Rapunzel’s Hair

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“Rapunzel had magnificent long hair, as fine as spun gold. Whenever she heard the voice of the enchantress she would let down her braided hair and the enchantress would climb up it to reach the window. She would bring Rapunzel bread and water, but no comfort or love. “

Yes, My mother loved reading this story out to me. Rapunzel had magnificent long hair  which was strong enough for the enchantress to use for climbing up the tower!  Now, little did I know that mother would take the long hair bit in the story so seriously. She was obsessed about ensuring that I have long hair. Sometimes I wonder if this is because of the heavy influence of Rapunzel’s story or because she had terribly curly hair that refused to progress in length. It could also be totally due to the number of hair oil and hair shampoo advertisements on Door darshan or due  to the high demand of women with long black her in the arranged marriage scene.

Nevertheless, she took great pains to take care of my hair. From oiling with coconut oil, to using homemade hibiscus shampoo – she did it all. I particularly didn’t like Rapunzel, or her long hair. She was the quintessential damsel in distress, had to endure people climbing up her hair and didn’t really do anything to help herself. It is so not me! I would rather be the enchantress who could climbed up using Rapunzel’shair!  I grew up as a tomboy, rejecting the curation of traditional womanly charms. However on the insistence of my mother, I always had long hair.

Many years later, on a sweaty summer afternoon, as I was returning from the nearby grocery store, I happened upon  a new beauty parlour   named Cinderella. Since I had some money in hand, and I was allowed a trim every two months, I went into the parlour to get a trim. As I entered the salon, I saw a giant poster of a blonde lady. She had brown hair and blunt cut! I quickly went up to the hairdresser and asked her to style me like her. She agreed to do the hair cut but denied colouring my hair! “You’re too young for that” she said. , Did I mention that I was in grade five?

Sitting in the big black chair, I saw my jet-black thick hair being chopped off. My head felt lighter with every crunch of the scissors.  An hour later, with a stylish new haircut and a bag full of groceries, I reached home. My mother, who opened the door nearly fainted, and then began wailing out loud. Initially confused, I later realized that she was mourning the loss of my locks. My father and me tried to convince her that it is hair after all, and will grow out. However, she was not ready to accept that I left the fruits of her labor on the floor of the parlour.Believe it or not, it took about a month and a few inches of hair growth, for my mother to come to terms with my new look.

When I think about the agony I went through, I sincerely wish that stories like Rapunzel are banned, and we write new ones for young girls, where the short haired protagonists climb up rocks, mountains and forts to save themselves without waiting for destiny or prince charming to save them!

Mango and me

Mango

 

I have not loved any one thing so consistently and unconditionally like I have loved mangoes. No person, place, animal, thing or experience has kept me hooked on, more than mangoes have.

Mangoes  come in various shapes, sizes and colours. They are not judged on the perfect shape or the colour, but only on the quality.  They tell us nothing really matters as long as you have substance. A true life lesson for humans! Mangoes are also very closely associated with a lot of pleasant childhood memories. My maternal grandmother’s home had more than 10 varieties of mangoes growing in the plot where the ancestral home stood. Mangoes were plucked and distributed not by kilos but by baskets. My maternal grandmother who was a farm owner never believed in selling these mangoes in the market. She believed that this fruit should be shared amongst friends and family. This fruit was grown only to spread love and good wishes. And of course her grandkids got the largest share!  I can give you a hundred other reasons as to why I love mangoes so much.

The husband finds this quite fascinating, and indulges this craving of mine. The maids find it quite unfathomable that the wife devours all the mangoes without saving any for the husband. Big Basket ensures that I get my delivery of mangoes on time. Friends and family never forget to stock enough mangoes for me when I visit them. Any diet I consider, needs to accommodate my mango craving. Else it CANNOT be considered.

This mango fascination led me to categorize the people around me by their relationship with mangoes.

It’s just a fruit!”: These are the ones who consider it just another fruit. I don’t like their attitude but don’t particularly care as long as they do not disrespect the fruit. My husband is one of them, but I still choose to love him.

I hate mangoes!”: What bothers me is that, most of them haven’t even enjoyed a good mango with the right company to hate it.

