Wednesday, April 12, 2023

The foodie trails to Meghalaya


We travelled to Shillong on 20 Feb 2023 to 26 Feb 2023 , but in reality we had been planning this trip from December 2021 .

After 2 years of Covid, we had finally decided that the entire extended family, including all cousins, aunts , uncles would travel to Shillong, Meghalaya and Kaziranga on Feb 2022. But as life would have it, another wave of Omicron came crashing into us on January 2022, with everyone getting ill, we feared another lockdown and cancelled our tickets. That year, Shreysht had a lesson called ‘trip to Shillong ‘ in his second standard text book, and all of 2022, I kept thinking of the missed trip to Shillong, even though we travelled to Dehradun, Mussourie, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Benaras, Pune, Imagicaa, Spain in 2022.

So exactly a year later, same travel dates,in 2023, we three of us, planned a small family trip to Shillong. It felt like meeting a friend. A friend who we had planned to meet, many times, but plans never go through, and then we meet many other people, but the friend is always at the back of our mind, and then finally one day – we meet the friend.

Here is the travel itinerary of Meghalaya 

20 Feb -Reach Guwahati at noon, have lunch and drive to Cherapunjee ( 5 hour journey) . Stop at Umiam lake on the route for a boat ride.

21 Feb- Do a 7 hour trek to the double decker root bridge, blue lagoon, and rainbow waterfalls in Cherapunjee. Stay over night in Cherapunjee.

22 Feb- checkout from Cherapunjee, do a day trip to Mawsmai caves, Arwah Caves, Wei Sawdong waterfalls, and then drive to Shillong.

23 Feb- travel to visit Dawki river, visit cleanest village Mawlynnong , single root bridge in Riwai. Drive back to Shillong.

24 Feb- Shillong city tour, we visited Lady hydari zoo and park, Ward lake, Don Bosco Museum, Cathedral of Mary help of Christians.

25 Feb- Shillong peak, elephant waterfalls, sacred forest, Laitlum view point . back to Shillong.

26 Feb – drive from Shillong to Guwahati, some shopping at market, caught afternoon flight back.

Things that I would change:

We should have stayed overnight in Cherapunjee on 22 , and gone to Dawki from cherapunjee itself, it is closer, rather than travel from Shillong. We should have not over extended ourselves to visit Laitlum on the last day, it was a very long journey since we got a lot of traffic on the way back. The re3ason why we did cherapunjee before Shillong was because we did not want an overnight stay in Guwahati, but if you want to stay in Guwahati you can do the other way around, Shillong first, then cherapunjee, then stay in Guwahati. We could have easily avoided the 25 Feb itinerary, and maybe tried to get Kaziranga in.

Things we loved the most :

The day trip in Cherapunjee when we saw the caves. They are the most magnificent caves in India. Truly proper caves, with so many inroads and walking , it was amazing, plus the wei sawdong waterfall that day was fabulous.. The day trip to Shillong day when we went to ward lake and zoo, it was a much needed respite from continuously on the road, a very restful fun day, even the don bosco museum was intresting. The 7 hour trek to Rainbow falls, it was a trek of a lifetime. I really enjoyed the sacred forest aswell, reminded me of the movie Kantara.

A few notes on doing the 7 hour trek :

Definitely attempt it if you are physically able.It takes 1 hour to climb down to the double decker bridge, you can see that, and return too, return will take you 2 hours of steep climb. It takes 45minutes from the root bridge to the blue lagoon, and another 45 minutes to the rainbow falls. Both are stunning. Pace yourself. Leave early at 8 am for the trek. You don’t necessarily need a guide, it’s a straight route. You can stay in local homes at the rainbow falls, or at root bridge overnight, if you feel unable to climb back. If you can’t then the best option is the single root bridge in riwai, near mawlynnong, beautiful and accessible.

A few notes on cafes of Shillong :

We went to them all, as a foodie it was on my bucket list.

-        Café Shillong : try the thukpa, the chilly pork , the burgers.The best Thukpa I have had anywhere, everything from the noodles to the broth. They have live music on some nights. It is a really small place for such a popular destination.

-        Café Dylan : such a cool place, amazing décor, and the burgers and fried chicken and the chilli hot chocolate are great. There is a all in one chocolate dessert with 4 desserts if you have compny for that, try it. Everything from the ceiling made of painted canvases, to the walls made of a dancefloor tiles, everything is art and history here.

-        Café ML 05: This is also owned by the same company that owns café Dylan, and this one is a bike and car themed café. The food is a little more finger food, like maggi and momos, highway bike crowd. But a very cool seating cum lounge area, especially for people traveling on the highway to Shillong and cherapunjee. The chilli hot chocolate, the pizza, and the barbeque pork were our favourites.

-        Dejavu: This Chinese Asian food restaurant is the most popular restaurant in all of Shillong, we had to make it here on day 1 in Shillong, and we were not disappointed, there was live music, there was good fried rice, and fried chicken. But all the pork dishes unfortunately were disappointing. We had seen rave reviews of the pork dishes, but all of them were too fatty.

