In Search of the Ghost Pepper at Bara Bazaar Shillong

Bara Bazaar in Shillong is said to be the oldest market in the area and a market that is primarily run by women. Bara bazaar is also known as lewduh which is a literal translation of the word big market. The market is housed on a hill and is huge in its layout, narrow alleys traverse up, down and all over the hill and is definitely not for a claustrophobic person.

The market sells anything and everything one could fathom, from tobacco, to dried or fermented fish which is a local delicacy, to clothes, diapers, vegetables and other house hold goods. Definitely carrying goods up and down the bazaar through the crowded alleys and a labyrinth of stairs is a task a requires a level of skill I have not witnessed before. Men scurry along stairs and alleys with heavy loads tied to the back bent on a double. I also witnessed an erstwhile iron cupboard being carried down steep steps by a man who had tied it to a back and was transporting it at top speed by himself.

Goods being carried up and down the hill!

Our purpose for visiting Bara Bazaar was to buy the worlds hottest chili – Bhut Jolokia. Bhut Jolokia or ghost peppers is known by various names across the north east of India. We however didn’t know what is was called in Shillong. Anyone we asked for directions in the market pointed us towards various paths at random. One of the mistakes we made was to trying to speak Hindi in a state which has English as its official language. After walking around aimless around the fringes of the market which was full of godowns and old trader mansions, we plunged into one of the alleyways which intuitively seemed the unlikeliest place to hose such a big market.

To our surprise this dark small rabbit hole of an alley was one of the main entrances to this wide network of alleys also known as bara bazaar. The bazaar is traditionally true to itself and performs many rituals to the deity of the market (Ka Iew- Lei Hat-Lei Khyrdop) and the deity of Shillong (U Blei Shyllong). The shop keepers are primarily women and shops are placed wherever possible in the tiniest of spaces which is out of the way of the trampling feet of the crowd.

Dried Fish being sold at Bara Bazaar

We were asked to go up market to the vegetable section to find chilli. Up market there were more indigenous produce of mushrooms, banana stems, bamboo, pineapple, various types of almost lethal chillies, dried and fermented fish and tobbacco (which I thought was tea at first). We bought a couple of varieties of chillies as we frantically tried to google Bhut Jolokia but with some luck we did manage to buy a bit of bhût zôlôkiya (ভুত জলকীয়া) or bih zôlôkiya, also known as ghost pepper, aka naga zôlôkiya, umorok and probably bham (not sure of this) in Meghalaya. It was named the hottest chilli in the world in 2007 which is 400 times hotter than tobasco!

My Haul From Shillong, Bhut Jolokia, Bamboo pickle and something they called Red fireball!

It is usually used fresh or after drying and slivers of it are used in the stews, sauces or curries. It is also pickled and used, different types of pickles are also available in the market using bamboo, various chilies and other produce. Bara bazaar is definitely an experience, most Indian markets are narrow and crowded but the hilly topography and different type of merchandise at the market also the distinction of being one of the oldest women owned markets gives lewduh a unique flavor.

Here is a video of us navigating Bara Bazaar in search of the World’s hottest pepper!

Photographs copyrighted to Traveling Noodles.


Mountains, Biriyani and a Road to Yercaud

The trip to Yercaud was a grab whatever you can and the baby, pile into the car and go, kind of trip. To be honest I had little or no knowledge of where Yercaud was and what I could expect once there. The drive from Bangalore to Yercaud was amazing with the sun and the clouds flirting by themselves as monsoon was just setting in and the highways in Tamil Nadu are unlike anywhere else in the country.

Mangoes Dotting The Highway To Salem

The highways in Tamil Nadu I feel should have their own prose and poetry written about them by every travel enthusiast who has driven on them but I will save that for another post. We reached mango dotted Salem in record time and took a break for lunch at Ponrams which is known for Dindigul biriyani and other non veg specialties! The road to Yercaud is winding and full of drastic hair pin bends which make the mountain ranges stand apart from the flat hot plains of Salem.

