Thoughts At Tamabil, The Indo-Bangladesh Border

Panchhi, nadiyaan, pawan ke jhonke, koi sarhad na inhe roke…
Sarhad insaanon ke liye hain, socho tumne aur maine kya paya insaan hoke

This song from Refugee plays in a loop in my head as we reach the land border that separates India and Bangladesh at Tamabil, during the course of our trip to North-East India.

Roughly translated, this is what the above lines mean: No borders stop birds, rivers and gusts of wind. Borders are for humans. Think – what did you and I gain by being born as humans?

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Signboards at the border

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A little stretch of land – the ‘no man’s land’ – lies between the boundaries of India and Bangladesh, at Tamabil. We walk up to the last point on the India side, Indian and Bangladeshi soldiers standing guard protectively on either side of the border.

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Left: A signboard near the border, proclaiming the point beyond which tourist vehicles are not allowed; Right: The no man’s land between the Indian and Bangladeshi borders

Just beyond the border, we can spot some Bangladeshi shops, a vendor selling Bangladeshi ber (sour plums, which are very famous, apparently), and some men and women lounging around. A goat walks over – unencumbered – from the Bangladeshi side to the Indian side. Ducks swim through from India to the Bangladeshi side, in the little stream that flows around the border.

We watch on as an Indian lady tourist, busy looking around, is mistakenly about to step into Bangladesh. The jawans immediately stop her, telling her that the Indian boundary ends right where she is standing.

An Indian jawan on duty at the Tamabil border

We spot the ‘First Line Of Defence’ or the camp of Indian soldiers that would be the first to deal with any infiltrators or attackers crossing over from the other side. We take pictures with some of the jawans, that typical touristy thing, alongside a signboard that proclaimed ‘Welcome to India’.

‘There is not much fanfare here, just a matter-of-fact posting,’ our cab driver tells us as we board, ready to drive back to our hotel. ‘We have friendly relations with Bangladesh, and that is why tourists are even allowed near the border,’ he adds.

Emotional fool that I am, the experience leaves me saddened. It leaves me thinking about various ‘what ifs’ – What if we lived in a world with no borders? Would it work? What if we could freely walk into any country, without being questioned or feeling threatened? Boundaries weren’t really nature’s way, were they? Surely, there were no boundaries when the earth first came into existence? I have no answers.

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I hope you have read and enjoyed my other posts about our trip to North-East India. If you haven’t, here are the links for you:

 

 

 

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Toys ‘R’ Us and Babies ‘R’ Us Comes To Bangalore!

Renowned international toy brand Toys’R’Us made an entry into India last Saturday. The brand launched its very first outlet in India in Bangalore, at the Phoenix Marketcity mall in Whitefield. I was thrilled to be invited to the launch with the husband and the bub – a grand affair, with a number of fun activities for kids and adults alike arranged all day long.

The Bangalore outlet has two sections – Toys’R’Us, which stocks an unimaginable array of toys meant for children up to 11 years of age, and Babies’R’Us, which offers everything related to infants, from clothes and diapers and formula to breast pumps, potty seats, high chairs and princess beds.

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The entrance to Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us at VR Bengaluru, beautifully decked up for the launch

The store is huge, huge, huge and the three of us had a gala time walking through the aisles. We admired this and that, reminisced over the times when the bub was a little babe we could carry in the palms of our hands, had a fun time watching the magician’s performance, wishlisted a number of toys for the bub (and me, of course!), and even bought an early birthday present for the kiddo.

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Some of the stuff I loved at the store – a doll with a darkish skin tone; a doll that eats, drinks, poops and pees (yes!); the huge range of moisturisers for babies and moms alike; cutesy bows and hairbands on sale; a mermaid doll; and a pink princess bed that was straight out of a fairytale

There are a whole lot of toys available to the kids of today, I realise, a lot more opportunities to create memories and happy moments, for better or worse. Yes, there are a lot of toys and appliances that aren’t really necessary for the healthy upbringing of a child, and neither do they really help the child in any way. That said, there are a whole lot of toys out there that not only help keep a child engaged, but also help in developing creativity, out-of-the-box thinking and decision making, aid eye-hand co-ordination, and help in the development of motor skills. As a parent or a loved one, I think it is you who need to choose wisely, select the right kind of toys for a child. A walk through stores like Toys’R’Us act as an eye-opener to all that is available to a child today, allowing you to make an informed decision.

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More stuff off the shelves of the store – baby hand-print kits; travel pillows; feeding bottles by Dr, Brown’s (a brand that isn’t easy to come across in India); and cute, cute, cute clothes

I love how the store has a huge array of products for infants, toddlers and children, at different price points, from both Indian and international vendors. There’s something here for everyone, I am sure. You just need to take your time checking out different things and choosing what works for you.

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Some more stuff that caught my eye at the store – a Freddie the Firefly high chair toy; Superbottoms cloth diapers; a little piano; and a baby-proofing kit

Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us plans to open more stores in India in the near future, at Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai.

If you are in Bangalore, you must surely visit this pretty store!

This post is in collaboration with Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us. The views expressed herein are entirely mine, not influenced by anything or anyone, and completely honest.

 

Kapoor & Daughters, Now At HSR Layout

The HSR Layout outlet of Kapoor’s Cafe  now has a beautiful new addition – a one-stop bridal shop! Here’s introducing Kapoor & Daughters!