 “I love them and will tell you which ones the best is!”: These are the worst kind, the ones who discriminate between the varieties. I not only hate them, but also cannot stand their company during season or off -season! Be it about mangoes or about life generally, I do not recommend hanging out with those people who expresses their opinion without really taking an effort to know the subject in discussion.

 “I love mangoes!”: You are welcome into my home and my heart -period.

Writing in the woods – A pre-covid wish!

It has been more than one year of zero blogging. I have been meaning to re-start, but never got to it. I have been writing but procastinating blogging on the pretext of finding the right time. Thats when i realised that today is  my most favourite Ruskin Bond’s birthday. It also reminded me that there is no better day to re-start blogging. So this one is for Mr. Bond!

Wrote this one way before lockdown when I was planning our next trip. Now it seems like a distant dream!

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Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.vecteezy.com/free-vector/kid”>Kid Vectors by Vecteezy</a>

Ruskin Bond in his book ‘A book of simple living’ mentions that he prefers sitting next to the window and writing as the deodar trees watch him. He feels that the trees are his best critics. While I could manage to sit in my apartment, next to a window and write, having those amazing deodar trees watch over me is far from reality. All I see outside is the nearly dead plants from my garden pleading at me for some water. The summer in Delhi does no mercy to these poor things.

The other option is of course to vacation in places which give me the view. So, I tell the husband:

Me: I feel like writing. Can we go to the hills please?

Husband: Awesome, please write. But why don’t you instead of making the long and torturous trip to the hills, sit in the AC room and write to your heart’s content.

Me: Oh! But I need the deodar trees as my critic, which I can only get in the hills – to be very specific in Landour where Ruskin Bond lives.

Husband: Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, one of the most renowned writers of Malayalam literature wrote his works while he was in prison, in Kerala. He had metal bars, 4 walls and a jail warden to criticize this work!

Me: I guess I will make do with the nearly dead bougainvillea on my balcony criticizing my work.

 

Continue reading → Writing in the woods – A pre-covid wish!

Chilean Diaries

*We visited Chile about 2.5 years ago. Had written this travelogue around the same time. So review  of the hotels must  be considered keeping that in mind.

Chile was never on  our list of places to visit. It came up as a good and cost effective option to travel to between our time in Peru and last leg in Uruguay (during our South American trip).  Coupled with this was the location of some of the worlds best vineyards and the amazing Patagonia. I love white wine and there is no place on earth like Chile to have some of the best wines ever. The few pictures of Patagonia that I saw on the internet blew my mind and I was very keen on going there. Keeping this in mind and considering we have about a week to spend in Chile, initially we planned to do Santiago, places in and around Santiago and Patagonia. But once I charted out this plan and discussed it with the husband, we realized that it will be too hectic and we would be exhausted by the end of it. So with a sad heart and with a firm resolve to visit Patagonia some other time in life we deleted it from our itinerary.

The next one we had to delete from the dream list was staying in a vineyard for a day. Since we did not book the place in advance we could not find a place which fit in our budget. That as it may be, we do not have any regrets since we spend a whole day in some of the best vineyards in Chile.

So with an initial  travel plan which eventually didn’t work out and without any bookings in Chile until a day before the travel we flew into Chile from Peru. This leg of our trip would be the most unplanned one and we fared quite well despite that !A day before our travel while the husband was browsing through booking.com he found Hotel Cumbres Lastarria, a business hotel in one of the best locations in Santiago at nearly half the price. We grabbed the offer. The hotel turned out to be a business hotel, however we had no complaints. After a hectic time in Peru we wanted to chill for a bit in some luxury and that is what we got at Cumbres Lastarria. We landed in Santiago on on its Independence Day. The downside of landing in Chile on days like these is that the entire city shuts down. Hence we did not have anything much do other than walk around the city, have some good food and wine. Despite the same we did some interesting things in Santiago like have an amazing lunch at Mercardo Central.

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Walked over to Pablo Neruda’s home. I have been a fan of Neruda every since I read his Sonnet Xvii. Though his house was not open for visitors due to the national holiday walking around the neighborhood made me happy!

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Watch the independence day parade. We were quite surprised to see such a low turnout for the independence day parade. On the good side the low turn out gave us a chance to see the parade at a close proximity.

