RockMe Burgers in Chiang Mai

It all started by reading a blog on food joints in Chiang Mai, prior to our departure for this beautiful city in Northern Thailand. Apart from the super local food, I chanced upon this particular writeup featuring the best burgers in town. Just by seeing the pics, I was all set to dive into a meaty & cheesy concoction, made famous by all travelers to this small but happening restaurant.

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Located on Loi Kroh Road, the nightlife paradise of Chiang Mai, this Restobar is located below the Raming Lodge Hotel. We chose to stay there as well as the hotel’s breakfast was being catered to by Rock Me Burgers (how convenient). Having spent the first two days roaming around sampling local fare and walking a lot to build up a massive hunger (and to lose some weight as well), we decided to hit the joint on a Friday afternoon. The interiors of the joint made us even hungrier as all we read and saw were food related information and pictures. The menu card is expansive and has options of meat and vegetarian burgers so, all my veggie friends.. fear not.. enjoy !

IMG-20180819-WA0029I ordered a massive beef burger and to my expectations.. it was MASSIVE.. my friends ordered other varieties including one in seafood which came in a coconut shell. The quality of the burgers is superb and portions enough for 2 to a plate.

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Ice tea and a few beers later, most of us were struggling to walk as half a ton of burger inside each one of us did make us sleepy as hell. Over the next few days, we did visit the joint again, and enjoyed every bit of the bite.

Next time in Chiang Mai.. its RockMe all the way

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Location & Other Detail credits: Chiang Mai Food Critic

At a Glance

Lots of seating. Fun counter bar outside. Air conditioned inside. Excellent burgers. Sandwiches include french fries. Reasonable prices. Credit cards accepted.

Prices

Drinks: Water: 30 baht/Heineken, San Miguel: 80 baht/Singha, Leo: 70 baht/Chang: 60 baht

Food:

Original Burger: 160 baht/Classic Hotdog: 130 baht

Food Taste: If you’re looking for a delicious burger in Chiang Mai, this is the place to go! They also offer hotdogs, fries, onion rings, milkshakes, and more. Everything is excellent!

Atmosphere: There is indoor/outdoor seating. Indoor is air-conditioned. Outdoor has a long bar along Loi Kroh Road with a fun atmosphere, and you can watch the cooks grill the burgers. 80’s rock plays throughout the restaurant.

Cleanliness: The restaurant is part of Raming Lodge, so it is pretty clean.

Service: Great! The staff speaks American English and serves with a smile.

 

Address:

17-19 Loi Kroh Road, Chiang Mai 50100, ThailandPhone: 089-852-8801 / Facebook:Rock Me Burgers & Bar on Facebook

Hours: 11:30 – 24:00 Everyday

ADVENTURES WITH THE Q5…

The second generation Q5 was Audi’s first launch of the year. Launched in 2011 the Q5 ticked all the right boxes for SUV buyers, making it an instant success. In the last few years SUV’s have become an important category for every luxury car manufacturer. We Indians love SUV’s. And Audi gets it right each time with their Q series.

COLLAGE First.jpgThe 2018 Q5 is taut, sleek and more compact in its appearance compared to the previous model. The one-piece square grille and headlights with the LED DRL’s is what you first notice when viewing the car front on. There is a sharpness to the crease where it joins the tail light, which is new compared to the old Q5. The all-LED headlights are brilliant while driving in the night and offer very good illumination.

The moment you step inside the cabin you are greeted with a familiar looking steering wheel, 3 zone air-conditioning and a huge 12.3-inch instrument cluster display. The views which can be switched around, are superb to look at and use. The 8.3-inch display that sits atop the dashboard comes without a touchscreen feature which is good, as it one less thing to distract the driver while driving. The resolution is crisp and sharp. One must use the rotary knob on the centre console to access it. MMI scribble pad with 8 short cuts are on offer as well to use the screen for the on-board navigation.COLLAGE 5.jpgThe cabin has very good noise insulation. The air-conditioning has a smart feature, that it can detect which part of the SUV is getting direct sunlight, thus adjusting the temperature accordingly. Safety is always of the highest standards in Audi cars. The Q5 comes with 8 airbags, park assist system and a 360-degree camera. Seats are plush looking and extremely comfortable which is fantastic when driving long distances. But only the driver’s seat gets a memory function.COLLAGE 4.jpgNowadays luxury SUV’s in India come with huge sunroofs. The Q5 has one of the largest I have seen. Something one can use in the winters while driving on empty highway roads. Lots and lots of legroom is on offer for both front and rear passengers. Recline the rear seat back and you get even more comfort. The boot space is 550 litres. Fold the rear seat back, and one gets an additional 1,000 litres to play with!COLLAGE 2.jpgCOLLAGE 3.jpgThe Q5 has an inline four cylinder, 2.0-litre diesel engine which offers 190PS and 400Nm. Step on the throttle slightly and the Q5 responds with brisk acceleration. Power delivery is smooth and refined. Driving it on the expressway early in the morning with practically no traffic gave me a first-hand experience of the power that’s available. O-100kmph was very fast, making one forget that you are driving an almost 2-tonne SUV!