This new store will stock dresses for to-be brides and their near and dear ones, all designed by Mukulika Kapoor, wife of Kapoor’s Cafe owner Arpit Kapoor. The garments are stitched in-house, some lovely statement pieces included.

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Left: Mukulika Kapoor, showcasing an embroidered saree from her collection; Centre: Some of the pieces on sale at Kapoor & Daughters; Right: A gorgeous red bridal lehenga at Kapoor & Daughters

In time, there’ll be jewellery and footwear on sale too. Customisation facilities are available as well.

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Left, Centre, Right: Some of the statement pieces on sale at Kapoor & Daughters

Kapoor & Daughters officially launched recently, to drumrolls and much fanfare, and I was thrilled to be a part of the grand opening.

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The dhol wallahs at the grand opening of Kapoor & Daughters, HSR Layout

All ye brides to be, take note! Now, you can shop till you drop here, and then eat your heart out at the upstairs all-vegetarian Punjabi eatery!

Lunch At Misu: An Extremely Satisfying Affair

Considering our love for Pan-Asian food, the husband and I had been eagerly waiting for a chance to visit Misu on St. Marks Road. The place had been on my must-check-out list ever since it opened up, recently. Rave reviews of the food here by several food bloggers ignited the fire further. We decided to descend upon Misu one weekend, for lunch, and were not one bit disappointed. We absolutely loved the food we had here!

Ambience

The vibe at Misu is nice, warm and welcoming. The eatery is medium-sized, neither too cavernous nor too tiny.
The decor is simple and elegant. The mirrors on the ceiling, the long windows letting in the sunlight, a mural of a lady holding a fan across her face – everything adds to the charm of the place.
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Left: A view of the interiors at Misu; Right: A close-up of the lady with the fan, whom I loved
We found the seating here to be comfortable.

Cuisine

Misu serves Pan-Asian food, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. There are plenty of options on the menu for both varieties of patrons.

The food and drink

Most reviews of Misu mention their Rainbow Dumplings – colourful, pretty, bright, happy little things. I love the look of them, and so the vegetarian version of these dumplings were the first thing we ordered here. The dumplings came to our table looking pretty as ever, but sadly, they weren’t really our cup of tea. We weren’t bowled over by them. The bok choy stuffing within was something that failed to excite our tastebuds.
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Left: Fried Turnip Cake; Right: Vegetarian Rainbow Dumplings, both at Misu

The Fried Turnip Cake that we ordered next was brilliant, and we absolutely loved it. Never would I have thought that something with turnip in it could be as beautiful in taste as this savoury cake was. The balance of sweet and sour and spicy was just perfect in this dish.

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Left: Sweet Lemonade; Centre: Virgin Mojito; Right: Vegetarian Tom Yum Soup, all at Misu

To go with the starters, we ordered a Sweet Lemonade (without soda) and a Virgin Mojito. We loved the Virgin Mojito, and felt it was very well done. The Sweet Lemonade was good too – not extraordinary, but not bad either.

The Vegetarian Tom Yum Soup that we ordered next was absolutely lovely. It was just perfect, neither too watery, nor too thick, very different from the watered-down stuff you get in the name of Tom Yum Soup in most Asian eateries.

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Left: Vegetarian Khao Suey at Misu; Right: Assorted pickles and dips we were offered at Misu

Next up, we ordered some Khao Suey, which was, again, just perfect. The coconut milk broth was extremely flavourful, and we loved it to bits.

Most Asian restaurants bring you the Khao Suey in a bowl, all ready. Quite unlike that, at Misu, the various components of the Khao Suey are brought to your table – the broth, the peanuts, the veggies and the noodles – and you get to mix them up just the way you would like. That is something that initially overwhelmed us, but an experience that we came to love eventually.
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Left: Mango With Sticky Rice; Right: Chocolate-Chilli Truffles, both at Misu

We were presented with some Chocolate-Chilli Truffles post this, something that isn’t on their regular menu, but only offered to diners on a complimentary basis. They were brilliant too, so very well done. We loved everything about these truffles – the Bournvita-and-sugar-coated exterior, the gooey chocolate interior, the hint of bitterness, the beautiful fragrance of good-quality chocolate, the chilli that kicked in after the sweet taste of the chocolate had almost left our tastebuds! Yum!

We also ordered Mango With Sticky Rice, which was lovely too. It was simple and elegant, mild but delish, the way it is supposed to be.

Service

Service was quite fast, we felt. We reached Misu just a bit before lunch hours closed, and everything we ordered arrived at our table super fast. The staff was courteous, polite and helpful.

Prices

The prices here are on the higher side. We paid about INR 2500 for this meal – high, but we are definitely not complaining about the quality or taste of the food here or the experience we had. We’d definitely love to come back here to sample more of the Pan-Asian delicacies on their menu.

Have you been to Misu yet? If so, how was your experience? What are your favourites on their menu?

