With the winter sun and chills driving in slowly but steadily, hope y’all are doing well!
As you all know that Diksha and I were recently invited by OYO rooms for an experiential stay. It was basically on the launch of their 51st Townhouse in Jaipur.
OYO Townhouse is a brand-new category of neighborhood hotels that combine experience and value at a scale that has never been attempted before in the Indian hospitality landscape. This offering is targeted at Millennials, for whom price, convenience and a differentiated experience play an important role in determining choices.
The 40-room hotel, located in the heart of the Jaipur city in Lalkothi boasts of unique, minimalistic design with spacious rooms and two banquets that can hold a gathering of 150-200 guests, respectively.
Here are a few pictures for your reference:
Townhouses are designed to function as social hotspots that cater to city dwellers and a new generation of guests. Besides outstation guests, residents staying in these areas can use the property as an alternative workplace, experience a vast array of global cuisines and access the lounge and retail store with exclusive merchandise.
Diksha has her heart set in Jaipur since she spent the most part of her childhood here, so she literally looks for excuses to drop in, while I, on the other hand, was born and brought up in this beautiful pink city – so for me to stay in a hotel in my own city and then exploring it like a tourist was a great experience!
We checked in the hotel around 11:30 and loved the color scheme of white, grey and red that was used in the entire property, minimal decor yet perfect.
Post lunch, we decided to explore a few more picture worthy points up there and then headed to another beautiful monument, Jaigarh Fort.
It was 4:30 and Diksha & I were pretty tired to even step foot out of the car so we decided to stay back & sleep inside while the others went to check the monument! They got back in half an hour or so and by then I guess everyone one was dead tired and needed a caffeine fix. We went to Home Cafe by Mr. Beans to relax for a while and sip some coffee & soup.
Then we went to our hotel to take a much-needed nap before we headed out for dinner. We slept like a baby for an hour and it was then a tough task to pull ourselves out of the super comfy bed but then we had to. I took it upon myself to be the in-house tour guide to make sure none of my favorite places were missed out by our travelers from other cities! We got ready and headed to Bar Palladio & Shikaar Bagh for dinner. The group was divided, few chose to sit at Bar Palladio because of the beautiful interiors & feel while I was at Shikaar bagh with my set of friends as it was Saturday night, Diksha being Diksha, decided to hop between the two & enjoyed best of both the worlds!
After dinner, we went to HOP for a while to experience Jaipur’s night life and finally got back to the hotel and called it a night!
The second day was also our last day at OYO. After a long night, we woke up so late that the group had to leave for the City Palace without us. We joined them directly for lunch at “Baradari” which is a beautiful restaurant inside City Palace where traditional craftsmanship meets contemporary design. A decidedly modern, glass-enclosed seating area that blends seamlessly with the old palace structures, the place was packed even during the day time with a lot of foreigners. We ordered some Lal maans with baati(again!!) with a side of Quinoa salad; a spaghetti aglio olio and We also ordered an array of lip-smacking desserts, the best of which was the rose petal jam icecream that was accompanied with some apple jalebis! We then headed back to our hotel, slept for a while, woke up & packed our bags and bade adieu to the friendly and humble staff at OYO Townhouse.
It was a great experience and we thank OYO for calling us. We will soon visit again as two days weren’t enough to explore the beautiful city of Jaipur.
A visit to the beautiful Lebua Hotel brought us to the city of Nawabs and Kebabs. What’s not to love about Lucknow? The rich heritage that goes back to pre-British era is one of its kind. The city has especially garnered attention for its exemplary adab and tehzeeb, along with its impeccable, scrumptious food! Many people visit Lucknow only to taste the kebabs of Tunday kebabi, the chicken masala of Dastarkhwan and the Awadhi biryani of Idris Biryani. Food aside, the Chikankari work of Lucknow is known to be the best in all of India.
But let’s leave all the food and shopping talk for a later time, and talk about the heritage hotel Shivani and I stayed in while in Lucknow. My first time in the city of Nawabs and kebabs, I felt as if I was in the beautiful Lucknow of the 20th century, such was the portrayal at Lebua.
