Auroville is the La-La-Land to your Hippie Soul (Pondicherry-2)

The second day of our trip dawned upon us, we thought Paradise beach would be the best way to welcome it. I am not an early morning person at all but amazingly I transform into one when I am travelling ( That’s why they say “Do what makes you wanna wake up in the morning”). Paradise Beach was one such time I was up before the crack of the dawn and it surely paid off well. The sun wore the shrouds of heavy clouds and we had the wide beach all to ourselves except a few fishermen who were still preparing for the day. Paradise beach lives up to its name as it is believed to be the cleanest and most peaceful beach in Pondicherry.


We grabbed a quick breakfast at the very talked-about Indian Coffee House on Mission street. Do try the Idli Vada there. Since we were too early dosas weren’t ready by then but they sure must have been as good as everything else they served. Let me tell you, Mission street is one of the most important streets in the main city of Pondicherry. You will also find the roots of the very famous Hidesign here. The factory outlet supposedly sells the products at fractions of the showroom prices. So make it a point to not miss this one


Next on the agenda was exploring Auroville and spend the evening at the Serenity Beach. Although the plan went haywire, we still managed to unearth a lot about Auroville that I was so curious about. Thanks to Radhika who has been living there as an Aurovillian for two years now. Meeting Radhika was a chapter in itself. When one of my friends said we would be meeting her, barely had I known I was about to meet one huge inspiration who chose a tough life just out of passion. Radhika is an architect and works in Auroville among all other foreign nationals who have come together to make that place what it is today.

Auroville and everything you must know about it.

 

The vision of Mirra Alfassa – The Mother

Auroville that we see today is what Mirra Alfassa, also regarded as ‘The Mother’ by the world had envisioned back in the 1930s. She dreamt of a place which ran on the philosophy of “Vasudeva Kutumbakam”. The world which no country could claim as its own and citizens would freely live as world citizens, work towards the common goals of a sustainable growth. A land where art is the only weapon people would use. Where a person’s worth would be much more precious than money, power or any religion. In the very words of the Aurovillians, “Auroville is a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities”. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity above any religion. In the words of The Mother herself:

“Humanity is not the last rung of the terrestrial creation.
Evolution continues and man will be surpassed.
It is for each individual to know whether he wants to participate in the advent of this new species.
For those who are satisfied with the world as it is, Auroville obviously has no reason to exist.”
— The Mother, 1966

Life in Auroville

People in Auroville live in a world where money isn’t the end all be all. Although the ground reality remains that there is no sustenance without money but you can manage to feed yourself by merely volunteering in the bakeries and shops. On the surface to me, living in Auroville was like going back to the times when people had a minimalistic approach to happiness, were self-sufficient and self-reliant. The work you do is meaningful and paid with as much as you would need to survive in the town which is every moment striving to be a moneyless economy. Life wouldn’t be as fancy as it appeared to me on a one-day visit but surely worth it if you are looking for an inner connection and striving to master your ego. You can go through the entire procedure of being an Ayurovillian at http://bit.ly/2msuDAH


Things to do in and around Auroville:

Volunteer:

If you are here for a while say a week or more, you can choose to volunteer with the Auroville farm group. A number of farms in Auroville accept volunteers. Hours and possibilities for accommodation depend greatly upon which time of year you are planning your stay . Guesthouses and homestays tend to get full and busy during the guests season—December to March—and it’s always wise to grab your bookings well ahead of time if you are wanting to volunteer. Some bakeries in Auroville also accept volunteers, you can get your hands dirty in the ground level baking activities. You can also choose to intern with the International House, a living space built with sustainable and environmental architectural ideals.

Workshops and Therapies:

You can learn Permaculture to Tango, different forms of Yoga, Cooking to Tai chi, Tree-climbing to Clay classes, Sound therapy, Creative arts, in short, there is no end to learning in Auroville. Pick any workshop of your choice from their events list at their website.

Shop:

Auroville is famous for its indigenous essential oils, perfumes, incense sticks, candles and clay items. I bumped across Auro kind store right opposite to the visitors centre run by an old woman along with her son. The quaint little shot exhibited beautifully decorates scented candles, and lame and other clay and ceramic ware everything very reasonably priced.