The Husband’s Birthday Lunch At Farzi Cafe: An Underwhelming Affair

Farzi Cafe had always been on my list of eateries to visit in Bangalore, thanks to a number of blog posts I have read praising the place. I was in awe of the very innovative ways in which the cafe presents its food. So, it was Farzi Cafe in UB City that we chose to celebrate the husband’s birthday recently, and headed to for lunch. True to the reviews that we had read, the cafe did dish up food in very different ways, but we, sadly, ended up underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Ambience and decor

Located in the posh UB City, Farzi Cafe has an ambience that I would call ‘buzzing’. The eatery was teeming with people when we visited, and most of the ample seating area was occupied. Thankfully, though, we didn’t have to wait for long for a table to open up.

The seating was quite uncomfortable, we felt, a fact that has been pointed out in several Zomato reviews. The place tends to get quite noisy too (something we noted during our lunch, and on several past visits to UB City), so it is definitely not somewhere you visit if you want to have an uninterrupted conversation.

Cuisine

Farzi Cafe has a varied and extensive menu, including Indian as well as fusion dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The eatery is known for its off-beat take on popular foods as well as innovative presentation styles.

The food and drinks

First up, we ordered the Mac N Cheese, served not the usual way, but in the form of deep-fried balls. The taste was strictly okay.

The Orange OK, an orange-based mocktail, that we ordered was just average too.

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Left: Orange OK, Centre: Mac N Cheese; Right: The complimentary Mishti Doi Shots

The Vada Paav we ordered next – paav inside the vada, and vada outside the paav, deep-fried – was presented beautifully, but, again, we found it just okay taste-wise.

For main course, we ordered their English Paav Bhaji, paav bhaji made with ‘English’ vegetables and served with foccaccia instead of the paav that usually comes with it. Presentation-wise, it was terrific, and the taste was definitely not bad, but we didn’t find it really out of the ordinary. I typically use all sorts of veggies to make paav bhaji at home, and this was the same.

We were offered a complimentary tamarind palate cleanser in between the two courses, with great fanfare, the sticks plucked out of a large white ceramic tree. It was okay, and I’m not complaining about that either.

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Left: Vada Paav, Centre: The tamarind palate cleanser offered complimentary in between courses; Right: English paav bhaji

The Rasmalai Tres Leches Cake that we ordered next was good. The presentation was good, and the taste was good, too.

We were given some complimentary mishti doi shots, which we loved. The paan (cotton candy shells filled with dehydrated paan mix) was good, too.

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Left: Rasmalai Tres Leches cake; Centre: The complimentary paan; Right: The typewriter in which our bill was presented to us!

Service

We found the service to be okay – the staff was polite and courteous, but they took ages to bring each dish to the table. It wasn’t really a problem, because we did want to have a leisurely meal.

Prices

We felt the food to be quite expensive here – like everything else in UB City is. We paid INR 2500 for this meal.

In hindsight…

We felt more than a bit underwhelmed by this birthday lunch at Farzi Cafe, a fact that is as sad as it gets. Overall, I guess, we had built up too much of expectation thanks to all those rave blog reviews, and those didn’t match up to the reality. Maybe, we are purists who don’t like their food to be tampered with too much. Maybe, we just didn’t choose the right dishes. Maybe, it just wasn’t our day – we kept feeling like the lunch we had had here wasn’t a hearty affair. Maybe, this is the sort of place where presentation is key, and that isn’t always the lookout for us.

I’m confused about whether I should give this place another go or not.

Our Vegetarian Food And Drink Journey In Shillong

The moment anyone gets to know about the trip we recently undertook to parts of North-East India, the first question they usually ask is – ‘What did you eat there? I have heard there is no vegetarian food to be found there!’. Now, after our brief sojourn in the North-East, I know that this is a myth – of course, there is vegetarian food to be found there! The husband and I had the same doubts, the same apprehensions, before we undertook this journey – all laid to rest now.

Finding vegetarian food in the North-East, Shillong included

Yes, the North-East is predominantly a meat-eating province. People here are used to eating animals of all sorts, every part of the animal, without wasting anything. That doesn’t mean that there are no vegetarians at all here. There are locals and tourists in the North-East who prefer vegetarian food, and consequently, there are restaurants there that cater to them. Pure-vegetarian places might be tough to come across, but you will surely find vegetarian food in places that serve non-vegetarian food – you should be okay with that before you undertake a trip to the North-East. Also, if you are going to be constantly on the go, flitting from one place to the other, you might not be able to find a purely vegetarian eatery where you are.

Shillong, in Meghalaya, being a major tourist attraction and a town, has a generous smattering of restaurants, small and big. Most of these eateries are located around Laitmukhrah and Police Bazaar. There are several stalls selling eatables of all sorts around tourist spots in and around Shillong, like Umiam Lake, Don Bosco Cathedral, Ward’s Lake, the Don Bosco Centre For Indigenous Culture, and Lady Hydari Park. Walk around any of these areas, and explore the local foods at your pace, that’s what I would recommend!

Our foodie sojourn in Shillong, Meghalaya

Now that that is off my chest, let me tell you all about the vegetarian fare we enjoyed in Shillong, one of the places we stayed at in the course of our holiday.

Indian sweets at a nameless sweet shop in Laitmukhrah

Post our sojourn at the ancient Don Bosco Cathedral in Laitmukhrah, Shillong, we headed to a little sweet shop without a name, nearby, for cups of tea. It was tea ‘o clock too, but the husband and I got fascinated by the Indian sweets on display in the glass showcase at the front of the shop. We ended up ordering some, and getting delighted by one of them in particular.