The Enticing Menu At Ponrams

We reached around noon at Yercaud on a bright sunny day, we decided to go to the lake in the middle of the hill station which gives Yercaud its name of lake in the forest. Vendors sold aromatic fried snacks and cows ambled lazily around the expanse of the lake. We were acquainted with the vacillating nature of the mountain when the fair weather saw black storm clouds rolling in. We were happily peddling away on the peddle boat when the heavens opened up inorder to test our leg muscles as we peddled as hard as we could as our toddler sat wedged between us. To be honest, the experience of the sudden downpour and the lake changing its nature from inviting to tumultuous was quite scary!

The View From The Windy Mountain

We managed to get back in one piece and got into the car drenched and drove back to the hotel were we had booked for the night. As we reached the newly laid road to our hotel which was on top of the hill, we were greeted by a river in its stead. The rain poured down the mountain taking the road along with it and our car just could not possibly drive up the river/ road. After waiting and trying for two hours we parked the car there and walked up to the hotel.

An Unexpected Adventure

Needless to say we were quite exhausted with this entire adventure and decided to call it a night and order in room service. The food at Yercaud was one thing that made the entire trip quite exiting. That night we dined on tribal dishes of moongil biriyani which is biriyani baked inside bamboo and kaliman (claypot) varuval chicken curry. The food was a big high for us and a worthy reward.

The kid can’t wait to feast like a tribal king

The next day we saw the sun rise from our temporary mountain abode amidst the mist and the vastness of the forests while Salem below slowly woke up to the left over light that the mountain sends its way. Our next destination was Killiyur Falls which is pretty if only people were more considerate and did not leave behind wafer wrappers, used diapers and other man made waste that spoils the beauty of this lovely exclusive mountain with hidden secrets.

Killiyur Falls

The short weekend getaway to Yercaud was rejuvenating and gave us the dash of adventure that will be sharp memory for all of us including the kid who came back and narrated the incident when the river swallowed the road and the car got stuck thus proving that travel does make one a story teller!

Movies that inspire a moviebuff to travel Europe

There are some images that leave an indelible mark on us and remain with us prodding us to make promises to ourselves that we will visit the place one day and capture the memory for ourselves. Images which inspire and influence me to travel often come from movies and books. They are the best alternative to traveling while allowing one to immerse oneself in a new land, foreign culture and way of life.

The one continent that has eluded me for most parts of my travel has been Europe and hence any opportunity that lurks around which would take me to Europe, beware because I am going to grab you and wrestle you down. I have been to Switzerland, the beautiful country and its flower laced windows beckon me all the time but my bucket list which incidentally have all been inspired by movies is slightly longer.

P.S I Love You

Hillary Swank in a tan jacket stands in front of the purple flowered landscape of Wicklow Mountains in Ireland where she meets Gerald Butler. The scene is tranquil, inviting and mesmerizing , words fall short. The air around them looks wet with promise. Also having Gerald Butler is definite plus  in the scene because who doesn’t want to swoon over him. This movie has inspired me to put Ireland right on top of my bucket list for more reasons than one. Dublin would certainly be the first destination on my trip and I hope to do a musical pub crawl while I am at it.


Image Source – here

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge

This Bollywood movie was what defined the spectrum of love for most kids growing up in the 90’s in India. A large part of the movie is shot in Switzerland and soon it topped the chart as India’s favorite honeymoon destination and because of this there is a lake in Switzerland that is named after the director of the movie. The images of silent wind over the alps and wooden houses with cow bells jingling in the distance and the promise of finding love has prompted many Indians to visit Switzerland, including me. Its true that a Bollywood movie took me to Switzerland but I was validated when a person I met in Interlaken said that Madhuri Dixit (Indian actress) is his favorite. I have been here but I would go there again in a heart beat. The next stop of my movie inspired trip would be Zurich and onwards to Interlaken.


