Posted in Asia, beaches, churches, India, South India, travel and living, travelogue, Uncategorized

Kanyakumari, where two seas meet an ocean!

Almost in a trance after having a flavoursome lunch from a small hotel in Balaramapuram, we headed to Kanyakumari. Kerala country-style chicken fry popularly known as the Naadan Kozhi Perathiyathu smeared with some freshly ground spices and dunked in coconut oil along with the authentic boiled kappa (tapioca), multi-layered parotta that melted in one’s mouth and puttu that was steamed to perfection, gave us all the verve we needed to drive; to the land in front of whom the three bodies of water met and merged into one another – the fabled Kanyakumari!

I’ve always loved road trips more, because then it is no long just about what we see at the end of the journey but also about what we get to catch a glimpse of and experience on the way.

And if you are lucky, it may sometimes turn out to be as breathtakingly beautiful as or even more stupefying than the destination itself.

While driving through what might seem like endless roads, it is not uncommon when every nook and cranny of this state greets you with greenery. But the reflection of the trees swaying gently beside the Paloor pond managed to delightfully multiply the different shades of green for us.

Nature’s palette sure does have a lot of tints and tones, way beyond our imagination, while we happily dabble our hands in some basic hues.

While embarking on a trip to the southern tip of mainland India, we forgot to check just one thing – as to when they close the ticket counter to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. The last boat to this popular tourist monument leaves the shore at 4:00 pm.

Want to know how unfortunate we felt? The car pulled into the parking area at 4:01 pm. Enough said!

Yes, I did feel crestfallen because no amount of requests-that-turned-into-dramatic-pleas worked. Now don’t ask me why we didn’t check for timings and make me feel miserable all over again. 😏

Life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned it, and that’s okay. And when things don’t go as planned, you make new ones and click pictures of them. 😁 We decided to walk around, go to the small market beside the beach, take as many shots of the Vivekananda Rock from the shore as possible and leave only after sundown.

There was a clustered rock extension a little away from the main beach and we decided to walk up till the end. It was definitely a treat to watch how effortlessly the waves were approaching the shore at one moment and crashing against the rocks oh so, masterfully in another.

But while walking towards the tip of the rocky trail and sitting there for a brief time I kept wondering about how this place got its name, Kanyakumari – the virgin girl. 

Rumours has it that, at one point, the Asuras (who battled constantly with the Devas) won them over. The Devas were driven away from heaven by the Asuras. Though the flustered Devas approach Lord Vishnu – the Protector of the Universe – for help, all he could ask them to do was to appease Goddess Parashakti as she was the only one who could destroy Banasura, the King of demons, and save the Devas from the clutches of the evil.

She is said to have appeared before them after a Yagna and promises to do the needful at the earliest.

Parashakti takes the form of a virgin girl and comes to the ‘end of the land’ to vanquish the leader of the rival group.

In the meantime, Lord Shiva who resides in the nearby temple at Suchindram falls in love with her. The news of their love story reaches Narada, who according to mythology is a Vedic sage and storyteller. Worried that the whole purpose of the Virgin Goddess descending to Earth might get lost, he plays a game on Lord Shiva, the night the two had planned to unite in holy matrimony. This results in the Lord not turning up for the ceremony.

Though she wins a resounding victory over Banasura, deeply saddened by her called off wedding, the Goddess vows to never get married again and to remain forever a ‘Kanyakumari’.

An engaging narrative, but it somehow does not sound like a complete story. I just hope that you will forgive everyone who played a part in knowingly or otherwise spoiling what would have been one of the best days of your life, beautiful girl! And I hope that, maybe someday, you will find the one who will watch every sunrise with you, until the final sunset of your life.

P.S: This time it’s thanks to an iPhone X and its owner for the photo quality. ☺


Posted in Uncategorized

Forest bathing at Masinagudi!

Bangalore, famously referred to as the Silicon Valley of India, is definitely a crowd puller and her nightlife experience is what a lot of youngsters clamour the city for. But we wanted to move away from all these and absorb everything about nature.


It was January and thus, it might not come to you as a surprise if I said that I was in a be-more-adventurous-live-life-to-the-fullest-new-year-new-me mode. The long weekend was approaching and we really had to confront the undesirable “always indoors”, “always plugged in” epizootic.

A few friends and I decided to take the vacation vibe to the wilderness, take in the forest atmosphere and bring those memories back to the concrete jungles. This might just calm our minds till the next trip.

We worked out the per head cost estimate for the 7 of us, reserved a huge single room at a recently developed property called Singaras Coffee Country that promised they would comfortably accommodate us, booked a Zoom car, stocked up on water and snacks and began our journey from Bangalore at around 6:15 on January 26th morning.