Our stays

We stayed in San Naela in Cherapunjee, basic enough, the food was not so great, we preferred having Maggi honestly, the breakfasts were nice. The only great point is that they have a play area and park so its great for kids. Other wise nothing great. Our Shillong hotel was terrible, another sad recommendation by MMT, this was the second time Make my trip let us down in hotel bookings after Spain. I need to learn from my mistakes ! Shillong has so many really nice, centrally located places, choose something near ward lake, or near


Travel :

We had a driver and car that picked us up at Guwahati airport, and after 7 days dropped us at the airport, that was extremely convenient. Travel was not an issue, considering we had so much time on the road. Booking a car for the entire trip was a good suggestion by MMT. There are ways to book this at the Guwahati airport itself, but here is our drivers number aswell, Jitumoni Das +918486719017 , +918402909254 .

Travel to Meghalaya in February:

The best time to travel is undoubtedly November, since it has just finished raining, the waterfalls are full, it’s not raining, and thee cherry blossoms are in bloom. The advantages of February is lesser crowds, clearer waters, we had rainfall on 2 days which was great because then there was a little water in the waterfalls, and the trees looked verdant green, but because of the rainfall the river Dawki was not as clear. Don’t travel from Mid March to October, apparently , because it rains a lot, and many places are either covered in clouds so you can’t see the view points or are too wet and slippery to trek in.

Hope this post helps you plan your own trip to Shillong , Meghalaya . do follow my instagraam hashtag #thefoodietrailstomeghalaya for more reels and posts.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

The foodie trails to Spain (travel itinerary of 9 days in Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona )


In October 2022 we decided to finally step foot on foreign soil – after two years of COVID pandemic. Here is a detailed itinerary of the places we visited and the experiences, hope this helps you plan your own holiday well.

COVID regulations:

Spain needed a compulsory 3 vaccines certificate, so we got our booster vaccinations and the certificate. The certificate was only required at Immigration. No certificate was required for our 7 year old. On return, however Govt of India needed a RT PCR for my son, and we had to get an RT PCR done in Barcelona. The best way is to google RTPCR centers at your destination, or to ask the pharmacies in the city to guide you to a centre. The RTPCR cost 49 Euros. If you have vaccination certificates no need for RTPCR.

Spain itinerary overview :

Arrive at Madrid , 3 nights in Madrid

Travel by train to, Valencia (2 hour train journey from Madrid ), 3 nights in Valencia

Travel by train to Barcelona (2.5 Hour train journey from Valencia), 3 nights in Barcelona

The Hotels and train tickets were prebooked on Make my trip and while I don’t recommend the hotels that we stayed at, I do recommend the train travel. The trains are clean, fast, comfortable free wifi and provide a scenic journey to the next destination. There is a basic bag screening which takes 5 minutes at train station. No need to book flights within Spain, it will take longer and more cumbersome.

Madrid itinerary

We travelled from Madrid airport to our Hotel by taxi at the airport, while Uber is also available, Taxi is faster and same cost. They have a cap of 4 persons to a car.

Once at hotel ask for the map of Madrid, infact each of the cities had their maps at the hotel receptions making travel very convenient. And we travelled using the Metro train. The main stations are Atocha and Sol. Atocha is also the station where we get the train to Valencia, the station closest to the Yellow bus tours and to the meeting point for our travel to Toledo and Segovia. Sol station is close to the city center, night clubs, Gran Via road, shopping and sight seeing.

Day 1 Madrid

 We took the metro to Sol, and visited the San Miguel food market, Tapas, sangrias and local food. Also the Gran via road has all the top fashion houses and malls. Perfect to see the city vibes.

Day 2 Madrid

 We did a day tour of the city via Yellow bus tours. Yellow bus tours is a 2 hour panoramic city tour, they have a guide who talk you through the sights, you cannot get off the bus in the 2 hours. This is different from a Hop on Hop off bus. A hop on-Hop off bus is preferrable, visit 3 places definitely – the Madrid castle one of the largest castles in western Europe, The Bull fighting arena one of the only places in the world where bull fights are still seen and one of the grandest bull fighting arenas in the world bull fighting season is March to October so you can book tickets to watch, and Park Retiro which is UNESCO heritage centre 128 hectares and 15000 trees, also has lots of monuments, buildings and parks within the park, plus a lake for boating. Would recommend ‘steak burger’ restaurant for their premium steaks, ‘san gines’ for churros, and la Polleria for the Instagram waffles.

metros and buses every where , accesible tourism

steak burger on Gran via road

Day 3 Madrid

We did a half day tour of Toledo and a half day tour of Segovia, from Madrid via yellow bus tours. Toledo is about 1 hour by bus from Madrid, and then we return to Madrid and travel another 1.5 hours by bus to Segovia. We went by the yellow city bus tour. Highly recommend both the destinations. Toledo is stunning, like a scene out of Arabian nights, a Middle-eastern Muslim inspired city with winding roads, built on a hill, and you can lose yourself for hours in this magical medieval place. We spent way too much time in a sword and damask shop, would recommend you discover the city instead. If you can take a full day tour of just Toledo, or better still stay a day or two in Toledo to catch the night scenes. We left Toledo at 1 pm (had a mere 4 hours of Toledo), to head for Segovia , Segovia has the Roman aqueduct 2000 years old, an Alcazar castle and the grand cathedral. Segovia has a lot of history as well. I would a full day tour here aswell. Both places have a lot of history the Muslim and Modejar (muslims converted to Christianity), and Jewish influence. The bus journey was comfortable and our guide was excellent, both Spanish and English guides available.

the alcazar in Segovia

roman aqueduct in Segovia

Day 4 travel from Madrid to Valencia by Train.