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In two days we got quite bored of Santiago. It was then we saw a Facebook update of the husband’s friends who were having a good time at Valparaiso. Seeing a few pictures of this place, we immediately decided to move to Valparaiso the next day. Figured out the bus route to Valparaiso. We left our bags in our Santiago hotel and hopped on to the bus with a small bag of essential clothes for 2 days. This according to me was the best impromptu travel plan we made. The pictures do not do justice to the beauty of this place. We had a lovely time just walking around in the streets enjoying the street art, having some amazing food and enjoying some great wine.

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El Peral is worth mentioning for one of the best beef dishes I have had and getting to have a wine which was tasty and not recognized by my go to app for wines – Delectable. Though Delectable gives me a fairly accurate idea of the wine, the thought of having some house wine which not many people have tasted felt good. The restaurant had a nice ping pong table where we played after a few bottles of wine. While I don’t have any pictures of the food or place, do visit them when you visit.

While talking about Valparaiso, it would be unfair if I don’t mention that hotel we stayed.  Casa Galos Hotel & Lofts had excellent reviews in booking.com and it lived up to the review. An amazing room with a beautiful view of the town from the roof top.

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Do not forget to use this amazing rooftop to have a nice bottle of wine during a sunny afternoon or do some star gazing at night!

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View from the rooftop.

Once we settled in, with the help of the hotel staff we booked a whole day trip to the Casablanca Valley for some serious study on white wines! Some of the ones we visited are Vina Casa-del- Bosque, Vinamar – de – Casablanca, Bodegas- Re.The pictures will give you a glimpse of the amazing day that was.

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View from the road

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As we enter!

Casa-del- Bosque

Casa-del- Bosque

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Wine all around!

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Wine in the making

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Wine tasting

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Would never want to stop the tasting sessions!

Vinamar de casablanca

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Lunch at Vinamar-de-casablanca

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Stroll, post lunch!

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Tipsy and happy!

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Writing reviews has been my thing!

Overall the experience was amazing. To add to the exciting day we had, our guide agreed to take us to Neruda’s house in Valparaiso. I was quite happy seeing the house from outside and being in the area where he wrote some of his best works. It was upon the husband’s  insistence that we decided to take a tour of the house and that was a great decision. The view from his house is breathtaking and his house is  a beauty in itself. We weren’t allowed to click pictures of the house,however leaving you with some pictures of the view from his house.

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Overall we loved our stay at Valparaiso more than Santiago and would suggest anyone who travels to Chile to move to a hill station as soon as you land in Santiago.

Chile for me can be defined in two words – Neruda and Wine. Leaving you with one of my favorite prose by Neruda!

Sonnet Xvii

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Pablo Neruda

Ayubowan!

It’s been close to 2 years of zero blogging. Have been up to many activities worth blogging! This includes awakened interest in home décor, setting up a balcony garden (that I am proud of), lots of travelling, amateur photography  etc. etc. However sheer laziness and the new found love for Instagram  took up all my time. Today while sipping my cup of coffee and reading Ruskin Bond’s ‘ A Book of Simple Living’ , an ex- colleague messaged me asking for our Sri Lankan Trip itinerary. While I gave her a shortened version through WhatsApp, her request led me to think about re-starting blogging with our Sri Lankan experience. So here we go!

Sri Lanka was not the first choice for our June 2018 trip. We had initially planned for a 2 weeks trip to the North East. But once we reached closer to the date, we realised that the North East involves lots of planning and driving. The lazy couple that we are and thanks to our hectic work schedule at that point in time, we decided to so something more relaxing. The first picture that came to our mind was a clean beach, beer and some grilled fish. No other place matched this dream other than Sri Lanka. The  husband had his bachelors there and I had travelled for work a couple of times to Sri Lanka. We both had seen some bits, but not to our hearts content and just enough to get us longing for more! So we booked our tickets the very next day.

Having booked our tickets, the next step was to plan a rough itinerary. As at all times, I usually make the first draft and thereafter the husband comes up with his changes. Based on a combination of both our interests, we decided that the trip needs a good lazy vibe, exploring a bit of history and some beach activities. The below map sort of summarizes  our trip. We literally travelled across the country and it was worth every bit of it.