Two of my friends who were working on a project had a conference call, with their boss, they couldn’t miss. We managed to reach a beautiful vegetarian restaurant on the Bangalore – Mysore Road before their call at 8 and had to spend close to two hours at De Parathzzaa Cafe because their meeting got extended, way drawn out than it ideally should have and way longer than we had agreed to halt to have breakfast. But none of us regretted it one bit. The specialty of the place was what they named their cafe after – ‘parathzzaa’; a pizza with the famous Indian flatbread, paratha, as its base. From the classic Hawaiian to Farm fresh to DPC special parathazzaa, they had them all. They also served a variety of parathas, from aloo paratha, aloo cheese paratha, paneer paratha, onion paratha, mooli paratha to dil pickle paratha.


With a lot of parking space in front, the location was beautiful, the interiors well done and the food beyond delicious.

Once the tummy was happy, the kids started playing and exploring the surrounding while I walked around and clicked a few pictures to show you. The cafe had a huge patch of land extending over an acre, behind their facility, where they grew their own vegetables. I fell in love with this self-sufficient eatery a tad bit more and decided to pack some parathas to keep our spirits high while maneuvering through the long road ahead. 😁


We had expected to reach the resort before lunch but instead of steering us through the road that runs through the Karnataka – Tamil Nadu border, the maps I had had saved offline (since we weren’t sure about the network connectivity in those areas) decided to navigate us through a seamlessly endless route.

We lost a couple of hours finding our way back and managed to reached the mountain facing room by late evening.


Being tired from the road trip and not finding the premises of the resort as appealing as we had expected it to be, made us go a little low on mood. Unfortunately for us, the restaurant we chose to have dinner that night, the poor quality of the food they served and the amount of time we had to wait for it only added fuel to the flames. When we got back to the room and saw our beds, a thought inside me cried about sleep like it did in Shakespeare’s Macbeth –

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

Maybe sleep will put this day to rest, I thought. Slightly late in the night, but I had a hot water shower, kept the phone for charge (as it had its battery drained piloting us to Masinagudi like the drive did to our liveliness), and got under the soft and velvety blanket for a goodnight’s slumber.


Woke up fresh next morning and walked out while sipping on some coffee. Ah, Sleep sure is a magician!

The air was a bit nippy and wearing the sweatshirt helped. A person at the resort had suggested another vegetarian place and we decided to try that for breakfast. Nava Ruchi was run by a friendly gentleman named Madhusudhan. We loved the place, the food and their hospitality so much that we ended up having our lunch and later even dinner from there.


As we had booked for a safari ride at 4 in the evening, when they came to pick us up, we hopped on to the jeep. The driver cum guide took us through the tarred roads in the beginning and then gave us a small off-roading experience. Off the paved roads, he took us to a hilltop with a temple and a great view in the background. The gang spent some time clicking pictures before heading towards the Mudumalai National Park, which was declared a tiger reserve by the Tamil Nadu state Government in April 2007.


While reading about the place online before headed for the trip, I had read that there are 15 species of cats in India and 4 (Leopard, Bengal Tiger, Leopard Cat and Jungle Cat) out of those 15 were spotted in Masinagudi.

Must confess that I got a little excited as we drove into the cool depths of the inviting woods in the hope of seeing at least one of them. As we drove in, the sounds, smell, sight and stillness of the wilderness soothed me.


While we drove towards the viewpoint next to a dam, we managed to spot a few wild elephants, grey langurs, sambar deer, peacocks and wild boars. The viewpoint, a church next to it and the village around gave us some impressive shots. After strolling around for a while, we realised that the sun was setting and so were our hopes of spotting a wild cat.

Even though it was a missed encounter with the cats, the two hours’ drive through the Nilgiris was definitely a glorious experience.


The night was clear, cool and starry and the resort arranged a bonfire on request. We nibbled on some starters that had been parceled from Nava Ruchi and sipped on some fine Hardy Stamp wine through the night, shared random jokes, listened to music on a friend’s JBL Speaker (oh, I highly recommend you carry on during trips), discussed about astrology (yes, things we discuss, I tell you) and exchanged some mandatory office gossips.

Around 8 the next morning, we were ready to leave with the hope of coming again but for a better prepared and planned trip. Less adventurous but nevertheless, it was definitely a weekend well spent.



P.S – Try not to carry crates of beer, bottles of expensive wine or even breezers. We had to get rid of them at the check post. 😑 Oh, yes! They must love their drink, I guess!

Posted in Uncategorized

A tale from the Avalabetta trail!

Distance: 91.2 kilometres (one way)

Route: Banaswadi > Yelahanka > Devanahalli > Peresandra > Mandikal > AVALABETTA (Phew!)

