Travel Diaries: Panjim on foot

I’ve been to Goa five times over the last 18 months. Everytime so far I’ve visited different parts of it and have come to love the feeling of being “home” that comes with it.

I have vague memories of visiting Goa as a school kid in the 90’s. I remember loving Puri Bhaji and playing at the Miramar beach’s playground during a pilgrimage with my family. This time I was here because of the Story of Space.

‘The Story of’ is a arts and science biennale that seeks to “open-up” education to the masses. Space was the theme of this edition and participants take up spaces within the city of display their work or utilize for their workshops and experiences. .

With the Old Quarter hostel as my base, I explored Panjim on foot(and cycle) as I went discovering what Story of Space had in store for me.

The Ex-Nihilio escape room at Sukerkar house made us remember our long forgotten physics skills and use those concepts of waves and particles to find the keys to the puzzles.

The ‘Cycle through the Stars’ taught us the secrets of our Solar system as we cycled through its scaled down version mapped on Panjim streets.

Hojun Song asked us to standout and be true to who we are deep down so that his video codec algorithm would have trouble compressing us. So that Saturday afternoon saw a bunch of us letting go of our inhibitions and ‘perform’ for his camera.

Nick Sayers taught us to make our very own pinhole camera and asked us to make sure they are not mistaken for a bomb if we put them up at a public space.

Hands down ‘Evolution of Stars’ was the show stealer of the festival. You are taken through the life of a star in a way that I could never do justice describing in this blog post. There is news that Instityut B61 would return next year to reprise this production in Bangalore and You shouldn’t miss it then!


In between this, I found time to gorge on some amazing goan food. Apart from the usual places like The Ritz Classic, Cafe Venite and Viva Panjim, I took every possible chance to step into the tiny chai shops to sample their fare. The following are three items I really enjoyed.

1. The complimentary Goan Breakfast from Anita Tea House by the Old Quarter hostel was just a yummy way to start the day.

2. The Rose Petal Icecream from Pure Icecream because we were burning in the hot afternoon sun was unlike any dessert I’ve had before.

3. And finally the fabled Ros Omlette on the road side carts near the Immmaculate Conception church.


And like that my 3 days were up and I bid adieu to the city of no traffic lights as I headed back to Bangalore.

Postcards from another planet

It all started with a impulse purchase at a Bookstore at Khan Market, New Delhi, on our way to Hillhacks at Bir, Himachal Pradesh.

The colour-it-yourself postcards were lacking in quality so I decided to play around with them and imagined that the contents were actually images and drawings from another planet; Andlorra. The birds were coloured exotic and the trees surreal. These were conceptualised and coloured in the Earth House, Palampur.

postcards.pngI sent these to a few friends whose addresses I could gather at that time. The stamps were bought at the Bir subpost office and the postcards were posted from the Dharamshala postoffice. These travelled across the world and funnily enough the Bangalore ones reached last. This was the second time I sent a series of postcards around the world. The last time I sent these was when Shivani hosted a postcard popup shop in Cubbon park last year.

If you want one when I do a series the next time, please share your address with me.

 

Travel Diaries: Surreal Kanyakumari

Kanyakumari was just a few hours away from Kovalam, the venue of 2015’s hackbeach, that I() decided to plan a day trip to visit the Southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent. We toyed with the idea of taking a cab like a friend of ours did but in the end we opted to take the Island City Express to travel the roughly 3-hour journey.  This was turning out to be quite a low cost trip thanks to the company I had. One of the concerns I have with solo tripping is that it does burn a hole in your pocket if done for short periods of time.

Tip: To get to the station from Kovalam, you have to choose between a rick (tuk-tuk), cab or the bus.

So we caught the train around 12:30 and reach Kanyakumari by 15:00. We were staying at Vedanta – Wake up and since it seemed closeby we decided to walk there. As we walked to our Inn, we got our first taste of  the multi-ethnical, multi-cultural town of Kanyakumari.

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After a brief break, we decided to head to the tip, where the action seemed to be; the sea shore. The Triveni Sangam is one of those rare places where you get to see the “meeting” of 3 bodies of water. This incidentally also means that at Kanyakumari you can see the sun rise from the sea and set into the sea as well. However the weather was gloomy and we did not get to see the sunset.

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There is a Gandhi Mandapam where his ashes were kept before immersion. This is really a huge empty building populated in some parts by lovers.