Day 1 Valencia

Unfortunately because of the bookings by Make my trip we found oourselves staying outside of Valencia near the airport ! This meant it used to take us a minimum of 40 minutes to reach city center (Plaza Espanya is the most popular bus/metro station) , and multiple bus and metro changes to get to any of our destinations. Big mistake! Please please stay near the Valencia old city (near plaza espanya), or closer to the beach (playa something). We stayed in a place called Bonnaire, which had a mall close to us, since each night we needed to come back to Bonnaire by 10 , we spent most evenings, perusing the Bonnaire mall. The largest Mall in Valencia with 120 shops, and lots of eateries. Would recommend the 100 Montaditos restaurant in the mall, for beer on tap and tapas.

Day 1 Valencia

We reached on a National holiday and all malls, and market were closed. We headed to the beach in Valencia. One of the busiest beaches in Spain playa, Valencia is the nearest port to Ibiza and if you travel here in the summer, you will get to see the true Valencia playa beauty, but early October was not bad. Since we come from Goa, we are used to seeing the sunset over the sea, but since Valencia is on the east coast, the sunset is over the houses. Valencia is THE BEST PLACE to try Paella.

 The national dish of Spain originated from Valencia, and the best Paella places are to be found lining the beaches (playa). All Paella dishes are made after the order is placed and when we finally sat at one of the highly recommended Paella places, the waiting was too much with a 40 minutes waiting time, since we had changed two metros and a bus to get to the place, and had a deadline to catch our last bus- we missed out on dining by the beach. I know it was just a meal- but it is a learning experience to not trust ‘tour guides like make-my-trip’ to book hotels.

fideua - paella with noodles/pasta

the beach at Valencia 

wearing the colours of spain in spain, also beer on tap at 100 montaditos

Day 2 Valencia

We spent the day in the arts and sciences city of Valencia. They have 6 buildings,the entire complex is known as one of the 12 treasures of Spain.It houses the largest under water world in Europe with Oceanographic, a Massive interactive science city museum which resembles the skeleton of a whale, and IMAX cinema and planetarium L hemispheric built like a human eye. This place is sci-fi at its best. We took some 400 pictures and videos on this day and a pass cost 42 euros per person. Just brilliant.. Plus we reached the place by just changing 2 buses. Buses were the preferred mode of transport rather than metros in Valencia, bus number 95 goes to oceanographic. So ask around for the bus map, also google bus routes. We also had a very easy travel card, that saved us a lot on travel each day, so in any city, just go to the train/metro station and ask for the trave card. Available at airports aswell.


pics at the art and science city

Day 3 Valencia

We had a pre booked hopon-hopoff bus tour of Valencia this day. Hop on hop off is an excellenct idea if you plan on going to the beach (as I mentioned it is really far and out of the way), but if you plan on visiting the art science center it is a waste, since you will be spending the entire day at one place, and also if you plan on spending time in Valencia old town . Valencia old city has no cars or buses allowed that means no hop on-hop off buses within this place. Places to visit within the old city are plenty, there are guided tours for the entire old city, walking tours, and cycle tours. The Valencia cathedral that houses the famous Holy Grail the chalise from which Jesus drank his last sips is breathtaking (take the guided tour it is worth it) special significance if you are pregnant or hoping to conceive , the Valencia mercado central is one of largest enclosed markets in western Europe (closes at 3 pm), the La Lonja next to the market is a free entry Unesco monument, apparently we can climb the 144 steps to get a panoramic view of the old city, but it was closed on the day we went. The Iglesia San Nicholas church, and a meal at the Plaza de la Virgen and the Neptune fountain were all highlights of the old town. We finally had our Paella over looking the Valencia cathedral and it was everything we had hoped for. We had the traditional Valencia paella with chicken, rabbit and chorizos, we also had the sea food paella, and a vegetarian paella. Also sangrias.

Day 4 travel from Valencia to Barcelona scenic train journey by the Spanish sea side.

Day 1 Barcelona

We spend each of the first days understanding the metro and the bus stations. In Barcelona you need either the travel card or pay by card, no cash is accepted on buses, and so we chose to the card. Buses were the best way to travel. Barcelona has a lot of the places extremely well located around two bus stops /metro stops. Plaza Catalunia and Plaza Espanya. Take any bus/metro to Plaza Catalunya. Day 1 we walked down La Rambla road conveniently located along plaza Catalunya. We also attended a Flamenco dance performance.We went to Flamenco Barcelona SL, close to plaza Catalunya, they have shows every 2 hours , show lasts 1 hour 15 min, no food provided and at 20 euros this was the most economical. (shows in Madrid started at 35 euros) this show has certificate of excellence from trip advisor, has extremely high ratings, and children watch free/discounted.  Must experience once.