Mode of transport: Ola Outstation (Yeah, we didn’t have a choice!)

The Team: My adventurous colleague, her excited 9 year old son and I

Since it was warmer during the day, we decided to leave home and hit the road at around 5:30 on an early October morning. We had pre-booked the trek through the Myecotrip website run by the Karnataka Ecotourism Board and were pretty pumped up about the whole thing. The weather was quite pleasant and the idea of trekking an unknown trail, thrilling.

As we were approaching Mandikal, we saw a small pond beside which a flock of sheep were being given a bath. One man took them to the pool and another young man, deep in water just enough to float the sheep, swung the happy herd (one at a time) to and fro in the water. While a grey-haired man who looked like he would have been in his late 60s was overseeing the entire operation and its flawless execution, the photogenic elderly lady who was enjoying all this and her betel chewing encouraged me to take pictures of her and of her cheerful family. 🙂

We were asked to report at the Yerraganahalli village anywhere between 6:00 am and 9:30 am. Upon reaching the mentioned start point began our ordeal. Neither did we see any signboards or organisers at the location they had wanted us to be, nor were we able to reach them on the phone numbers given because of the dropped signals and spotty connections on both our phones. While questioning our decision of not reading the reviews about them before paying about INR 450 per head, we decided to ask around for the concerned people for about 15 minutes but in vain.

We had woken up earlier than usual, on a weekend, rented a cab and came this far. Does it make sense to give up so easily, head back home, waste a Sunday and feel bad about it – definitely not! We decided to get to where we wanted to anyway and were also determined to find our way to what we came to see – the great hilly retreat that was said to make for a serene weekend getaway – the Avalabetta Hilltop.

With the little one hiking for the first time, we had to make sure that he didn’t have a painful experience. Though the well-laid out roads and walkways made it less adventurous for us, it made the walk up a pleasurable one for him. That’s all that we wanted.

On our way up, we strolled amidst the leafless trees and to capture the beauty of these bare branches against the bright blue skies was a magical affair. I tried my best to seize the moment and let the light help me emphasize the stark shapes that looked like the neurons in our brain. It was definitely a challenge and I don’t think I could do justice to the divine-looking place. Maybe I will go here again, with a better camera and some improved photography skills, to take some shots and freeze the frame to posterity. 😉

While proceeding towards the hilltop, we saw the Lakshmi Narasimha temple I remembered reading about in the Ecotrails website while going through the trek details. It is said that the rural dwellers in and around the village offer the first milk of their cows to this temple that is considered to be the abode of Goddess Lakshmi. For our youngest hiker’s benefit, we found a small stone bench to sit, sip on some water and catch our breath before continuing our walk ahead.

By the time we got up to our final destination, it was about 10 and the viewpoint was extremely crowded with people who wanted to click that typical picture, standing and sitting, on the tongue-shaped cliff that now lacked originality. I must confess that, for a moment I wanted one of those cliche snaps, but luckily my colleague convinced me out of it. 😀


Posted in beaches, churches, Goa, travel and living, travelogue, Uncategorized

What not to miss on the Goan HOHO bus ride!

Think of Goa and the first image that pops up in anyone’s mind would be a dreamy sea whose waves are crawling gently towards the shore and carelessly drenching the sea sand while mere mortals are relaxing by the waters listening to its enthralling wave-music.

But I have a tiny list of places you could see apart from those in Goa we all know so well about. And I would suggest you do not leave this beach capital of India before you see them. We chanced upon the Hop on Hop off (HOHO) bus service run by Goa Tourism. Lucky for us, they had their first pick up point just about a kilometre away from our hotel. Priced at INR 300 per person for a day, we thought it was a good deal and a great way to wrap up our trip.

St.Catherine Chapel

Goa is a glorious whole. With one side being all about street side shopping escapades, tireless parties and insomniac gambling experiences at the floating casinos, and the other being about churches, chapels and cathedrals dabbled in the old-world charm that the Portuguese brought along with them when they made their way down to this part of the world, somewhere in the late 16th century – she is a complete pleasure package.

Surrounded by lush greenery and millstones that were used in one of the gun power factories, stood the graceful Chapel of St.Catherine. Unlike any other architecturally famous buildings around it, this chapel that claims to be the first catholic structure in Goa hardly had anyone around or inside. This made moving around its serene premises an extremely peaceful experience. One side of the chapel opened to a well-kept garden through which we could walk towards the famous Viceroy’s arch easily.