The Audi Drive Select offers Dynamic, Comfort and a dedicated off-road mode. In the off-road mode, the moment you go off the tarmac the engine performance changes. Throttle response becomes duller, one can see a marked improvement in the traction. Quattro also helps the Q5 put its power down better, thereby enabling better acceleration and improving grip levels. The adaptive suspension gets taut in Dynamic mode in regard to handling, while in the Comfort mode the ride quality is far plusher. Steering feedback is very good, engine performance, responsive transmission with an adaptive suspension that handles bad road easily make the Q5 a very impressive SUV

We visited Della Resorts in Lonavala, a well-known and popular resort for weekend getaways out of Mumbai. Started in 1996 Della has become one of the must visit resorts in the region. Jimmy Mistry a renowned architect is the driving force and inspiration behind the resort. Della is well known for its adventure and adrenaline filled activities and is India’s biggest extreme adventure park. There are 50 plus adventure activities on offer.COLLAGE 6.jpgDella offers India’s only Swoop swing (100 ft.), India’s Longest Flying Fox(1250ft.), 5 kinds of zorbing and 700cc Yamaha raptor ATV . The other activities one can partake in are Archery, Rocket Ejector, Motocross dirt bike riding, Buggy Ride, Paintball and Rappelling.

Driving the Q5 on empty roads in and around Lonavala over the weekend on all sorts of roads made me come back with one realisation. If anyone is in the market to buy a plush midsize luxury SUV, look no further. The Audi Q5 is the SUV for you.COLLAGE last.jpgThe pricing starts at 55.27 lakhs for the Q5 35TDI Premium Plus Diesel and the Q5 Premium Plus 2.0 TFSI Petrol. All prices are ex-showroom Mumbai.

SKODA OCTAVIA – The “CULT” FAVOURITE

When the Skoda Octavia was launched in 2002 it changed the game for performance sedans in this country. Prior to that if an enthusiast was looking for something exciting he/she looked abroad, or modified the existing cars available then. The Octavia since then has gone on to develop a massive cult following. When Skoda announced their latest face lift of the Octavia last year it was met with lots of enthusiasm. Worldwide, Skoda has sold over 50 lakh units of the Octavia.COLLAGE 1.jpgThe Octavia has a split-headlamp cluster called the Quadra LED headlights. The reason for this name is because they are split into four compartments with the low and high beams being separated. LED daytime running lights and fog lamps on the bumper are part of the kit. There is a chrome strip running across the bumper which gives the car a premium finish. The grille is glossy black, with some creases across the hood which weren’t there in the earlier version. The front fenders are far more sculpted adding to the muscular look of the Octavia. The tail lamps at the rear are LED units with a rear bumper that has been revised too.COLLAGE 2.jpgOne of the new features the Octavia gets is the Park Pilot. Once you activate this, the car manoeuvres itself while parking. The driver still plays a role applying the brakes whenever necessary. There are proximity sensors all over the car with the customary reverse parking camera.

Step into the car and the first thing you notice is the new 9 inch infotainment scree with capacitive touch. The interface is very smooth and fast with a resolution ratio of 800×480. The Octavia comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link to pair your phone with. Skoda has an app called “Boss Connect”. This app lets owners who usually sit in the rear seat control the infotainment system from there.COLLAGE 4.jpgThere’s ambient lighting with 10 colours on offer as well!  One can increase and decrease the brightness of the lights in the footwell and doors. A panoramic sunroof is also part of the package. Two USB ports for rear passengers below the rear AC vent are there as well. The interiors are extremely plush and classy with soft-touch plastics and a beige/black two-tone colour scheme.  Lots of leg room and space in the cabin make this a very comfortable space, where one can spend long hour driving or being driven around.COLLAGE 3.jpgThe Octavia comes with two engine variants, the 1.8-litre TSI and the 2.0-litre TDI.  I drove the diesel variant and boy or boy what an engine. All the Skoda cars I have driven in the past have been amongst the best driver cars in terms of performance. So much power is available through the power band.  This comes with the legendary 6 speed DSG gearbox. If there was a lifetime achievement award given to a gearbox, the DSG would win it hands down. That’s how good it is. The power and torque output is 140.8 bhp and 320 Nm. The claimed mileage is 19.3 kmpl.