Day 2 Barcelona

We did a hop on hop off tour of Barcelona, and this audio tour was much much better than the Valencia hop on hop off. (I do not recommend the hop on hop off tour guide of Valencia, waste of money and time) but Barcelona was very enjoyable. We got off at Park Guell which was underwhelming, over crowded, and miss-able. It does not exemplify Gaudi’s best work, for which I would recommend La Pedrera (read next). We also went to the Football club of Barcelona, and it was super fun to take pictures outside the building. Since we had done a tour of the stadium and museum in 2013, we didn’t repeat it, but you should visit if you have not done it before. We also visited the marines, and the Barcelona Cathedral and all the beautiful lanes around Gothic part of Barcelona. No cars/buses are allowed in this region between La Rambla and Via Laetana , and this place has narrow walking lanes, picturesque shops, cheaper eateries, a very enjoyable walking discovery, with live musicians, and street performers and art museums.

Day 3 Barcelona

We spent the morning soaking in the magnificence of Sagrada Familia, and Casa Mila or La Pedrera. This was our second time visiting Sagrada Familia, we had visited in 2013 dec, and in the past 9 years a few new additions have been made, but more than that there is a proper system for tickets, we get to fix a time and buy the tickets. You don’t need to stand in serpentine queues for half a day to get in! You can even buy the tickets online! We bought it outside the cathedral at an additional cost of 2 euros, since our online booking was not happening. But it is still very convenient. You get a free downloadable audio guide. This time we also went to La Pedrera, the last time we were cash strapped youngsters who found the ticket too expensive, also we had just 12 hours to explore Barcelona the last time around. This time we were really able to understand more about Gaudi and his work and workings inside the La Pedrera building.

 The Sagrada familia has very little of Gaudi’s original work, and much of what has been built, is over the past 96 years since Gaudi’s death! So the real genius is in the la Pedrera building- La Pedrera means a stone quarry or stack of stone, people used to joke that it looks like a haphazhard pile of stones, but from an attic shaped like a whales spine, and glass reptiles and warriors on the undulating roof and the butterfly wing gate at the entrance, everything in this building has Nature and meaning. That is why even though people criticised the building when it was made, and made fun of Gaudi, the entire city of Barcelona is literally a celebration of Gaudi a century after his death.

Day 4 : Early morning flight from Barcelona back to India.

Over view of our holiday.

Well just recollecting and writing this holiday guide has brought back vivid memories and if you found just reading all of this overwhelming, believe me the sights, sounds, stories, tastes and experiences will leave your senses overwhelmed.

But, since we had 3 days each in the places we had a very enjoyable pace, and a deep understanding of each place. There is a lot of walking, with each day we were walking over 20000 steps. The roads are not like cobblestone roads of Italy so it is much easier to walk in Spain, all signs are in English, but people don’t speak much English. All hotels, restaurant managers, and major stores have English speaking staff so you can ask them. All metros have someone who knows English, most bus drivers do not know English. When in doubt ask locals/ other tourists for help. We were told Barcelona is filled with thiefs and pick pockets, we thankfully did not face such experiences. Of all the places we visited, Toledo and Segovia were the perfect European castle experience, Valencia is the perfect east meets west experience, Madrid had the most local city flavour, Barcelona was the most touristy and welcoming.

Food wise lots of Sangria (fruits and red wine), churros (doughnut type stick desserts), tapas (small bar eats with drinks our favourite were tortillas, patatas bravas, gambas and calamari fritters, pollo croquettes) , jamon(smoked meat), paella (one pot rice dish), and try the local Mercados (markets) for seasonal local products. And try the fixed meal combos, which give you a starter, mains, dessert at a fixed price. All malls and most shopping places close on Sundays and national holidays.

For more : follow my Instagram page @thefoodietrails for pictures from our trip it is under insta highlights.

Search for my posts with the hashtag #thefoodietrailstospain #shreyshtinspain on Instagram  

breakfast tortillas loaded spanish omlettes

paella !

audio guided tours everywhere

the pretty neptune fountain in Valencia

camp nou in Barcelona

The bay area in Barcelona

Night life in Madrid

patatas bravas and meat balls tapas

park guell barcelona





Saturday, May 21, 2022

Summer vacation to Imagica Theme park and Imagicaa water world


Summer vacation to Imagicaa 2022

After 2 summer vacations spent in COVID lockdown, it was time to reclaim the ‘high point of childhood ‘, and we did it in style by spending 2 days in Imagica theme park, and 2 nights at the adjacent Novotel Imagica.

Why Imagica?

I have had a huge fascination for the gorgeous theme parks of the world, be it Disney land, or Lego land, or Singapore’s Sentosa Island with Universal studios. And ever since Shreysht was born, I wanted to take him to these theme parks, and fulfil my own curiosity.

 And, Imagica is the best option for a theme park in India, also, since my parents live in Pune, it was a short 2 hour ride to the park (Imagica is in Khopoli, outskirts of Mumbai, and an inter city drive from Pune) It has both a Theme park and a water park. And even though we chose summer to go, they have lots of greenery and shade places especially the water park, there are indoor rides, even some of the queues are in air conditioned rooms, and it was very comfortable even in the Height of May.

We went to Singapore when Shreysht was 3.5 years old, and he enjoyed as much as a 3 three and half can, but now that he is six and half, he had a much more exciting time, and we did too.

Why stay at Novotel Imagica ?

