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Nagaland – A Dollop of halcyon bliss

If you are someone who loves the rhythmic rain and vibrant green forest and wet lands then the valley of flowers is for you. The cotton-like clouds that surround the valley as you reach the top make this untouched seductress a valley much like heaven on earth.

26 years of existence seemed futile after I did my first proper trek last month. I felt so sorry for myself for not having done it earlier. Dzukou Valley trek marks the first of many more treks to come in my life!

While Shivani has trekked in the Himachal, I was oblivious of the incredible world of trekking and hiking. Now, when I’m asked what I like better- Mountains or beach – I do not know, and perhaps, never will. Both have a charm so different that it’s unfair to even ask to pick one! Coming back to the trek – let me share how we made it possible. PHOI came up with this Nagaland package right when I had planned my vacation. It was destined to happen. I decided that I’d cut short my stay at home by a week and accommodate this trip. And so, it began. As you may have guessed, it doesn’t take long to convince Shivani, after all, birds of the same feather flock together!!

PHOI teamed up with ChaloHoppo, who are a bunch of enthusiastic young folks determined to bridge the gap between the people of the world and Northeast India.

Indians, unfortunately, are most tempted to travel to Europe and South Africa and the US before they’ve even seen all of India. While there’s nothing wrong about it, they do not realize what beauty and thrills they are missing out on in their very own country. The thrills and the panorama that they seek abroad can very well be found in India! There is so much more to India that the regular tourist trails and which is why I’m even writing this blog!

North East India has a culture and heritage so different, you will want to immerse yourself in the stories of their people and want to learn all you possibly can about their history! Nagaland is not about historical sites as much as it is about their culture. North east is brimming with exotic hills and waterfalls and natural springs and rivers and valleys! You can’t just get enough of all the natural beauty! Shivani and I had never traveled to that side of India before and hence, we pounced upon the first opportunity that came our way. An opportunity to visit a land of rugged hills and tribes where ancient headhunting habits have collided in a train wreck against the Burmese identity, leaving modernity derailed.

A 4-day trip to Nagaland which included Kohima, Jakhama Village and Dzukou Valley.

For INR 7800 (ex flights) it seemed like a pretty fair deal, add to it the excitement of meeting new people, 40 of them! All of us took flights from our respective cities to Guwahati (a cheaper option. Alternative is to fly to Dimapur directly). We all assembled in Guwahati and embarked on our trip, that started with an overnight train journey to Dimapur. Our trip officially began on the morning of 14th June where we were greeted by the rain gods as soon as we stepped foot into Dimapur. It was surprisingly pleasant. We had a hearty breakfast near the railway station and scrambled in our sumos to get to Kohima, a mere 80kms away, but easily a 4 hours’ drive!

Once at the capital city Kohima, the tourists in us had taken form and we went about visiting the War Memorial – Kohima is steeped in history; one had vaguely remembered that the Japanese had tried to enter India through northeast during the WW-II, but we realized that the action took place right in the centre of Kohima town only after visiting the War Cemetery. All the soldiers of Indian Army who laid their lives defending Indian soil are remembered here, some of them as young as 17! We also visited the churches, the local markets et al. The local markets were full of men and women selling what is considered as exotic food up there – silk worms, snails, frogs, and even dogmeat! In a word, anything that could crawl, hop or walk seemed to have fulfilled the pallets of the local people.

I wasn’t too excited by the idea of eating these delicacies, but some of the people in our group did, and they sure loved it! I, however, stuck to the usual – chicken and pork – Shivani, mostly vegetarian options!

A little about Nagaland here – This enchanting state with natural beauty and ethnic diversity is populated by the Naga people of Mongoloid stock.  There are 16 major Naga tribes in this state, each having its own language and unique customs and traditions. The Nagas have always been brave warriors. Although most of them have now become Christians (90% of the state population is Christian), they still preserve the remnants of their early animist culture and ancient traditions. Baptists constitute more than 75% of the Christian population. Nagaland is known as “the only predominantly Baptist state in the world.

