Monday, 17 June 2013

Food Walk-Mylaopore!

Chennai Food Guide is a social platform created to talk about food.Lot of events and workshops have been organised by the admins,food-walk being one of the many events.It is mostly organised on weekends to avoid disappointments and to ensure maximum participation.
 As decided by Chennai food guide,we all met on Saturday afternoon for a Food Walk in Mylapore since the Mylapore festival was on,it made a perfect place for a food walk.Mylapore is the heart of Chennai and the most oldest part of the city as well.Mylapore festival is held every year in January around a great temple.This place that is proud of its arts, culture and tradition.
The Landmark
Bunch of around 20 people loaded with big cameras headed straight to attack some finger licking food with their shutterbugs.The first eating stop was Rayar's mess,never eaten at such a place,it was really exciting :) for me.The mess is in a small lane,opposite this house shown in the picture above.
The first look
It was a small mess tucked up in a narrow street.We were all given banana leaves.You have to clean the leaf with water as told by a CFGians  before the food is served,thanks for teaching me :).We all ordered a variety of food itmes so we could get a taste of everything.
Gulab Jamun was the first of the many things served to us..The size was quite big,very soft and not that sweet-Perfect!!
Gulab jamun
We then went on to order some more vadas dosas etc, Potato bonda, was the next dish on my plate and was ok,It was like Aalo vada which you get in Mumbai for the same price.Soft outer crust filled with potato,very subtle in taste not spicy at all.The food is priced at such low prices that is hard to imagine.
Potato Bondas
The rawa dosa was crispy and filled with flavor..The sambhar and  chutneys were superb.The green one being really hot.
Rawa dosa
The place really gets crowded,there were lot of people waiting outside.You are supposed to finish off  and leave asap.The next stop was Mami mess,it was a 10min walk and we crossed the Temple,Stalls.The place was super crowded with a lot of energy as the Mylapore festival attracts a lot of people and devotees..

The place was full of colors.People selling neck pieces,bangles,earnings,toys etc etc.The walk was fun and we reached Mami mess in no time.It is located in a small lane called Pichu Pillai Street, Off East Mada Street., diagonally opposite Kalathi News Paper Mart.
This place has self service,known for its bhajjis,we ordered bhajjis aand coffee.The green chilly was my favourite hot and not that spicy,there were a few more bhajjis famous in the south.
Vazhakai bajji and molaga bajji
The coffee was strong as told by the people who had it.I just clicked pictures as the other mixed and enjoyed it.


Mylapore festival begins at 4PM and being a weekend the place was supposed to attract a massive crowd so we skipped a mess and headed to Kalakal Cafe where people interact and spend time with people with special needs.As we left we saw people cleaning the roads for Kolam contest,more than 3/4th of  road was blocked for it.

A day well spent that involved a lot of walking,eating,meeting a lot of new people and a social cause in the end. 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Mount Fuji!!

Tokyo is one of the most cosmopolitan city in the world but in and around Tokyo you can indulge in travel to beautiful and interesting places too. For tourists one such option is visit to Mount Fuji. The trip would cost you around 14,000 yen per person.

Mount Fuji is without doubt the most famous and the highest mountain peak in Japan.It is a must visit in all travel guides to Japan. Given its popularity there are many tour operators to select from- both private and group tours. The affordable option is to group guided tour as hiring a cab would cost you a bomb ( read a very big bomb !!!).The tours would offer you different combination of tourist places that you may want to visit.We opted for the one with a visit to Hakone and return via Shinkansen.
Green  Love letter
The ride was fabulous and scenic throughout. The picture above is of a fantastic art work by a Japanese artist.

The first stop on this tour is the Fuji Visitor Centre. Here you find out about the current weather conditions, history, formation, and ecology of Mt. Fuji through exhibits and movies. The second floor observatory deck provides views of Mt. Fuji.
The 5th Station-full of climbers and tourists

The bus then takes you till the 5th station,vehicles are not allowed after this point. From here the climbers would set course for a 9 hour trek, up and back, of Mount Fuji. July and August are the official climbing season. During these two months the mountain is usually free of snow.It takes around 5-8 hrs to ascent and 3-4 hrs to descent the mountain from the 5th station.
We were told that the trek is quite famous and not a difficult one. Its for recreation rather than challenge.

TIP: Our trip was in month of June and during this time Monsoon is set over Japan. The weather can play a spoil sport as cloud cover can completely block the view of mount Fuji from the 5th station. 

The weather kept playing hide and seek with us throughout the duration of our stay at the 5th station. It was raining the day we had gone.We were lucky to get glimpses of Fuji San in intervals.Clouds and poor visibility often block the view of Mount Fuji.
 It is quite surprising how quickly it turned from foggy to clear and back!