-        If you are traveling from around the country (other than Pune, Mumbai ) I would highly recommend you stay at Imagica Novotel. The theme park and the water park, each take a day each to complete, and so doing one of them on two consecutive days, with an overnight stay at a 4 star hotel absolutely adjacent to the park is the best way to maximise your time and experience of the theme parks.

-        Even if you stay in pune/Mumbai, but are traveling with kids to the park, and do not have your own vehicle to drive to the theme park, I would say , stay overnight at the hotel. The theme park, and the water park are both very extensive , tiring , funfilled days, which extract every ounce of your enthusiasm, and none of us had the mental bandwidth, not to mention physical capacity to drive back in city traffic to any home. With the Novotel, we could go back to our room, regresh and rejuvenate, and then head down to an extensive dinner buffet.

-        The stay at the imagica, comes with attractive options for the theme park entries, as well as a breakfast buffet. They also have free stay for children under 10, and special rates for senior citizens.

-        A cheaper option would be other hotels near by, or an air bnb style option near the Theme park, but to really indulge in the immersive experience , we chose the Novotel. And not just one night, but we chose 2 nights, so that we were rested after both days of the theme park.

-        ONE MAJOR TIP – check in is at 2 pm, and check out at 11 am. For some reason, we thought we have to check in before going to the park! You do not need to do that, you can bring your bags in early, head to the park at 10:30 am and check- in later. Or you can checkout and then head to the other park.

A note on the food at Novotel Imagica, it was excellent. The 4 buffet meals we had here, 2 breakfasts (included in charges) and 2 dinner buffets were all very thoughtfully planned, not repetitive and extremely well prepared as a food blogger, I was in food heaven, and yet have no food pictures because i used to not carry my phone for meals. a chance for me to be more mindful with the food, and be with my family.

More about the Imagica park

-        There is the Imagica theme park with 35 attractions, the water park with 14 rides , and a snow world that has a different entry and charges. The theme park has special rates on Tuesdays, and the water park has special rates on Wednesdays , so if you plan to visit both then a Tuesday +Wednesday would be the most value for money.

-        There is a height cut off on most rides , one of 3 feet 1 inch , and 4 feet 4 inch. If you have a child and two parents, then there is a special entry where the second parent does not have to stand in the line a second time.

-        On extremely busy days you can upgrade your tickets to beat the lines. But we made the mistake of taking these upgrades on a day it was not busy. You can upgrade at any time during your visit to theme park, these upgrade shops are outside every popular ride, and you can decide if you want to upgrade if the lines are especially long any time of the day. Even if you have the upgrade pass, you get to do the rides only once using the pass, that means the second time you do the ride, you still have to stand in the long queue. The upgrade does not mean unlimited access.

-        The indoor rides shut down by 5 pm, so it is best to start the morning with these rides, namely all the indoor shows (motion box theatre, cinema 360, I for India, Mr India , detective bow wow show ) , and also the indoor rides (our favourites were Ali baba and Rajasaurus ) . The outdoor rides are open till 6:30. Ask the attendants, when the ride will close. Also, start with the furthest rides from the entrance first, before the crowds come.

-        Four scary rides for thrill seakers – the Nitro , the scream machine, the dare to drop, and deep space, all need a height requirement of 4.4 feet. But, if you have a high on thrill child, then Gold rush and Rajasaurus have height cut off of 3 feet 1 inch and provide ample screams aswell.

-        You get the pictures for Rs 300 it is online pictures. Which makes it convenient to get the entire set.

-        Water park – as mentioned earlier, we mis-timed our entry, and went to the park after checkin, at 2:30 pm, and were told the park would close at 5 pm. Thankfully for us, the park was crowded that day, on crowded days, they keep the park open till 6:30. They have lockers to keep bags, no towels are provided, so carry your own, dry fit wear or swim suits are a must, carry a waterproof ziplock for your phone if you want to take it into the park, there are shoe racks to keep your slippers outside the rides so please don’t try and walk bare foot around the park.

-        Food and water was surprisingly allowed inside the park! This is a blessing if you have young children, water is easily fillable in the many drinking water kiosks, even the snacks available in the park are at MRP and not at a hiked price! The restaurants and eateries are all very affordable. We liked the pizza place near the wave pool and rain dance area in the Imagica water park for eating.

-         A super cool tip to win you some freebies – so at the entry you are given a raffle ticket. Most people do not fill this raffle ticket, because they don’t have apen, or they are in a hurry to get to the games, but fill this lucky draw ticket and drop it in the souvenir store at the beginning. Every evening they choose 3 winners from the theme park and 3 from the water park. There is a high chance you will win. We did ! we got third prize on the day we went to water park.

-        Can you do both water park and theme park in the same day… not recommended. Choose 2 days. Infact as we were allowed 2 days, we asked specifically if we could go from one to the other. But there is a 5 minute bus travel (inhouse buses) from one to the other, you cannot wear wet clothes from the water park to the theme park, and it truly does take a day to do justice to any of them.

-        The night parade , happens in the theme park after 7 pm. Even if you went to the water park, you get free access into the theme park for the parade, it has all the characters from the park, like Mr India and even snow white and seven dwarfs, also some very talented acrobats. It is definitely worth a watch.try and get a place near the pirate ship to get the best views.