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Top left: Rasmalai, Bottom left: Mishti doi, Top right: Gulab jamun, Bottom right: Malai chamcham – the sweets we sampled at the shop

The gulab jamun here was average, and the mishti doi was sour and utterly forgettable. The malai chamcham was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, though – so very well done, fresh and light and mildly sweet. The rasmalai here was exquisite, too.

I don’t remember exactly how much we paid here, but I do remember that it wasn’t much. The grub here was far, far less expensive than it would have been in a place like Bangalore.

Vegetarian Khasi fare at Red Rice, Police Bazaar

In the bustling Police Bazaar area in Shillong, restaurants are aplenty. You’ll find pure vegetarian food here, as well as eateries serving a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare. Then, there’s the plethora of street food available here – in the evenings, this area veritably turns into a street food haven, especially for meat lovers.

We wanted to sample some Khasi fare, the food of the Khasi tribe that majorly inhabits Shillong. At our tour operator’s suggestion, we headed to Red Rice in Police Bazaar, a place that prides itself on serving authentic vegetarian and non-vegetarian Khasi food. We ended up thoroughly enjoying our meal here.

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Left: The vegetarian Khasi thali that we had, Centre: Buddha’s Delight, Right: Khasi-style red rice, at Red Rice

The husband had a vegetarian Khasi thali that was an extremely simple, yet hearty affair. The daal cooked with greens was simply beautiful, as was the mustard-y onion salad. The mixed vegetable curry and chutney that were part of the thali were oh-so-flavourful, too!

I got myself a bowl of Khasi-style red rice and one of Buddha’s Delight, the last one being a mix of soup, thin noodles and veggies. The Buddha’s Delight was, again, such a simple thing, but so very flavourful – adding oodles of oomph to the plain red rice.

It was, sort of, marvellous to see how a meal could be cooked up with so little ingredients and yet be fulfilling. We, city-dwellers, do have a lot to learn from people like the Khasis, who live every day in the face of hardships.

We paid about INR 250 for this meal, as far as I can remember.

A blah dinner at Cafe Shillong

Most of the travel guides we read about Shillong seemed to mention Cafe Shillong, all praises for the local bands that play here over the weekend and the wonderful food the cafe serves. When we visited, though, it was a week day, and there was no band.

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Part of the decor at the famed Cafe Shillong

The food here, sadly, didn’t meet the high expectations that we had had. The vegetable clear soup we ordered was strictly okay – watery and lacking in taste. The Pasta Arabiatta was just average, too, as was the Singapore Fried Rice. Well, maybe, this isn’t a great place for vegetarians, I am guessing!

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Left: Vegetable clear soup, Centre: Pasta Arabiatta, Right: Singapore fried rice, at Cafe Shillong

Cafe Shillong happens to be an expensive place, with prices at par with several high-end cafes in Bangalore. I think we paid about INR 900 for this meal.

Pav bhaji and aloo chop at a nameless shop in Laban

Walking around the streets of Laban in Shillong, we came across this small shop run by a Marwari gentleman, a place without a name that sold only vegetarian food. Apart from regular fare like parathas, chowmein and fried rice, this eatery also sold tea, aloo chop, pav bhaji and a variety of chaats.

We had lunch at this little shop one day, and absolutely loved the aloo chops that we tried out. The tangy, spicy, mustard-y sauce that was served with the aloo chops was just brilliant – it was a Shillong special version that tastes both like chilli sauce and kasundi. Must try!

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Left: Pav bhaji, Right: Aloo chops with mustard-chilli sauce and tomato sauce, at the nameless shop in Laban

The pav bhaji we had at this shop wasn’t mind-blowing, but was definitely good.

A beautifully simple Khasi meal at Dew Drop In

While in Shillong, we had the opportunity of staying at Dew Drop In, a lovely place owned by a Khasi family. Our Khasi hosts were more than happy to cook us an authentic local meal with vegetarian ingredients. Here, we got to sample Khasi daal (made with greens), mixed vegetable curry, jado stey (a Khasi dish of rice cooked with turmeric, green peas and onion), a pickle made with local sour berries, along with rotis, curd and green salad. Every single dish that was a part of this meal was absolutely delicious – simple but hearty, well cooked and flavourful.

(Read more about Dew Drop In in my post here!)

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The delicious meal we had at Dew Drop In. Centre: Rotis, From top left, in clock-wise direction: Khasi daal made with greens, mixed vegetable curry, jado stey, pickle, curd and green salad

I know for sure that I am going to try making the Khasi daal and jado stey at home!

Gorgeous juicy pineapples en route to Shillong

On the way to Shillong from Guwahati, you will come across many little stalls that sell a variety of things, from pickles made the old-fashioned way to local varieties of bananas, jackfruit, banana flowers, pineapples and arum root.

We made a pit-stop at a couple of these stores, and the beautiful pineapples here were what caught our fancy the most. We ate the loveliest ever pineapples here – perfectly ripe, so sweet the slices felt like they were dipped in sugar syrup, so juicy the juice ran down to our elbows when we bit into them. The taste of these pineapples still lingers on in my mind, and I now realise how much the fruit available in Bangalore pales in comparison to this gorgeousness.

