A day in the ‘Maximum City’

11.11.2016:

14.00 hrs – Ganesh joined us at the Cotton Green Railway station. After exchanging the pleasantries, he asked us what we want to see in Mumbai and the first response from Mythri was shopping. The funny part is that while Mythri meant the proper street shopping, Ganesh mistook it for a grand shopping at the posh malls of Mumbai πŸ˜€ . And we ended at one of the posh malls in Mumbai – The Phoenix Mall at lower Parel. It was designed so well and got exclusive sections for everything and especially the collection of watches at this place is amazing!

14.30 hrs – We were out of the place as finally Mythri told her idea of shopping to Ganesh. Lol! πŸ˜€ . Before leaving the place, we wanted to eat something and that something is obviously the must try in Mumbai! Street food in India is as varied as its landscape, people and culture. It is usually sold on cards on the roads of various parts of the country and in Mumbai, try the famous Vada Pav and Pav Bhaji πŸ™‚ . Just opposite to the mall, there are so many carts on the pavement selling the Vada Pav, Pav Bhaji and other Chinese food. While Ganesh and Mythri opted Vada Pav, Ryan and I voted for Pav Bhaji.

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One urban legend states that the famous Pav Bhaji has Portuguese origins and that the word Pav comes from the Portuguese word for bread, Pao! Pav Bhaji consists of two things. One is the Pav, which is nothing but a kind of bread, and Bhaji which is a thick gravy prepared from all the vegetables with some spices added to it. A must try delicacy when one is in Mumbai! And to our surprise, the cost of the street food here is relatively cheaper than other places I visited.

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15.30 hrs – We took a Kaali Billi (Black Cat), the black painted cars which acts as the local auto-rickshaws in Mumbai and headed to the Victoria terminus. Our next destination is the Fashion Street. And the route we took to reach this place is through the Azad Maidan (Ground). Azad Maidan is a triangular shaped cricket ground located near to the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus Station and is one of the oldest grounds in India. While the youngsters were busy with their net practice and some matches, the hawkers were busy selling pani-puris and clothes on the pavement.

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Just at the end of the pavement starts the Fashion Street – one of the favorite shopping hubs for the people of Mumbai. This place with over 150 shops selling clothes and footwear of latest trends and few food stalls is a paradise for the shopaholics. The success mantra at this shopping hub is a hard bargain. And trust me, one can get some very good products at a very cheaper rate. We walked across almost all the stalls, while Mythri bought a trendy frock and gladiators, I bought a hand-bag for my mom πŸ™‚ . Done with our shopping, we started walking towards the Gateway of India.

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17.00 hrs – While we were walking towards the Gateway of India, we came across one of the famous landmarks of Mumbai – the Bombay Gymkhana. Located in the South Mumbai, it was established in the year of 1875 and lies in the southern end of the Azad Maidan. Said to be one of the posh gymkhanas, it is a centralized air-conditioned building with all latest models of cars parked just infront of it. Don’t forget to fight with the security guards at the entrance for a single snap at the entrance of this hi-fi gymkhana.

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17.45 hrs – Tired of shopping, it’s time for some juice and we started searching for a juice corner and it so happened that my eyes got to see the famous Cafe of Mumbai – the “Cafe Mondegar”. Situated at about 500 meters from the Gateway of India, Cafe Mondegar is a very famous landmark of Mumbai. To be frank, I don’t know how famous this cafe is, nor doesn’t even know that it’s famous first of all πŸ˜‰ . It’s just a random choice and we walked into it. Now, why is this cafe so famous? Coz, this is the first restaurant in Mumbai to houseΒ  a jukebox πŸ™‚ .

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Cafe Mondegar is famous in other ways too – it was started way back in 1932, the famous Indian Cartoonist and painter from Goa, Mario De Miranda painted his cartoons all over the walls and ceilings of this restaurant. The restaurant offers some amazing continental food. Food and Jukebox – What a superb combo! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Though they say that photography is strictly prohibited, I got few snaps of it πŸ˜‰ :-p

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To know more about Mario De Miranda, please visit the website http://www.mariodemiranda.com

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Adieu Goa..