Eat Pray Love –

Eat Pray Love is popular as a book and a movie as it tugs on the heart strings of anyone who wants to rediscover themselves. The first part of Julia’s journey takes her to Italy and sun kissed Tuscany. Cobble stones, gelato and wood fired pizza’s should be reason enough for anyone visiting Italy. Another movie which has cemented my desire to visit Tuscany is Under the Tuscan Sun. The movie literally transports you to the orchards in sun kissed Tuscany. I hope to board the Eurorail and travel to Tuscany and Naples from Swizterland.


Image Source here

Angels and Demons – 

I read the book while in college before I saw the movie and the book takes you on an adrenaline ride across Rome. The intricate details some fiction and some fact takes the reader on a virtual tour of Rome and definitely piques one’s interest in this ancient city and seat of power. The shots of the Basilica and other monuments in Rome which are themselves important characters and plot changers in the movie leaves a powerful memory. Rome is also close to Italy and hence can be easily incorporated into this movie inspired itinerary of mine.


Image Source here

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Sisterhood of the traveling pants is an important coming of age story that resonates with many teenagers. Some of the imageries that have stayed with me are the ones that were shot in Santorini in Greece. The stark white houses hanging precariously on the cliff against the blueness of the ocean gives me goose bumps. The little boats along the coast bobbing up and down in the water where Lena and Kostas meet each other and the donkey rides to and fro the mountain abode are experiences I would definitely like to own one day.


This post is written as an entry for GoEuro Travel and it would be great if you could head over there and vote for this article. Who knows maybe I could win!


Of Shadows and Light a Night Stroll Through Fort Kochi

I have been to Cochin many times but somehow Fort Kochi and more importantly Jew Town has always eluded me. On a recent trip to Cochin during the Ramzan holidays, we sat peering at each other through stuffed belly full of biriyani and we decided to venture out to Fort Kochi. By the time two kids, three semi adults and a couple of adults got dressed it was time to drink tea and the plan was in danger of being abandoned. But as half of the public was dressed it was decided that we stick to the plan and visit one of India’s ‘haunted’ places in the night but first tea was made.



Jew town owing to some of the cemetery’s near by has a reputation of being haunted which I think is a disservice to one of history’s landmark spots on earth. Since we crossed Matancherry Jetty on Id which is an important holiday in India we found the bustling shops in Fort Kochi and Jew Town deserted with all shutters closed at seven thirty in the evening. Save for our parked car near the synagogue, there were no other vehicles in the vicinity and no other people around atleast the living ones. One of my cousins braved out of the car with the promise of shouting Aiooo should something happen, we laughed! He came back to report that the synagogue and the surrounding shops are all closed and there is nothing much to see but we could probably go see it.


Since he came back and did not require any exorcisms done on him, we all trooped out of the car to see the synagogue after all a Hebrew God resided within since the 1500’s. There were some windows and doors open on the the street near the synagogue and the title music of ‘Parasparam’ ( a popular malayalam TV show) streamed out. We saw some old folks on their recliners watching the show ardently and knew that all is well.


Jew Town dates back to the 1500’s when a boat of Jewish refugees landed in the port of Kochi and were welcomed by the King. They soon set up businesses, trade and a place of worship that still stands here. When the state of Israel was formed most Jews in Kochi went to the promised land or got assimilated with India’s population. Today only a few Jews are reported to still live in Jew Town. I wondered if history would have been different if more Jewish boats had landed in India instead of Germany but that is not for me to postulate.



We saw the old clock tower that was set up in 1700 AD and some houses with the star of David prominently engraved near the door. When we got back to the main street the atmosphere was still eerie as most muslim business owners in the area were celebrating Id and had closed shop for the day. I will definitely go back to Fort Kochi with its many Chinese fishing nets, Jewish Synagogue, Muslim businesses and Dutch cemetery during day time and spend some more time in the vicinity exploring.