St Francis of Assisi

Just about 100 metres away from the chapel was the St Francis of Assisi, a church that was built by the Portuguese a little more than 350 years ago. The intricately done carvings and artwork must definitely have been its claim to fame. The altar of this shrine is dedicated to the St.Francis of Assisi and has a statue of his while the walls on either sides depicts certain episodes from his life.

The church also has an adjacent convent that has been converted into a Museum of Archaeological History. Paying a visit to this part of the structure, steeped in Portuguese culture, before heading out of Old Goa would be worth it.

Se Cathedral

The first thing about this structure that caught our eye was its surroundings with a beautiful courtyard. It is by building the Se Cathedral that the Portuguese celebrated their victory under the leadership of Afonso de Albuquerque, against a Muslim army. As the day of the victory coincided with the feast of Saint Catherine, the cathedral was dedicated to her.

The building, though, had two towers on either sides, one of them collapsed in the 1770s but was for some reason never reconstructed.

Basilica of Bom Jesus

As you enter the world famous Basilica Bom Jesus, you know that it is one of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage sites of Goa for a reason. We were told that this was the only structure in Old Goa whose outside is not plastered anymore to help the walls breathe. A Portuguese conservationist who instructed the workers to strip the plaster off, believed that the exposure to the atmosphere that will envelope the walls will help them be stronger. Though, years later, he was proven wrong, nobody has gotten around to preserve carvings that are fading away after every drizzle that turns into a downpour.

The Basilica is home to the mortal remains of the Apostle of the Indies, the legendary St Francis Xavier. The brilliance in its architectural style, however, will not only continue to fascinate the eye but also intrigue one’s mind.

Arch of Viceroy

This archway, built in memory of Vasco da Gama by his grandson Francisco da Gama (the then Viceroy), was the main entry point for the visitors who sailed through the Mandovi river and came through the road that connected the river to the town.

This sturdy remains of the bygone era, that watched the sun set on the Portuguese reign in India and stood the test of time to tell the tale, was our last stop of the day.

Every nook and cranny of Old Goa is home to lavishly decorated timeless pieces of architecture and it maybe just for a moment, but it is hard to not stop to stare at them. Aside all this, I came across an interesting part of history while reading about the Portuguese conquest of Goa. Portugal was itself under the Spanish rule when they were busy trying to rule over Goa, the region they actually did not get any orders to conquer in the first place. Can history be more fascinating? Humph, maybe not!

PS: Thanks to my travel partner and her One Plus 5 for being nice to and patient with me even after me snatching the phone from her, shamelessly, every damn minute of the trip. ❤

Posted in Asia, beaches, Goa, travel and living, travelogue

A Goa beyond bikinis and booze!

India is a land with incredible diversities. Starting with the different climatic conditions she experiences, the distinct topography and terrains she is made of, the myriad of ancient traditions she is home to, the two dozen languages and countless dialects her folks speak, to the wide range of culinary creations she boasts of, India maybe even the most heterogeneous countries in the whole wide world.

Allow me to further explain what I mean. We have Dras in the Kargil district that is considered to be the second coldest ‘inhabited’ place on Earth. Not to forget, we are also home to some of the hottest and arid deserts on this planet.

We have ‘Tamil’ which is one of the oldest written languages used by mankind and yes, we also have Sourashtra – an Indo-Aryan language spoken by a certain sect of people but has absolutely no written script.

This reminds me of what Shashi Tharoor once essayed so perfectly well about India, “How can one approach this land of snow peaks and tropical jungles, with 23 major languages and 22,000 distinct dialects, inhabited by over a billion individuals of every ethnic extraction known to humanity? The Indian dream can be dreamt in Gujarati or in Tamil, dreamt by a Muslim or a Parsi, dreamt by a Brahmin or a Bodo, dreamt on a charpoy or a luxury king-sized bed. The India that was born in 1947 was in a very real sense a new creation: a state that, for the first time, made fellow citizens of the Ladakhi and the Laccadivian, the Keralite and the Kashmiri, and yet divided Punjabi from Punjabi, Bengali from Bengali. How can one determine the identity of an ageless civilisation that was the birthplace of four major religions, 85 major political parties and 300 ways of cooking the potato? The short answer is that it can’t be done — at least not to everyone’s satisfaction. Any truism about India can be immediately contradicted by another. It is often jokingly said that ‘anything you can say about India, the opposite is also true’.”

Maybe no one can explain the diversity of this nation like he does and in fact, the singular thing about India is that you can speak of it only in the plural.

Breaking free from visiting a heritage site, going trekking or holidaying in another nearby country, this time my cousin and I decided to visit the pint-sized Goa. The Goa that is about a lot more than the bikinis and its booze; the land famous for its blazing Sun and its ‘Sunburn’; for its bracing sea air and some succulent seafood.