26.12.2015:

@16.00 hrs – Time to bid an adieu to Goa. While Guneet and Mythri have to catch their bus to Bangalore from Panjim, I have to board my train to Trivandrum at Madagaon station, which is like 49 kms from Calangute. We hired a cab from our resort and reached the bus station to drop Mythri and Guneet there and I proceeded to the station.

@18.00 hrs – Our cab stopped at the railway station and I entered the station which is pretty crowded with people who were returning to their places after their Christmas celebrations or the Weekend parties in Goa. While my train was at 19.00 hrs, soon there was an announcement that my train was delayed by an hour, and then two, and three.. and it came only at 12.00 hrs in the midnight. 😦

I started loitering around the station after sitting for a while and went to the only restaurant in the station and ordered a Goan Veg Thali. Though I didn’t notice much difference between a usual North Indian Thali and Goan Thali, the food was tasty and cheap too πŸ™‚ . And the waiting continues….

27.12.2015:

@12.00 hrs – I boarded the train. Though I have only a waiting list ticket and adjusted here and there for a while, soon I found an empty berth and comforted myself. Time to plan another one πŸ˜‰

Will catch you soon with another adventurous trip πŸ™‚

Goa – The Ultimate Beach Destination

26.12.2015:

@ 5.30 hrs – All three of us woke up and freshened up to start our day by watching a sunrise in Goa that day. We didn’t return our bikes the last night as we took them only in the evening. But where to go? To unveil the true essence of Goa πŸ™‚ .

The true essence of Goa unfolds in the shore gems along its northern coasts. An all-girls gateway, beaches are alluring, tugging at our heart to come just a little closer. To get a little closer, we chose our drive to the famous Anjuna Beach. Be at Goa and I bet that the beaches which will be heard about the most will be Baga and Anjuna, as the famous Sunburn festival of Goa takes place here. Come Wednesday and Anjuna comes alive with a flea market!20151226_073446

As it was early in the morning, the roads were nearly empty, probably ‘coz of the celebrations the last night and the drive was refreshing. Anjuna beach is some 10 kms from Calungate and we have to go through Anjuna village to reach this beach. Anjuna is full of resorts, cafes and restaurants. As we neared the beach, drama unfolded with rocky cliffs and a sheer drop. We parked our bikes on the cliff and started descending to get near to the beach.Β Though Anjuna is one of the busiest beaches in entire Goa, that morning, it was calm and serene as there were only 3 or 4 other persons who might also be mad like us πŸ˜‰20151226_074721

Anjuna is a red-stone beach and gives the sea a rustylook with those stones. The red stones in the background of blue greeted our eyes and the coconut groves along the shore added to its charm. Β Anjuna extremely bustles during Christmas and New Year season. We went around the rocks and walked along the stone path that was laid. As we sat down on the rocks waiting for the sun to rise and were watching as if we were into meditation, my meditative reverie used to be broken by the occasional lapping of the Anjuna waters.

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Another 4 kms from here, situated is the Vagator Beach, which is yet another beautiful beaches of North Goa. Offering exotic locales to sandy landscapes subdued by the incessant assault of waves, I couldn’t resist the fascinating charm of this beach. Beaches can make anyone fall hopelessly in love with them and I too fell in love with this Vagator beach. Shades of blue, from azure to cerulean, sapphire to a deep green, turquoise; rocky cliffs and huge stones laid into the sands of the beach; the list is endless and the view, simply breathtaking.

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The shore that stretched for miles, a warm, placid sea breeze and joyful mirth of the waves – this beach has everything to offer to everyone. But as it was around 8.00 hrs in the morning, the beach started filling up with people and their surf boards. We resumed our journey towards siolim and drove for quite sometime only to realize that we missed the right way and ended up somewhere. And it’s almost our time to return our bikes and pack our bags, we drove back to Calungate 😦

 

Christmas @ Goa

25.12.2015:

It’s Christmas and how can we miss the celebrations in the Capital of Christmas? @ 13.45 hrs, we started our journey back to Goa from Dudhsagar. The south sojourn wiped our minds to a fresh blank state and they were waiting to be rewritten with new experiences! But before that, we have to fill our stomachs with something, we were damn hungry. Our cab driver told us that good food will be available on our way back.

