only permit 1 ltr of alcohol in flight, so splurge responsibly at the duty-free store. (for the alcoholics)
How long is too long in Thailand? And what are the places one can visit from Thailand?
Now, this is tricky. I know how difficult it is to say goodbye to the places you have discovered virtually, researched on and stayed. At least a stay of a couple of days is recommended to feel the pulse of a land.
I met people on the road backpacking SE Asia for 3 months at a go. With regular office work, many of us do not have the luxury of suck prolonged vacay in general. In my opinion, one should extend their stay in the below mentioned places as per the activities they are taking up.
Bangkok: 5 nights (Shop: I shopped for 3 days at a stretch, China Town, Ancient capital, City tour, Safari World, Shows)
Pattaya: 1 night is good enough for exploring the Walking Street
I will be talking about each place and experiences in detail in the following blogs.
Food galore when in Bangkok, do visit the amazing Floating markets, the further they are, the better!
Both of my Thailand trip-itinerary
5 days: Bangkok 3 nights and Pattaya 2 nights in September 2015
11 days: Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, Pattaya in January, 2017 (It rained a lot, unusually)
This quick travel around Thailand in two weeks guide will only leave you longing for more of travel bliss. For example, I had a terrible time when it came to leaving the country and come back to the monotony of regular life. If you have the luxury of slow travel, you may consider exploring following countries nearby. Multiple cheap flights from Bangkok make Airfare is cheap and they offer their own share of beautiful culture.
An Approximate Budget for a Two Week trip to Thailand
Capping travel budget is an entirely private choice. If you decide to cruise through the Andaman Sea, the pocket pinch will be uber cool whereas a hostel stay will cost you less than $3 in BKK.
I prefer comfortable-travel with a dash on luxury once in a while. A 11 day Thailand stay came to be INR 50000 ( $700) for me sans shopping.
Where I could save more?
A late heavy breakfast instead of three meals
Streamlining day’s visit, prior planning
Refusing to take Tuk Tuks altogether, they are costly
Trying Charcoal icecream (yes, I did that)
Not plunging into the sea with my camera (basically avoid risky moves that may entail an accident)
I strongly recommend reading a book or two before you set your feet on a new country. One wisely written book can play the part of conditioner for the culture and practices prevalent in the land. I was hooked to the book “Sightseeing” byRattawut Lapcharoensap for days before I reached Thailand. It is a brilliant combination of eight short stories that depict the life of Thais beyond tour packages, city tours and hustles of massage parlours.
Good to know: Khabon Kha is “Thank you!” and “Soi” is Lane. All the tour operators, the boat companies, have two sets of guides, one speaks English, other one speak English and Chinese
How many of you have decided to visit Thailand while embarking on the first ever foreign trip? Do you love Thailand the way I do? Do you have a suggestion for the next must visit place for me in Thailand? Please suggest…
Is it wise to go for a boat trip in Phuket when the sky is overcast and the day drizzles?
Not every day starts with a plan to visit famed James Bond island or the Phang Nga archipelago, but when it did for us, Phuket sky decided to remain outcast. If you are staying at Pattaya, and have booked a trip the night ahead with local tours and swear by being able to wake up early morning, you might be taking a wrong decision, given Pattaya is such a heady cocktail of a beach town. Especially if you are planning the Phang Nga Bay tours on a day with shower on a forecast.
We were picked up by a minivan early at 8 am. They took us to the boat. Pier is pretty decked up with tiny touristy shacks selling colourful hats. Boy, do they overcharge! But I got my bikini at a pretty good price (300 Baht).
We waited for a good 15 minutes till everyone arrived. You can also take this trip in case you are put at Krabi. Frequent Krabi to Phang Nga bay boat trips is arranged by locals. The good part is you get to avoid the maddening crowd of Phuket!
Heading towards Khao Phin Kan (the local name of the James Bond Island)!
Our fellow passengers were from Turkey, US( nationality Turkish but settled in the States), Chinese. The boatman is a well-travelled man, had his days of yore spent in Thai boxing, father of a young son and thinks Indians don’t eat fish (**I chuckle**)
The boat set sail around 9:30 in the morning. Andaman sea is dotted with tiny cruises, a new venture by the Thai Government where they will cruise the travellers for 3 weeks or so. 3 weeks of the sea is a bit too much in my opinion though, keeping in mind SE Asian countries offer a wide variety of exotic experience, local customs and sumptuous food on the landmass.
