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Archive for December, 2013

Wanted to end the year with one last post about our recent drive to Mangalore, the coastal capital of Karnataka.

Mangalore is located about 360kms from Bangalore and is well connected by road and rail to Kerala and Goa and has an international airport as well. This destination makes for a wonderful drive from Bangalore with two distinct route options. The first and shortest is via Hasan, Shakleshur via Shiradi Ghat (360kms – 7.5 hrs) and the second is via Mysore and Madikeri, Coorg (400kms – 8.5 hrs).

Unfortunately, about 20 – 30kms on both these routes are in terrible condition due to heavy rains and low quality of tarring. The only positive on the second route via Madikeri is that, there is road widening underway and we should expect top quality drive by the mid of 2014. Both these route are equally scenic as we go over the western ghats to get to the coastline.

Majestic Western Ghats

Mangalore being a quieter city as compared to Bangalore is growing rapidly. This is partly due to the student population making this city their temporary home. The city boasts a large number of educational institutions including popular medical and dental colleges. The city has seen a spurt of malls and multiplexes and the breaking down of old traditional residences to make way for newer apartment complexes. Regardless, this city is worth a visit for it mouthwatering seafood and pristine beaches.

Here is a quick list of things to do while you are in Mangalore:

Beaches: Someshwar and Ullal are the two popular beaches towards the south of Mangalore. Someshwar beach which is further away has a lot of character with rocks all around while Ullal is best enjoyed from Summer Sands beach resort or at the confluence of the river and the sea. (Note: Ullal beach is dangerous to venture into due to strong waves and undercurrents)Mangalore beaches

Towards the north of the city lies Tannirbavi beach which is again slightly unsafe for deep sea swimming but the adjacent Panambur beach is ideal for water sports. Further ahead is the less crowded Surathkal beach right opposite the NIT campus on the main Mangalore – Udupi highway. Continue driving on this route and you will hit another popular beach called Kapu close to Udupi. This beach is very popular among the youngsters and for its light house which makes for a good photo opportunity. The best time to visit Kapu is during sunset. Close by is the popular uninhabited St Mary’s Island which can be visited on government manned boats for a nominal fee during the day.

Back in Mangalore, you can do a bit of shopping at the many new malls such as City Centre or Bharat Mall or the local Hampankatta Market. But the best part of this city is its local cuisines and its Ice Cream parlors.Ideal Ice Cream Parlor

One must visit Ideals Ice Cream parlor to try out popular varieties such as Gudbad, Parfait, Banana Split, Tiramisu, Royal Falooda and many more. They have quite a few branches across the city and are priced between Rs 20 – Rs 75. We highly recommended this joint. Popular restaurants such as Maharaja, Goldfinch and Amanthran serve the best mangalorean cuisines. Kane Masala Fry, Crab Sukka, Prawn Chilli, Chicken Ghee Roast, Kori Roti and sannas (soft idlis) are popular among the locals and are priced between Rs 80 to Rs 350 for Kane fish. So the next time you happen to visit this sultry city, don’t forget to visit one of the local restaurants.

Pomfret Masala Fry

Pomfret Masala Fry

Cashews are very common in this region and are used liberally in many preparations. Sweets such as Cashew Macrons, Banana Halwa, Sweet Potato Sticks (Sonte), Rice laddoos and Plum cakes are popular in the region.Kanthi Church lit up for Christmas

The city is connected by private bus service which is clean, fast and cheap followed by Autorikshaws. The best time to visit is between October – February and don’t forget to carry your sunscreen lotion or an umbrella. If you do not wish to drive down, you can opt for the reliable KSRTC Volvo bus service or take the train from Bangalore which offers splendid views of the western ghats early in the morning. Mangalore offers many accommodation options from service apartments to hotels and are very decently priced.

If we have missed anything interesting in Mangalore, do comment below.

Greatescapes score for beach towns: 8/10

Your escapist,

Brian

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We had heard about those lavish and extravagant punjabi weddings but never got a chance to truly experience it until recently.