Lebua Lucknow is a Luxury Boutique property, located in central Lucknow and conceptualized as a sprawling traditional bungalow with a huge lush green lawn. It reflects and personifies the “Art Deco” architecture prevailing in the early 1900’s. Built in 1936, the haveli that is now the hotel was once home to a prosperous Lucknowi family. When time and tidings took the clan out of the city, the haveli fell into disuse. A few years ago, Lucknow-born expat Mohammed Abdullah and his interior decorator wife Nayab Bakshi bought the property and gave it a second life.
The very minute we stepped foot in Lucknow, we were treated like royalty. A chauffeur driven pretty, yellow and white ambassador was sent to pick us up. We reached the resort to see a beautifully designed heritage property nestled between towering trees with bright flowers in full bloom. It was such a gorgeous first impression, and it only got better from there! Every nook and corner of the property exudes class. The long corridors lit with lamps, the wooden murals holding them mirrors and tinted glasses adorning the walls, the beautiful pink bougainvillea and orange flowers creeping up the walls make for the perfect rustic arrangement! With embroidered upholstery, vintage furniture and artwork on the walls, the rooms take you to a bygone Era where upon entrance you forget your 9 to 5 jobs and enter a world where you’re the queen, and Lebua staff leaves no stone unturned in treating you like one.
Once we had had our tour of the property, we got in our rooms to find a rose petal bath awaiting us. Such Nawab like treatment I tell you! Shivani had a tough time getting out of it, this, I can tell you. She could’ve slept there in the rose petals all night if I let her! 😛
Our suite was 201 – gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!
It opened up to a huge white balcony with bougainvillea here, there and everywhereeeee and we absolutely loved every bit of it.
More than the beautiful property itself, we were enchanted by how well the Lebua staff takes care of its guests!
To make sure their guests have an experience of a lifetime, they pay attention to the littlest of details and personalization, and it’s highly impressive. Our rooms had photo frames with our pictures in it and with personal hand-written notes for each of us. It melted us!
Coming to the food, we had the honor of trying the exquisite lakhnawi food by their extremely talented head chef. We had excellent kebabs and awadhi biryani.. The mewe and mawa ke kebabs deserve a special mention in the veg section!
Their Italian restaurant, 1936, is every bit as special as the other in-house restaurants. I am not a big fan of Italian food but their homemade pasta again deserves a special mention. We had it thrice in our three days stay there!! It was that good!
The Resort houses 4 dining experiences – Multi-cuisine, Italian, and traditional Indian fare, each one better than the previous. The first night of our stay there, a special candlelit dinner was arranged for the two of us in their beautiful gardens. It was accompanied with candles, flowers and butler service. The chef personally served his best delicacies to us and we can easily call it the best dinner in a long, long time!
Our stay there was full of amazing food, exemplary service and gorgeous views. We sat in our balcony for the sunrises and the courtyard for sunsets! We even got to witness an amazing wedding which was being held at the resort. Such a beautiful experience that was, being able to be a part of someone’s happy moments, and in a place like Lebua!
Visionary CEO Deepak Ohri of lebua Hotels and Resorts was recently asked at The Columbian Business School conference about his vision for lebua as a brand.
According to Deepak, a strong emotional connect with their guests is the key metrics that drives and leads his vision. He percieves and develops concepts based on Fashion.
Faisal Nafees – General Manager India Operations, lebua group along with his team ensures that every guest experience at lebua meets Brand’s vision.
Shivani and I, as Fashion and Lifestyle bloggers instantly connected with the warmth and style. We experienced it throughout our stay right from our entry into the property until the last day of our stay!
It is a true kudos to lebua hotel standards for an exemplary experience led by a fashionista’s vision that shall stay with us forever.
If I ever get to visit Lucknow again, I would definitely go back to Lebua without any second thoughts!
Also, for all you people who do not have Lucknow on your radar, Lebua properties are there in Jaipur, Amer and even Bangkok and Newzealand! Also, there’s a brand new one opening in the lush forests of Corbett!
If there’s anything else, you’d like to know, please feel free to drop your questions in the comments section and we’ll make sure to answer them! 😊
Some more pictures of us at the property cos we couldn’t help ourselves 🙂
Have you ever stayed in a place so beautiful where you found it hard to distinguish between dreams and reality?
We did, and very recently so.
If the thought of waking up to a beautiful sunrise in your private terrace, with your feet dipped in your private Jacuzzi, with the view of an endless desert with black bucks and peacocks prancing around, and bougainvillea dancing to the music of the desert winds stirs anything in you, then you know Mihirgarh is for you!