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Left: One of the little shops selling pickles, pineapples and a variety of other things, en route to Shillong from Guwahati, Right: The gorgeous pineapples that we sampled at one of these stores

Apparently, the weather, the rolling slopes of the hills, the soil all over Meghalaya are extremely conducive to growing pineapples, and they abound in the state, lovely ones at that.

An utterly forgettable dinner at Lamee’s

One of the days we stayed in Shillong, we dined at Lamee’s – a big, multi-cuisine eatery that offers both vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare – at Police Bazaar. Sadly, the meal was utterly forgettable, with everything that we tried out lacking in flavour.

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Left: Green salad, Centre: Vegetarian chowmein, Right: Burnt garlic fried rice, at Lamee’s

The vegetarian chowmein at Lamee’s was nothing special, and neither was the burnt garlic fried rice.

The prices at Lamee’s are on the higher side, though. I remember paying about INR 700 or so for our meal.

Vegetarian momos and jhalmuri near Ward’s Lake

We tried out the vegetarian momos from one of the street-side stalls outside Ward’s Lake, for all of INR 20. The momos had a thick, floury shell (as opposed to the thin covering I am used to in momos in Bangalore), but the filling was delicious. The same was the case with the vegetarian momos we tried out at a street-side stall in Police Bazaar, too.

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Left: A plate of vegetarian momos, Right: Jhalmuri, outside Ward’s Lake

The jhalmuri we had from another street stall at Ward’s Lake was not great, though.

Local berries at Golf Course

We came across this lady selling assorted local berries, while walking around the Golf Course in Shillong. She was sweet enough to oblige us for some photographs, and sweeter to offer the bub a toffee!

We had a good time trying out this berry and that. Most were lip-puckeringly sour, though, and, I am sure, would have made for gorgeous pickles. I forget the local names, though.

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Left: The lady selling local berries at the Golf Course, Centre: The assorted berries the lady had on offer, Right: One of the types of berries that we sampled – sour, sour, sour!

You can find these berries on sale at Police Bazaar, too, in case you are interested, along with oranges, apples, bananas, strawberries and litchis.

The lovely litchi drink from Bangladesh

Our cab driver suggested that we should try our this litchi drink from Bangladesh, commonly available in Shillong. We picked up a couple of bottles, for INR 10 each, and they were absolutely delightful!

We even got some of these bottles back to Bangalore as souvenirs!

In conclusion…

Well, that was all about the food (and drink) that we tried out while in Shillong. So, you see, vegetarians aren’t exactly in a position to starve to death in this part of the world, at least not in Shillong? 🙂

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I hope you have been reading and enjoying my other posts about our trip to North-East India! If you haven’t, here are the links for you!

The beginning of school, and a schoolmoon

Visiting the abode of Kamakhya, the powerful menstruating Goddess

10 reasons to plan for at least a day’s stay in Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village

Playing hide-and-seek with the clouds in Meghalaya

10 experiences we thoroughly enjoyed in Shillong

The living root bridge of Nohwet village, near Mawlynnong

A Very Keralite Breakfast At No. 10 Fort Cochin, St. Marks Road

Over the weekend, I was invited to be part of a breakfast meet for food bloggers at No. 10 Fort Cochin, a relatively new eatery on the busy St. Marks Road in Bangalore. Along with some of my foodie friends, I had a grand time here, gorging on some typical Keralite fare. This post is all about my experience.

No. 10 Fort Cochin, In a Nutshell

The restaurant, previously called Malabar Kitchen, isn’t a tough spot to find, considering that it is located at a prominent place on St. Marks Road. Basement parking is available, which is a big, big, big plus in a city like Bangalore and, therefore, worth a mention here.

The place prides itself on serving authentic Keralite food, including a full-blown sadya for lunch. Apparently, the chefs have been brought in from a couple of the best restaurants in Kerala, to ensure authenticity. Also, the fish and other seafood used in their meals comes fresh from special places on the coastline of Kerala and Gujarat.

Announcing breakfast at No. 10 Fort Cochin!

No. 10 Fort Cochin has been used to catering to corporate crowds from the offices nearby, for lunch and dinner. Breakfast, here, though, is something that has very recently launched. They do the typical puttu, appams, egg roast and stew for breakfast, but they also have dosas, idlis and cornflakes forming part of the (limited) menu. You will definitely see a far more extensive menu, including a lot of vegetarian and seafood dishes, during lunch and dinner time here.

The decor

The eatery has a simple, no-fuss decor, all clean lines and functionality. The latticework on the walls lets in ample sunlight, ensuring the place is well-lit and ventilated. The wooden chairs and tables, which can seat up to 40 patrons at a time, are comfortable.

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Seating at No. 10 Fort Cochin

The wall decor here is subtle, but impressive. An artist’s impressions of all things Kerala adorn the walls – murals of the famed Dutch Palace in Mattancherry, the streets of Cochin, the ships that you can commonly find in the sea at Fort Kochi, and so on. I couldn’t help but reminisce about the lovely time the husband and I have had vacationing in Kerala, here.