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Day 1 upon landing , we directly took off to Galle. While the husband hadn’t seen Colombo, we decided to explore Colombo on our way back. Twenty minutes on the road and the true blue-Indians that we are, we started craving for our morning Chai.Stopped at a small yet neat hotel where we had a cup of milk tea. This led to my first revelation – Sri Lankan tea is best had without milk. A very interesting thing on the menu was Nasi Goreng being termed as an Indian dish. Check the picture below!

Nasi Goreng

Soon after we had our next stop at the high way for a proper breakfast. We had a not so light breakfast. Check out the pictures and you shall know why  I say so!

Food

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We reached Galle in about 3 hours and checked into our first stay for the trip. To our surprise and great joy it’s one of the cutest homestay /bed and breakfast places that we have ever been to. The Stairway which was apparently  once an attic is a little café which has one room which has been rented out. Very minimalistic yet so beautifully done. Most importantly it has a very homely feel to it. Stairway has a limited menu in terms of food, but whatever they make is fresh and yum. Believe me, these pictures don’t do justice to the beauty of the place. We will definitely recommend this place to any couple who wants a quirky comfortable and cheap room to stay in.

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We spent the next two days exploring the Galle, visiting various museums, churches (place of interest for me), checking out the cricket stadium ( place of interest for the husband) and grabbing  a beer  in between ( common interest)  . Talking about beer, shouldn’t forget to mention how much I loved Sri Lankan beer!

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Church – Check!

We also spend our evenings pub hopping at the Galle Dutch Hospital Complex. Do not miss out on the great atmosphere and lovely people. While getting high I managed to steal paper coasters and napkins from each of these places, only to realize that they were more than happy to give me the same. The place has a very easy and laidback atmosphere. Live music, good food, scrabble tables and some great people made us stick around the place till 2 in the morning!

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After spending two days at Galle, we decided to move our base to Unawatuna. Drive to Unawatuna from Galle was hardly 45 min. Once we reached Unawatuna, we were clear about our priorities – beach, fish and beer. Not once did we wander away from it. We stayed at Thaproban beach house. Its one of the best located hotels since its right on the beach.

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While we judiciously whiled away most of our time in the water or reading a book, we did make a few trips. Once of it was to see the stilt fishermen.

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We also visited the home of the great writer Martin Wickramasinghe in Kogalla, Galle. Green and beautiful, a great place to spend reading his books.

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The best of course was our mini trek to the Jungle Beach. The beach is a little secret known to everyone ! Having walked for 2 hours through a small forest, we reached on of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. White sand and blue waters. What a sight!

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My description about Unawatuna is not complete without talking about the amazing food we had. We stuck to fish, prawns and crab at every place we ate. While we tried may preparations, the best is grilled fish in butter garlic sauce. The taste of fresh fish caught hours before in this preparation is definitely to die for. Believe me, the picture below does not do justice to the fish we devoured in less than 5 minutes.

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If you fancy stepping out for lunch from your hotel do visit this little café/BnB called ‘Bedspace’. The husband found this one on Lonely Planet. Since he swears by Lonely Planet, we had to go there. We didn’t regret one bit. The lazy vibe and the amazing, fresh burgers are to die for. Your favorite book and their amazing music and food can help you spend the afternoon in bliss.

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Sri  Lanka apart from being known for its amazing beaches is also known for its precious stones. We also visited one of the mines. While it is very touristy, if you want to really see how they are made fit enough for our jewelry and may be buy a few, do visit one.

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On our way back from Kogalla, our driver took us to a beautiful  café by the sea sea side which served the most amazing crabs I ever had –Mamas Coral Beach Hotel. The husband was never a great fan of crabs until then, but my enthusiasm and the tasty crab that was, made him a crab lover too. The crab came with the freshest salad I have had in a few years. This along with  beer made for a lovely lazy sumptuous meal.

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The view from the café is also to die for. Check this out!

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Food experiences in SriLanka is never complete without the traditional Sri Lankan thali. While we kept having it throughout the trip, the best was the one had in our next place of stay- Sigiriya.