We loved how stylish people are in Nagaland. You will find people clad in the most fashionable clothes and shoes even in the local markets. We had the opportunity of seeing a fleet of beautifully dressed people who were headed to a day wedding. Once we were done with lunch and sight-seeing, we then headed to our camp in Jakhama Village. The camp was beautiful and we stayed in a tent after ages! The camp had tents everywhere, a very cozy common area where we would all eat, sing, dance, play… We spent the rest of the night around the intimacy of the fireplace in the common area, moonlight over our heads, dancing to the tunes played out by our talented fellow travelers on guitar.

The next morning, our trek was to begin. Our tents overlooked beautiful, lush green paddy fields and waking up to clear blue skies, little drops of rain and lush greenery around is the most beautiful feeling ever!

We were all up and excited by as early as 5 am. We huddled in our sumos to go to Viswema, the starting point of the trek. A note to be made here, since we were going to be trekking for hours, we had already bought food supplies that would last us through the trek. Nuts and biscuits and bananas are good options!

A raincoat is a mustttttttttttt! Cannot emphasize enough on its importance.

So, yes, after a 45 minutes’ drive on a steep road, we reached the base of Viswema trek. From then on, it was a steep climb of about an hour followed by 6kms of walking on along a plain surface lined with small bamboo plants in a circular path. The initial walk is through a thick forest with giant rhododendrons trees and the 6kms walk gives passing views of the narrow Dzukou stream and glimpses of what the valley promises. The trek is a moderate one but was slightly more difficult than moderate ones because of the rains and mud that had accumulated because of the incessant rains. Lots of people kept slipping into the mud, the bamboo shoots would always come to our rescue. The trek took about 6-7 hours to complete and once we had arrived, the views are something I will never forget in my life!

   

The picture-perfect Dzukou Valley is located at an altitude of more than 2000. Only lush green mountains for as far as the naked eye can see!

The waterfalls that we encountered on our way stole my heart. I would have totally bathed in the river too had it not been chilly, but I made sure to plonk my face in the rivers and waterfalls that we crossed and drink water from them directly! Little pleasures of life! 😊

On reaching the top of the valley, we reached our dormitory where we were to stay the night. There was no electricity at this place and we cooked our cuppa noodles on woodfire and had that for two of our meals! The other meal that we had was also simple cooked lemon rice. Once we had rested a bit, we went on to see the valley of flowers of the north east which was another trek, not half as long as the trek it took us to reach up there. Walking through the Dzukou Valley – with beautiful plains with lush greenery and the loveliest flowers growing on them, passing over the brisk passing streams of crystal clear water, getting lost in the melodies of the cooing birds, surrounded by thick forests – for tourists, it’s one of the best experiences that they are ever likely to have. The calmness, the complete silence, the serenity of the surroundings is a complete change from the noise, the hustle and bustle of an average Indian city….

The temperature dropped majorly as night came and the chills literally rattled our bones. We all were carrying our sleeping bags and were given one thin quilt each but it was just not enough!

The next day, we had our breakfasts and began the climb down to Viswema again. It had been raining through the night and we were very worried about trekking down because of the slippery mud, but it was easier than we had thought. It took us some 5 hours and we were back to the base from where we headed back to our camps in Jakhama Village. That night ended on a blurred note after one too many cups of rice wine and rice shots 😀

The next morning, we set out to explore the village – it’s beautiful churches, the vivid and bright painted houses- Most of which still have the buffalo horns and skulls before their houses, the memorials, the stream and the paddy fields. The village walk was beautiful! The locals were very nice and greeted us all with a lot of warmth and smiles. We learnt a lot about Nagas – who were called head-hunters as they hunted for skulls which they hung in their homes or on trees. The larger the number of skulls one owned, the higher would be his status in society. Later, the custom was limited to animal skulls.

We interacted with the locals and ate plums plucked fresh from the trees. It was a beautiful clear day. Life seemed to be simple, peaceful and happy there. With smiles on our faces and warmth in our heart, we returned to our camp where we packed our bags and bid goodbyes to friends made over the past few days.

The trip was coming to an end. With heavy hearts, we set back to Dimapur, from where we again took a train to Guwahati. It might have been a short 4-day trip, but the memories made will last a lifetime – even if it sounds like a cliché, it is true!

And well, we surely will visit Nagaland again hornbill festival, that’s a given!!

And oh, the other six sisters are yet to be explored…Such a short life and so many places to see! 😊

Even thinking about it gives me an adrenaline rush!