Safety which is hallmark with all VW family cars sees the base trim of the Octavia get 4 airbags. The top trim gets 8 airbags with dual airbags upfront and at the sides. ABS, EBD and traction control are standard across the variants.

We drove with the Octavia to Kamshet. It’s located 120 kms from Mumbai along the Mumbai – Pune Expressway.  Driving the Octavia on empty roads early in the morning was the perfect demonstration of the handling prowess of the car. Acceleration is rapid, before you realise it, the Octavia is touching three digit speeds. To get to Kamshet one must take the 2nd Lonavala exit and get on to the Mumbai – Bangalore Highway.COLLAGE 5.jpgIt’s a picturesque hill station in the Western Ghats, which is renowned for paragliding and flying schools. Kamshet is regularly featured in the top 10 must visit destinations adventure junkies. Driving in these natural scenic surrounding on narrow roads was a refreshing break from the highway. In Kamshet one can enjoy the surroundings and have a closer look at the village life of India with muddy huts and village markets. The area is surrounded by paddy and sunflower fields and it provides an awesome view while you are enjoying the world class paragliding facilities here.

After spending a day of taking in the sights it was time to head back. This was a day well spent driving one of my favourite car to a location that is still untouched by development.lastPricing for the Skoda Octavia starts at 18.91 Lakhs for the 1.4 TSI Ambition Petrol Manual and 21.79 Lakhs for the 2.0 TDI CR Ambition Diesel Manual. Prices are on road Price (inclusive of GST), Mumbai.

 

FREESTYLING ALL THE WAY…

One of my favourite weekend getaways from Mumbai is Alibaug. Located just 120 kms from Mumbai is Maharashtra’s version of Goa for people who are looking at a weekend beach getaway.

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We were headed to Karpewadi resort in Alibaug in the Ford Freestyle. Here at Karpewadi, they practice sustainable management and encourage the guests to do the same. The term to describe it is an ‘agrotel’ where being one with nature is the central theme. You get private beach access, a range of activities to choose from on site as well. For people who like sightseeing, there are several such destinations nearby. The owners believe in a no- compromise approach to providing basic comforts with quality home – cooked cuisine.

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The Freestyle was launched earlier this year. It fits into the cross-hatchback segment in India. Most other manufacturers have seen varying degrees of success with the models launched, now it was Ford’s turn to launch a cross version of their proven and successful Figo Hatchback. Of course, lots of changes have been incorporated into the Freestyle.

The first time you see it, barring some similarities in shape to the Figo, you get a different grille, bumpers, side skirts, fender extensions and alloy wheels! The new grille is sporty honeycomb design with glossy black treatment. The bumper is stylish looking with a plastic silver skid plate. On the side you have plastic claddings on the wheel arch & side skirt. This is accompanied by 15-inch split 4 spoke alloy wheels. Ford has added a racing stripe decal on the lower section of the doors which we like. There are luggage racks on the roof that can take up to 50 kgs in weight.

The Freestyle comes with 190 mm of ground clearance which is very good, specially when driving over bad roads!

Now let’s step inside…

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Fully loaded in the truest sense is what the Freestyle is. A reddish-brown dashboard with glossy back accents. The infotainment and touchscreen package are something of a speciality with Ford cars. We specially like the digital compass!. A nice-looking instrument cluster greets you with silver accents which complement the dashboard. Seven cup and bottle holders are available between the door and center console! There is also a small soft touch shelf on offer below the climate control with another square cubbyhole to store small stuff! The seat upholstery is vibrant, the carpet mats are a modular rubber which are very easy to clean and maintain! There is a small hidden storage space inside the dashboard as well. Lots of storage space is on offer!

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Two airbags, ABS and reverse parking sensors come as standard on all Ford models. The Freestyle gets six airbags on the top spec Titanium variant with electronic stability control (ESC), active rollover protection (ARP), and Traction control (TSC). This is first in segment feature. Ford’s emergency assistance program is available on the Freestyle which shuts off the pump and shares a GPS location with emergency services.