Mihirgarh Fort, once a dream conceived and nurtured beautifully by Siddharth and Rashmi Rohet, now stands tall and beautiful in the middle of the Thar Desert as if the desert winds and sands sculpted its very towers themselves. ‘The Fort of the Sun’ is every bit an architect’s delight and a traveller’s paradise. Every inch of the palace exudes luxury and uniqueness.
Shivani and I visited Mihirgarh at a fairly pleasant time of the year, January, so the desert was very welcoming! Every minute since we stepped foot into the beautiful sand castle was spent soaking in the lap of luxury. The fortress boasts of nine suites, each one bigger than 1700 square feet and splendid in its own way. The suites are named Alishan and Shandar – the names come from the fine Marwari Stallions from the Rohet Stables, and at this point it would be wise to tell you all that they have the absolute best collection of Marwari horses in India, whom we got to meet later at Rohetgarh. Such handsome horses, we were crushing on them!
Back to the property, each of these suites treasure private Jacuzzis, plunge pools, private terraces and exquisite private courtyards. They are built aesthetically with so much precision, that you can see the Rohet family’s ethereal taste in the smallest of details. For instance, their love for horses comes to life in intricate designs of the lamps and even curtain holders and door knobs.
The aesthetics are classy and subtle, with white and beige forming the basics everywhere – rich in its own way without going bold with the colors, it leaves a soothing impact on you! The majestic mud painted walls, infinity pool overlooking the desert landscape, intricately carved designs in and out, and delectable cuisines to choose from weave such a beautiful picture, it’s hard to resist going there.
The rooms look traditional and modern at the same time. Each room has TVs, coffee stations and mini bars to suit your requirements, while the fireplace and high wooden beds and décor give you a time-honoured traditional touch.With only nine suites, you can rest assured that privacy is of utmost importance here so you can enjoy the company of your partner or your family here. Hospitality is top notch – Smiling turban clad jodhpuri staff make sure that if you want something and you get it.The common areas are as grand as regal as the suites, with peacocks painted on one wall and color coordinated cushions making for an ornate pool lounge. High Tea in the fountain garden is extraordinary- orange and pink flowers lavishly adorning the walls around, birds chirping by and the water fountain are the only sounds to be heard. Dinner by the infinity pool is as beautiful as you see the horses running around while the sun gently sinks in.
And if that wasn’t enough, the boutique hotel offers a range of signature experiences, each better than the one before. The Rohet family takes immense pride in their history and culture and make sure that their guests get the real taste of Rajasthan, while staying at any of their properties. The experiences are carefully handpicked and created to leave a lasting impression of the flavors of Rajasthan on the guest’s mind and heart.
We got to experience two of their many signature experiences, namely, Shikar Dinner and Village Safari.
As the clock struck 7, we got a call saying that our ride for the Shikar dinner was ready. Little did we know what lay ahead of us. We came out to see a camel cart with beautiful bedding and cushions waiting for us. We got in it, lay down and started our ride towards the era where hunting was a major sport and was celebrated with a good dinner and folk music in the wide expanse of the desert under the stars.
The ride was the best part of the trip. Living in polluted cities, I had forgotten what it felt like to just lie down under the canopy of the stars in complete darkness and enjoy that, just that moment. We rode on and on, a quiet night with only the sound of the camel hooves, spotting constellations over our heads, with the only other light present coming from a lantern. Writing about it makes me want to go back NOW!
We reached the desert where the dinner was hosted. A beautiful bonfire sparked in the centre, around which sat plump seating arrangements for us on one side, and on the other, folk musicians and dancers. We were treated to some amazing barbeque dinner and wine which was only highlighted by the Rajasthani folk music and dance and the august company of the other guests with whom the conversation flowed easily! We even danced along with the dancers and learnt some ghoomar from them!
The Rohet family firmly believes that the people make a place what it is, which is why to give you a feel of the real, rural rajasthan, they take you on a village safari where you can see what life is for people out there, visit their homes, interact with them. The people are so warm and welcoming that it makes for a beautiful, beautiful experience.
