Destinations

Field Notes: Kashi

i.

শাস্ত্রে বিজ্ঞজনেরা লিখেছিলেন আশি তে আসিও না| “কাশী তে কাশিও না” লেখা টা এড়িয়ে যাওয়া টা যুক্তিসঙ্গত কিনা সেটা তর্কসাপেক্ষ| তবে আজকাল কাশী তে নামলে ধুলোর চোটে বিষম, কাশি, নাক চুলকানি এসব গুলো প্রসাদসম, না চাইলেও খেতে হয়|

ii.

কাশী পৌঁছে ছিলাম ঘন্টা বারোর ট্রেন যাত্রার পর| প্রথম দর্শনে স্টেশন ঘেঁষা কাশী কিন্তু বারানসি নয়| বরং আর্থ-নাগরিক দিক দিয়ে আর পাঁচটা তথাকথিত হিন্দি প্রধান শহরের সাথে নিজের অস্তিত্ব মিলিয়ে মিশে এক বেঞ্চে বসার চর্বিতচর্বণ প্রচেষ্টা| লালচে বাদামি রঙের ওপর এক ছাইদানি ছাই ঘষে দিলে যেরকম মনখারাপি রং হবে, প্রাথমিক ভাবে কাশী সেরকমই মলিন| আর তার মাঝেই চার দিক দিয়ে বেরিয়ে আসছে পোস্টারে পোস্টারে মোদী জির হাসি মুখ| একদিকে উড়ালপুল তৈরির ধুলো ধোঁয়া আর অন্যদিকে স্বচ্ছ ভারতের প্রচারের এই ব্যাঙ্গাত্মক সহাবস্থান| শুরুর শুরু টা হয়েছিল এভাবেই|

কিছুটা নিরাশা সাথে করে নিয়েই টোটো করেছিলাম, গোদৌলিয়া মোর যাবার জন্ন্যে| দ্রষ্টব্ব্য, গোদৌলিয়া অতি গুরুত্বপূর্ণ স্থান, দশাশ্বমেধ ঘাটের আগের শেষ বড় চৌরাস্তা| প্রাক্তনীদের কাশী শুরু হয় কিন্তু এই চৌরাস্তা থেকেই|জোট কেটেছিল অনেক টা পর যখন অনেক টা শহর কাটিয়ে গঙ্গার কাছে এসে পৌঁছেছিলাম| গরু (বিশাল শিংওলা, পূর্ব ভারত আর পশ্চিম ভারত এর তফাৎ সৃষ্টিকারী বিষয়ে, পুং-জননেন্দ্রিয়ের প্রতীকীবাদ টুকু নাহয় বাদ-ই দিলাম), গোবর, ফেলুদার সিনেমায় দেখা অলি-গলি পাকস্থলী, কচুরি-চাট-পানের দোকান, মন্দির গুলোর বাড়বাড়ন্ত আর ধর্মের আস্ফালন টা দেখে চিনতে পারলাম, ঠিক জায়গা তেই এসেছি|

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Destinations, Guides

How-to City: 36 hrs in Bangalore

The How-to City Series is for travelers on a tight budget (say, grad students like me!). Two Bangali Backpackers will choose a new city each time and draw up an itinerary packed with interesting, offbeat and fun things. Unlike other itineraries that are jammed with activities every hour or so, we offer you enough breathing space and also a bunch of options that might be of interest to you. Our aim is to keep the budget within $15/INR 1000.

Mavalli Tiffin Room, Basavanagudi | 8 AM

Start your day with breakfast at MTR, a Bangalore institution. It has nine branches around the city and we visited the one in Basavanagudi. Order the Masala Dosa (INR 78/$1.19) or the Rava Idli (INR 50/$0.76), both accompanied by tiny bowls of ghee, along with a tumbler of kaafi (INR 33/$0.5). You can request a visit to their kitchen if you are a fan of both end-product and process.

Masala Dosa at MTR, Basavanagudi

Masala Dosa at MTR, Basavanagudi

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Vagator Beach
Destinations, Guides

The Complete Guide to Vagator

Once the paradise of the hippies, Vagator today remains largely quiet. Unassuming and serene, its lazy off-season demeanor is reminiscent of post-party slumbers. The Vagator we visited, the Vagator that features in our complete guide is perfect for the traveller seeking solace, perfect for the couple looking for slow winding afternoons and bluesy punch-drunk nights, and perfect for the family seeking some quiet time together. The trance parties of the 80s have gone undercover now. A few “secret” moonlit rave parties take place once in a while but you have to be in the circuit for the know-how.