Final words

It is a real feat to make such a theme park in India, and keep it running well. Yes the park opens late (10:30 ) and closes by 5 pm (indoor rides and water park )- 6:30 pm  (outside rides ). But that is for the safety checks, they do diligent safety checks of the rides, multiple times. They need to check there aren’t anyone in the park after hours, they need to check the rowdy crowds, the staff is courteous, helpful and we need to extend that respect to them aswell. The park is really value for money, for all that it offers, including lifetime memories.

 want to watch more of our shenanigans in Imagica? 

Here are few links to my instagram reels from Imagica 



Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The foodie trails to Jodhpur


Diwali of 2021 , we decided to go to Jodhpur on a family trip, COVID restrictions were just easing up, it was school holidays, great weather as well, and we had not been on a family vacation in 2 years, and so my parents, brother, my husband and Shreysht, my son, all of us met in Jodhpur.

How to get there? Jodhpur has an airport, which makes flying into the city easy. But you can also take a train, or make a road trip to Jodhpur. The roads too are excellent because of Golden quadrilateral of National highways. We came in by flight from 3 different cities, and then travelled within the city in auto rickshaws, and drove to Osian in a hired, all travel options available.

Where to stay? We stayed in an Air BNB property in Old Jodhpur city , it was an old haveli property called Casa de Jodhpur , with 5 rooms. You can book each room individually, and then I would recommend you take the Maharani sa or the Yuvraj sa rooms. We chose to book the entire 5 rooms, and have the whole haveli to ourselves, which made safety and covid precautions easier for us, also we had the privacy of the entire terrace to ourselves.

There are many hotel and hostel options, and if you want a good mix of night life plus heritage experience, I would suggest look for hotels around the step well, or Turji ka Jhalra. Pretty close to the Clock tower and the step well, it offers arty cafes to chill, nice shopping options, and some of the best views of the Mehrangarh fort at night, as well as the blue city , the Umaid bhavan at a distance.

What to visit?

So we had about 4 days and this is what we did

Day one on arrival we went to Pachetia hill – this is the most instagrammed stretch of Jodhpur, a walking street, lined by blue walls, and coloured paintings on both sides, The entire stretch is a photo op, and once you reach the top, the view of the city is amazing, we happened to go here on Diwali night, and every house was lit, this also leads to sunset point, so it a good idea to head out in the evening for Pachetiya hill. There are 2 temples on the way, and they add to the cultural walk aswell.

Dinner was near the step well .

walking the streets of Jodhpur 

Day two we covered Mehrangarh fort, Jaswant Thada and the behind side of Mehrangarh fort, where all the blue houses are , called Navchokiya- Mehrangarh fort has three cafes, we ate in two of them, one for breakfast including samosa, dhokla and mirchi vada, and another for lunch of mutton thali and dal bati churma . would definitely recommend the lunch café- it clean, hospitable, and good quality. After lunch we headed to Jaswant Thada , about 1.5 km from Mehrangarh fort, we completely forgot to see the batman movie shooting place, but it is fairly close by, so ask about it at the entrance of mehrangarh fort. The ziplining is also available, and is 90 minutes long, we didn’t do the ziplining , but I hear it is exciting.

We spent the evening and dinner at the step well area again.

picture at mehrangarh fort

Day 3 we went hired an Innova and drove to Ummaid bhavan palace the current residence of the king Gaj singh 2 of jodhpur, part of it is a hotel, and not for tourists, a small section of the museum is open to tourists, followed by Mandore gardens ( a beautiful garden filled with The garden is a part of the more massive Mehrangarh Fort, and also houses the famous Hall of Heroes and the temple of Three Hundred Million Gods. The garden also has a Government Museum, which is full of artefacts and old relics. 

The most striking feature of the garden is the gorgeous cenotaphs or 'dewals' that can be found spread all across the Mandore Gardens.

Mandore is 9 km from Jodhpur, and while here I would recommend going to Bal Samand Lake palace. The palace and the lake is closed to outsiders, not staying or dining at the Bal Samand lake palace resort. But, the lake and the palace grounds are truly worth the visit, and we had a gorgeous meal of laal maas and Rajasthani chicken tikkas at the Bal Samand on day 4 .

Now, back to Day 3 when we drove onwards from Mandore to Osian (70 km away) for a camel ride in the dessert, and a meal at a local dessert village home. The village people were extremely hospitable, the camel ride was the most exciting part of our holiday. The reason why this dessert trip is different from the ones in Jaisalmer or Jaipur, is that these are not staged or fancy, they don’t have music, and rajasthani dancers, it is more real and raw, with us having raw peanuts, from their farms, we saw them feeding their cattle some bajra rotis, my son played with the village kids, and we sat around a bonfire in their house courtyard. It was like a slice out of their everyday life. The food of fresh bajra rotis, ker sangria from the nearby trees, and ghee from their cattle was a hearty heartful meal.

meal at Osian village home 

Day 4 – We had been going on daily breakfast trails, discovering the local snacks, but we went to Janta sweet house on the ghanta ghar road for breakfast, and it soon became our favourite. On day 4 we did all our shopping, some of the nicer shops, and government sanctioned handicraft stores are in this area. We bought leheriya suits, lehengas, kurtas, jodhpuri jutis, and mirror work hand bags. Colourful leheriya and bandhani duppatas, and even Rajasthani puppets. Day 4 we went to Bal Samand lake palace for lunch , and had a lovely time discovering the gorgeous palace gardens and lake. The evening was again around the step well area.

picture at Bal Samand Lake palace

food with royalty, pictures at Mehrangarh cafe, in Mehrangarh fort

Day 5 – we ate breakfast at Janta sweethome, and did some last day shopping, packed Ghevars for home from janta sweets, a custom that almost everyone visiting jodhpur does. And then headed for the airport. Take satleast 2 hours at the airport, since the serpentine queues and limited staff at the airport.