We visited the Bishnoi village in an open jeep, and with the desert winds getting caught in our hair, the black bucks running along our jeep, we knew we were experiencing the raw Rajasthan! We learnt that Bishnois are considered as the first environmentalists of India. They live in mud houses which are caked with cow dung to make them cooler during the summers. Till date, they live without electricity, and with pride. They make papads and other stuff for a living.
The Bishnoi women are beautiful in their Rajasthani poshaks. They wear beautiful antique jewelry, one of the noticeable ones among them is the moon shaped nose ring that they wear upon getting married. The size varies depending on how long one has been married, so the eldest ones would have real big nose rings. It’s a family tradition they have been living by till date. The bishnoi men are warm and always up for a good conversation.
On our way back from the Bishnoi village, we also visited another village where we got to witness the Opium ceremony. Extremely fascinating I must say! We entered a beautiful old house with blue walls where several men sat down with their big colourful turbans and beedis and introduced us to opium, which is otherwise banned in India, but is a daily ritual in western parts of Rajasthan. It has many medicinal properties. The opium ceremony is performed by the elderly men of the household who grind the dried opium, mix it with some water and then strain and filter it through a funnel. What’s interesting is the way it is consumed. The right way to consume it is not from a spoon or glass, but from another person’s cupped hand, thrice.
It was an enriching experience and we enjoyed every bit of it!
Few of their other signature experiences constitute of Bird watching, Royal picnic and culinary workshops. I hope to enjoy those in my next visit, which is not far, I can sense it!
Staying at Mihirgarh is definitely an experience one cannot afford to miss. If my word isn’t enough, maybe going through the list of awards they have received will change your mind!
It has been called ‘The world’s most extraordinary hotel’ by Lonely Planet. Some other noteable awards conferred on Mihirgarh are ‘The world’s best boutique hotel’ and ‘The world’s best romantic hotel’ by World Boutique Awards; ‘World’s Most Extraordinary Luxury Destination’ and ‘Best Hideaway Hotel Southwest Asia’ by World Luxury Awards. They have won some more awards by Tripadvisor and Tattler.
We had the privilege of staying at another one of their properties, Rohetgarh, which is the Rohet family’s ancestral home, and now, also a heritage hotel, one of the finest in India!
Our suite at Rohetgarh, was a duplex, with beautiful wall paintings, and the best part was the balcony which opened up to the view of the Lake, on the banks of which the property is situated. Sprawling lawns and manicured gardens, which invite a multitude of birds and dancing peacocks, herald your entry into this oasis where the bird song is the only sound you will hear. A superb swimming pool with four charming pavilions entices you for a refreshing dip. Dinners hosted here are often accompanied with an enchanting musical night which will have you clapping, tapping your feet, and ultimately dancing!
We also learnt that we weren’t the only ones finding the tranquility of the property beyond compare. The peace and tranquility of the environs have drawn writers from around the world. Rohet Garh has had the honour of hosting some of the most respected names in the literary world. Bruce Chatwin and William Dalrymple practically lived at Rohet Garh for four to five months working on their respective books, The Song-lines and The City of Djinns.
Morning scenes in the courtyard of Rohetgarh
This trip to Mihirgarh and Rohetgarh was every bit as royal as it seems to be in this article, or maybe even more. We would recommend it to every single soul in the world reading this! It’s not just the place, but the people and the experiences that make it such an unforgettable memory.
The pictures do no justice to the real beauty of the properties. You have to see it to believe it.
Hoping we inspire some of you to take this trip that you know in your hearts you want to do!
This post is just an extension to my previous post on my first trip of 2018 – to Sri Lanka, and in this one I’m calling out to all the beach buffs out there.
In this post I will be talking about the last three days(the best ones) of my week long trip.
But first things first. A lot of people asked me about the trip expenses, so I’ll try and break it down here.
The return tickets cost 15k per person from and to Delhi. It can be as low as 6-9k if you take a flight from Bangalore or Kochi or even Chennai,
and if you plan it well in advance.
The Visas can be applied for online and cost 20 dollars each. You receive the visa within two hours of application, so it’s no hassle at all.
Our first stay, Oreeka – in Negombo, was booked through Airbnb and cost us around 17k per night for 4 rooms. The next stay Amagi Aria was booked through Booking.com and cost us 35k for 2 nights and 3 rooms. Our third stay was in Koggala, right by the beach.