Let’s check out the engine…

This is a new petrol engine. The motor from the new Dragon engine family is a 1.2 litre unit that makes 95bhp of peak power and 120 Nm of peak torque. The new gear-box which is a 5-speed manual. Gear shifts are smooth and refined. The Freestyle comes with a lighter clutch which helps in the start stop traffic we face in cities.

The Drive…

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We started early in the morning. Traffic at that hour is non-existent so it was a breeze getting out of Mumbai.  Once we get onto the highway the kind of power sitting under the hood of the Freestyle became apparent. All the Ford cars I have driven down the years have super driving dynamics. The Freestyle is no different! Lots of power is available in the mid-range so one doesn’t have to shift down to overtake. One gets to three-digit speed very easily.

So far, the journey was on good roads hence the suspension of the car wasn’t really tested. That changed the moment we got off the Expressway. When we checked how far we were it showed 50 kms from our destination. Not much of a distance if the roads are good. But the roads just went from good to worse in a matter of a few kilometers. It was like we were transported 20 years back to a time when India still didn’t know the concept of expressways and good roads.

The Freestyle managed these roads well. The suspension and ride quality is good; it handles whatever is thrown at it. The feedback to the steering is direct, quick changes in direction are managed with ease.

The weekend spent in Alibaug driving the Freestyle was a breeze. Makes for a perfect companion on out of town weekend trips.

Price…

Pricing for the Freestyle petrol starts at Rs 5.09 lakh for the base model and going all the way up to Rs 6.49 lakh for the Titanium+ with the diesel ranging between Rs 6.09-7.89 lakh.

“Midst of the Mist” – Absorbing Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

IMG_20180815_165227.jpgThe massive Doi Suthep temple complex in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Located high above in the hills, this temple is extremely auspicious to the locals and tourists alike. Though a decently long drive (around 45 min) from the city, it allows for beautiful vistas and if one is lucky, amazing misty conditions making for a very romantic drive .. (we were the lucky ones that day)

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OutVentures took a Fortuner 2.8 right unto the summit of the national park and braved few very narrow dirt roads to complete a 3 hour circuit leading back to the temple. A funicular takes one up to the temple from the base point where foreigners pay for the entry and Thais don’t.. but both have to shell out around THB 20 for the lift to the top.

Outside the temple there are many curio shops and also few for those curiously inclined … fried insects as snacks !!

Try the raw mango with garlic salt and have a hillside coffee while at it, before driving back to the city.

Out-Ventures Dope

The temple is often referred to as “Doi Suthep” although this is actually the name of the mountain where it’s located. It is a sacred site to many Thai people. The temple is 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) from the city of Chiang Mai. From the temple, impressive views of downtown Chiang Mai can be seen.

The original founding of the temple remains a legend and there are a few varied versions. The temple is said to have been founded in 1383 when the first stupa was built. Over time, the temple has expanded, and been made to look more extravagant with many more holy shrines added. A road to the temple was first built in 1935.

White elephant legend

According to legend, a monk named Sumanathera from the Sukhothai Kingdom had a dream. In this vision he was told to go to Pang Cha and look for a relic. Sumanathera ventured to Pang Cha and found a bone. Many claim it was Gautama Buddha‘s shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers: it glowed, it was able to vanish, it could move and replicate itself. Sumanathera took the relic to King Dhammaraja, who ruled Sukhothai. The eager Dhammaraja made offerings and hosted a ceremony when Sumanathera arrived. However, the relic displayed no abnormal characteristics, and the king, doubtful of the relic’s authenticity, told Sumanathera to keep it.

King Nu Naone of Lan Na heard of the relic and bade the monk to bring it to him. In 1368, with Dharmmaraja’s permission, Sumanathera took the relic to what is now Lamphun, in northern Thailand. Once there, the relic broke into two pieces. The smaller piece was enshrined at a temple in Suandok. The other piece was placed by the king on the back of a white elephant which was released into the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep, at that time called Doi Aoy Chang (Sugar Elephant Mountain), stopped, trumpeted three times, then dropped dead. This was interpreted as an omen. King Nu Naone immediately ordered the construction of a temple at the site.

Source: Wikipedia

Florence’s “cucina povera” is deliciously rich

“Oh, my poor darlings,” cries the proprietor at Da Nerbone, a butchers’ stand in the heart of the San Lorenzo Market in Florence. “You’ve been waiting for such a very long time.”