The steamer boat was open from every side on the top. A mere shower will drench the boatmen, let alone be a thunderstorm. Yes, that is an experience of a lifetime, the sky and sea merges into one glistening silver line at the horizon, mist surround the limestone cliffs like a docile Poseidon; to have known a sea like that!
One of the highlight of Phang Nga Bay tours remains Kayaking to the bat cave. Exploring the marine lives by the limestone monoliths in the Sea cave canoe in Phang Nga bay is an exquisite experience. Ali, our sailor, originally from a province of Krabi was satisfied with a meager tip of 20 Baht. Please don’t expect the same with the rest of the lot.
Bat cave has dead mangroves lying on the interiors of a volcano lookalike ancient cave. A perfect place to film a pirate kingdom in my opinion. They will make you walk inside the cave through a narrow opening, walled with a glittering ribbon of diamonds. If you have the luxury to travel by your own (not a group tour) , you may consider exploring it for a longer time period, it has lesser footfall, however, be sure to vacate the place before the tide comes in, the blue-green sea water has left its mark on the cave walls.
Want to book a stay for the next vacay
While walking back we did feel slimy salamanders beneath our feet as sea water surged. The cave is muddy inside, a smell of mystery looms large. “She was beautiful, but she was beautiful in a way forest fire is beautiful.”
About eating good food!
Thai police frequents the area. Piles of tourist-boats come and go since Phang Nga Bay tours is one of the prime attraction of Phuket. Lunch was served with an array of choice. Thais cook chicken with the whole cashew while we Indians prefer to make a paste out of it and mix it in our curry. The fish had a fiery coating of red chilies. Phad thai, since made with home made noodles is considered healthier than the noodles we get in the market, made in refined flour. Phad Thai, may be for its health benefits, never appealed much to me.
We resumed for the smaller James Bond Island, Koh Phanak. A man in knee deep sea water promptly clicked us in the Kayak. His daily wage is earned through this practice. Not at all matters if it rains, the sea surges, the thunders stuck, while I recall that incident and write, a man with Polaroid is picturing tourists in Marine Park. Kayak though the pinnacles of limestone cliffs, with leisure, experience Andaman sea from close, smell the salt, feel a stark difference of the tender touch from the beaches back home.
Once the strolls get over and the rain ceases, we were transported to a smaller vessel to experience Koh Tapu, the mighty one famous over the world for “Man with a Golden Gun” stardom. The toppled down cliff is to be experienced from a distance, amidst crowd across the globe and local pearl sellers. May be the crowd or the rain or expectation of a higher stature, Koh Tapu did not cast her spell on me. I must mention the Chinese twin sisters, dolled up in a pretty Barbie dress and clicking selfies there in.
Pin it for later!
We were to visit few beaches, but incessant rain and temporal weather came in the way. The vessel stopped amidst the sea while some of us dived straight into the sea-water and made merry. Temperature goes way beyond the comforting tropical climate zone when it rains and we shivered while wrapping ourselves with the white towel brought from AirBNB. By 5 pm we were back to the pier we started from, the minivan ready to transport us back to Bangla road and adjucent area.
How to get to James Bond Island from Phuket; all that you need to know!
Commute: If Phuket( say it as Poo-ket) is in your itinerary, do take the phang nga bay tours from there, don’t save up for Krabi. Krabi is exotic in its own way (Read my next post here)
Book with a tour and pay no more than 1000 Baht per person for whole day. (Rate as on January,2017). There are plenty of Phang Nga bay tours from Phuket Tickets available from the small shops on he street.
Do carry extra clothes, towel, mosquito repellent, swim-suit.
Do not step into Mud, I ended up with skin irritation after running after a salamander and losing one side of shoe.
Unless there is a tsunami threat, do not consider cancelling the trip with only rain warning. The bay is more beautiful with showers and drizzles.
Hotels in Phang Nga bay Thailand is not readily available. Also, you will be left with very few options in the island by night. In case you can manage to find a home-stay with the local villagers and get to experience Thai culture first hand, I suggest to stay here. In general, phang nga bay tours are conducted on a half day basis. The evenings are spent by the sea shore town of Pattaya or Krabi.