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By the way, the Christmas destination was The Basilica of Bom Jesus, which is on our way back. But before that, we halted at a restaurant in Ponda and ordered our food. The food is not that great nor that bad, but the quantity is too bad, I think it hardly fills anyone’s stomach. Content after our meal, we resumed our journey to the Basilica. Goa lies at the convergence of cultures and civilizations: Konkani intertwined with Portuguese. This is visible in her heart, the by-lanes of Old Goa.

Our cab stopped just in front of the Basilica which is filled with people. I think there was a mass going on at that time, not a bad timing at all πŸ™‚ . Goa is literally synonymous with churches. They are living testimonies of the rich historical past of Goa. During the early days of the Portuguese rule in India, church building was the primary concern and occupation in Goa.

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A fine example of Baroque architecture, the foundation of The Basilica of Bom Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was Β laid in November 1594. It is dedicated to Bom Jesus meaning good or infant Jesus. Its intricately designed altars and paintings are an exquisite artistic expression for lovers of art. Murals and marble floors inlaid with precious stones add charm to the interiors, while the un-plastered exterior appears at first glance to be inferior as compared to the sparkling facades of other churches.

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As we entered the church, we were able to see a wooden carved statue of St. Francis Xavier as well as the Altar of St. Anthony. Here, the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier, who died in 1552 and which are believed to have unbelievable healing powers, are kept in a glass case ensconced in a silver casket since 1624. His body was buried in three different countries; each time it was exhumed, it was found to be incorrupt! We lit some candles and had a small pray and went around the church which is too good to have some real good photos.

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Just opposite to the Basilica is the Professed House of the Jesuits, which is a two storey building covered in lime plaster which was completed in 1589. There is some legend behind this too, but couldn’t know it as we were running of time 😦 . No probs, next time πŸ˜‰ .Β There is also a modern art gallery with paintings depicting various biblical scenes adjacent to the Basilica. We took some photographs here too. And that was the best Christmas ever in my life πŸ™‚

Vivid colors from Portugal and narrow cobbled streets emanate an old-world charm, perfect for busy souls on a quest for quietude!

A secret escape to South Goa – Dudhsagar

25.15.2016:

It’s Christmas to start with πŸ™‚ Merry Christmas to all!! 2 more people were to join us three on that day, Sushmita and her husband Phani. The plan is to escape to the south, into the wild, deep into the famous Western Ghats. We wanted to escape, away from the humdrum of the life into the lap of nature. And the perfect escape was “DudhSagar” – The Ocean of Milk.

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We booked a cab from Calungate to Dudhsagar which is some 80 kms from the place where we stayed. The plan is to pick up Sushmita and Phani from Dona Paula on our way and head to the waterfalls. We planned to start our journey @ 06.00 hrs, but were late by 30 mins. By the time we reached the hotel where Sushmita was staying, they were late by another 30 mins 😦 . Yeah, we never stick to the timelines. It was only on our way when I realized that I didn’t book my return tickets to Trivandrum 😦

When I checked with our cab driver if there was a possibility of me booking a train ticket from anywhere on the way to Dudhsagar, he told me that in the very village Collem, where we gonna halt to take our cab to the waterfalls, there is a small railway station and probably I might get a ticket from there. I was a bit relieved πŸ™‚ It’s Shweta’s b’day too πŸ™‚ . I should give her a gift and guess what I gave, I gave her the task of getting my ticket confirmed πŸ˜‰ :-p

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While the rest of my team was waiting at Collem (the town from where we have to hire the cab) for booking our cab to the waterfalls (Yes, we can’t take our own cabs there. The tourism department provides their own cabs for this), I booked my ticket from Marmagaon to Trivandrum for the next day. Though Dudhsagar is meant for a trek, especially a monsoon trek along the railway track, we confined ourselves to the cab drive this time. DudhSagar waterfalls are located in middle of forests on the Goa-Karnataka border and can be reached through the Bhagwan Mahavir national park.