We booked it through Airbnb again and it cost us 15k for 3 rooms and 2 nights. Damn cheap, right?
So this was about that stay and the travel, the major costs. This apart, we booked cabs for our commute everyday, which cost us around 40k LKR for those 6 days.
For anyone planning to visit, get your INR converted to dollars and you’ll get a brilliant rate at the Colombo airport.
Food ranges from place to place so it really depends on your choice of place.
Now that we’re done with the numbers, lets get to the fun part.
On the 4th, we headed out to Koggala, a good 4-5 hours long drive from Negombo. The resort called South beach resort had a private beach opening and was a fairly new place. For people traveling with friends, this place would be ideal. They offer rooms with 7-8 single beds so all of you can stay together in case you have any FOMO 😛
Even though it wasn’t a luxury resort per se, I enjoyed every minute there. The staff made us feel at home and what could be better than waking up
to the sound of waves lashing out at the shore, and the sun rising right over those waves, right outside your window!!
If you’re a beach bum like I am, you’d know that the secret to happiness lies in the sea. Be it a dive in the mighty waves of the master, or a walk along the ocean at sunset, or maybe yoga at sunrise on that huge rock in the sea, or it could just be in sunbathing or creating rock castles at the beach.
Whether you’re a die-hard swimmer, a veteran shell collector, a serious sunbather, or simply like to sit under an umbrella and read a book, there’s nothing like a day at the ocean, because true beach lovers know that sand in the shoes (or pants!) is the mark of a day well spent.
Beach life is the best life. Period.
Also what amazes me most about the sea is how a beach looks different everyday. It’s never the same, thanks to the ever-changing pull of wind and tides.
You could live there 365 days a year and still not get used to its pattern!
We spent the next three days in absolute peace and calm. We started with breakfast by the sea and ended it with dinner and a long walk by the sea.
The first day we spent at the beach overlooking our resort, just chilling, alternating between dips in the sea and dips in the pool. Guess who slept like a
baby that night? And oh, did I forget to mention how much I love what the beach does to my hair?
There’s some unknown elixir in the sea salt and the sun that my hair just becomes way softer.
The curls become more defined and the lustre, oh, the lustre is almost enviable!
The next day we headed out to Hikkaduwa Beach which is best known for its
clear blue waters and water sports! I was really looking forward to Scuba diving, but the sea was damn rough that day, to my utter dismay, and so, most people advised against it. So I tried Surfing. Boy is it tough or what!! I loved it. It’s exhausting, sure, but what fun!
To get the perfect timing and balance over those waves is tougher than you would’ve thought!
I’m definitely going to do surfing more often, and try and get better at it. We spent the whole day dipping ourselves in the sea, swimming and surfing, drinking beer and eating pineapple! It was just how I would describe a perfect day in my life – With the family at the beach 🙂
On the last day of our trip we headed out to Galle. Galle, the capital of Southern Province of Sri Lanka, is a city you must not miss if you are a fan of good architecture. The whole city has Dutch and Portuguese inspired architecture, and a mix of beautiful colours, with white forts and houses of colonial times taking the lead.
It’s funny how being a part of a tropical Asian country, the city gave us major European feels. Everything about the place- the forts, the colours, the vibe – was European!
Galle’s biggest attraction is the 16th century Dutch fort surrounding the city. Unbelievably, the fort protected Galle from the tsunami in 2004.
While surrounding areas like Unawatuna were ravaged by the tsunami, Galle escaped with only minor damage.
You need no more than half a day here to wander around the old churches, colonial buildings, museums and walk the ramparts admiring the views out to sea.
Places to visit in the city are the Galle Fort, the Galle Lighthouse and the beautiful churches and Buddhist temples around the old town!
We roamed about the markets of Galle which had some beautiful but expensive stuff. From paintings to handicrafts, from silk to gems, from postcards to souvenirs,
you can find them all here!
Galle is still super fresh in my memory. For all Indians, it has a very Pondicherry feel to it, if you know what I mean. I would love to go back there!
This summed up our last day in Sri Lanka, after which we headed back to Colombo and got on our planes back to the harsh reality of jobs and bills.
Some other things that I loved about Sri Lanka and missed in my last post:
I love how religiously diverse this place is and how the people co-exist peacefully. With Buddhists taking the maximum population, followed by Hindus,
and then lots of Muslims and Catholics too!