We reached the bus station in Panjim and decided to walk it to the hotel that my cousin had pre-booked (and got a good deal while doing so) through a reliable website. Upon reaching there and waiting at the reception to complete the formalities before heading to the room, this 3 star hotel, without any undue fuss, let us make an early check in. They didn’t stop there, mind you. Maybe it was their day to do a good deed. 😉  The receptionist went on to upgrade us to a deluxe room and we also managed a 15 minutes spa coupon complimentary for each of us. Yes, and that’s all it took for us to fall in love with the Goans. 😁

As soon as we checked in to our room that opens up to the hotel’s private art gallery, I opened the map of the city that they gave us at the reception and spread it across the table to identify the must-visit locations and route that we could follow for the next two days in the coastal state that colourfully illustrates its diversity.

Right after we got into the cab, we asked our driver Pappu the cliche question, “We would like to see the Dil Chahta Hai fort. Will you please take us there first?”. As if that was what he expected us to ask anyway, he smiled and in his broken English said, “Yes, Ma’am. Sure, we go to Chapora fort then, okay?”. We went there for old times’ sake. If you are expecting to see something out of the ordinary, then it may disappoint you. Unfortunately for us, we reached this crumbling fort well past 11 in the morning and hiked up to reach the ruins while the Sun was waiting to consume us.

After capturing a few shots of the red stone walls and cylindrical turrets, with the Vagator beach as the backdrop, we stopped to grab some food at the famous ‘Thalassa’.

The cool drink and the great view made us want to linger around for longer than we decided to.

Google suggested we visit the impressive face of Lord Shiva at the Little Vagator beach and I must confess that I became slightly curious. Though we climbed down and clambered up the rocks, we didn’t get to see the ‘Shiva’s face’, not even anything remotely close to what I saw on the internet. After following the map online, we only managed to reach a pile of rocks with a ‘trisula’ right on top. Believed to be Lord Shiva’s weapon, this traditional trident added drama to the picture. Maybe the place was just called the ‘Shiva’s Face’. I just decided to take it quite literally. 😋

Goa definitely has a separate identity when it comes to the cultural and spiritual values she holds, along with being well-balanced and known as a place that has a lot in store for her tourists to explore in terms of the colourful festivals, little seaside shacks and a number of crazy adventure sports and leisure activities.

We took a silent stroll through this comparatively quieter beach, sat on the rocks among the weeded bushes and watched the Sun set after a taxing day of work.

Since we were no less tired, the both of us decided to head back to the hotel, avail the free spa treatment, get a good night sleep and start early the next morning. After breakfast at the hotel, we hopped on to our cab and drove towards the Candolim Beach. On the way, we stopped to take a dolphin spotting ride near the Coco Beach. They had priced each ticket at INR 300 for a 45 minute long boat ride.

While on our way in search of the dolphins on the 10 seater, the boatman pointed towards the Fort Aguada Jail on the right hand side. But this time, it was not the beautiful sea facing prison that captured my attention. It was the huge mansion beside that. Upon asking, the guide said that it was the infamous diamond merchant ‘Jimmy Millionaire’s House’ where a 1999 Hindi movie (Haseena Maan Jaayegi) was shot. The tycoon is said to be a recluse who lives a solitary life in his palatial European style palace, with absolutely no Indian ethnic references, surrounded by 12 acres of land.

While driving us towards the Aguada Fort, Pappu asked us whether we had watched Ajay Devgn’s action packed movie Singham. Apparently, one of the most celebrated scenes from this movie was shot at the Dona Pauly Jetty. From having 6 newlyweds visit Goa, known to be the go-to place to celebrate ones honeymoon, in Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd to portraying typical Goan characters and capturing their journey in search of a long lost love in Finding Fanny, the film fraternity have time and again shown their love for this seafacing state and its romantic locations.

Did the filmmakers happen to choose this land with a unique blend of cultures and picturesque beaches to shoot and make the tourists want to visit this tiny state? Or, was Bollywood always obsessed with Goa and its architecture that was highly influenced by the Portuguese? We will never know.

Overlooking the wide blue Arabian Sea was the Aguada Fort and its lighthouse – our next stop on Day 2. Lucky for us, the round orange star decided to be nicer to us. As a result, we managed to cover the massive 17th century Portugese fort that almost enveloped the entire peninsula. The four-storeyed lighthouse that stood tall here, is the oldest of its kind in our continent and is said to have been once used for storing gallons of water.

The trip to Goa is never complete without indulging in some water sports, isn’t it? We drove towards the Baga beach, the seaside well known to tourists as one of the best spots to catch the waves. They had an array of activities of which we chose to go for jet skiing and parasailing. Watching people parasailing and being plunged into the Arabian sea lured us and made us want to taste the pleasure they were enjoying. Needless to say, parasailing through the Goan skies took the cake.