Auroville Handmade Paper Factory:

Save a day (not Sunday) to visit the handmade paper factory in Auroville. Bespoke, delicate, and individually handcrafted stationery products from Auroville are definitely worth your money. You can watch the makers adding their creative touches to the papers which are purely made from cotton rag pulp.

Eateries:

There are over twenty eateries in Auroville my favourite being the Auroville bakery. The chocolate croissants are to die for and you literally don’t them you earn them because they are available early in the morning and are the first to go off the rack. For a lazy ass like me, it’s definitely a great deal of hard work. Right opposite there is Farm Fresh Cafe which serves serving freshly made dosa, burgers, pasta and pizzas. also, do visit Tanto’s pizza for your pizza cravings which is on the way to the visitors centre from the Pondicherry town. Options are many all you need is a lot of time to do proper justice to the “City of Dawn”.

I was overwhelmed listening to stories o Randika and looking at the ways people lived in this quaint little village in the corner of Puducherry. It got me nostalgic as I was thrown back to the memories of visiting my grandma’s back in Orissa. Everything looked pretty much similar except that there were a lot of foreign nationals here. If quitting my comfortable city life to settle in the countryside of Auroville and work for a more holistic aim is too much, I’ll at least try adopting a the minimalistic lifestyle and spread some of the goodness her in my city. This was my awakening in the land of spiritually.
Hope you find your’s soon too

How Pondicherry took a piece of my heart away! 

The city of French Villas and Bouganvillas did win over me but not for its beauty and charm this time but for the crazy stories that me and my friends Cannica and Pallavi will narrate to our grand children. The two day trip was a rollercoaster ride of weird twists and turns but at the end of the day it only left us laughing at the mishaps and of course a little bit of skin tan. Pondicherry happened to us in a much clichéd way when all three of us had reached the threshold of our 9 to 5 life pressure. We gave the trip a two weeks window time, meanwhile which we booked our stay and the transport. When we met at the majestic station the Friday night barely did we know that the two days ahead had in their bags for us.

Day 1 – White Town and Promenade Beach 

A comfy overnight journey in the Greenline Bus and we were in Pondy before the crack of the dawn. Here comes the lesson one – bargaining with auto drivers when you are tourists is a waste of time because you will be overcharged anyway. Nine kms away was the beautiful Airbnb property we had booked purely out of impulse, by just looking at the pictures of the beach-side huts by the pristinely blue sea. Well it’s a perfect budget hide out in a natgeo like set up incase you are looking for some insanely tranquil getaway. The cottage overlooks the blue waters of the Auroville Beach situated in remotest corner of the village. Although it’s not safe to hang around by the beach but you can have a gala time sitting in your room staring at the vast sea sipping over your coffee. To help you guys out I have attached the link to the property here. Samprutha Beachside Hut- Ganga Up, Bommapalayam.
It would have been too gutsy of three girls who had only carried the shortest of their outfits from their wardrobe for their much awaited beachside getaway, to stay at such a secluded place. With a heavy heart we cancelled our booking there and headed towards the main city.The obvious lesson no 2- Never rely on an auto drivers to get you to a decent hotel with a liveable room. Our drivers helped us witness the worst hotels existing in the city. After some 7 odd bad hotels we finally rested our tired bums in Hotel Vijayantra. Rented our scooters and headed towards the white town.

The enchanting White Town 

P.S it’s extremely easy to rent bikes in Pondicherry, I neither did I have a licence nor did I knew anything about a scooty except for how to start one. And about traffic rules? Well let’s keep that for some other time. Although I successfully made it back to Bangalore alive without killing anyone 😉 We  rode through the Promenade Beach to the White Town, also famous as the French Colony.  Beautiful eateries, vibrant colours, jaw dropping architecture and lots of Bouganvillas. White Town is the food for a vintage lover’s soul. We sat by the side of the streets whiling away our time, clicking probably thousands of random pictures of the walls, the doors, the cafes, the streets our faces and what not.