Tara Isabella Burton

Blog by Tara Isabella Burton- Travel Writer

He shoots me a wink. Da Narbone is one of the most famous purveyors of Florence’s famed lampredotto: tender, broth-infused tripe made from the fourth stomach of a cow.

On this spring afternoon, the lines – an equal number of suitcase-toting tourists en route to the nearby train station and agitated locals – snake out the market door for this classic example of cucina povera(“kitchen of the poor”): traditional Florentine peasant cuisine now reimagined as the paragon of local Florentine fare.

Despite the hordes of tourists, Da Nerbone has never raised its prices; for around 5 euro, I get a crusty rose-shaped bun moistened with broth, several forkfuls of sizzling lampredotto, and a piquant chilli sauce. I eat it walking out of the marketplace, elbowing past so many other tourists, workers, stall-sellers of Florentine leather and Chinese toys.

My lips burn from the peperoncino – but boy, it’s worth it.

Above article reposted from TRVL.com 

OUT-Ventures Dope : 

What is Cucina Povera?

“Cucina Povera”, which essentially means “peasant food” (literally “poor cooking” or “poor kitchen”) are mostly always made using super simple recipes, containing a minimal of ingredients. Usually, the products and seasonal and locally grown. As you would probably guess, those ingredients must be the best quality. There’s nothing to hide the lack of flavor otherwise.

Cucina povera recipes are the antitheses of American “Italian” chain restaurant’s dishes. If you enjoy this type of  menu, that’s totally fine, just know that there is essentially nothing on it that is truly Italian.

dishes of food at Il Contadino cucina povera recipes

Traditional Italian food is not smothered in sauces, tons of cheese and/or “lots of herbs and spices”. Those are American concoctions. Authentic Italian dishes are mostly light, include lots of vegetables, very little cheese (even on pizza) and are very healthy/nutritious.

If you wish to know more on Cucina Povera recipes, please visit :
https://www.christinascucina.com

Visit to Kalpa

ANJANA BOSE-TRAVEL WRITER     – By Anjana Bose – Travel writer

The first time I travelled to Kalpa was in 2002 as a part of a project. It was not a leisure trip, but the experience was like no other.

The Kinnaur district was, at that time, reeling under the flash floods and landslides of 2000. We had started early from Shimla. After brief stoppages at Kufri and Narkanda, we reached Sarahan by early evening. The road till Sarahan was quite nice and we were accompanied by a clear sky, beautiful peaks and lovely company. We parked ourselves for the night there after visiting the Bhimkali temple. Though we were staying at the HPTDC hotel, our driver-cum-guide took us to a relative’s house nearby for dinner. We met a few locals here, heard some stories of bygone era and their dreams for the future. The hot home-cooked food was better than any hotel could have offered.

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The next day, we restarted our journey towards Kalpa – Rampur, Karcham, Kalpa. The road started deteriorating after Rampur. Soon, there were only pebbles for road. We saw the locals and army working together to fix the roads and to ensure that travelers like us were guided properly. For most part of the route hereafter, the Sutlej was at par with us. We could see and feel the immense power the river had within itself. The road became quite perilous as we moved towards Karcham. We experienced a couple of instances of rock-slides. At some places the river overflowed on the roads making it slippery, but the feeling the splash of the river was unearthly. The cliffs hung dangerously at many places but looking at the sun through these peaks were some of the best sights I have seen. We reached Karcham towards the end of the day and felt thankful. At the back of our minds though, we knew, that this is the same road we must travel on our way back.

At Karcham, we got to know that a dam was under construction which will control the power of the Sutlej and generate electricity, part of which would be used to light up this region. There were sure signs of progress. But, the continuous use of heavy machinery and transportation by loaded trucks made the road more dangerous resulting in frequent rockslides. We also came to know that monsoons render the route extremely dangerous for the same reason. But, they promised the Karcham-Recong Peo road was in a better condition. Well, it was better but nowhere close to our comfort levels. One of the main bridges was washed away making travel very difficult. Frankly, there was more than one occasion when we wanted to turn back. But, there was no option for that – the only place the vehicle could turn back was Reckong Peo. Also, the scenic beauty around us forced us to drive ahead, promising us many more visual treats. Finally, we reached Kalpa late evening. Once again, we put up at the HPTDC hotel. Even in the darkness we could make out that it was located near the summit with long stretches of wilderness around us.

