Candolim Beach, Goa

Candolim Beach, Goa

When we were planning a family trip to Goa last year, we kept searching for the right place to stay and finally we arrived at a decision to stay at the Santana Beach Resort at the Candolim Beach looking at the reviews and ratings in Trip Advisor.

I have to say that we were not disappointed.  We did have a fantastic time!  The resort was right on the beach and we could just stroll down to the beach after our lunch and spend as much time, strolling and lazing around at the beach, picking up shells and just being in the water and enjoying the waves to our hearts content.  It gave us an opportunity to really enjoy and feel the essence of being in Goa!

    

The service was decent, the breakfast was varied and had a good spread of continental and Indian. We had Goan fish curry at lunch which tasted good.  The rooms were clean and bathrooms tidy with clean towels when we checked in.  We were lucky to get a room with a kitchen attached, though we did not use it as we were out most of the time.  It has a separate swimming pool for adults and children with beautiful lawns, properly trimmed and maintained with lots of coconut trees and other plants.   It looked beautiful even at night.

Another thing that we really liked about this place was that it was really close to Fort Aguada and we could take a tour of the Fort by taking a short walk through the beach.  We saw people indulge in para sailing and other evening sports at this beach.  It has a great beach shack too.  This place is also very close to the famous Kingfisher villa and  Vivantaby Taj – Fort Aguada.

The price is very decent for the facilities that are on offer.  We would definitely like to go back and stay there once more if we get a chance!!

How to get there

We can take a taxi either from the Goa airport located at Dabolim which is 46 km from Fort Aguada or any of the two Railway Stations – Margao and Vasco Da Gama.

Santana Beach Resort on Google Maps

Munnar, Kerala

The Hill Station of Kerala – Munnar

A visit to Kerala is incomplete without visiting the famous hill station of Kerala called Munnar.  It is part of the Western Ghats falls in the Idukki district.  The name Munnar actually means three rivers.   This is a place where 3 rivers (Mudhirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly river) come and join together.

During one of our annual vacations to Kerala, we made this journey to Munnar by renting a car.  It takes about 3.5 hours from Kochi via Adimali.   It is an uphill drive through a natural forest with a view of the most picturesque valleys and waterfalls.

 

 

 As you climb up, you can see the clouds on top of the mountains enveloping the peak and then slowly as you keep going up, you can feel the clouds kind of settling in on you as well.  It is a wonderful feeling when you realize that you now are part of the clouds that you saw when you were down.   As you come closer to Munnar, you can see the landscape has changed into smooth slopey mountains, trimmed and parted in columns and squares.  The tea gardens are spread wide across mountains and as you inch closer to Munnar, the temperature dips and you start feeling a little cold.

Munnar is a very small town with houses scattered across the mountains.   You can have a good look at the entire town from one of these mountains.   We stayed at the Mar Thoma Retreat Centre on the Mattupetty Road.   It was a very comfortable cozy place and once we had freshened up, we were on our way to see the Mattupetty Dam, or as some call it, the Madupetty Dam. The dam is nearly 13 Kms from Munnar town. Further ahead is a beautiful tourist spot called the Echo Point. The river enveloped by mountains all around was a beautiful sight to behold.

 

Munnar on Google Maps

If you are making the trip from Kerala, the nearest airport is Nedumbassery at Kochi.  The nearest railway station would be Ernakulam or Aluva.  And then take a taxi or cab.  It is about 110 Kms from airport.

Interesting tidbits on Munnar

  • The blooming of Neelakurinji. This tiny blue flower (Strobilanthes kunthianum) blooms every 12 years and spreads the entire mountainscape of Munnar and is a phenomenon worth clapping ones eyes on. The flower with 40 odd varieties bloom mostly in shades of blue, and thus the name. Neela in the local language stands for the colour blue and Kurinji the local name for the flower. The blooming of Neelakurinji usually starts from August and would last up to October. After 2006, we can expect another blooming in 2018. Book your tickets!
Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb

The long Lodi road from Safdarjung Tomb ends rather tamely at the Sabz Burj right inside the roundabout, or what is now popularly known as the Neeli Chhatri for its spectacular blue dome. Take the second exit and you are already inside the Humayun Tomb premises. A short walk and an entrance ticket later, we entered the chirpy grounds. I was accompanying my cousin from Kerala on a tour of Delhi and were now at the famed Humayun’s Tomb.

The Humayun’s tomb is preceded by tombs of lesser known personalities, but the fun fact is that they are far better preserved. We were told that the Aga Khan Foundation along with the TATA trust had been engaged to restore the monument to its pristine past. And it was pretty evident.

The squeaky clean pathway that leads to the Humayun’s Tomb

Past the domed gate lay the Humayun Tomb.