Cafe Des Arts

Like every other visitor we clicked our mandatory heavily directed and posed pictures against the quirky yellow walls of Cafe Des Arts. But there was much more to it than just good food and quirky decor. If you are a lover of vintage clothing you will find some lovely dresses in the store tucked in a corner if the cafe. The collection was truly vintage and pretty reasonably priced so you don’t have to worry about your shopping burning a hole in your pockets. 

Delhiwala 6

Delhiwala 6  is that happy emotion that a North Indians feel when they find ‘good’ North Indian food in South India. Quirky decor in a heritage building teamed with Chole bhature, Pav Bhaji; what more an insta-addict could ask from a beachy holiday.

Happy face and happy tummies walked out of Delhiwala-6 knowing not what to do and where to go. So we decided to spend some time by the rock beach and then wander in some random direction. I loved how the Promenade beach has made arrangements for tourists. Every road leading to the beach from the White Town is barricaded at 8 at night. So you only fond pedestrians strolling around the concrete pathway beautifully embedded with palm trees and elegant street lights lighting up the area. 

 

Shopping in Pondicherry

In the evening we stepped out for a ride across the city and stumbled across a lane that was a boulevard of tiny stalls that sold earthen clay artefacts, handmade paper lamps and ceramic items. Colorful lamps put for display lit the streets and we managed to pick some for ourselves too. 

 After a not so happy meal at Dis Dis & Co. the rest of evening was again spent sitting at the sores of the promenade beach watching the ocean crashing against the rocks, listening to the roars of the waves. Someone has very wisely said some experiences can neither be expressed in words nor through pictures. Sitting by the Rock Beach was what made me believe that authenticity of that statement. Summing up, Day 1 was picture perfect till we made our way back home. What followed wasn’t as pleasant an experience but worth sharing. Obviously who wouldn’t be proud of dodging a group of almost 30 drunk men on an empty street at around 12 in the night. 😛 Well! I’d rather keep the story untold but then yeah! I made it alive again 😀

 

The next day greeted us with another set of sweet surprises and shocks which i am gonna tell you on my second blog on Pondicherry. On the next blog I’ll be talking about everything you need to know about Auroville.

Till then keep wandering.

Of great food, art and even greater enthusiasm. Fort Kochi is all about the “Feels”

I have often read that travelling with your friends can either break it or make it. So when two female friends cum colleagues travel to a new land, what are the odds of the latter happening? 

It was 10:30 at night and we were still waiting for our bus to pick us up from Marathalli. All hell burst when the agent asked us to reach Madiwala by 11. That’s where the bus was supposed to leave from. Thanks to the excellent services of Uber, we were on time and successfully boarded our bus to Kochi. There began a journey which we two ladies will remember for years to come and probably feel as proud while narrating it to others. After all, no matter how small an adventure, the first ones are always special.

Day 1

After an overnight journey, leaving behind all the confusion and mishaps behind we woke up to the daylight in Edapally, which was the last stoppage and where we got our cab for Fort Kochi. Mr.Roy our driver was a really kind human and helped us find our pre-booked budget homestay successfully which wouldn’t have been possible without a local person help. Beautiful smiles and an undeniable inclination to help, this is what maybe pulls thousands of tourists and travellers to the state every year.

Since there wasn’t much to explore in our budget homestay. We without wasting a moment rushed to the washrooms to freshen up. And to our dismay, there was no water. And again Sophie our host kindly fetched us some water from the well in her backyard. We left from our rooms all dressed up totally unknown to what the scorching heat was gonna do to us. But what good is a budget trip without some crazy struggle?

We rented our bicycles from Arafat- Rent a bike on Princess StreetThis is a cozy cafe cum rental store for bikes and scooters. We hired two Lady Birds at Rs 100/- a day

Arafat – Rent a Bike Princess Street


In the hunt for a place that accepts cards, we finally reached Cafe Quissa. I must say the cafe culture in Fort Kochi is the rarest; or should I say the finest?  We had the best Pancakes of our lives and thus Quissa made a made a place in our food-loving hearts forever. But that isn’t all! The ambience itself was drool worthy.