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The next morning, we were awakened around 4am and what we witnessed was more beautiful than anything, anyone had told us of. Right from our windows we could see the majestic Kinnaur-Kailash range. The first rays of the sun slowly coloured the sky orange and then yellow. The snow-clad range reflected the sunlight with such force that it was difficult to look for too long. The beauty of it was beyond imagination. We were there for half a day, attending to project work. Every time we looked at the majestic range, we were awestruck. The colour kept changing, the snow appeared different and the clouds in the clear blue sky was mesmerizing. We were told that the Kailash peak and the mountain range changes colours 5-7 times in a day. We could not enjoy the peaks in their complete splendour as we had to leave for Sangla. But the memory of the short visit stayed with me and I promised myself I will be back.

Fast forward 2018. We planned to visit the hills and I immediately thought of Kalpa. The group included young and old alike, hence we decided to go for a longer visit. My earlier experience raised many doubts but reviews of those having visited in recent years coupled with the promise of a majestic and unforgettable experience helped us finalise our itinerary.

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This time round, we decided to take the HRTC bus service. The websites said 10hr journey, the people at the counter promised an 8hr journey; in reality, it took us nearly 12hrs to reach Kalpa from Shimla. The road condition throughout was good, extremely good. At many places, the rocks were bound to stop rockslides. We did find a few precariously hanging cliffs, but none hung as dangerously as the ones I had seen the last time. I was quite sad to see that advancement affected the natural beauty of the region. The Sutlej, which had been a constant companion in my previous trip looked like a distant dream. The river was now a little larger than a narrow stream lacking any kind of energy and strength. The good part being the growth of agricultural land along the banks of the river bringing in employment on prosperity to the locals. Prosperity though did not make them arrogant and they remain friendly and helpful. We had some mouth-watering aloo parathas, chana masala and various homemade preparations. We listened to their stories and heard interesting tales of how the region has managed to emerge a winner from the various calamities it faced. Important to mention that since my last visit, the Kinnaur region faced another devastating flood in 2005. The dam at Karcham was 100% functional. It not only provided electricity to the region, but also employment to the locals.

We reached Kalpa around 9pm. This time round we were booked into a small hotel that boasted of a better view of the range than the HPTDC hotels. Yes, there were 3 HPTDC properties now instead of the single one I had seen earlier.

Day 1 at Kalpa: We were greeted by a vibrant sunrise, early in the morning. The sight was as majestic as I remembered it. I sat at the balcony at 4am, wrapped in my quilt, looking at the sun breaking through. The day promised to be bright and sunny.

After breakfast, we walked down to the market. While I remembered a reasonably busy market place, this time round it appeared somewhat deserted at 11 in the morning. On enquiring, we were told that many work at Recong Peo and others at Karcham. That’s why not many people were around during the day. We walked down to the Monastery. Though small in size, it was very peaceful to be there. The Durga temple was our next stop. This temple is perched on a peak and surrounded by the snow clad mountain ranges. At the courtyard of the temple, I had this sense of being minute within this largeness of beauty. Here, we met a group of students who had come from Chandigarh. They were studying about the temple culture in the state of Himachal Pradesh. It is claimed that the state has 2000 temples listed, and the count keeps increasing. We also met a very noisy family from Mumbai whose main contention seemed to be that no one had prepared them for the chilly weather. The lady wanted to get clicked Yash Raj style, and was actually sporting a bright- coloured chiffon saree but was unable to take off the jacket for the photo shoot.
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Our next stop was Reckong Peo, which we reached using the local bus service. I highly recommend the use of local transport when in Kalpa. The roads are quite narrow and steep in some places. Those not used to traveling in similar road conditions will not be able to do justice to the drive. Peo, as its commonly referred to, was bustling with activity. We strolled around the market place before taking the bus back to Kalpa.

What was notable was that we had seen the Kinnaur-Kailash range and its neighbours change colours 4 times. Once back at the hotel, we parked ourselves at the balcony and did nothing much except look at the mountains and enjoy the beauty. This vigil was accompanied by regular supply of tea and timely snacks that the hotel provided. Kalpa is not famous for its nightlife or eating-out options. Once sundown, it tended to become somewhat monotonous. But having walked quite a bit, we were all tired and retired early.

Day 2 at Kalpa: This morning we were met with gloomy clouds which dampened our mood somewhat. We had plans of visiting the apple orchards and then walk down to Roghi village. At breakfast, the manager advised us against venturing too far, especially after 3pm. He also promised to put some extra quilts in our rooms as the temperature was likely to drop. We joked about the family from Mumbai we had met the previous day, as the temperature was significantly lower. We had to change our plans as the rain gods decided to meet us earlier than the expected 3 pm. We spent the day playing carrom and watching movies on YouTube. From a place with little electrification in 2002, to a place with strong data facility in 2018, yes, Kalpa has come a long way. Though it’s still a small sleepy town.