What to eat in Jodhpur ? 

Jalebi – Motu Jalebi wala , old city

Dhee ke kachori – Narayan mishtan

Gulab Jamun – Chaturbhuj Gulab Jamun

Samosa and mirch vada – Shahi samosa

Malai Ghevar, lassi, chaas, pyaaz kachori and dahi chutney samosa (dahi chutrney absolutely anything ) – Janta sweet home

Rajasthani thali – mehrangarh fort café – they give a non veg version of thali with mutton /chicken, 3 types of rotis like makki , bajra and plain roti. Also the shahi thali at Bal samand lake palace . Ker sangria, gate ki sabji, lasun chutney and bajra rotis are what marks a complete Rajasthani thali.

Dal Bati churma – no visit to Rajasthan is complete without the dal bati churma.

Kabuli – While Rajasthan has a rich Rajput food culture. Kabuli, is a Mughal Rajasthani cuisine, hailing from Kabul , Afghanistan, a rich vegetarian biryani, with nuts, and dry fruits, and redolent with spices. This dish is super delicious, extremely filling, and has some interesting history. If there was ever a concept of vegetarian biryani, this would be it.  

Special mention to mirch vada – combine the Maharashtrian vada pav, vada with it’s spicy potato mix, and the mirchi bhajji, long green chilli, and you have a green chilli, stuffed with spicy potato, covered in besan and deep fried. The mirchi vada, appealed to the Punekar in me !

 Laal Maas – the laal maas ( red mutton) was even more difficult to find than the blue houses in Jodhpur, a lot of places were pure vegetarian, and a few others had dubious versions of laal maas, we liked the one from Open house café , near Turji ka jhalra, and the one at Bal Samand.

laal maas and rajasthani style chicken curry, at bal Samand lake palace

Last words – Spend time walking the streets, of Jodhpur, also wear colourful clothes as well as blues to match the walls, the weather is dry and hot, so hydrate yourself often.  Want to see more ? d=follow the hasthtag #thefoodietrailstojodhpur to see reels/posts and more , also I have an instastory highlights on Jodhpur on my Instagram @thefoodietrails , so go check that out.

laal maas ay open house cafe, near the step well

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

In pursuit of Hampiness : Goa to Hampi road trip

It has been almost a year since I stepped out of my home state of Goa, since the COVID pandemic. I’ll agree that there are worse places to get stuck at home, than Goa, and yet, the wanderlust bug finally crawled under my skin, and I was ready for our ‘first vacation since lockdown’, and we decided to go to Hampi.

Hampi is a place in Karnataka, a neighbouring state, and about 360 Km from my place, that is about an 8 and a half hour road trip.

Reasons why I chose Hampi as my first vacation spot.

-        It is not too far, and I didn’t want to yet take a flight out anywhere, haven’t been on a flight in a year, and I am still warming up to the idea of ‘non essential plane travel’.

-        The fact that it was our own car, gave me much comfort in terms of cleanliness, and travelling with a kid.

-        Hampi is not a place, it is a vibe ! Ok, I had heard this phrase so many times before, that I had to roll my eyes at it, until I actually saw Hampi. Hampi is definitely, not a singular place, it is an entire sprawling space filled with 3000 ancient ruins, dating back to the 14 th century , spread over 4100 hectares of land. And because it is a UNESCO world heritage site, nothing can be built, destroyed or removed from here. You can literally climb the highest mountain here and yet see nothing but ancient civilization, no modern buildings, malls, or structures around. ( pictures, posts, and reels, and videos on @thefoodietrails Instagram page)

-        Hampi has these cool stone hills, I can’t explain, it looks like nature constructed these giant , stone cairns. A cairn is the stacked pile of stones, you can find them in Leh Ladakh, or in Hawaii, or just about any place with flat stackable stones. People believe that stacking a pile of stones, helps wishes come true, so, imagine an entire area filled with giant natural cairns, that’s what Hampi reminded me of. Not to mention it is easy and fun climbing these rock structures.

-        Hampi has some amazing temples and structures to visit, it has a religious side, as well as a leisure side, with rock climbing, treks, boating in a lake, and walks in paddy fields. So, a well rounded vacation spot with much to do.

-        And finally, it was a short trip of just 2 days for us, as we could not afford a longer vacation.


Now, that you are convinced that Hampi is worth visiting, here is my itinerary, which I meticulously planned and executed.

-        We left on a Friday afternoon, after I had finished my morning OPD clinic. We set out at 2 pm, should have reached by 10:30 -11 pm , but we stopped at Hubli for dinner, which was 5 hours away from Goa, and reached Hampi at 1 am that night, since we could not find a dining destination in Hubli. We finally ate at Kamat’s near the bus stand in Hubli.