The different vibes that each city holds. Galle with European feels, Colombo with Indian vibes, and so on and so forth
Tea. I brought back home Vanilla tea, peach tea and a lot of other flavours and I am in LOVE with them
The rich Heritage. Sri Lanka has some six archaeological World Heritage Sites – Galle fort being one of them, and they’re all wonderful!
I will definitely plan another trip to Sri Lanka. A solo one this time maybe. Or with a group of friends.
I hope to cover the National parks and the rich heritage sites that I missed this time, mostly up north. The Whale and Dolphin watching tour in Mirissa.
The train ride from Kandy to Nuwara eliya and trekking to the world’s end once up there. Go check out the Rawanaella falls and other mighty falls that the
Writing this makes me want to go back there even more.
Hoping it fires a desire in your hearts to travel to Sri Lanka too! 🙂
If you do, I’d love to hear all about it!
Varkala, our last leg of the Kerala trip, was the most beautiful of all the places in Kerala! Like they say, save the best for the last, that is what we did.
We checked in to the Lost Hostel of Varkala, just a short walk away from the Varkala Beach. The hostel boasts of being an eco-friendly one, with no ACs or geysers or anything that might lead to harmful emissions in the environment. A good initiative, but you know how beach areas get really humid and sticky most months of the year? Yeah, so that was slightly painful.
Anyhow, not being able to take a dip at the Alleppey beach, we were almost restless by now. We walked down to the beach, which is backed by the beautiful Varkala Cliff, brimming with all sorts of restaurants, shops, stalls and massage parlors. It was such a treat to the eyes, and gave me serious Arambol beach vibes!
Atop the red sandstone cliff are perched plenty of yoga and Ayurvedic centers, and believe me you, this place knows how to chill and will have you unwinding in no time at all. The laidback people, cleaning their shops, skinning their fish, listening to music; the travelers just chilling at the cliff with beers in their hands and bandanas on their heads. We started our expedition with an amazing lunch at Coffee Temple (Read crazy chocolate shakes, drool-worthy pizzas and delectable prawns and rice!)
Once we were done with our lunch, we leisurely walked down to the beach alternating between gasping at the amazing views and shopping here and there. You can find yourself some really cool stuff at these shops btw – apart from the very obvious beachwear and hippy clothes, you can find yourself some Tibetan handicrafts and singing bowls, vibrations of which are known to have brilliant therapeutic effects!
Down at the beach, the long swathe of golden sand with silky blue sea water just swept us away. We walked along the beach to explore more, and as luck would have it, found ourselves at the Black Sand Beach. I have never seen a beach more exquisite! The sand is not grainy, but is soft, and the water, too, wasn’t as salty as you’d find on other beaches. And, most importantly, you couldn’t have found a better spot to watch the golden sun sink into the sea!
The beach is great for surfers, as apparently Varkala has one of the curliest waves in all of India, so you’d see an array of people surfing on the waves. There are multiple surf schools too, so if you have 3-4 days’ time, you could learn a tactic here and there! The sea gets a little rocky sometimes, so better be careful during the evenings. But come morning, the sea is amazing for a good swim! I could happily spend weeks sunning myself on the beach, or maybe take one of the millions of different types of yoga classes. This time I focused on just the tanning part, next time it will be toning too, I hope! 😀
We glided along the beach for several hours, went back to our hostel only to freshen up, and we were back at the beach to grab some dinner.
We dined at Darjeeling Café, which had live music and dance, and some lovely Indian food! Post dinner and some hearty laughs shared at the dinner table with some light games, we strolled some more on the cliff and the adjoining helipad area.
Knowing that it was the last night with all these beautiful people that we had met on the trip, none of us wanted to sleep a wink. We all chatted through the night, cooking Pasta and sharing stories.
The next morning, we again headed to the beach, where I swam for not less than 2 hours, some went for the famous Kerala massages, and others left for Photography voyages. The beach was sparkling with bikini clad women and eager men doing yogic poses, people jogging along the sea, barefoot, dogs lazily wagging their tails and surfers climbing and falling off the waves. So much happening all at once, and yet you could feel peace.