We had no plans to change and head for lunch before we made sure we got an exotic Thai massage done at the Sukho Thai Spa near Britto’s. My cousin and I took our seats next to each other on their reclining spa chairs, all set for a relaxing foot reflexology date and this will be on my to-do list during my next visit too. I am sure that explains how much we enjoyed their excellent service.

It was almost 4 in the evening when we walked into Britto’s for a late lunch. But we did not regret this day one bit. Their seafood platter served with some great tasting sauces was all we needed to wrap up a long day.

If we tune in, this state that stretches along the Arabian Sea has a million stories to share and we were lucky to hear a few. ☺

We almost forgot to sip on our mocktails while our eyes got glued onto the warm colors the Sun was spreading the sky with while he was setting into the cool blue carpet, right in front of us. 🌞

Posted in Asia, Bhutan, travel and living, travelogue, Uncategorized

9 Reasons why we loved discovering Bhutan!

So, of all the places in the world, what were we doing in Bhutan? Here is a list, in no specific order (apart from No.1 😀 ), with reasons as to why we ventured into discovering the Land of the Thunder Dragons this summer and how we explored the country that pioneered the concept of measuring the development of a place by its ‘Gross National Happiness’ as against its Gross Domestic Product.

The People – My number one reason

Our guide, Karma, did mention about the country facing a lot of challenges in the form of transformation in culture on one side and a few wanting to break free from the so far unchanged and timeless style of architecture unique to the Bhutanese on the other.

With the metaphoric shrinking of the world into what they fondly call the ‘global village’, you may say that it is only natural for these cultural shifts and morphing buildings to happen.

But the conscious effort the royal government of Bhutan and its people are investing in preserving their unique culture is the biggest reason we wanted to visit the “happiest place on Earth”.

Bhutan was once upon a time home to many great sages and legendary saints but the human race here know the difference between spirituality, politics and happiness and they know too well not to mix them. They make sure that even their everyday clothing speak volumes about what they strongly believe in. Gho, a traditional knee-length robe the men wear, folded backwards and then tied around the waist with a belt they call kera, signifies the importance of family ties. The white cuffs stand for purity and the border that runs all through this kimono-looking dress represents the wisdom that they trust should run all through their being, like the border does the Gho; to stay true to what they feel, to know not to commingle religion and politics ever, to not make political decisions that maybe be influenced by religion.

They are not stressed when they can’t get their hands on the latest iPhone. Neither are they unhappy if another one has it. They are just happy to be alive.

The hike to Khamsum Yulley Namgyal Temple

There had to be a short hike to prepare us for the long trek to the Tiger’s Nest. The walk towards the Khamsum Yuley Namgay Chorten was, at first, just that warm up trip for us until we experienced the magnificence of the temple. The view from the top of the four-storeyed temple (which is an engineering marvel that is composed of Tibetan, Nepalese and Bhutanese architectural style) is to die for.

The temple sits in the Punakha valley and the view from the head of the temple is as incredible as the walk towards it through the rustic but ideal countryside.

Driving across the great Dochula Pass

This mountain pass which was at an elevation of about 3,000 metres above sea level was the highest point we were getting to in the entire trip. We were on our way from Thimpu to Punakha and we had to stop to breathe in the pure, chilly air before we gasped at the stunning 360 degree panoramic view of a cluster of 108 stupas called as ‘Druk Wangyal Chortens’ overlooking the giant Himalayas and the snow covered mountain ranges in the background.

These chortens were built in memory of the Bhutanese soldiers who lost their lives during a battle in December 2003, against the Assamese rioters from India.

After sipping on some hot chocolate and watching in awe what my super talented cousin was sketching, we hopped into the traveller and took a left towards the foggy Punakha valley that led us to the old capital city of Bhutan – the unparalleled Punakha.

A stroll through Punakha Dzong

Walking into this beautiful fortress (dzong) adorned by the lush lilac-coloured jacaranda trees which was blooming with mauve flowers made us feel that they were beaming at us. The first step in and we knew we were stepping into the 17th century Bhutan.

Though not the first dzong in the country, the winter capital of Bhutan arguably has the most stunning fortresses of them all. The strategic positioning of the Punakha Dzong at the confluence of the Pho Chhu (father) and Mo Chhu (mother) rivers adds drama to the entire picture. No one can take a bad photograph here!

The elaborate painting on the walls and frescoes on the ceiling depicts the life of Buddha and speaks of the 3 vices depicted through the wheel of fortune. According to the Bhutanese belief, “roaster represents desire, anger is personified by the snake and the boar portrays ignorance,” said my favourite storyteller, Karma.