The tomb stands on a terraced platform. You can climb up to the platform to enter the tomb. We went in October and the pleasant climate was perfect for viewing.

The tomb has two stories. But the entrance to the upper floors are closed. I am sure there was a time when these were open to the general public, but that day it was closed. 🙁

Humayun’s Tomb, apart from Humayun’s grave, also contains graves of other royal members of the Mughal family of the time.

There are gates on all four sides of the tomb, which gives it a unique quadrilateral look, something of a uniqueness with subsequent Mughal architecture, especially that contains tombs.

 

We enjoyed our visit and after packing our memories in an electronic plastic card, we made our way to the next destination. More on that later.

 

 

 

Lotus Temple, Bahai Temple, Delhi

Lotus Temple

As we exit Nehru Place under the Nehru Place Metro Station towards the Lotus temple, the roads begin to slightly deteriorate. This road definitely needs layering. As we bank left into the road that leads to the Lotus temple, the temple perimeter becomes visible with a lovely fencing that is both aesthetic and useful. The morning sun reflected the temple in all its splendour.

I was taking my cousin, who had come from Kerala, to see a wonderful architectural wonder in modern Delhi – the Lotus Temlpe, the worship abode of the Baha’i community in Delhi. Created in the shape of a flowering lotus, it is an architectural wonder and was opened to public in 1986. It is situated east of Nehru Place, south of East of Kailash and north of Kalkaji. While technically, the place where it stands is called Baharpur, everybody calls it Lotus Temple!! The regular flow of visitors, including a vociferous group of schoolchildren, was picking up as we made our way into the premises. The entry is designed in such a way as to let the visitors view the exterior for an extended period of time before they can enter the sanctorum. Verdant gardens envelop the surroundings and this autumn morning, they were in a colourful riot.
  
A flight of tastefully crafted steps lead up to the entrance. The structure itself is surrounded by pools of clear water. We came to know that these help keep the sanctorum cool. Footwear is not allowed inside the sanctorum. However, we were provided bags to keep the footwear.
There are nine gates that open into the sanctorum and we entered through one into the coolness of the great hall. Silent and majestic, it was a beautiful experience. We sat in one of the many benches that are provided inside the hall. After a few moments of meditation we explored a bit and then made our way out. The bags were returned and after the many customary photo sessions, we made our way back to our car.

Some facts about the Lotus Temple to help you make your visits more enjoyable

1. Visit towards the evening. The light show is a must-see!
2. More than 20% of the total electricity requirement of 500KW is generated through solar panels.
3. There is an elaborate arrangement for water conservation throughout the premises.
4. The pools cool the sanctorum even in the most fiercest of summers.
5. Photography inside the sanctorum is disallowed.
5. Entrance is free.

sarojini nagar market, Delhi

Sarojini Nagar Market of Delhi

Sarojini Nagar Market is the all-weather all-season market that caters to the needs of the entire South Delhi.   If there is one market that can satisfy Delhiwala’s appetite for shopping, it is this market.

Sometimes I have a feeling that people come here with the sole intention of testing out their negotiation and bargaining skills.   I used to hate bargaining and would simply feel quite magnanimous in handing over the price the vendors asked for.   But some of my visits with my husband, a hardcore bargainer have made me realize that the vendors kind of look down upon people who do not negotiate because as the norm goes, they hike up the price by atleast twice or thrice the original price so that they would still be left with some margin when the deal is finally done.

However, there are fixed price outlets and wares where you can select garments in the same range starting from Rs. 100, 150, 200, 250, etc..

I have been visiting this market from the time I got married about 20 years ago and came to settle down in the south side of Delhi.   From then onwards, if I have anything to buy from children’s clothes to shoes, bags, undergarments, hosiery items, bed sheets, covers or even curtains, etc., I head to this haven.   There are even shops for buying vegetables, grocery items, household items and kitchen utensils in case you need such items.

Babu Market is another complex that lies in the same vicinity and has approximately 4 rows of shops that again caters to mostly garments with some jewellery shops and accessories and all women’s stores thrown in.
All said and done, this market offers decent products at affordable rates.   You can find things you would not find anywhere else – children’s fancy dresses for their school competition, from paalak to a fairy, these shops can change their personality.  They can even loan you these dresses for a day or two!  What else would you need.
A word of caution though – On Sundays, only those who have some really good patience, focus and crowd management skills should attempt to attack this market.   On Saturdays and Sundays, this market can be so crowded that you just need to stand at one place, the crowd will pull you to all directions.
Recently there has been an addition of a multi-storied parking plaza which has turned out to be semi-modern building in the vicinity with Haldiram’s and other food joints like McD and Subway catering to the hungry public!