This brings an end to my Kerala blog series. I hope you enjoyed reading! For more pictures from the trip, please visit my Instagram
After the first night in Kochi ended ( you can read up about that here, if you haven’t already), we got up the next day, with barely 3-4 hours of sleep in our systems, but zeal and vigor only heightened somehow, to munch on some breakfast prepared by Zostel people, only to quickly get on to the bus to Alleppey, also known as Alappuzha by the locals, and Venice of the East by foreigners.
It takes not more than 2 hours by road to reach Alleppey from Kochi, and we all had plans of sleeping through the journey; the way we had danced and partied the night before, it was much needed!
But did we sleep through it? Hah! No! We danced some. And then some more. By the time we got there, we had reached the comfort levels where we were dancing to ‘I am a hunter, you wantaaa see my gunnn’ and ‘Saat Samunder Paar’ songs. And we weren’t exactly what you’d call dignified! 😛
After we got over all our cheap thrills for the morning, we rocketed into our next hostel for the trip – Artpackers!
The place is essentially converted into a hostel from a school, and has super laidback vibes. The rooms are big and airy, and the best part about this hostel was the garden right outside it. There was a beautiful seating arrangement done in the garden, and the windows and trees on the wall attached made for the most gorgeous backdrop ever!
Did I not mention I was traveling with a bunch of photographers? Guess who got really lucky? 😀 😉
The beach was just a short walk away, and you can only keep the beach away from me for so long, so we freshened up and sprinted our way to the beach, where we were to have our lunch at the famous Catamaran Café.
The beach is always a bad idea on a sunny afternoon, so we decided to just lounge and chill at the café, hog on some seafood, and enjoy the view of the sea!
The café was all Goa vibes. The people, the food, the atmosphere, everything! We had heard so much about the café, that we landed there with super high hopes and drool all over, but honestly, I was a tad disappointed. Our food took longer than an hour to be served!! And it wasn’t even worth the wait.
For all those who plan to go to Alleppey, if you do go to this particular café, go for the view, for the chill vibes, and perhaps the continental food. Prawns and Fish, you can find better elsewhere, I’m sure!
Any which ways, food apart, we had a ball of a time there.
We indulged in some Teen Patti (The Diwali fever just won’t leave me alone *Dramatic EYEROLL*), some Antakshari, and lots of people trying their hand at guitar and producing awful music! 😀
We headed back to our hostel to be greeted by the sweetest host ever who offered to arrange a party of sorts in that beautiful garden of theirs! To top that, he even offered to get us some toddy (the local drink of God’s own country!) along with a buffet dinner. Hungry mongrels that we are, our ears cocked up at the mere mention of Prawns and Toddy!
We wasted no time in small talk, as what was planned ahead was something none of us wanted to miss out on. The Houseboat experience in the backwaters!
We had a double decker houseboat booked all to ourselves for some 4 hours, and the timing was such that we could witness the sunset while on the houseboat, in the middle of the backwaters.
No matter how hard I try, I shall not be able to do justice in trying to explain what those few hours on the houseboat felt like. It was like we had attained Nirvana, we had completely lost track of time. The only sound we could hear was the slicing of the smooth water as our boat moved forward. The sun was up, glaring at us, but caressing us with affection, sweeping us in its sweet warmth. The sky was dancing between shades of blue and gold, romancing with the sun and the water both at once, the coconut trees swaying to our merriment, and the farmers rowing their canoes slowly, and gently towards their farms.
We were all next to each other, but we were all in our own world at the same time, just enjoying the mesmerizing view in front of us, letting the cool winds engulf us, and listening to soft music on the side. Moments like these make you realize what true beauty is, and how important travel is. I was left wondering if the locals of Kerala value this beauty that they live in as much as we do… Or is the grass greener for them on the other side? Did these calm backwaters serve as therapy to them as well? Or was it pure monotony for them? Do they squeal in delight at these awe-inducing sunrises and sunsets everyday as we do?
There is no such thing as too many pictures, especially if it’s of the dynamic hues of the sky. It’s magical!
As these thoughts slowly subsided, our ride came to an end. We were back on land, and back to our hostel, where we were certainly not looking for a peaceful night 😉
This night, ladies and gentlemen, was the best night of the trip!
We played Dumb charades, Truth and Dare, and what not all through the night! We danced, we sang, we ate, we drank… We made lots of memories!
The food was incredible – the spicy baby prawns being my personal favorite!