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Speaking of food, one must also definitely taste the fish sambol and the ginger ale made in Sri Lanka. I can move to this country just so that I get to have it every day!

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So, as I mentioned our next stop was Sigiriya. Historical places always intrigue me, so our long trips always include some. What interested us was more that this civilization is way older than Machu Picchu. Sigiriya is an ancient rock fortress located in the northern Matale District near the town of Dambulla in the Central Province, Sri Lanka. According to the ancient Sri Lankan chronicle the Culavamsa, this site was selected by King Kasyapa  for his new capital. He built his palace on the top of this rock and decorated its sides with colorful frescoes. On a small plateau about halfway up the side of this rock he built a gateway in the form of an enormous lion. The name of this place is derived from this structure —Sīhāgiri, the Lion Rock

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The Gardens of the Sigiriya city are one of the most important aspects of the site, as it is among the oldest landscaped gardens in the world.

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2 hours of climbing and cribbing got me to the top of the rock and the view was to die for. Check out the pictures.

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We had booked hotel Sigiriya Village, since it was recommended by a friend. What a place. Even if given an option to change all our bookings, I would never change this one. It is one of the most beautiful, organic places I stayed. Nestled in a forest of about 100 acres, the place has little cottages places in between 100-year-old trees. The staff were super friendly and the ayurvedic spa is amazing. They have a lovely dining area with live piano recitals ( Hindi Songs included) . Ideal place to have a glass of wine and enjoy in the lap of nature. As soon as we reached, we had a grand Sri Lankan thali as lunch.  Soon after that we set out to see the Sigiriya rock.

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The next day we were joined by two of our friends and we were sure that the trip is going to be a super active one from that moment!

We set off to Trinconmalee . The reason to go to Trinconmalee was the husband’s wish  to do snorkeling. June being off season was not suitable for it on the west coast. However the east coast had weather suitable for the same water sports. We drove directly to Nilaveli Beach Resort. Nilaveli and Trinconmalee, unlike the west coast are not  touristy places and don’t have many shacks or eateries like the West. Upon reaching the hotel, 4 of us quickly changed and ran to the beach and we were thrilled to see the calm sea. This one looked straight out of a Maldives or Seychelles. We spent some time in the water and occasionally visited the shore for our bottomless long island ice teas. Another great find was the amazing long island ice tea that this country made. No hotel or shack disappointed us.

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We were super tired spent the evening at the hotel and slept early since we had to wake up early the next day. Day began at 5 a.m! And I made sure,  after pleading so much with the husband that it started with a #followmeto picture Smile 

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We left the beach in our super fast boat to see some dolphins and whales. And to our luck and some amazing spotting by our guide Vicky we saw many. Post the same, the 3 of them set out to do snorkeling at pigeon island while I lazed around in the hotel and read a book.I am scared of water and snorkeling is not for me. They did tell me it was amazing and would love to come back again! That speaks volumes.

While we have been having crab all though out our trip, our friends hadn’t tasted them yet. Hence I found out a nice restaurant for our lunch which served crabs. When we asked them for crab, the waiter went to the river below the restaurant, picked one out, showed it live and thereafter turned it into one of the yummy preparations. Mind you that’s how fresh the crab was. Post dinner we had to have a quick nap and then spend the rest of the evening at the beach.

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The next day post breakfast we set out for Colombo. Reached Colombo during lunch time. Trip advisor advised me to go for lunch at Paradise Road Galleries. It was worth it. This place had a different, modern take on SriLankan cuisine.

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Having finished lunch,we did a bit of shopping and then headed to the hotel. Nestled in the centre of the city, the hotel was perfect for us to reach after a good night out. The rest of the evening was spend pub hopping and partying. We ringed in the friends birthday in SriLanka that night and reached the hotel in the wee hours of the morning. Some of the places which are a must visit are Rhythm and Blues, Fern, Republik, Botanic.  Didn’t really remember to  click pictures while we were partying and those I clicked are too blurry to be posted!

The next day was big. We had reservation at the Ministry of Crabs for lunch. The experience was amazing – period.

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The friends left for India post lunch and we hung around for another day before heading back. Some more shopping and lazing around got us relaxed before we enter daily life routines.