Really Foggy

Same day, same place 15 minutes later.As if the fog was never there

Mr Fish, our very interesting tour Guide

Our next stop was lake  Kawaguchiko.
TheFuji five lakes (Fujigoko) are made up of Lake Kawaguchiko,Yamanakako, Saiko, Shojiko and Motosuko at the northern base of Mount Fuji.These five lakes were formed hundreds of years ago by lava flows which dammed up rivers during Mount Fuji's multiple eruptions. Interestingly, three of the lakes, Saiko, Shojiko and Motosuko are still connected with each other by underground waterways.

We cruised for half an hour over the lake.It is one of the best places to view Mount Fuji from a close distance.

TIP : Visibility tends to be better during the colder seasons of the year than in summer, and in the early morning and late evening hours than during the middle of the day.Plan your trip accordingly.It was raining non stop the previous day,luckily it did not rain that day.the visibility was still quite poor.
The tour proceeded to a beatuiful town of Hakone. Hakone is situated in the southwestern part of Kanagawa, and is part of Fuji Hakone Izu National Park. Famous for hot springs, natural beauty and the view of Mount Fuji.
Celebrating Tanabata :)
 Tanabata "Evening of the seventh" is a Japanese star festival. It celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the starsVega and Altair respectively). According to legend, the Milky way separates these lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the Lunisolar calendar.The date of Tanabata varies by region of the country, but the first festivities begin on July 7.
In  Japan, people celebrate the day by writing wishes( in the form of poetry)on small pieces of paper, and hanging them on Bamboo.
Mt. Komagatake Ropeway -
 You can get views of Mt. Fuji, Lake Ashi, Izu Peninsula, Izu Islands, Hakone National Park,  while climbing up and down the mountain on an aerial cable way.The visibility was very poor,we could hardly see anything.

Lake Ashi from Cableway
 An interesting stop of our tour is Owakudani- area around a crater created during the last eruption of Mount Hakone some 3000 years ago. Today, much of the area is an active volcanic zone where sulfurous fumes.

Because of the steam, Japanese called this Owakudani national park as a “Hell Valley”. Even now, steams come out from the dead volcano. Due to the steams, there is a strong smell of sulphur.
Kuro-tamago -a local specialty of eggs hard-boiled in the hot springs. The boiled eggs turn black and smell slightly sulphuric; consuming the eggs is said to increase longevity. Eating one is said to add seven years to your life. You may eat up to two and a half for up to seventeen and a half years :)
Black eggs
 We were then taken to Odawara Station. The trip ended with a ride on Shinkansen (bullet train). They run like bullets,they really do.

Inside the Shinkansen

If you liked the blog,share it with others.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

How to plan a trip?

Before you travel,you need to plan your travel.The first thing you need to decide is your destination,make an itinerary.Making an itinerary consumes a bit of time and needs concentration.Online research is a great way to go about.

Step 1-Deciding the destination

Destination mainly depends on 2 factors-Time and Budget. If none is the problem then deciding the destination gets very easy.Decide a destination and make a rough itinerary if it fits your budget then go ahead with it else you need to change the destination.If the destination is already decided then you need to check the time to travel.What is the weather going to be like.You do not want to waste your time in the hotel as it pours or snows outside.So check the weather conditions,best time to travel to the place.If you have not decided the destination,then check for the weather conditions and the budget in the places you would want to visit.Depending on the weather,activities and budget,you can easily decide your destination.

Step 2-Bookings(Flights and Accommodation)

Bookings if made well in advance can save you some cash. Lot of airlines keep coming up with  offers.If you are not time bound,you can get yourself a great deal.We have been lucky and got some unbelievable deals from Airasia a couple of times.You need to plan well in advance for that.Book yourself,you don't need to  pay the travel agents just to book your tickets,it's very simple.Check the rates and timings whichever suits you the best,book that. Travel on off times and mid-weeks,the tickets are cheap.Book round-trips.

Transport First
If you want to travel within the country,book the flight,train or ferries. E.g if you want to visit the islands in Greece,the ferries are much cheaper and frequent than the flights.But then again if you do not book in advance chances are you might not get the tickets.Check the schedules of the ferries or trains and book to avoid disappointment. Same way transits to different cities/location in your itinerary
need to be aligned to your plans for the day. Take into account the time of travel to airport , train/bus station, traffic conditions, availability of taxis, etc.

TIP: Do not plan for the best case scenarios alone. Give yourself some buffer time to ride over some unforeseen issues like traffic jams, long check-in queues, security checks etc.

Time for the Hotel
When you are done with the flight bookings,make a rough itinerary so you can decide on the hotel. Generally hotels closer to the hot locations within the city are expensive. So take some time to make a good trade off between the distance from airport city centers etc and the price of the hotel. For example in Bangkok if you you may want to stay in Siam as it closer to all shopping places,smack in the center of the city and has a Skytrain station.

TIP:  Travel sites like Tripadvisor has genuine reviews for most hotels that you may be considering. Experiences from travelers often provide insights that only first hand experience can give. Compare the prices of the hotel on few different websites and DO NOT FORGET to check the hotel website. You are most likely to get the best deals from the hotels directly.

