The stories surrounding Kumbhalgarh fort is a genius in architecture and warfare. The scene where Bhalladeva’s son walks headless after his head is chopped off by Shivdu is one such scene.
I am writing this post because of the what we now call as ‘The Bekal Incident’. We had planned a budget road trip along coastal Karnataka between 25th December to 2 January from Bekal to Goa. This is of course a crazy time to travel because every single soul is traveling during this period.
We had pre booked most of our stays and had plans to stay at a budget hotel in Bekal through a popular travel site. Needless to say there was a major screw as we reached Bekal and found out while eating egg pakodas at the beach (which were yum).
We reached Bekal after a full days drive and called the hotel that we had booked only to realise that they had cancelled the booking and the travel website and neither the hotel contacted us to tell us the booking is cancelled. We parked at Bekal beach and decided to call the travel site which was the least helpful and we ended up loosing almost two hours just being put on wait with that annoying instrumental music.
We then decided to search and call hotels ourselves since Bekal has limited staying options we widen our search till Kannur but since it was peak tourist season it was hopeless. Finally we found room at the Taj Vivanta with a pricey tag which was basically the budget for our entire trip. However they gave us a discount and an upgrade to a villa once we reached the resort and we ended up celebrating Christmas in style. The next day however was a different story as I spent the day eating curd rice and bed ridden.
These hotels and resorts are the ones that are good places to stay in Bekal should you decide to travel there and see the Bekal fort (of Tu Hi Re, Bombay fame) among other attractions.
Chandralayam is a home stay in Bekal with coconut trees and tranquility as their charm.
Geetanjali is a heritage home which is true to the architecture of ancestral homes in Kerala.
Thalatoor is slightly away from Bekal and is a heritage property.
We found this property absolutely delightful, the house boat architecture with water and canals running near the resort adds to the charm. The beach is walking distance from the resort and has some select water sports. The villas at the resort have a central courtyard theme with an outdoor swing, bath tub and big bay window overlooking greenery.
Pictures credited to Trip Advisor.
Dal Bati Churma is almost synonymous with food in Rajasthan but my last trip to Rajasthan that spanned 2000 kms and 9 days was a gastronomic revelation. Rajasthani staple food I found to be quite simple and easy on the stomach and apt for the climate. We ate a lot of millets, gram flour, lentils, buttermilk and milk based products,meats and a few other vegetables that are indigenous to Rajasthan. Rajasthan being largely covered by the dessert has very few vegetable and green varieties and this reflects in the food.
Breakfast in Rajasthan is mostly options like fafda, pyas kachori, methi pakodas which is fried gram flour balls with fenugreek leaves. In Jaisalmer we also saw Sindhi cuisine influences with dal pakwan and a few other interesting breakfast options. The dessert offered interesting snacks and breakfast options throughout the journey be it at a resort, a camp, a haveli or a street vendor. Biting into a methi pakoda and a fried chilly with chai on the old dessert morning was amazing.
Rajasthan has quite a strong history with food, we glimpsed on this at a haveli inside the Jaisalmer fort. The kitchen and was right on top of the haveli, it looked like a constant in the palaces and havelis of Rajasthan where the kitchens were right on top of the 3-4 story buildings in some cases with the dining area adjoining it. This is a mere observation and I could be wrong.
Note the large tiffin carriers kept in the corner which probably the men carried on long journey’s or to work. The seating was on the floor with the men and the elders being served first (which is not my jam )
Some amazing restaurents we found on our journey across Rajasthan were Millets of Mewar in Udaipur which had a very relaxed atmosphere and had a very pleasing menu of authentic millet preparations from Mewar, Hari Ghar in Udaipur where we gorged on some amazing non vegetarian dishes, Good Hall restaurant in Barmer with mind blowing and truly yummy food. Since we are talking about amazing food one more place I can’t but mention is the home cooked meals we shared with our hosts in Siana Camps and Safari which found us in aristrocratic company in untouched rural Rajasthan.
Rajasthan also offers some very local delicacies such as pyas kachori, mirchi bada which is a delightful combination of mirchi, spicy potato mash which is batter fried. Another local delicacy from Jaisalmer which is not widely known is a sweet called Gotuwa which is a ladoo preparation made by one sweet shop in the inner fort area of Jaisalmer.
Food ofcourse is amazing in Rajasthan but the ambience, the hospitality and the settings from as different as jungle lodges to havelis, backpackers getaways to palaces to roadside pitstops, dessert camps to sparkling lakes makes one appreciate the nuances of the local cuisine and adds the magic.
The world literally descends on Goa for the New Year celebrations and I know this after spending one New Year eve at Calangute beach being the only pair of brown customers in a restaurant near the beach! Goa ofcourse is different for different people, for the party goers one has the Tito’s and the Tito wannabes and for people like me Goa has its villages, farms, forests and untouristed beaches (yes untouristed is not a word, but it should be)!
Burning the old man is a custom very unique to Goa, usually kids take up the task of collecting money for the old man before burning him on New Year eve at the beach. This enterprising bunch of kids we met everyday during our stay there as they were raising money. We stayed at Calangute beach for the New Year mainly because staying somewhere else and then trying to get to Calangute beach would have been madness because the world does descend on Goa for the New Year!