While trying to get a glimpse of the group picture we took in front of the fortress, we knew that it was for a reason that this majestic structure is called the ‘palace of great happiness and bliss’.

White water rafting in Punakha

Since we couldn’t get enough of the magnificent town and its fortress, we decided to go for a white water rafting through the Mo Chhu. Though the river had only a few rapids and currents, we enjoyed the breathtakingly beautiful scenery around us. While teaching us the technics (as many of us were rafting for the first time. Yes, don’t judge me. Rishikesh is on my mind!), the oarsman told us that we were rowing through the female river because she was always the gentler, deeper and more graceful one, unlike the male river that mostly flows rapidly, just a few meters away.

“Typical of men, they are rough, shallow and graceless anyway” – the feminist in me whispered! 😉

When we were rafting, we crossing a rundown house on the banks of the river; and it felt like every corner of that building had a story to say. We didn’t have to ask though. The oarsman recited a touching tale of two ordinary people (a poor young man named Singye and a charming lady born into a rich family named Galem) and their extraordinary love story.

As he went on with the story, we saw the Bhutanese version of the Romeo and Juliet unfold in front of an alluring backdrop.


While it was about time for the two rivers to meet and merge, a few of us took the risk of jumping confidently into the freezing cold waters of Mo Chhu.

We felt the caress of her on us while she gently embraced us and took us with the flow, along with the raft.

The luck of watching an archery match

While we were waiting for the Punakha Dzong to open, we decided to move towards a ground next to the fortress. Looks like Goddess Fortuna decided to bless us that day, Karma saw that there was an archery match going on there. One of the participants ended up being our driver’s, Ngawang’s, friend. Now we had to watch it.

Archery was apparently declared the national sport of the Kingdom in the early 1970s. Since began their bow and arrow journey. It is said that the Bhutanese archers managed to drive away a lot of the Tibetan invasions in the past, with their skill in the sport.

There are a lot of images of Gods holding the bow and arrow and the Bhutanese secretly adore them a tad bit more than the others.

For the clear love for the game, the country hosts a lot of archery tournaments and competitions around the year and we managed to witness one. Are we lucky or not!

The sight of the largest sitting Buddha in the world

While entering the largest city of the country, we noticed a huge Buddha statue sitting gracefully on top of a hill. The Great Buddha Dordenma, atop the capital city of Thimpu, was build to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck and is an epitome of tranquility. Here, Gautama Buddha is seated in his usual serene half-closed eyes posture with a gentle smile on his lips, and is surrounded by statues of the Goddess of Peace and Protection whom the believers of Buddhism affectionately call Tara.

The throne that Buddha sits on is a large meditation hall with thousands of smaller Buddha figurines, each of which, like the larger than life representation of Buddha are made of bronze and covered elegantly in thin gold.

The prayer chamber resonated peace and it felt like the happiness of the whole world was contained within the four walls of the hall. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to click pictures inside.

Exploring Simply Bhutan and meeting Pema Tshering

The trip to Simply Bhutan was a last minute addition to our last day in Thimpu. The gang was quite excited when we heard from Karma that this place was a living museum that gave an outsider a glimpse into a typical Bhutanese household. We got a chance to take some sips of Arag (the famous Bhutanese alcoholic beverage made mostly from rice), play a round of their national game (archery), try their traditional dress and a lot more.

We knew that this would be a good introduction to their simple life, deep-rooted cultural beliefs and exclusive architecture. But not in the wildest of my dreams did I expect to meet a 29-year old skillful craftsman there. In one of the stalls sat Pema Tshering, engrossed in his work until we reached his work space.

We didn’t know that Pema was a celebrity in Bhutan, until he asked our guide to show us one of the school textbooks in which he has an entire chapter dedicated to him. He was born with cerebral palsy but with his limited mobility, he creates remarkable foot crafts, drawings and wooden sculptures.

To buy one of his paintings for my parents, with his autograph on it, was truly an honour.

The magic called Tiger’s Nest

We started slightly earlier than the usual days for the trek to Taktsang Palphug Monastery, fondly called Tiger’s Nest, tucked in the cliffside of the Paro valley.

Though the route was uneven the first half of the trek, the ascend got manageable with stone steps that followed. We saw determined 70 and 80 year olds climb the hill and that was motivation enough to keep moving forward and take us to the mystifying site nestled amidst the sacred environment.

A few metres away from the monastery, we stopped to take a breath and catch a glimpse of the Taktsang that looked nothing less than a flawless tiara decorated with jewels placed perfectly well on the crown of this beautiful country.

