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