Sri Lanka is a must visit for people who loves clean beaches and an amazing stay for half the price you pay in a Goa or a Kerala. If you ask me three things for which I would go back again I would say – beaches, people and the crab!

Peru beyond Machu Picchu!

“It took my breath away. What could this place be? Why had no one given us any idea of it?

– Hiram Bingham, Lost City of the Incas.

These were the words of American archaeologist Hiram who discovered the existence of the great Inca Empire. The secret which was only known to some locals in the said region opened up to the word, was recognized as a wonder of the world and most importantly became a part of the bucket list of places of travel, for millions. It was never a part of my bucket list, but the moment Rony proposed South America as a travel destination I was sure we have to visit it.

Most tourists go to Peru to visit Machu Picchu. So did we. But after having done the trip, we can assure you that there is much more to Peru than Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is indeed beautiful, breath-taking and mystical. But every other place we stayed which includes Lima and Cusco had something to offer.

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View of the Andes from the plane

The planning

From the very beginning we were very clear that we do not want to do any of the Inca trail treks. There are a number of packages which allows you to trek from varying points. The number of days it takes to reach Machu Picchu could range from 7 days to 1 day. The most picturesque one according to may websites is the classic 4-day Inca Trail trek that starts at km82 – 82 kilometres along the railway from Cusco to Aguas Calientes.

Considering only a limited number of tickets are issued to visit Machu Picchu every year, the first thing we did is to book the same. It was a tough job to find the official site, considering there are hundreds of websites online. Once we found the right one, we were disappointed that we could not get the tickets to climb Huayna Picchu–  the mountain which we see in the back ground in all the post cards.

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Huayna Picchu  is the one in the background

We had to be content  with tickets for Machu Picchu and Montana. Rony, who booked these tickets, two months in advance was surprised to see the hike to Huayna Picchu booked till February next year. We were a bit disappointed then. But in retrospect we don’t regret it. My stamina clearly would not have let me climb Huayna Picchu. Once we had the tickets to Machu Picchu, we sort of worked backwards and booked our stay in Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu along with the flight to Cusco and train tickets to Machu Picchu.

Lima

Once the tickets to Machu Picchu were booked, we had to figure out how to get there – which was the most difficult part. Considering we were landing in Lima, we decided to say there for 2 days. This was a great idea since we did take some take to get over the jet lag. We also managed to meet up with the husband’s friends and do a bit of shopping.

Upon a great deal of research on the internet, we found that Miraflores was one of the best places to stay in Lima. The basic requirements for a hotel for us was it should have free wifi, airport pickup, centrally located and below 100 USD. Colon Hotel at Miraflores met all our requirements and hence we booked it. We liked the hotel, but would have liked if it was a little more luxurious for the price we paid. No complaints about the service and 100 marks for its location. It was at a walk able distance from the market, Larcomar (the famous shopping centre) and restaurants.

The shopping we did at Mercado Central got me smiling when I saw the prices of the same items at Cusco, Aguas Calientes or at the airport. The  Peruvian nativity scene, postcards, ponchos, fridge magnets , jewellery, paintings were all way more cheaper in Lima than in any other place Peru.  Some pictures we clicked while shopping!

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The best find of the trip according Rony was the Lomo Salltado.This dish is a typical Peruvian dish made of marinated steak, vegetables, & fried potatoes  served over rice. For a Malayalee Christian, its rice and beef. It is indeed on one of the best dishes I have had too. We also loved the Peruvian Ceviche. In fact any dish consisting of beef or fish couldn’t go wrong for the simple reason that it was fresh! The fact that they used a lot of onions to any dish appealed to me since I love onions in any form. Peru, also has a lot of fusion cuisine. The husband’s friends took us to this restaurant which had Peruvian Italian cuisine. We totally loved it. For drinks, we tried the Peruvian beer (Pilsen Callao, Cusqueña and Cristal) and the very famous Pisco Sour. I preferred the touristy version of Pisco Sour to the original since it was little more mild and less sour. I am a total tea drinker, however in Peru I only had coffee. We looked forward to the breakfasts because of the amazing coffee they served.