Amidst all this fun, we didn’t forget to click pictures. Few of the many people who made this trip worthwhile!
The next morning, again after a sleepless night, a few of us woke up real soon, only to enjoy the sunrise at the beach. The sea wasn’t really great for a swim, but it was amazing for an early morning walk, nevertheless!
There are very few things that can match up to the feel of walking barefoot on the seashore, the sun rising alongside, the waves occasionally rocking at your feet, the fisherman out in the sea gearing up for the day ahead, people playing frisbee and Volleyball. There’s something about this time of the day, at the beach, that is just incomparable. The serenity, the tranquility, the peace of mind – it’s just so unusual when you’re living in a concrete jungle.
The beach early morning
We found these surprisingly quiet railway tracks on our way to the sea. Clicked by Gnawmadic
I made sure to savor each and every second of this valuable time! I devoured everything with my eyes, inhaled all of it, because who knows when next I would get to visit Alleppey again.
And this is how one night in the Venice of East was spent. Next up is Varkala – my favorite of the lot! 😊
Having lived a chunk of my childhood in Kochi, I had been dying to go back to the place, as a traveler this time, to revisit old memories. I must have been only 8 when I lived there, but I still have vivid memories of how the place looked like. The sea, the backwaters, the marine drive. The palm trees and coconut trees lining the roads that had recently seen some drizzling. The winds that brought along the sweet smell of jasmine flowers stationed in the braids and buns of the local women. The Appam and Mutton, the fried pomfret, and the Prawn curry that could make even Vegans salivate. The Chinese fishing nets and the docks with ferries roped together. The hidden beaches where I collected shells of all shapes and sizes, and where I ran along the waves for as long as my legs would carry me. The long walks on the quiet and serene roads, holding papa’s hand, going to the phonebooth to make calls with mom, because mobiles were unheard of back then. Learning Malayam because there was no other option, making the best mallu friends ever. These memories could last a lifetime, sure, but I wanted to go back to the place I fell so madly, deeply and irrevocably in love with! A place that gave me my first beaches, that made me realize I was made for the sea, a place that gave me friends I would go on to write letters to for years after I had moved from Kerala.
And so, I did.
I planned a backpacking trip with the most random people through a social networking site, and I would count this as one of the best decisions I made, for I made the most invaluable memories with such brilliant people, whom I’d now like to call friends 😊
So, this community, called Photographers of India, goes to trips within India every 45 days, and this was my first trip with them. You must reach out to them if you’re looking for a chilled out, no fuss, fun and only fun trip! They shall not disappoint, trust me!
So, I booked my flights and hopped on to an early morning flight to Kochi, to be met with the most awesome people at Zostel, Kochi Fort. Getting down from the aircraft, a wave of nostalgia hit me, as I realized I was finally in Cochin, after a long spell of 17 years!
I, along with a couple of other travelers who had landed around the same time got on to the local bus headed towards Fort Kochi. 1.5 hours later we got to the Zostel.
I was amazed by the way the Zostel had been set up. After having lived in college hostels, this hostel would look like a party to you!
It was very artistic and damn clean!
I met the fellow travelers and was delighted out and out. Each person so different from the other! One, a travel blogger, another one a doctor. One, a photographer, another a fashion designer. We had people from all walks of life almost, and it was indeed wonderful to meet all these kickass people!
I immediately connected with most of the people and we set out to have lunch at this local dhaba like place in Mattancherry. The food was incredible, lovingly served and so modestly priced!! We ate to our heart’s content, went back to the Zostel and chilled out some more before we set out to Marine Drive and Spice Market on the Ferry ride.
The Ferry ride, again, bought back beautiful memories. We reached the Marine drive well in time to behold the sight of a mesmerizing sunset. We binged on some icecreams and faloodas, burgers and chowmein, and then before we knew it, 2 hours had already passed by!
We set out on the ride back to the Zostel to find an amazing surprise awaiting us. We saw, on the terrace, some drums and drummers, in Hope of enchanting us with their trippy music, and enchanted we were! What lay ahead was a night full of amazing live music, lots of dancing, food and drinks, and of course bonds to be created that would go a long way 😊
This was my Kochi trip in short. The next morning we headed out to Allepey, which was again a dreamy, dreamy place. Watch out for the next post to hear about my experiences in Allepey 😊