November – December are peak wedding seasons in the north with almost every wedding hall booked out. We were really excited to be part of one of our good friend’s wedding in Delhi during the last week of November and decided to make the most of this opportunity. Week long festivities and mouth watering food are the main attractions here :p (Tip1: Best to book Delhi flights in advance as they tend to go up close to travel dates. We prefer to fly Indigo, Jet Airways and Air India as they are mostly ontime)

Packing started a week in advance sorting out traditional wear for the Dhol and main wedding ceremony and party wear for the sangeeth party. We barely managed to keep our luggage under the 15 kg limit and began to wonder how we would manage on our return with additional shopping from Delhi. (Tip 2: Carry your best clothes as you will never be over dressed in a punjabi wedding)

We landed at the domestic airport T1 around 8.15pm and had to que outside for EasyCabs as they were in high demand. After a 15 minute wait, we managed to get one and reached our destination (Paschim Vihar) in 45 mins. We even had to pay for the cab’s airport parking charges (Rs 90) which I felt was not justified. (Tip 3: Best to book your cab in advance esp during evenings or early mornings. Try Taxi For Sure – 011 60601010 or Quick Cabs – 011 67676767 which offer the best rates of Rs 14 – Rs 16 per km. Tip 4: If you are keen to use the Airport Metro, you will have to take a shuttle to Terminal 3 from where you can board the Airport Express train to the city.)

Dhol guy

Dhol party

We managed to do all our last minute shopping at Karol Bagh which is well connected by the metro and is one of the popular shopping hubs in the city. Other hotspot for shopping are Sarojini Nagar Market and Lagpat Nagar. The only issue is that most of these markets are focused towards women. We also managed to do a quick stopover at a local restaurant to try out the quintessential Butter Chicken and naan. (Tip 5: If you plan to travel extensively in a metro, pick up a metro card and load it with cash. You can return this card at the end of your trip and get a refund of the amount leftover along with the depost.)

Evenings were dedicated to wedding festivities starting with the Dhol ceremony with unlimited drinks and dancing followed by yummy punjabi food. We noticed a lot of money being given away by the family members to the dhol artists and the servents during these festivities and in all subsequent ceremonies to avoid bad karma on the bride and groom.

Mehandi ceremony

Mehandi ceremony

The next day, we decided to visit the famous Dilli Haat which is again bang next to INA metro station. After three metro changes, we managed to reach our destination in about 75 minutes. Considering that we were in one corner of Delhi, it wasn’t so bad. Dilli Haat is an open air market where traders from all across the country display their art and offering local cuisines. A great place to spend half a day and look for some traditional handicrafts, clothes and home decor. One stall that stood out was TJ’s which is essentially products made by the inmates of  the famous Tihar Jail. Their products are quite popular and their chefs are in high demand. (Tip 6: Must try the famous Fruit Beer, Chicken Momo’s and Avadh cuisine while you are visiting Dilli haat. Frankly, we didn’t fancy their Fruit Beer so much.)

The sangeeth ceremony was like another party with a wide variety of starters, alcohol and lots of dancing. If you’ve noticed, food, booze and dancing are pretty much a constant across all these ceremonies. Finally, the bride to be and the groom see each other for the first time in many days and are pulled on to the dance floor soon after their families greet each other. The evening comes to an end with mouth watering food and desserts.

Bride to be

Bride during a ceremony before the wedding

Bride and groom dancing at their Sangeeth

Bride and groom dancing during their Sangeeth

Things go into hyper mode on the main wedding day with the haldi ceremony (both the bride and groom are smeared with turmeric paste by their respective family and friends). The women dash to the local parlor for their makeup session while the men ready their Kurthas and Sherwanis. The barath (groom’s procession) leaves the groom’s residence after some rituals (groom’s sister feeds the horse) and heads towards the wedding hall. The band leads the way playing popular tunes with the family members dancing all the way to the venue.

Barath party leading to the wedding venue

Barath procession to the wedding venue

At the venue, the bride’s sister and cousins demand money from the groom and block his entry. After some negotiations, he is let in and allowed to sit on the dais. Moments later the bride arrives and the exchange of garlands take place again with a bit of drama 🙂

Wedding ceremony

Garland exchange during the wedding

At this point, we soon realized that it’s already 1am and the actual ceremony hasn’t begin. After a formal sit down dinner, the wedding ceremony begins at around 2.30 am.  This is when we decided to wish them both and head back home since some of us were flying back the next morning.

For someone living in the north, this may sound common, but for a south Indian where weddings are seriously boring affairs, this was surely an experience of a lifetime. Does make the entire experience of getting married more lively.

So, the next time you get invited to attend a punjabi wedding, don’t hesitate one bit. Oh, and we did manage to get all our shopping back without spending on excess baggage 🙂

If you have a wedding experience to share with us in an interesting city, do write to brian.ammanna@gmail.com with pictures and we’ll upload them on our blog.

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