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Pisco Sour

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Ceviche

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Lomo Salltado

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Cristal

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Cusquena

There are many historical places of interest in Lima. However we were in a mood to chill and just walk around the city. Hence didn’t visit any. For anyone who would like  to combine the shopping and eating spree with some  sight seeing, the trip advisor will be a good site to look up.  The only place we ended up visiting is the Parque Kennedy which gives shelter to hundreds of stray cats. Do read this interesting article on it.

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Rony broke his spectacles on the flight. So we had to get a new frame for him before leaving for Cusco. While doing so, we met Estevan at an optical store. Along with helping us communicate with the salesman, he gave us some amazing tips for the travel ahead.  Thanks Estevan!

While in Lima, if you are a fan of chocolates do visit the Choco Museo. It is a chocolate lover’s paradise. While Rony was buying a goodies to take back home, I clicked many pictures of the place. Its so artistically done up!

Since we both believe that walking around without any specific agenda is the best way to see a city, we did it in Lima. Some pictures we took while doing so:

Cusco

From Lima, in order to reach Machu Picchu we had to fly in to Cusco and take a train from Cusco. Cusco gets rank 1 in the places we visited during the entire trip. The cobbled streets, beautiful architecture and the amazing art galleries made the stay in the Cusco enjoyable.To be fair, when we planned the trip, Cusco was considered only as  a stop over on our way  to see Machu Picchu. We didn’t know that Cusco as a city had so much to offer. Since we were flying to a higher attitude most travel sites suggested that we stay a day or 2 at Cusco to acclimatize. We did so. Estevan, the random friend we made in Lima asked us to carry a insect repellent and also take the Sorojchi pills. This did help us have a comfortable trip. The husband who had read about mosquito bites in Machu Picchu had carried an Odomos which worked perfectly! So as we saw other tourists buy expensive insect repellent we had a hearty laugh and thanked our very own Odomos for protecting us.

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An advertisement for Sorojchi Pills on the streets of Cusco

We hadn’t really booked any place to stay at Cusco till the last moment. Rony went through booking.com and found a hotel called Rumi Punku  for our stay at Cusco. We couldn’t have asked for more. The pictures below say it all. An amazing room, excellent service and good location.

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We were received at Cusco the airport by David who then we realized runs a tour agency as well. He took us to the hotel and also helped us plan our itinerary for the next day. Though we felt we paid more than we should have, the guide (Leon) and driver (Herman) who took us around Cusco were excellent. We are people who prefer travelling on our own. But this choice was totally worth it. Leon who is a local, explained every site we visited in great detail. Because of the gamut of information we got from him, we did not take a guide in Machu Picchu the following day. We saw the entire site using  guide book.

On the day of arrival at Cusco, all we did was chill, walk to the square (Plaza de Armas), drink some beer and eat some Llama.

IMG_1711 A dish made out of Llama

The next day after a simple yet filling breakfast at the hotel we were received by Leon and Herman Who took us to some Inca and pre Inca sites in Cusco. This is when we got to know that the Incan Empire extends beyond Machu Picchu. We bought a pass which gave us entry into number of places – The Boleto Turistico, however managed to see only a few. This was also because we took our time and did not rush to cover all the places. After all it does not make sense to see the place without experiencing it.  Since many of the sites were vast and involved a lot of walking, I gave up at many points . Rony went ahead and saw it in great detail. I found a good spot to sit and clicked a lot of pictures!

Each one of the places we visited deserves a separate post. But for now I leave you with some pictures clicked by us!

After a long day of travel, we got back to the hotel, freshened up and stepped out for some food. On our way to the main square, we found some amazing art galleries from where we got a few paintings for our new home. Will post some pictures as soon as we have them framed. Cusco has an art school wherein students study art for about 5 years. The training they get in the school along with the amazing culture helps them create paintings which are a true reflection of the beauty one sees around!

Cusco is one city where the both of us could spend a week just walking around, visiting the ruins and eating at local restaurants. For most Peruvians its an ideal destination for a short holiday or a break. Rony’s friends did mention that they do travel to Cusco once in a while – not necessarily to go to Machu Picchu. Some pictures of our random walks along the streets of Cusco

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Getting married and travelling the world – amongst other things!