Contribute back to the site with your views and reviews for the place you have visited. You may be helping some one plan better.

Step 4-Activities within the city

Make a list of things you would like to do.Some bookings like dinner reservations, tours etc, need to be done in advance.
While we abide by the principle to dig up our own well to drink in terms of making travel arrangements there are a few place where you cannot go on your own or self made arrangements do not make sense from cost-benefit perspective .
For eg-In Phuket,you need to go by a boat to visit the beautiful Phang Nga. It's better in such cases to book a tour from a local tour guide.
Online search would help you find tours that offers the best deal, Most of the agents are reliable,they would pick you up from the hotel at the correct time and go exactly according to the the itinerary mentioned by them.
 To do items for the day should not be incongruous . Like day long island hopping, swimming, snorkeling etc ( yes all these often feature together; check tours in Phuket)  may leave you too tired to go on a planned evening-shopping-spree.

TIP: Plans about the future often make Gods laugh so sketch out a option B in your to-do/ itinerary, to fall back on, if your option A falls apart.

Step 5-Things to Carry

When traveling internationally make sure to get the visa well in time.
Look around to get the best currency exchanges.
There are somethings that you cannot afford to leave behind (Tickets, passports, money etc). Prepare the list of such items and double check that they are ready and packed. Seems obvious; well life has a funny way to make a joke of us, so lets make sure that we keep the odds of that happening to the minimum :)

 TIP: Travel light,traveling with heavy luggage restricts your adventures and shopping and causes discomfort.If you planning to go on the beach,carry beachwear,sunscreen and swimsuits.Carry clothes according to the weather of the place.

In the End
How much ever you research there is always something more waiting to be explored.
Keep a day just for exploring the city,it's always fun to randomly walk around. Do not make your itinerary an end in itself but means to achieve the end i.e joy of exploring and experiencing the unseen.
Allow adjustments.

At the end just have fun, that's what matters-travel however you like,do what you like,be comfortable and safe.


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A Villa and a summer day in Puducherry!!

Pondicherry has some lovely hotels in the french quarter.These hotels retain their colonial feel.Our last stay at Pondicherry was  at Neemrana Hotel which was wonderful .We came across something different while searching on the internet this time around-Christophe Villa is a 19th century villa, located in  the White town, recently done by 3 partners.We loved the room Jasmine, the room is a bit different from the usual rooms of the hotels,we were smitten by the pictures and went ahead and booked it.

The stay at the villa was superb.We were the only couple so the whole villa kinda belonged to us.Our room is called jasmine and it's different from the other 2 rooms.It has a spiral wooden staircase that goes up to the bed.It was a different experience going up and down.The staircase is quite sturdy.We loved our bed up in a corner and the TV opposite to it.Thanks to the cosy bed,we ended up watching TV till 2 AM in the morning.The bathroom was clean and so was the whole property.
The windows are huge and the ceiling sky high :P
The common area
The villa has 3 rooms,so if you plan to go with friends and need some privacy as a group,this is the right place,you can book all the rooms and have a gala time.Breakfast is simple and homely.The place is just a 5 min walk from the beach and other cafes and restaurants are in close proximity.
Villa Christophe
The French colony  is full of hotels and cafes.We went around eating in a lot of places as we strolled down the beautiful colony.Le Hidesign Cafe was one of those,it is a bit ahead of the french quarter on the Nehru street.The Cafe is on top of the Hidesign outlet.They offer a lot of drinks(liquor included)  and  dishes at reasonable price.The place is not that big but it's decent enough.Sit by the window and enjoy the view with a drink or a coffee.Their menu was very different and interesting.
Menu of Hidesign Cafe
Villa Shanti was another hotel which caught our attention and we couldn't help munching at their restaurant in the courtyard.It's right next to Villa Christophe in a small lane.The restaurant is a fine dining place with a contemporary touch to it.They have a huge variety of sea-food,we were quite full drinking and munching at other cafes,we couldn't try much here.
Villa Shanti
The chocolate Typhoon(mocktail) was to die for,loved the salad and sides as well.The hotel is eco-friendly and try to serve organic stuff.

The weather is getting pleasant as monsoon is approching now and a walk at Promenade gets even better in this season. Le Cafe (read the blog) is right next to the statue shown in the picture below.

 It started drizzling in the evening,the sea looked beautiful as it changed colors and the place looked even more beautiful in this weather.
Stop over for some coffee or tea with some muffins to go along at the Promenade while you enjoy the view of the sea.The restaurant has a cafe overlooking the sea.

 The Promenade has a rooftop restaurant with the sea view.They have brunch on sundays(12 to 3)which is priced at 750INR plus taxes.The usual Lunch and dinner buffet is there as well.

A perfect place to click some nice pictures,the place looks as beautiful in the pictures as in real.
We had a wonderful stay once again.Each time we visit Pondy ,we come across something new.A lot still needs to be explored and we can't wait to revisit and explore the unexplored.

If you liked the blog,share it with others.