After the rain ceased towards the evening, we went out for a stroll, dressed in as many warm clothes that we could gather. We visited a nearby apple orchard which was deserted expect the sole guard at the entrance. Everyone was home because of the weather, he informed us. He treated us to jaggery tea which we were glad about. The cold started affecting us with sniffles having started among the youngest and oldest members of the group. We soon retired for the day, somewhat sad. We were leaving the next day but we had not been able to enjoy Kalpa as much as we desired.

Late evening we heard drumbeats. Locals had started gathering at the adjacent hotel. Though we wanted to, we were stopped as the drumbeats were because of a local religious ritual.

Day 3, away from Kalpa: Since we were boarding the 6am bus to Shimla from Peo, we left the hotel at 4.30 am. Enroute, we stopped for a quick visit to the Kalika temple at Peo. The temple was open even at that time of the day and peace prevailed. The remains of the festivities of the previous night was quite visible.

The sun continued to elude us as we bade farewell to Kalpa and Peo. As we left, we promised to meet again.

Can you stay silent for ten days?

Ten days of silence, bar optional evening question sessions with the teacher. “I didn’t speak at all,” Shona tells me. “Day two, I thought I’d have to leave, but it suddenly got easier.”

Meera Dattani

Meera Dattani – Travel Writer Reposted from her blog on trvl.com

I’ve just met Shona in a café in the former Thai capital and Unesco city of Ayutthaya, about fifty miles from Bangkok. We’re near Wat Mahatat, a temple complex most famous for the stone Buddha head in the roots of a bodhi tree. But this temple also has Thailand’s oldest higher education institute for monks, Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist University, and the Vipassana Meditation Center.

Vipassana is, according to its teachings, about seeing things as they really are. And it requires serious meditation. No talking, writing, reading, physical contact of any kind. Not even any praying or yoga, and no food after midday. For ten days.

“I can’t quite explain it,” says Shona, “but I feel serene. Like I’m in control of my emotions.”

Ten days is difficult to contemplate. I visit the center and discover they run three-hour meditation classes in English. It’s a start. There’s no clock but the first 20 minutes, at least it feels like 20, are relaxing. After perhaps an hour, a mind-body struggle ensues, the brain determined to continue, the body desperate to walk, move, anything. But when three hours come to an end, I feel unexpectedly calm. But ten days? Hats off.

A Thai woman prays at a temple in Chinatown on the first day of the Chinese New Year. There are about 8million Chinese in Thailand, making up 12 percent of the total population – although up to 40 percent now have mixed Chinese ancestry. It is the second largest Chinese community after Indonesia’s outside China and many have roots going back five generations. – Getty Images (Paula Bronstein)

MONKEYING AROUND IN BALI

Image Courtesy : Pexels

So, there it was.. the Indian Independence week and true to our promises made to each other, our gang of pot-bellied, balding 40 yrs plus college mates set out again to a new destination, something we all have looked forward to every August.. every year, for the past 9 years. Some of us just don’t give up ! Continue reading “MONKEYING AROUND IN BALI”

Beach Bumming in Phuket

In all my 15 years of traveling to South East Asia and of which 12 years to Thailand, I can only say that I have fallen head-over-heels with this Land of Smiles and especially its beaches. I simply cannot get over the sunsets over the Andaman when viewed from the western coast of Phuket and so much so, it has led me to buy my own home on the island. Though the following listing is in no order of preference, I do have my personal weaknesses for a few of them, and I am sure you will feel my leaning towards them in my blog below;

1. Nai Thon Beach

Nai Thon
Nai Thon, Pic Courtesy: Surajit Mitra

Starting from the north of the island, and just about 10 minutes from the airport is Nai Thon Beach which is closest to peaking on my list.  A narrow stretch of sand fringed with leaning coconut trees makes up this very pristine beach, usually frequented by the residents and guests of the few condos and resorts nearby. Definitely not featuring on the touristy listings handed out by hotels and agencies, this beach can spoil one’s senses just by the color of its water and its white sand. Freckled by few nice restaurants and massage shops across the parallel road, the area has only a handful of commercial joints to get bothered by. The best way to reach here from the main Phuket strip is through the lush jungle road connecting the beach to Laguna, another premier Phuket area.