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As it grew darker we decided to explore the shops around and man! were we in for a surprise. The busy market was full of LED lit shops selling wares for Rs. 30, Rs. 20, etc. Entire shops dedicated to a single pricepoint.

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We headed back to Vedanta to sleep early so that we could wake up to see a sunrise.

IMG_20151114_061148933.jpgUnfortunately, the morning was just as gloomy and the crowds that had woken up with the hope of seeing a sunrise had nothing to do. Some of us walked down the stone jetty to the far end and sat down to take in the calmness of the morning but there were people selling watery tea and trying to con people into buying ‘pearl’ necklaces. There was this one guy who haggled with a family and brought down the price from 200 to 20. Later on in the market, I overheard another seller trying to sell similar necklaces to foreigners for $100. I wonder if anyone falls for their tricks.

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When we got back we could see that the line to visit the Vivekanand Memorial snaked through the bylanes of the town and the memorial had not even opened yet. So we decided to skip it since we wouldn’t be able to make it back to Trivandrum in time. But we had plenty of time to kill, so I decided to go for a stroll along the coast.

Being from a coastal town, I felt surprised to see the amount of construction and development done to commercialize the shoreline and provide people a place to sit and see the ocean. The roads too were well maintained and the streetlights bright.

Finally it was time to go. We headed back to the train station and waited for the island city express to start.

Back we headed to Trivandrum.

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My Travel Diaries: Varkala

The first time I heard of Varkala was probably way back in 2011, when we were in chennai and trying to decide what could be our next trip post Pondicherry. We never ended up going for it then and when I was planning a list of places to visit in 2015, I tried to include it.

The Diwali extended holiday seemed right for a trip down south and so it began with me flying to Trivandrum from Bangalore on the 11th of November. In hindsight, I should have tried the train from Bangalore.

Tip: A cheap way of getting to Varkala from Bangalore is taking the 16526/Island Express which leaves at 8:00 PM and reaches the next day around 12:00 AM.

Now that I landed in Trivandrum, I had to figure out a way to get to Varkala. The internet spoke of buses from the airport to the city and the city to Varkala but I was told that they are not very frequent and the train is my best option. So after getting to the city for which I paid a rickshaw ₹ 150 to ferry me, I bought myself a ticket to Varkala. It cost ₹ 30 to get to Varkala in a crowded general compartment (the Island express on its way back to SBC) full of the afternoon crowd. Once there, I just took an auto after non-aggressively haggling to take me there for ₹ 80. My return trip cost me ₹ 70.

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Vedanta Wake up! was where I chose to stay in Varkala. I had tried Vedanta earlier this year at Kochi and was quite satisfied with what they offered. Vedanta, though is located a bit away from the beach but not too far so it still is a good choice for solo travellers.

Tip: Go for a morning walk along the cliff walkway and the beach, you will get to see fishing boats casting their nets. Walking south takes you to quiet beaches, walking north takes you to the black sand beach.

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I spent just a day out here but I liked is so much that I shall surely return again. I had to head to Kovalam next, so at around 12pm I set out to the train station. I was told that there is an AC volvo and decided to take it instead since the train would take longer. There are no boards informing you of the bus, but luckily one did come along at 1pm, half hour later than what the local shop owner had told me. It cost me ₹ 92 to Trivandrum and the bus continued to go to Kovalam from there so I travelled on it for ₹ 32.

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12 in 12

I was meaning to update this blog with my travel diary posts but somehow I never seem to get myself around to doing so.

After I started working full time, I decided to use my earnings and start travelling solo. I set myself the target of covering 12 new places before 2015 ends. Its July now and I’ve finished 4 such trips. The first one was to Hampi and though it began as a solo trip, it ended up differently. Next was Kochi, to visit the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. I was not disappointed and this was my first truly solo trip. March saw me travelling to Jaipur to witness the wedding of two of my friends; Amrita and Roshan. I cancelled my Gokarna trip towards the end of March at the last minute but I intend to visit it later this year. The end of April had been set aside for a trip to the North thanks to the bridge holiday of Labour Day. I decided to head to Kasol and once there proceeded higher to Kheerganga. It was the most ambitious trip by far and ridden with uncertainties. That trip also dipped a lot into my finances and I had to skip the next month trip in order to recover.

My next trip is this week and this time I am heading to Pune.

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