More domestic tourists have started arriving in Vagator which was once the haunt of westerners. There are two beaches in Vagator: Big Vagator or the main beach which has to bear the brunt of the tourist buses that unload selfie-stick wielding hoards in the afternoon. It is not safe for swimming because it is studded with wave-smoothed rocky outcrops. While these flat, rocky surfaces can be perfect for lounging in other seasons, in the monsoon we advise against climbing them because they can be slippery and the currents below are strong enough to tear you off your perch. The beach is also the rambling place for pye-dogs. For a more peaceful time, head south to Little Vagator or Ozran. Backed by red laterite cliffs and thick palm groves, this strip of three connected coves regularly features as one of Goa’s most coveted landscapes. On the southernmost is a carved face of Shiva staring skywards. In the high season, these beaches are full of shacks blaring trance & EDM. For reasons we haven’t yet deciphered, you can spot sizeable herds of stray cows here. Be warned that a rather steep descent leads to these coves. To the northeast of Vagator, on the other side of Chapora Fort, is the sleepy hamlet of Chapora which continues to be the haunt of hippies and smokers and wears a distinct scent of charas on its briny breath.

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Destinations, Food, Guides

Where to Eat in Panaji

Minutes after we had stepped on Goan soil and inhaled the sea-salt laced air, Aninda’s resolve to be on a strict diet disappeared. Within an hour of reaching Panaji we were scouring the streets to stuff our mouths. What we didn’t know is Goa wakes up late and eateries do not open their doors before 9:30 am and as we loitered through Fontainhas, I fell in love with the impeccable charm of Panaji’s old Latin Quarter while he grew more restless to begin an affair with food. In the course of two days, we overshot our food budget though we hadn’t even eaten at all the places we had planned to! Both of us like to try local dishes and we discovered that Goan cuisine occupies a very interesting junction between traditional Hindu Saraswat cuisine and Portuguese Catholic cuisine. Toddy or coconut vinegar, coconut, kokum, red chillies, chouriços, cashews, and tamarind are important ingredients in Goan curries.

Our favorite eateries in Panaji:

Owners Prahlad and Sabreen Sukthankar are firm believers in the farm-to-table philosophy and serve food that is “globally inspired” and prepared using “locally sourced” ingredients. The menu changes seasonally and the best idea is to ask the servers for recommendations. We had the Squid-Prawn Plancha, Crudo Nouveau made with freshly caught Modso fish, Blackened Creole Chicken, and the Chocolate Salami (a nut-studded chocolate cylinder made to make you sigh) for dessert. Each dish is a harmonious celebration of the bountiful produce of Goa. The food at Black Sheep Bistro is a sensory experience and it was one of our trip highlights. The owner is a certified sommelier and there is a curated collection of wines and innovative cocktails on the menu. The restaurant is housed in a pale yellow Portuguese villa. The interiors are chic and have paintings by local artists on display. Apart from the food, what impressed me was a note on the menu encouraging patrons to converse with servers in Hindi and other local languages.

–Reservations recommended.
–₹₹₹
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Destinations, Reviews

Old Quarter by The Hostel Crowd

5/146, RUA 31 DE JANEIRO, PANJIM, GOA

It is too early when we arrive by a Kadamba Transport bus from Madgaon* and swaddled in rain clouds, Fontainhas is sleepy. At Old Quarter, the night guard is brushing his teeth. Check-in is at 2:00 pm. We ditch our bags in a closet whose archaic lock mechanism makes me smile and we drag our tired feet in the lilting rain, determined to stay awake and play explorers but more about that later.

Old Quarter’s main building houses four dormitories, a café and a spacious sitting area; single and double privates are located in a restored heritage property 5 min down the street. All The Hostel Crowd hostels, and there are four in Goa, have a girls only dorm. The lower level of the main building houses two dorms, the reception and a lounge. The cozy sitting area is painted bright white and matte black. It is on the upper level and is accessible by a staircase above which, strung from the ceiling, is an installation of a cascade of books. Handsome wooden desks and benches, comfortable chairs with plump cushions and plenty of natural light make the sitting area welcoming.

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