Quissa Cafe, Fort Kochi
How I love the use of sewing machines stands as the base of the tables. I am truly a digger of creativity and Fort Kochi is my muse.
If only we could marry pancakes

We headed straight to Jew Town in Mattancherry where we visited the Jewish synagogue and shopped in the antiques. The place is way too remarkable to be accommodated in a small section of a blog post. You can read about Jew Town in details in my previous post. As the sun began to sink we made our way back towards Fort Kochi, hung around the beach for a while looking at the distant flickering lights of the harbours.

Fort Kochi Beach


Volleyball Tournament at Fort Kochi Beach

The sight around the beaches in Fort Kochi is downright spectacular. Christmas lights everywhere your eyes can see and vendors selling lip-smacking fish fry and Iddiapams. Tiny shacks trying to attract customers in their best efforts. You don’t really feel the humidity and heat amidst all that liveliness and chaos. 

As always services are welcoming and warm
Burger’s Street

After a satisfying meal with the final touch of a refreshing glass of lime soda we called it a day and were back to our den to give our backs some rest.

Day 2

Next day was spent in the backwaters of Aluva. Kerala Tourism Departments hold these day tours to backwaters on daily basis. All the packages are categories into three. Starting from Rs 400 for the most economic to Rs 900 for the full day package. Ours included a visit to the backwaters and the Chinese Fishing nets for Sunsets. It was heavenly to watch the sky being crimson by the setting sun at the mouth of the Arabian Sea. 

You can reach the reception centre of Kerala Tourism Dept. by taking a ferry from Fort Kochi boat jetty. A ticket to Ernakulam wouldn’t cost you more than Rs 8. 


Somewhere near Chittur Village, our stop for evening tea and snacks
As the name suggests Chinese Fishing Nets were introduced to Kochi by a Chinese explorer. This method of fishing is still in practice hundreds of years after their installation. When silhouetted against the setting sun they make a stunning view.

The day ended and we began hunting for Chicken Stew and Appams, our latest food crush. After going around and checking with some eight odd restaurants if they served any, we finally ended up eating at Fusion Bay. 

Day 3

The Final day had come and we would have to bid goodbye to this whole new world of colours cultures and throbbing exuberance. So we decided to end it at The Teapot Cafe followed by a visit to the Biennale 2017. And we’re glad we did so. The teapot is a tiny cafe on Princess Street. Step into the world of teapots. I mean literally! Remember me talking about the cafe culture some time back? This place has teapots in all shapes and sizes in the display. Never seen a place living up to their name to such an extent. 

The Teapot Cafe

They say travelling places liberates your soul and then there are some who believe travelling is the game of the escapists. Regardless I feel, it a way to feed your soul. And when it’s your first independent travel it has to be life changing. Doesn’t it? So was this trip to Fort Kochi.

Kochi gave us tanned faces and gallons of cheery memories that we both can equally share and cherish years after we have lost touch with each other. The memories of our rondom encounters with people will be ours even when we’re old stuck in the routines of our respective lives ahead. I believe that’s what travelling does to people. It binds you to your counterparts at a level that’s impossible to separate. 

How to leave the tourist in you behind and become a traveller instead 

Over the years how we perceived travelling has evolved dramatically. Read how you can make your trips more worth the while and explore the traveller way

Places in Bangalore that stay with you beyond Instagram

 

1. Mekkah Cafe: Start your day the Suleiman style with a flavoursome cup of Sulemani Chai teamed up with a coconut puff at Mecca Cafe in Johnson’s Market. Sheltered in a shabby archtop building on Hosur Road right before Audugodi, Mecca Cafe is s little hard to trace. However, once you find the place parking isn’t going to be an issue.

 

2. Disney Bakery: For the Chai diggers out there … There is another one in line. Disney Bakery is a Mecca for all the tea addicts dwelling in BTM. Ginger tea and samosas here are to die for. The place is flooded with people eagerly waiting for their glass of aromatic tea ranging from elichi, masala to lemon. Team your tea with a bun samosa or bun butter and you are done for the quarter of the day.