The beach is ofcourse the perfect place to bum out at a shack. The beaches in Goa I must say have improved in terms of patrolling and keeping clean with systems in place keeping up with the increased tourism. The only major thing that bummed me out was the male gaze that kept following women on the beach. I almost didn’t get into the water because of the men who pretended to be taking pics of the beach or the sea and instead were filming women in their bathing wear. This is one place where India and the world so strongly collide.
That said I have seen the other side of Goa as well when my sarong slipped away from my bathing suit and we stepped into a shop near by to buy shorts for me. As he did not have a card machine the shop keeper took my husband on his scooter to the ATM which was a little far away as I waited in his shop unaccompanied and in my new shorts.
I have been to Goa many times before and can see the changes that have come along. The menu cards, boards and other commercial establishments seemed to have boards written in Russian. I am happy for the tourism this brings in but somewhere along the line some intrinsic charm of a place gets changed. I also believe that no place can remain the same for eons together, change will happen and Goa has changed in this manner.
Goa must be different things to different people but the warm, welcoming nature of the people of Goa remains constant. The conversations with the people weather it is a group of fishermen who are trying to convince us to go fishing with them or the lady at a bakery selling bibingka. This last trip, I bought bibingka from a local bakery and ended up finishing the whole pie and more.
Goa has forests and protected wildlife sanctuaries where they are developing eco tourism but it is not as well known in the tourist circles. This is the best part of Goa that I love which is the countryside and the wilderness mainly because my intrinsic nature is that of a dreamer. It is here that I have found gems that I treasure like the Christmas tree made out of wine bottles and the first sun rays of the New Year on a sleepy village road.
Happy New Year folks!
Breakfast is an important meal in India it is more of an emotional need. The variety of breakfast items one can find in India, I am yet to see in another country. Every state that I have been to and I have been to around 20 states and 3 Union territories has bowled me over with the variety of food and the gastronomic experience that India provides. This is by no means an exhaustive list but features 10 unique breakfast dishes that should definitely make way into your stomach.
Poha is a very humble dish and simple to make but only the best cooks can make poha the gastronomic wonder that it is. Poha is prepared with flattened rice, lemon, onion and green chilies. This humble dish is prepared and favored across the states of Maharashtra in the form of Kanda poha, Madhya Pradesh and Gujrat. Most states in India have a form of flattened rice recipe but poha with a topping of namkeen is my favorite.
Credit – By Raxio00 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Oh man this one I think has ode’s written for it. The vada pav what students, workers and well anyone who can afford a 10 Rs can have for breakfast with tea. Take a bite, nip a green chilli and take a sip with tea. Vada pav ofcourse is very Maharashtrian and possibly embodies the spirit of Maharashtra humble but fiery.
Paratha With Butter
Paratha with butter is most suited for the tough terrain and the cold in North India, a popular Punjabi breakfast item. A paratha is quite versatile as one can stuff it with various stuffings like potato, onion, cheese or plain with different types of flour. A big (no make that ginormous) dollop of butter and you are set for the day! I have heard ‘rumors’ that this breakfast is then followed down with a lassi, that makes for some serious appetite.
Puttu With Kadala
Puttu kadala is from Kerala and though many others who are not from the state underestimate the taste of this healthy steamed and down to earth recipe. There are Keralites who will miss it and create makeshift puttu vessels just so that they can make their favorite breakfast or add it to the zoo advertisement that they have been commissioned to create.
Credits – By Simile Krishnakumar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Kothu Paratha is from Tamil Nadu and quite popular in Sri Lanka as well. Kothu paratha takes care of left over paratha from the previous night and gives it a make over so terrific that it catapults itself in the breakfast runway as a star.
Pongal happens to be my staple go to at any Sarvana Bhavan or Adayar Ananda Bhavan this Tamil beauty is rich as well as simple. An Italian friend once likened it to risotto. Pongal comes in sweet and savory and I recommend both depending on your mood. The dish is a mainstay in the Tamil New Year festivities of pongal. They named their New Year after this dish, need I say more?
Momos with Thukpa
Momos and thukpas have quickly become mainstream in the rest of India which has a migrant North eastern population. Momos for breakfast is quite filling and soul satisfying I must say. North east has many more such unknown gems that should have their rightful place.
Fafada and Jalebi
This is a very weird combination for breakfast for a south Indian but try it with an open mind. It is definitely worth it but then again I am sucker for Gujrati food. This combination is popular on street corners in Gujrat along with dhoklas.
Credits – By Sarika 1410 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Kachori with Aloo
Very popular in U.P and a few other northern states. Kachori as a breakfast dish has not yet reached mainstream but it is quite an interesting option any way.
Screw pine leaves or kedige is used as mould for the idli batter to give it a distinct taste. Mude idli is an authentic Kanadiga breakfast which is not very common today. Kamat Lokaruchi on Mysore road near Bangalore is where you can sample this rustic beauty.
Pictures Credits – Razor Rasu, Traveling Noodles and Wikicommons where credited.