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Left: A model of a ship, on one of the walls at No. 10 Fort Cochin; Centre: The simple menu at the eatery, with a depiction of Fort Kochi’s famous Chinese fishing nets in the background; Right: A mural at the eatery, depicting the streets of Kerala

The food

We opted to sample the Keralite fare at No. 10 Fort Cochin over the cornflakes and other stuff (but of course!), and I would say we were richly rewarded. 🙂

Here is a brief overview of the food and drinks I tried out at this place.

Appams with vegetarian stew

I started breakfast with their appams and a vegetarian stew, both of which I loved. I have never had either before, so I am not sure of whether they would match up to the actual thing you get in Kerala. Personally, I quite liked the appams, pillowy soft with a faint hint of tanginess to them.

The vegetarian stew was perfect, with a generous amount of veggies, mild, with a slight kick from ginger. It suited my taste buds perfectly.

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Left: The non-vegetarian version of stew; Right: Appams and egg roast, both dishes that my fellow foodies adored. I cannot comment on the taste, as I sampled only the vegetarian fare here.

Lemon juice

I washed down the appams with some good old lemon juice, made in plain water with no soda. It was decent – not exceptionally brilliant, nor too bad either.

Puttu and kadala curry

Next up, I tried out some puttu with its quintessential accompaniment – kadala curry.

The puttu was well done, generously doused with coconut, mild and simple. It was a tad dry and crumbly, but tasted great.

The kadala curry was lovely, and I simply loved it. It was mild and simple too, without any going overboard on the spices, just the way my mommy would make it.

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Left: Puttu and kadala curry; Centre: Vegetarian stew; Right: Plain dosas

Plain dosas with sambar and chutney

I also tried out the plain dosas here, served with coconut chutney and sambar. I loved the dosas, neither overly crispy nor overly soft, done just right. The coconut chutney was finger-licking delicious, while the sambar was just average and could have been better.

The prices

Breakfast for two at No. 10 Fort Cochin would set you back by INR 500 or so, which is pretty reasonable considering the location of the place.

Overall…

I liked the food here. It was simple, homely and non-restaurant-y, if you know what I mean. The ambience is pleasing, too. This is surely a place I would love to go back to, especially for the Kerala-style sadya.

The views expressed herein are entirely my own,  uninfluenced by anyone or anything.

Enchanted At The Mad Teapot Cafe, Indiranagar

Imagine a cosy little cafe with little tables, big windows that let the sunlight in, plants in pots on the sill.

Imagine porcelain teapots hanging from the ceiling, with decorative roses in them.

Imagine a gorgeous princess bed with net curtains in the vicinity, fairy lights in mason jars, artificial roses in wicker baskets hanging on wooden swings, and paper lanterns strung on trees.

Imagine lights in the shape of a magician’s top hat.

Imagine plates with magical messages on the wall.

Are you wondering if this place is for real or is a figment of my imagination? Are you doubtful if such a cafe really exists? Well, it does! That is exactly how The Mad Teapot Cafe in Indiranagar, Bangalore, looks like, from the inside. I had read, and heard, so many lovely descriptions of the place that I absolutely had to drag the husband here one afternoon, for lunch. We ended up getting equally enchanted by the eatery, too.

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Part of The Magic Teapot Cafe, Indiranagar. Pretty, pretty, no?

The Mad Teapot Cafe is housed within a home decor store called The Wishing Chair, on the bustling 100-foot Road in Indiranagar. The store, and consequently the cafe, has an ambience that can only be described as magical, enchanted, charming, quirky, and fantastical. With names like those, what else does one expect, if not a fairy tale-ish place? And a fairy tale-ish place is exactly what you get.

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The decor at The Mad Teapot Cafe. I fell in love with those gorgeous fairy lights in jars! And, oh, isn’t that princess bed to die for?!

The magical home decor merchandise on sale at The Wishing Chair doubles up as decor for The Mad Teapot Cafe. It surely is a different-from-the-usual experience eating in the midst of stuff straight out of an Enid Blyton fantasy, an experience we cherished for sure.

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Is this a happy place? For sure!

The cafe is small, with just about five tables, a good place to stop at for a quick cup of coffee or dessert or some short eats. We lingered over our lunch, just gazing around and taking in the magic of the place, and that is exactly what the other patrons were doing as well. How can you help that, with an ambience like that? The service staff seems to be well used to such gawping, and were relaxed themselves, not exactly hovering over our table, but polite, friendly and responsive when called upon.

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Some more pics of the inside of The Mad Teapot Cafe. Quaint, no?

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What about the food, you ask? I will start by telling you that the menu is straight out of an Enid Blyton book, too. Here is where you will find stuff like Forest Of Pumpkin Blossoms, Moonface Madness, Winter Woodland’s Vegetable Pasta, The White Fairy Pasta, and Island Of Greek Stories. Now, if that doesn’t enchant, what does?

The cafe proclaims that they are ‘proudly vegetarian’. Except for just one dish with eggs in it and the desserts (this latter part I am assuming!), everything on the menu is vegetarian. The cuisine is a mix of Italian and Continental food – no pizzas, but a variety of flat breads (mini pizzas, if you must!), pasta, salads, little bites, sandwiches, tea and coffee, the freak shakes that are all the rage now, and other desserts.

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The menu at The Mad Teapot Cafe, just as fairy tale-ish as the ambience!

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I have heard people raving about the food at this place, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. We had a good experience with the food here, too. To be honest, we didn’t find the food mind-blowingly brilliant, but it was definitely good.