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It took us around an hour to reach the entrance of the waterfalls as there were lot of people and the road was jam-packed with vehicles. It is a mud road through the forest and there were a few streams which needs to be crossed in order to reach the falls. I donno whether we can go on a hike through this forest or not, but if there is one, it will be truly adventurous. After a long wait for the parking for our cab, we reached the entrance. In order to reach the waterfalls, we have to go on a hike for some distance.

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It was a good trek through the woods and streams. We could hear the hum of the waterfalls from a distance and even got a glimpse of it. The sight was mesmerizing, though the waterfall falls from a height of 310 metres, it almost seems like that it is descending directly from the heavens. We increased our pace and moved fast to see the entire beauty. We were stunned at the sight of the mighty beauty that stood infront of us. I could only imagine, if this looks like this in December, how it looks during the Monsoon season.

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Within no time, Phani and I were into the waters with our life-jackets. The water is super cool and the splashing waters from the waterfall and the mist-filled air was refreshing. There were lots of fishes too in the water. The railway track which seems like dividing the waterfalls into two halves adds to the charm of this falls. As we were wishing for a train to pass through the tracks, we heard a siren from the distance which echoed through the mountains and all the eyes turned to the railway bridge above the base.

Soon a train was passing across the bridge and the scene was breathtaking. It was beyond words and description πŸ™‚ . After spending quite good time here, we returned back to our jeep to proceed for our Christmas celebrations. How can we miss these while being in Goa? Isn’t it?

Goa – The shopping Paradise

24.12.2016:

@20.00 hrs – We left Calungate to explore further. Our next destination is the most famous beach of Goa – the Baga beach. Usually it takes about 20 mins to reach from the Calungate to Baga beach, but we took a bit long coz we went on shopping. Shopping in Goa is an experience in itself, as the markets, plush shopping malls and the flea markets turn Goa into a perfect shopper’s destination.

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Perhaps this is the first time, I was literally on a shopping spree. Our shopping list included a lot varying from common accessories to shorts, T-shirts and some frocks for Shweta. Yeah, how can she forget telling me to shop for her when I am at such a shopping destination πŸ˜‰ . Trust me, we didn’t leave any shop in between Calungate and Baga untouched. Lol!! Offering amazing varieties and price, Goa is truly a shopaholics dream.

Shopping in Goa was a new experience from me as we can bargain to any extent in a flea market, we can spend till the last penny indulging into a luxurious shopping mall without a bargain at all or we can own few fashion clothes and accessories with a luxurious touch after a good bargain. That’s why shopping is so famous in Goa I think πŸ™‚ . Goa has a lot of flea markets at different places on different days to make shopping a truly different experience.

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Anjuna Flea Market, a market paradise, will be held every Wednesday on Anjuna Beach while the Mapusa market will be on a bright friday morning and is one of the most important place and the traditional Mapusa market is popular for Goa’s famous ‘Chouricos’ sausages. The Calungate market is held every saturday along the beautiful Calungate beach and Baga flea market competes with this on the same day 😦 . The products available will be all sorts of beach wear, accessories, clothes, shells, shell jewelry, books (mythology to fiction – everything will be available), souvenirs etc..

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It’s Thursday (no flea markets available on Thursdays) and was already 21.30 hrs by the time we reached the Baga beach. It is the most happening beach and was way too crowded. The shacks on the beaches, shops on the road side, discotheques and restaurants were full of people. We took a walk along the beach and entered the Mackie’s Night Bazaar. Held under the open sky along the beach, this is a shopping secret to unravel. I could see some locals as well as foreigners selling clothes, beach wear, local handicrafts, and beautiful souvenirs.

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One more interesting thing here is the live performances of by the local music bands and the local musicians playing some live music on their instruments, and this adds an extra color to the already brightly lit market with vibrant colored clothes and accessories hanging infront of the shacks. The market also offers food from different cuisines like Chinese, Tibetian, Goan, Mexican etc.

22.30 hrs it was! Time to get back to our rooms, we have got a lot of plans the following day πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Calungate – The mini world of Parasailing..

24.12.2015:

@ 14.00 hrs – Guneet and I walked towards a stretch of the Calungate beach which is like a few feet away from our resort. The beach is full of sand and shacks where few foreigners were chilling out with few drinks and some good sea-food, while a few others were sun-bathing and young children playing on the shore. What I found here were boards.. Yeah, boards asking us “Want to go parasailing”, “Jet Ski, 15 mins, Rs. 200” etc..etc..