The entire trip through Bhutan was an epic journey and without the mythical and magical vibes that the Tiger’s Nest gave, this vacation wouldn’t have be fulfilling.

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From Bhutan, with love!

It is well past the Ides of September in this part of the world and I haven’t received a single postcard this entire year! If you did by any chance, you are among the very lucky few. It was never uncommon to receive postcards or handwritten letters in India till about a decade ago. I remember receiving quite a number of postcards, especially from my elder brother.

That’s right! Once upon a time, he kept travelling the world as a teenager and I eagerly kept waiting for his handwritten postcards, stamped with love, as a little girl.

One side would have a colourful, drop-dead gorgeous picture of the landscape of the town or city he was in, whose name I could hardly pronounce. 😐 Mostly, it was just a warm greeting in his sloppy, adolescent handwriting or maybe even a polite word or two in his unique scratchy script style on the other side. 😉 Yes, I felt like Sherlock Holmes every time I tried really hard to decode all the encrypted text he would write to me (siblings can never stop being nasty to each other, can they? *evil grin). In my defence, my writing is slightly more legible than his! Yeah, slightly, but come on, it still means ‘better’! 😏 And in the same breathe, I must also confess that receiving an incomprehensible postcard like that is all it takes to bring a smile on my face. (Can I be more subtle? Send me postcards the next time you go somewhere please, yeah, you!) It feels good to know that someone thought about you while they were in a strange land and took the time to scribble a line or two, just to let you know that they were thinking about you.

You must be wondering why I am saying all this now. There is always a trigger that elicit fond personal memories, ain’t there? On one of the last few days in Bhutan, we reluctantly walked into the Bhutan Postal Museum in Thimpu as we had nothing much left to do around.

In no time after getting there, this became a place I wanted to list down and recommend as a must-visit to whoever wished to visit the country.

This museum, located in the building of the main post office, was inaugurated by Her Majesty Galyum, Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck in 2015. The museum is said to be a dedication to the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.

Apart from the depiction of the journey Bhutan had taken as a country to get where they are now and the collection of assorted stamps they had that were being kept on display in the museum, this place scored brownie points for having a counter to get personalised stamps made. Yes, you heard that right! The time to transfer the photos from your phone to their computer was all it took to get them freshly printed to its stamp-sized form. Every sheet had 12 stamps (with our faces, of course) and cost us INR 360 per sheet. INR 30 per ‘personalised’ stamp is not a bad deal at all.

We wasted no time! All of us queued up and started searching for some good quality pictures on our phones that would qualify as a decent image on the stamp. I was quite sure that I wanted a picture of my nephew, and found the perfect click just before it was my turn to transfer the picture to their system.

Ahh! The grinding noise of the printer never felt that appealing and fascinating, ever.

When Ethan Hawke, an American actor best known for his role as Jesse in Richard Linklater’s romantic drama trilogy, was once interviewed by the People Magazine, he had mentioned, “My favorite thing in the world is to receive postcards from friends. And I travel a lot, so I send them back. It may be old-fashioned, but when I see someone’s handwriting, it’s like a little piece of them. And I always love it.” The feeling is mutual, Ethan! Am of the opinion that any person’s handwriting is as unique as his or her personality and is a reflection of who they have become.

Once we were all done printing our favourite snaps, we grabbed a few postcards from the stand beside, borrowed a pen from Karma (our guide), wrote a small note on it, fed in the address, very carefully tore a stamp from the sheet and pasted it on the postcard. Voila! It was ready to take the ‘snail mail’ trip.

Now, it has turned a full circle. I finally got to send my brother a postcard. Just like the way he used to send me, hoping to bring that similar smile on his face, quite literally (yup, we both grin alike, or so they say) and maybe help echo the same feelings after.

It was right when I held the postcard before dropping it into the post box that I realised that it is not always the scent on someone or the whiff of some dish that evokes powerful childhood memories, but it is sometimes also the sight of something that gave you a beautiful springtime of life, that stirs up those happy thoughts.

Fun fact – One of my biggest pet peeves is postal service delays. I have been a victim of it several times and it can be extremely frustrating. The lady at the counter had promised that the postcards would reach the recipients two weeks from mailing it. But me being me, I got flustered after three weeks, when both my parents and brother did not mention anything about receiving it. Neither could I ask them since I wanted to “surprise” them. Yup, bad idea! I almost lost hope and started cribbing about people rightly calling our postal service the ‘snail mail’, when I finally got a call from Ettan (that’s what I call my elder brother) one weekend.

Certainly, it felt good to hear his baritone voice and a gleeful chuckle after he said they received the postcard; about a month after I was back. But that’s okay! Mission Accomplished! 🙏 🙋