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The food we ordered at The Mad Teapot Cafe. On the left: The dessert we chose, The Orange Citrus Fancy, In the centre: The Adventures Of Miss Evergreen (top, a flatbread), Winter Woodland’s Vegetable Pasta (bottom), On the right: Twisty’s Tomtom Spaghetti (top), Cappuccino (bottom)

The love affair between me and The Orange Citrus Fancy was immediate. I absolutely loved this pudding, well done, with just the right amount of sweet and sour for my tastebuds, bits and pieces of real orange peel in it, decked up with slightly bitter orange brittle. I have absolutely got to have this again, here!

The husband and I loved The Adventures Of Miss Evergreen, too. Spread with green pesto and topped with mozzarella, ricotta, sundried tomatoes and walnuts, this flatbread was a delight to eat. It was barely warm when it was brought to our table, and we were too hungry to ask for it to be heated up. Had it been served piping hot, I am sure it would have tasted even better.

Winter Woodland’s Vegetable Pasta was a simple but hearty dish, with a lot of grilled veggies, without any sauce. We weren’t really bowled over by this pasta, which actually felt a bit dry.

Twisty’s Tomtom Spaghetti came with a creamy red sauce that was a tad too fiery for me, but flavourful. In hindsight, the sauce would have gone better with penne pasta, rather than the spaghetti we had ordered. Overall, it was a good dish, though.

The cappuccino was decent. The almond cookie it was served with was chewy, but nice and tasty.

We found the portion sizes to be generous.

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Price-wise, the husband and I found the cafe to be expensive. We paid about INR 1300 for our meal, including taxes.

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I know for sure I will be visiting this place again, to try out the large number of desserts they have on their menu (in spite of the prices being a tad high), and to soak in more of that magical atmosphere. I think the place is best suited to times when you want to linger over some food or desserts, for a very relaxed cup of coffee with a book, or catching up with your friends and loved ones.

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Do visit this place, if you haven’t already! It’s well worth it.

Travel Shot: At The Vana Durgai Temple, Kathirmangalam

We spotted this beauty in the grounds of the Vana Durga temple at Kathiramangalam, near Kumbakonam. We made a pit-stop at the temple during our recent visit to Kumbakonam.

Is she resting? Abandoned? The story stays unknown to me. Whatever she might have gone through, she is extremely beautiful and captivating, for sure. I couldn’t resist this picture.

About the Vana Durgai temple, Kathiramangalam

The village of Kathiramangalam, a short drive away from Kumbakonam, houses a beautiful, ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Durga, where this picture was taken. The 6-foot tall idol of the Goddess within has a rustic beauty to it, the same way that the small temple itself does.

There are several legends associated with this temple, popularly called the Vana Durgai (Forest Durga) temple. It is believed that the famed sage Agasthiyar performed penance in the forests at this place, and that it is he who created the idol of Goddess Durga here.

Popular legend has it that the Goddess visits the holy land of Kasi every night, and comes back in the mornings to preside over the temple in the day time. She is believed to be highly powerful, and devotees come from far and near to seek her blessings or relief from their problems. The special pooja held at this temple during Rahu Kaalam is very popular.

Tips for travellers

  1. This temple is located in the midst of an almost forest-like area, with no shops, ATMs or eateries nearby. If you plan to visit, do make sure that you are well prepared for this.
  2. The temple is located roughly 15 km away from Kumbakonam and about 7 km from Mayiladuthurai. Kumbakonam and Mayiladuthurai are the nearest railway stations, while the nearest airport is at Trichy.
  3. A taxi from either Mayiladuthurai or Kumbakonam is the best way to reach this temple.
  4. You can combine a visit to this temple with visits to several other temples in and around Mayiladuthurai or Kumbakonam. Do speak to your cab driver beforehand and fix up an itinerary.
  5. The Rahu Kaalam pooja at this temple is believed to be highly auspicious. If you are interested in witnessing it, do find out the exact timings of the pooja and plan your visit accordingly.
  6. Different kinds of flowers are offered to the Goddess here by devotees seeking relief from different issues. For instance, the ‘manoranjitham’ flower is offered by people seeking reunion for separated couples, while roses are offered by devotees seeking marriage.

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I hope you have been reading and enjoying my posts about our trip to Kumbakonam. If not, please do!

Acquainted, finally: Degree coffee in Kumbakonam

Kumbakonam, in the midst of Masimagam

What dining at a 100-plus-year-old eatery feels like: Sri Mangalambiga Vilas, Kumbakonam

Travel shot: The man and his friend, the beast

Kalyana Sundareswarar temple, Thirumanancheri: The temple of marriages

Travel shot: Kumbakonam vettalai (betel leaves)

Garbharakshambigai temple, Tanjore: Abode of the Mother who protects the womb

 

 

The Living Root Bridge Of Nohwet Village, Near Mawlynnong

I am sure every person who has ever dreamt of going to North-East India has read about the living root bridges that are common in this part of the world. These bridges, made by joining the roots of rubber trees (Ficus Elastica), are very much a part of living trees and are, in consequence, live too. They are believed to have the ability to renew and strengthen themselves, as the trees grow and gain strength. Quite safe and sturdy, these living bridges form part of everyday life for the various tribes inhabiting North-East India.