-        Hampi has a river run right through, and most of the temples, structures of visit, as well as the main town is on one side of the river, the other side is also known as the island side, and this side has the Sanapur lake, the Anjaneya hill temple, and the cottages . we stayed on the island side, which is prettier, more fun and chill, has a night life which is absolutely missing on the temple side, not to mention alcohol and non-vegetarian food, which is looked down upon on the Temple side of Hampi.

-        Now the only way to cross to the island side is via ferry ( closes at 5 pm , starts at 7 am) , or the bridge which is 40 min drive away.

-        Next morning Saturday – we parked our car on the island side of the ferry, crossed over to the temple side via a extremely short ferry ride ( cost rs 20 per person), and hired a day trip auto rickshaw.

-        A day trip Auto rickshaw, will take you to all the popular destinations, make a pit stop for lunch, and drop you back at the ferry point by 5 pm. I would recommend starting your day trip at 7:30 , after you have seen the temple elephant Lakshmi have her daily ceremonial bath, which is quite close to the ferry point itself. The ferry point is right on the banks of the Virupaksha temple, but our guide said NOT to start with the temple as our first day trip destination, since mornings are extremely crowded at the temple.

-        So here is the circuit that we took for our sight-seeing, if you plan to do it without a auto, and drive yourself around.   

 Krishna temple, Narasimha and Badavalinga complex, underground Shiva temple, Watch tower, Lotus mahal complex with the elephant stables, Nahanavami dibba complex with the pushkarni , lunch break, Vittala temple complex with the stone chariot and king’s balance, ending at Virupaksha temple and surrounding Hampi market.

We started at around 10 am and ended at 5 pm.

 ( we paid   Rs 1500, which included a tip for the driver and guide)

-        Once we crossed back to the island side, we had planned to catch the sunset from sunset point on top of Hanuman temple, but they were close at 5 pm, because of a recent Cheetah scare, and so we headed to Sanapur lake.

 You can get a Coracle ride (cost Rs 900 to 1200 )

-        Hills and treks: There are two major hill temples, one is on the temple side known as Matanga hill, it is lovely at sunset, but since it was on the temple side, and we had a ferry at 5 pm, we had to miss this one. The other is the Anjaneya temple hill the birth place of Hanuman , on the island side, great for sunrise , but recently opens only at 8 am, so we went there post 8 am on Sunday.

-        Sunday – we drove down to the Sanapur waterfall before breakfast, a hidden little spot, back for a breakfast, and headed to Anjaneya temple and climbed 575 steps to the top. Climbing the Bajrangi temple, on Valentine’s day, with highly energised bachelors from Bajrangi dals chanting jai shri ram; I found it really cute. For those not in the know, Shri Hanuman, or the monkey God, is the patron God of bachelor men. 😊

Where we stayed ?

I had booked a home stay, but they called to say that they were sold out, and I had to get my money refunded from goibibo, and last minute rebooking of places. Luckily we found a lovely cottage on Agoda. It is called Tutti cottages. There are many cottages on the island side. Also, nice hotels too. Chooses wisely since after 6 , Hampi is a mostly in your stay place. Our place had a jam session, and bonfire night on Saturday night, and we had Pizza and thukpa . the breakfast place was among paddy fields, so idyllic. The rooms are very basic , blow away bamboo cottages, but shreysht had a blast thinking that we stayed in such makeshift homes ( just like in three little pigs story).

What to wear ?

It is fairly cold at night, and considering the weather and wind enters our porous bamboo cottages. Also the days are sunny. We went in February, one of the nicer times to go. And yet, I would recommend hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, something that covers your shoulders and knees ( some temples insist ) and good walking shoes. The first day, we walked 16000 steps on my fitness tracker !

The next day we walked up 575 fairly steep steps.

When to travel ?

Definitely November to February, or and if there is any music or cultural festival in Hampi. Some people have travelled in the rains as well, but I suspect the islnd side is closed, especially these cottage huts, and the rocks might be slippery to climb. Summers scorching, rains torrential, so avoid those months.

Return :

On Sunday, we just did the Anjaneya hill temple, drove to Hospet. We had plans of a fancy lunch at this lovely place called Evolve back, but you need prior bookings for meals here, and it is a place for guests only.

We stopped to spend an hour discovering the Tungabhadra dam at Hospet, and it is highly recommended, they have a massive Dam project, with light and fountain shows in the evening ( we went in the afternoon), children’s park, a Japanese garden, and it has a Rs 30 parking charge, and a Rs 20 bus ride up the hill ( I think it’s called vaikunth hill) , it is all very massive and magnificent.

Summary itinerary

Friday : leave Goa for Hampi, stop at Hubli

Saturday : day trip of Hampi , temple side .

Sunday : 3 hour sightseeing of island side Hampi, lunch at Hospet with visit to Tungabhadra dam, drive back to Goa.

A 2 ½ day round trip.

Instagram posts : How we made a travel journal of our trip for a 5 year old. Pictures and posts of what we ate, and fun reels of our travel. @thefoodietrails @Shrasesbyshreysht