 

3. Airlines Hotel:Brunching under a giant banyan tree; pretty euphoric ain’t it? But that isn’t all Airlines Hotel is all about. One of the most iconic places in Bangalore Airline’s hotel serves mouth smacking dosas and the best Bourvita in the city.  Airlines Hotel was started in the year 1968. Back then a drive-in restaurant was a very alien concept in the city.

4. Koshy’s,  St Marks Road:  If you can get yourself out of bed early in the Sunday morning, head to Koshys in St Marks Road. It’s one of the iconic places in Bangalore and gives you the vintage feel with all the waiters (everyone past 40 years of age) dressed on bright shiny white uniforms and the place itself speaking volumes of its ancient establishment.

On Sunday mornings Koshy’s servers typical Kerala style Appams and mutton stews which are to die for. And on other days you can select anything from their menu and be assured of not going home disappointed. My personal favourites would be Tandoori Chicken, Chicken liver on toast and obviously the Tea.

Starting from the food to the crowd everything about this place is a total 10 on 10.


5. Blossoms Book Store: If you are among those who get a high from the smell of old worn out books. Then you have fond a place where you would want your grave to be. Blossoms is a three storied bookstore that shelves thousands of books new and old. If avenue road falls too far for you Blossoms is your go-to place for all your book cravings.

Blossoms Book House

6. Russel MarketKnown for being the hub of best perishables in the city Russell Market is the oldest market complex inaugurated in Bangalore dating back to 1927.  The wide variety of fruits and vegetables speak volumes of this yet underrated market.Street food lovers will dig this place for there is a plethora of budget-friendly options to choose from and not enough space in the tummy. The aromas of the Kababs and Biryani are enough to get any foodie weak at their knees. What got me hooked on the place was the caramel custard that I had in one of the shops. The idea is to not fill yourself up in a single shop and regret seeing another which for some undecipherable reason appears more tempting to your eyes than the previous one.

 

7. Potters Village: Potters Village is wholly occupied by a bunch of people who have still stuck to the ancient yet underrated art of pottery for their living. If not poverty this village manages in a dire state of austerity. These families have been taking over the legacy of  art manship over decades and been surviving with utmost conformity. Entire lane is a boulevard of pottery items of all shapes and sizes kept for drying. Some glazing with the moisture freshly out of the wheel and some totally ready to go into the furnaces. The shopkeepers if not welcoming, we’re not hostile either. Probably there is a constant influx of photography enthusiasts into the village owning up to their indifference.

Homestays in Kochi : A Major Dreamy Affair

A quick read trough Google about Kochin suggest that the port harks back to 1341 and Fort Kochi bears the testimony to it. Nothing explains what happens when multiple cultures blend together like this costal town of Kerala does. An unplanned arrival at this city in December surprised me in the most euphoric ways and I can’t wait to share my stories.

The window period between the New Years and Christmas is when Fort Kochi is at its most vibrant self. There is no single street spared from the zealous preparation that the inhabitants are indulged in. And trust me my little knowledge with camera wasn’t enough to capture the joy that I experienced while paddling my way through the streets.

Hugely decorated streets of Fort Kochi during Christmas

Deciding where to stay in Fort Kochi could be cumbersome, not because there aren’t enough places to stay but because you would be overwhelmed with the array of options available. Zoom into Google maps on Fort Kochi and you will know that every house here is converted into a homestays. Doesn’t that say enough about how welcoming this place is?

I began my hunt from the Sea Hut which is a beautiful ancestral house converted into a homestay.  Still retaining its vintage charm, the sea hut is right on the shores and gives you the freedom to watch the sun sink down the sea at the horizon while you swing in the hammock in the backyard. Around 4kms away from the chaos of Fort Kochi, this place should be darling muse  for any traveller in search of the most tranquility. Then came Reds Residency which is again a blend of a british interiors nested in an ancestral kerala house. The beautiful patio was the catch 😉 

Reeds Residency, Fort Kochin

However, we finally decided upon Chiramel Residency which was just a short walk away from the beach and local market.

Chiramel Residency, Fort Kochi

Resting right next to the Bernards Bungalow on Parade Road ,  Chiramel lies more on the humble side when it comes to exhibiting grandeur in architecture. It is a cute Portugal ancestral house with an open quadrangle in the centre of the house and furnitures from the ancient times.