The lesser known living root bridge of Nohwet Village

The living root bridge of Cherrapunjee, a double-decker one, is perhaps the best known of all such bridges. Crossing the Cherrapunjee living root bridge (a UNESCO heritage site) is said to be a must-do, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. The scenery around is extremely beautiful, but the trek is an arduous one, involving the climbing of over 3000 steps. At the end of this tough trek, you are amply rewarded with a glimpse of the gorgeous Rainbow Falls, but this task that can take hours on end is not meant for the faint-hearted, people who aren’t really fit or used to trekking. Our tour guide advised us not to attempt the trek with a child in tow, and the husband and I acquiesced, understanding that our fitness levels are definitely way below good.

Contrary to popular belief, though, the Cherrapunjee bridge is not the only living root bridge that exists – there are many more, some lesser known, some not known to tourists at all. There’s an equally beautiful and awe-inspiring living root bridge in the village of Nohwet, near Mawylnnong, relatively lesser known to tourists, for instance. Our tour guide suggested we visit this bridge, seeing that we weren’t in a position to do the Cherrapunjee one, considering getting down to this one wasn’t as tough a job to undertake. And that is exactly what we did.

Scenes from the Nohwet living root bridge

The minute you land in Nohwet, a little village, the site of the living root bridge, you begin to feel a definite change in the surroundings around you. This village is very well structured and organised, and it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into its layout. There are proper channels for rain water to flow, cobbled streets and lamp posts. The houses are small but beautiful – thatched huts with a small porch, a little patch of green around the front, hens roosting here and there. Following the example of Mawlynnong, I suppose, Nohwet too is very clean, with spotless roads and conical bamboo dustbins set up everywhere to collect waste. For a proper tourist spot to be that clean is, I believe, something highly commendable.

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A thatched house in Nohwet village

Walking along the beautiful Nohwet village, following the signboards clearly directing us, we headed towards the living root bridge. Along the way are quaint little shops, selling pineapples and local berries and jackfruit and bamboo artifacts and what not.

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A shop selling snacks and refreshments at Nohwet village, just before the trek to the living root bridge begins

After just a few minutes of walking, the gorgeous sound of water gushing and gurgling filled our ears, and we knew we had arrived. A minute or so later, we came to a place that I can only describe as heavenly – lovely, lovely green all around, almost a jungle, the sound of water and crickets chirping renting the air, a river gushing by, and a magnificent bridge made entirely out of the roots of trees straddling the river. I couldn’t help falling in love with the place there and then, and a ‘Wow!’ escaped me. If this lesser-known bridge was so beautiful, just how beautiful would the double-decker living root bridge of Cherrapunjee be?

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The rocky descent to the living root bridge

The descent to the spot of the living root bridge is rocky, but not very tough. We managed to get down in about 15 minutes, walking slowly and gradually, holding on to each other and the bub. The sight that met our eyes was totally worth every ounce of energy we spent on the descent, that is for sure.

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The living root bridge over the river Thyllong, at Nohwet

The Thyllong, a river held sacred by the Khasis, flows extremely picturesquely beneath the bridge. The living root bridge has been prepared by the locals by training the roots of rubber trees, trees which were planted as far back as 1840. The plaque at the spot doesn’t indicate when exactly the bridge was built. It is, however, clear that the bridge was built so as to enable people from the surrounding villagers to cross the river, which I hear gets unimaginably swollen in the monsoons.

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Another view of the living root bridge at Nohwet

The bridge is still very much in use by the villagers and, in return for a nominal entry fee (INR 20 per head or so), tourists are allowed to visit it as well.

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Another view of the Thyllong river

It is such a serene, magical place, something straight out of the pages of a fairytale. We managed to visit at the best time, just before the sun went down, when there were not many tourists around. I would have loved to lounge around this place, sitting on a rock by that gurgling river and reading or simply staring at all that bounty of nature, soaking it all in. Sadly, though, we had a hotel to check into, a drive to head on, places on our to-do list to check off, and could spend only a short while (much too short for my taste, actually) here.

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The Thyllong river

Some other time, some other vacation, I am going to make sure I stay put at this place to my heart’s content.. Till then, I will make do with memories. 🙂

Tips for travellers

  1. A trip to the Nohwet living root bridge can be combined with a visit to the adjacent village of Mawlynnong.
  2. A boat ride at Dawki and a visit to the India-Bangladesh border at Tamabil can also be combined with a visit to this living root bridge. Do check with your tour operator on this.
  3. Mawlynnong, as far as I understand, can be accessed only via taxis, private or shared.
  4. The living root bridge can be visited any time of the year, but monsoons are the best time to do this, actually. During monsoons (between March and August), the river is apparently at its beautiful best.
  5. There is an Eco Park at the same spot as this living root bridge. We weren’t able to visit it due to paucity of time, but I hear it is very beautiful too.

I hope you have been reading my posts about our recent trip to North-East India, and enjoying them too. If not, please do check them out!

The beginning of school and a schoolmoon

Visiting the abode of Kamakhya, the powerful menstruating Goddess

10 reasons to plan for at least a day’s stay at Mawlynnong, Asia’s cleanest village

Playing hide-and-seek with the clouds at Meghalaya

10 experiences we thoroughly enjoyed at Shillong