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The beach is serene, not much crowded and not like most happening sort. We returned back to our resort and got settled in the open restaurant for our food. While I opted Noodles, Mythri opted a plain meal and Guneet settled for a Goan meal, as she is the only Non-veganΒ among us πŸ™‚ . The food was served quite quick and tasted good. After a good meal, we rested for sometime. It was during this time I came to know that my friend (a senior in my college) was also there in Goa with her husband.

@17.00 hrs – We went to the beach again. But this time it was different. It was too crowded, full of people and activity. People playing in the waters, adventurers trying the most famous Goan water sport ‘Para Sailing’, hawkers selling flowery crowns, some LEDs, shorts etc. are all on the sands of the Calungate beach. The beach which we stood on right now is the mid-point of the Calungate and Baga stretch. Baga is yet another famous beach in Goa.

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The best part of Goa is the mode of transport. It’s a simple process, what all you need to own a vehicle for any number of days in Goa is an identity card and few bucks in your pockets. Usually in the off-season, one can hire a two wheeler for 150 or 200 rupees per day and a four wheeler for 500 or 600 rupees a day. And it will be too difficult to take a bike on rent during the season time like Christmas and New Year. We tried very hard to rent two Honda DIOs for a rent a 300 rupees per each, that too just till the night 😦 . But we decided that we should make the most of it πŸ˜€

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Calungate is a town in North Goa, which is quite famous for its beach and shopping options. One more important thing is that it is quite simple to move from one place to another in Goa, even if one doesn’t have a clue about the place. Calungate beach has got some coconut groves and brightly lit restaurants and tattoo shops in middle of them. There isn’t any provision of paying a parking fee here, it’s totally free, but few champs try to outsmart us and be careful with them πŸ˜‰

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Once there, Mythri and Guneet wanted to have some temporary tattoos on their hands. While Guneet chose some starts on her wrist, Mythri thought for quite sometime and I helped her by saying to have “Joie De Vivre”Β inked onto her hand πŸ™‚ . Isn’t it just apt for the moment? πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Once done, we moved towards the beach, by this time it was dark. While the shacks are filled with people boozing, eating and dancing on the floors, the sands were filled with chairs and tables dimly lit by the candles placed on them.

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The candle-lit tables resembled a patch of land filled with lots of fire-flies at a time πŸ˜€ . We chose a table at one of the shacks and ordered some food. The waves soothing our feet, a loud music turned out to be soft after travelling quite some distance towards us from the shacks, chirps among the people around us, the cool breeze comforting us.. It’s a moment which everyone should live through.. πŸ™‚

On board..

23.12.2015:

Near Magestic Bus Station, Bangalore @ 20.00 hrs – 3 friends (Mythri, Guneet and I πŸ™‚ ) were standing outside a travel agency waiting for our bus to Goa. The roads were buzzing with people who are waiting for their turns to get into their respective buses to their respective holiday destinations. I checked with the travel agent about the arrival of our bus and came to know that they ain’t able to get a parking slot as there were too many buses on the road at that point of time and asked us to wait for some more time.

21.00 it was! Still no glimpses of our bus 😦 . It was only at 21.30 hrs we were able to board our bus. I think that was one of those extra options with the travel agency to meet the high passenger traffic on such days. It was an AC coach without any video screens or cell phone charging sockets. Lol! And to our surprise the entire lot in the bus were youngsters heading to their (our) party destination – GOA!! And our bus made a move only at 22.00 hrs which means we were late by 2 hrs :-0

We chatted for quite sometime, like the places which we need to visit, the mode of transport etc.. etc.. And I don’t remember anything further. By the time I opened my eyes and the curtains of my window @ 07.00 hrs on 24.12.2015, the day was bright with the sun beaming high in the sky and the road smooth and curvy with hills on both sides of it. Β A pleasant sight indeed πŸ™‚ . Guneet and Mythri were still sleeping under their sheets.