A lot has happened between the last post and this one. Finding the man, getting to know him, dating  and finally getting married to him took up considerable amount of time. Hence the blog was completely ignored. Getting married was a fun affair. I will definitely post a few pictures and also write about some fun moments during the wedding some time later. The man, who is now the husband was very clear about the first travel destination as husband and wife. So even before deciding the wedding dates or venue we had zeroed on the destination – South America. Had the choice been left to me, I would have clearly chosen some place closer and less hectic. Thanks to him, I had the best trip of my life.

South America, being a huge continent (the map of which I know better than Asia now), we had to choose the places we could cover in 3 weeks. Since two of husband’s friends were getting married to each other in Uruguay around the same time we were very clear that Uruguay is going to be one of the destinations. To be fair, the fact that we were invited to their wedding is one reason we went ahead and actually made the trio happen! We had decided that we could do 2 more countries within the time we had. My husband (Rony) was very keen on going to Brazil and I wanted to go to Machu Picchu. So the initial idea was to go to Peru, Brazil and Uruguay. However the ticket prices to and from Brazil were too expensive and we would go  over budget. We explored other options like Argentina and Chile. Chile looked like a good option since we would get to visit some of the best vineyards in the world and also visit thee Patagonia. So considering the budget within which we were working and the places of interest we zeroed down on Peru, Chile and Uruguay.

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We were very clear from the beginning that we shall not use any travel agencies for making our itinerary. Hence it really got down to the two of us having endless conversations over phone and messenger in order to decide the trip. Another decision we had made is not to over shoot our budget. Though I am a great fan of air bnb and Rony is a fan of hostels we decided to stick to hotels for this trip, which increased the budget. But thumb rule was to book only hotels less than USD 100 dollars a day.

When we started planning, we understood that it was not as easy as it looks! So, firstly I studied the map of South America quite closely. Rony is relatively better at geography and had already done a trip in Central America so he knew the map well! The first challenge was obviously to get a cheap yet comfortable air travel to and from South America. Travelling 25 hours at one go is something either of us have never done. To and fro from any of these countries was way more expensive than flying into Peru and flying out of Montevideo. This was very surprising for us since it’s usually costlier as compared to flying in and out from the same country. Having found this out, the next hurdle was to find a route through a country which didn’t not require a transit visa for Indians. We found the answer in KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The overall experience was excellent!

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Having booked the tickets the next step was to apply for visas. An Indian passport does not give you a visa on arrival on any of these countries. Hence we had to individually apply for visas for each of these countries. It was relatively easier for me since I was working in Qatar, holding a Qatari Work Permit. Rony had to engage an agent and submit hundreds of documents. Our visa application stories calls for a different post. We had the opportunity to come in contact with some amazing people as well as some not so amazing people in the course of visa application. Let me leave that for another post.

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Visa for Peru – Check!

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Visa for Chile – Check!

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Visa for Uruguay  – Check!

For any visa application we had to show bookings for stay and flights for internal travel. Bookings for stay were all done through Booking. Com. We picked those hotels with Zero cancellation charges. We made some changes prior to the trip but retained some. All flights for internal travel within South America were done in local airlines based on the number of days we wanted to spend in each country. Some of the pointers we kept in mind while booking the flights were:

(i) Not take an early morning flight since I love to wake up late;

(ii) Try not to reach a new city late at night;

(iii) Ensure that we have a minimum of 23 kg baggage allowance in all flights ;

(iv) Check the distance between the hotel and the airport ;

(v) Try to do overnight travel in order to save time;

(vi) Travel light! We didn’t manage to travel as light as we wanted to. But at the end of the day we didn’t pay excess baggage in any flights even with our shopping.

At the end of the trip, like every other trip we did feel that we could have done a lot better, seen more, shopped more, travelled lighter, spend lesser, spend more time in one place rather than the other. But I guess, everyone feels that at the end of any trip. The good bit is we realized that we can indeed travel together as a couple, our interests are similar in many things, we were able to accommodate the interests that differ and enjoy it too, we were able to bring back a lot of great memories and memorabilia for our new home. And most importantly we are looking forward to our next trip.

Wait for the next post about the county that we loved the most –Peru!

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