Breakfasting the English way

Comfy rooms, warm welcome, great breakfast, heavy tasting coffee and beautiful smiles Chiramel has all of these in abundance with a topping of love and care that would make you want you to come back again.

Talking of homestays it would be a crime not mentioning the ancient (literally) Bernards Bungalow.

Bernards Bungalow, Fort Kochi

Discovering the age of this excusite heritage home, came to me as a shocker. Bernards Bungalow has been gracefully standing tall for over 350 years.

Ready to give you the colonial feel and spoil you with its aura, this homestays flaunts an exorbitantly dreamy interior with tall windows, antique furniture, lace curtains and a high rise roof with wooden ceiling. Every thing here simply takes you back to the 17th century.

World inside Bernard’s Bungalow is nothing like the usual

Kochi has indeed made a place in my heart forever and these homestays which happen to be the finest in the country are hugely responsible for that. There is no way I could not think of making a dedicated post for them.

Living Like a Local in Wayanad

 

A three-day stay at  Jincy’s in Wayanad has taught me a lot not just about this place but also the people and how close they embrace their rich culture. But what strum the chords of my mind the strongest is the ‘larger than life’ way of living. They do not exaggerate when they so proudly call Kerala “Gods Own Country” because there’s a little piece of God in everyone’s heart I met there. Say for instance this gentleman who was in the middle of his daily chore of fetching coconuts from the tree when he, with a welcoming smile, paused for my  picture.

Our drive from Bangalore began around 4:30 in the morning. Although most of the journey we were  fast asleep however the morning glory of the sun brought us some beautiful surprises along out way . As we drove trough the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, we chanced upon some beautiful deer and also a peacock.

As soon as we crossed the state borders, Pratish, Jinny’s husband introduced us to a tiny bridge that literally was built by the Britishers overnight. Thanks to Pratish that he let the bizarre facts coming in till we finally discovered a spectacular stream that flew by the road.  Not being able to withstand the rush of adrenaline we jumped into the water that very moment and caught quite a few glimpses of kids fishing and playing in the water. Although none of our mates was camera friendly.

A gang of village boys was trying to swim with a log of wood

After a pleasant drive alternating through the dense forests and infinity stretching paddy fields we finally reached Jincy’s. We had just begun to let the beauty of the house sink in when Aunty got us some freshly prepared  kashayam using krapooravalli (carom) leaves just plucked from her backyard. Let me tell you! They work magic on your sore throats in no time at all.

Jincy took me for a short walk through her garden and the plantations in her backyard. Boy! I was taken aback. There was no single spice they have missed on. Starting from pepper, cardamom, cinnamon to even vanilla and cocoa they have it all and right in their backyard. I even had a chance to taste some mulberry from the tree before the silkworms could.

The traditional built of houses in Kerala are quite a catch. The peculiar wooden hedge and the tiled roofs with a triangular arch are enough to make a Keralan house stand out distinctly.

We spent one evening rowing through the Kabini river on a snake boat. And this authentically absolute Kerala experience was topped with some drizzles only to add to the awesomeness quotient of that moment.  If your eyes are aching for something that they have never seen before, Wayanad is the place. Get over the tea estates I witnessed acres of the ginger farm. And trust me they were spectacular!

Kabini

We also had visited the Kalaphuza Reservoir which happens to be one of the largest earth dams in India. Surrounded by lush green patches of land around this place was a sheer delight and watching the sun go down behind the feral weeds that surrounded the reservoir was divine.

 

Talking about the food! Wayanad is the food heaven for every foodie especially the nonvegetarians. We began our day with chicken cooked on chulaah and ended it with lip-smacking fish curry every single day.

Such a bliss to watch your food being cooked in the traditional Indian style Chulaah

What more could one have asked for from a weekend get away? Living like a local is every traveller’s dream and I had it come true in the most scenic of the places in the country. I don’t know how to thank Jincy and Pratish enough for introducing us to this bucolic bliss. Kerala has definitely won over me but the countryside living is what has got me weak on my knees.