Around 08.00 hrs, the bus came to a halt and if you think that we reached Goa, you are mistaken! The bus stopped so that people can attend their nature calls. Lol!! πŸ˜€ It’s is almost like an isolated place from the rest of the world as I couldn’t find any other settlements near to this restaurant. All of a sudden there was a lot of activity around me. While some were brushing, some were waiting infront of the washrooms for their turn while some others attended their nature calls among the nature πŸ˜€ :-p .

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We resumed our journey and the driver kept his words. We reached Panjim around 10.30 hrs. Generally it would be the Auto-walas who will be surrounding us like the ants surrounding the jaggery, but in Goa, it’s different. One will be surrounded by Cab-walas and we were no exception. A middle-aged person called Rajesh offered us the best price to our resort and we were in. Goa is clean and neat with smooth roads and more cars. While we start moving closer to our resort which is on the Calungate beach side, the roads narrowed and were full of people walking, riding their bikes, some shopping while some were boozing πŸ™‚

We reached our resort. To be frank, it’s not a resort as such, it’s more like serviced apartment with an open Bar-cum-restaurant in the Ground floor and our rooms in the first floor. The best part is that it is away from the traffic and near to the beach. We refreshed ourselves and Guneet and I decided to have a view of the beach-side while Mythri made herself busy washing her clothes. Interesting, isn’t it? Who else except Mythri, will be washing clothes while on a vacation to Goa?? πŸ˜€

GOAN CELEBRATIONS

If one asks any youngster in India about a perfect place for celebrations, especially the Christmas and New Year parties and celebrations, the only place that will be thought of would be Goa! And when we were thinking of a perfect travel destination in last December, the place that struck our minds is Goa.

Christmas and Goa – the perfect shot.. So, it’s decided and we chalked out a plan which obviously didn’t work as we planned, but turned out to be a good one and better than the one which we planned. Lol! The people on this trip should be Mythri, Guneet, Sunil, Shiva, Ruthwik and I, but as usual 3 of our friends dropped and two of my other friends joined us accidentally in Goa. A surprise πŸ™‚

So dear friends, come join me on this trip to see what the sea conversed with my body, mind and soul and what I explored in the smallest state of India in a small duration.. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

How about a break???

Yeah, how about a break? A break from trekking? A break from the mountains? A break from the chilling winds and snowflakes? I think, it’s time for one.. for me; I think for you too πŸ˜‰

What could be a better destination? Any place far away from this concrete jungle would be fine for me :p A place where there won’t be any hustle bustle. A place where I can go for a long walk all alone; If tired, can sit somewhere and watch the blue sky and get lost in my thoughts; have some good food or a drink, soft though πŸ˜‰ under the moon light or on a candle-lit table, when I feel hungry… After this much of description, I know that everyone will vote for a beach πŸ˜‰ . Isn’t it?

Let’s go to a beach then. A small correction… to beaches!Β  Yeah, to some of the finest beaches in the world. Don’t think that I am taking you to Mauritius or Maldives for those. As I mentioned earlier, India, our beautiful India has got all one wants. It might be the mighty mountains or the vast green meadows, beautiful beaches or splendid valleys, we can find everything here in this land of wonders πŸ™‚ , my India!!

Having my roots in a coastal area, beaches are not new for me. Yes, though my mom is from a remote village in Vizianagaram, we had hardly been there. As far as I know, all my visits to my maternal grandparents are to the beautiful beach city β€œVisakhapatnam” (the city of destiny). And to my luck, I completed my graduation from a university in the same city, later worked in Chennai, which is yet another beach city, visited Pondicherry, the once French colony, still bearing the aroma of French culture and last but not the least Goa.

It’s quite a difficult thing for me to choose among these places, I mean for my next series πŸ˜‰ . I was thinking about the travel tale which I should share with you people now. Β After a lot of thinking, I decided my destination. Not from any of those mentioned above though! Guess what, Andaman and Nicobar Islands it is! Yes, thanks to one of my very close friends Swati for taking us all to this beautiful place. I will be thankful to her always πŸ™‚

I would like to share all the memories which I bundled for a life-time during this trip by taking all of you down to my past. Welcome to my Andaman Diaries!!!