Hope you enjoyed reading about our trip. I hope you guys plan a trip to the mystical lush lands of Nagaland soon enough. If you do, do hit up @chalohoppo. They’re your go to guys for exploring the north east!

 

Till then,

Love galore,

Twofoldchic

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Backpacking trip – Kerala – God’s Own Country – Varkala – Day 3

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.

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What my dorm wall at The Lost Hostels read! 🙂

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!

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Beach view from the cliff – Abhishek
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Beautiful street art found somewhere on the Varkala Cliff – Dhanashri
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Shops with handicrafts

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Clicked by Dhanashri
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PC – Picture Pausto

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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!

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I love how the setting sun has been captured in this picture!

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In my Banjara element
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Captured by – Gaurav

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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.

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When the sun was found playng Hide and Seek

Clicked by Jeevan

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Times when everything in the world is a blur, except for me 😀 Thankyou Picture Pausto

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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.

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All these beautiful clicks captured by Farooq
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Bird’s View eye of Varkala Black Sand Beach. Captured creatively by TheChromaticEye

This brings an end to my Kerala blog series. I hope you enjoyed reading! For more pictures from the trip, please visit my Instagram

Till the next time then,

Keep traveling,

Keep banjaring!

TwofoldChic

Posted in backpackers, Beautiful India, beautifulindia, blogger, Fashion, fashionblogger, fashioninspiration, girlslovetravel, incredibleindia, indianblogger, kerala, ootd, phoi, tourism, Travel, travelblogger, travelcommunity, travelmemoirs, traveltribe, tripoto, wanderlust

Backpacking trip – Kerala – God’s Own Country – Alleppey – Day 2

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!

Photo Credits: Gaurav
Remember the gorgeous garden and the backdrop in the hostel I was talking about? I wasn’t exaggerating! Photo Credits: Picture Pausto
Photo Credits: Gaurav
I love this one! Thankyou Virat 🙂

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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.

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How the Alleppey beach looks when the sun is soaring high. Photo Credits: Gaurav yet again!
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Mesmerizing views – Farooq

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!

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Photo Credits – Rahool

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Captured skillfully by Dhanashri

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.

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Stuti caught me enjoying my Titanic moment!
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And so did Farooq!

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?

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Photo Credits – Picture Pausto
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By the best – Farooq
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Captured from a creak in the houseboat by –Dhanashri
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The sky and the water though! – Jeevan
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I captured this, I did, I did! * Pats self*

There is no such thing as too many pictures, especially if it’s of the dynamic hues of the sky. It’s magical!

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There is abundance in this moment, do you agree?

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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.

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Photo Credits – The talented Picture Pausto
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Farooq again!!

And this is how one night in the Venice of East was spent. Next up is Varkala – my favorite of the lot! 😊

I hope you guys continue to read.

Till then, love,

TwofoldChic

Posted in backpackers, beautifulindia, blog, blogger, Fashion, girlslovetravel, incredibleindia, indianblogger, kerala, ootd, phoi, tourism, Travel, travelblogger, travelmemoirs, tripoto, Uncategorized, Uncategorized, wanderlust

Backpacking trip – Kerala – God’s Own Country – Kochi

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!

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All set to travel! 😀

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.

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Greeted by this furry little baby outside the Zostel who cosily climbed onto my lap, uninvited, and made it his sleeping pod

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!

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Upon arrival at Zostel, Fort Kochi

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The Common Seating Area
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The beautifully and quite artistically painted walls of Zostel

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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.

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Street Markets of Kochi

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!

 

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The ferry ride from Fort Kochi to Marine Drive. Clicked by Anand
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Photo Credits: Farooq
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The gorgeous pink sky captured at the time of sunset
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Various hues of the sky!
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Baring my men in white, captured by Anshuman

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I just couldn’t stop beaming! My happiness is evident, isn’t it?
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Happy girl re-living her childhood memories of eating icecream by the sea
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You can tell I love metallic lips
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Isn’t this Church just beautiful?  Captured by Virat Gupta
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The trade that keeps the city alive – Fishing. Captured by Abhishek
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Just How captivating is this picture? Captured by Abhishek
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Clicked by Gnawmadic

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Blown away by this beautiful thing!

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 😊

 

 

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My whole bunch of crazies 😀

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 😊

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Hope you enjoyed reading!

Till the next time,

XOXO

-TwofoldChic