2. BangTao Beach

bangtao
Bangtao, Pic Courtesy: Phuket.com

Driving into Laguna from Nai Thon, one should head to BangTao Beach & Layan Beach, which again are god’s gifts to beach lovers like me. BangTao in particular is a favourite amongst the expats living in and around Laguna and hosts world class beach clubs like Catch Beach Club etc. This beach is also one of the reasons why many expats choose to buy properties in the area and due to its non-commercialized nature, provide the much need peace and exclusivity, unlike the Patong Beach in the entertainment zone of Phuket. BangTao is also one of my favourite beaches for a sundowner and some fresh seafood but one has to accept the slightly higher prices of F&B which have been kept keeping in mind the clientele visiting.

3. Kamala Beach

kamala
Kamala Beach, Pic Courtesy: Phuket.com

Although rom BangTao, further down south of the island, one would pass Surin Beach first,  and I choose to give it a pass. Not because it is not pretty, but due to the fact that it’s slightly more commercialized. Therefore, my next stop is Kamala Beach which is, by far, the most sought after address in Phuket today. Due to the beautiful waters, long stretch of sand and a lovely view into the bay, it has become the favourite of many high end resorts and condo developments. However, it is not surprising to note that even at almost a 100% premium on real estate prices here as compared to rest of Phuket, there are hardly any available inventory to buy. Very aptly, the Millionaires Mile which is a winding beach hugging drive peppered with the swankiest of resorts and residential properties, is a must pass-through for anyone driving through. Kamala also has many bars & restaurants on the main road, and the famous Phuket Fantasea show is right there as well.

 4. Freedom Beach

freedom
Freedom Beach, Pic Courtesy: Surajit Mitra

A short drive from Kamala brings you to a very non-descriptive point on the road, where only the initiated will know of a rough path leading up a hill. Drive for around 10 mins on a bone-rattling path, to reach a gate where the local caretakers of the zone will ask for 200 baht (foreigners) as entry fee. If you see, none of the other beaches charge a fee but Freedom Beach demands it. The most hidden and private beach in all of Phuket is a golden strip of sand with calm lagoon-like waters with very very (I mean very few) visitors at all. It requires a walk down a steep gravel path to reach the beach and is also accessible through the sea from Patong as well. There are loungers available for 100 baht and a small restaurant serving beers and basic Thai food. One can spend a few leisurely hours here without any vendors bothering you with their wares and also the calm clear waters allows for a swimming pool experience and also is a great place to snorkel as well. Be prepared for a sweaty trek back to the parking lot where one gets rewarded with a free bottle of chilled water to replenish ones energies. Clearly one of the best I have seen so far in Phuket.

5. Karon Beach & Kata Noi

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Karon Beach, Pic Courtesy: Phuket.com

My next stop would be Karon Beach & Kata Noi. Passing the maddening stretch called Patong, one drives through some beautiful hilly roads to reach Karon Beach, an ideal wide beach for summer bummers and also for surfing. This beach is one of the few where one can surf with waves coming in as mountains. Lots of summer umbrellas and lots of parking spaces makes this an easy visit. The main road is stashed with eateries and shopping areas, and my favourite here is the fresh food market. There are few live music bars where a few beers with Pink Floyd playing to the retreating sun is an experience hard to forget. Stay back for dinner at Kata Noi area where there are amazing fresh food joints serving OMG sized lobsters and the likes. Kata Noi is also a relatively smaller beach, where one, during the day, can spend time lolling around in calm clear waters.

Kata Noi Beach, Pic Courtesy: Phuket.com

6. Nai Harn Beach

nai harn
Nai Harn, Pic Courtesy: Phuket.com

Further down south, one reaches the southernmost tip of the island and at Nai Harn Beach. This gem of a beach is inside a nook and thus doesn’t get any major waves or currents. I read somewhere that it features amongst the top 5 beaches in the world. Well, it doesn’t surprise me at all as the beach itself is like a painting, allowing you to take in the sights and sounds while sipping on a San Miguel in one of the few lovely cafes on it. Very few tourists and mostly sun-loungers as visitors, it makes for a very family friendly visit. There are also very few hotels or residential complexes around so much lesser crowds as compared to many others.

Apart from the above there are many more beautiful beaches like Mai Khao, Nai Yang, Paradise Beach etc in Phuket but I have always enjoyed by visits to the above listed few and will continue to visit them in the years to come. No wonder Phuket is called the Pearl of the Andamans and I will vouch for every letter in that description.