A weekend in Bhopal

When in Bhopal do what Bhopalis do; eat pohe – jalebi in the morning with rounds of kadak chai and loads of bakar (random conversations about anything right from the weather to politics). The city is sleepy and slow still you will see people getting up early in the morning just to eat pohe, jalebis and kachoris fresh from the wok. That’s exactly what I did on the first day; woke up to watch sunrise from Kaliyasot Dam which is a 15 kms drive from Shahpura lake. The lake is equally beautiful early in the morning and a perfect place for bird watching. Thick fog floating over the lake during winters gives it an almost mysterious look.

After soaking in the early morning sun and the view we took a pit stop at a sweet shop in Nehru Nagar to eat jalebis, pohe and hot cup of Banwari Bhai Ki Nakhrali Chai. Every nook and corner of Bhopal serves this simple yet delicious breakfast early in the morning. On a chilly winter morning when you don’t want to leave the blanket, stepping out for crispy hot jalebis is worth all the trouble.

Another great place to grab some breakfast is the very famous Indian Coffee House in New Market. Although the decor has been changed a lot and the signature green curtains are gone yet the food remains as good as it was years ago. Hot idlis and wadas dunked in sambhar coupled with filter coffee is the perfect comfort food.
The new Bhopal city has plenty to offer; there’s Sair Sapata near Bada Talab, perfect for an evening stroll and a boat ride in the lake. Birla Temple gives a beautiful view of the lake and city in the evening. For the History and Culture buffs there’s Manav Sangrahalaya and the newly opened Tribal Museum.

A part of Bhopal which is not to be missed is the Old City. There’s a beautiful charm in the narrow lanes of the markets around Jama Masjid. The area is always bustling with people and there are small shops making chhole tikiya, phulki (Bhopali version of Pani Puri), kulche, chhole bhature, lassi and much more. Hotel Jameel in Ibrahimpura is a great place to grab some nalli nihari, rumali roti, kebabs and chicken fry for lunch. However, post 7pm all Bhopalis have just one destination, the famous Chatori Galli selling bade ke kebab, haleem, nalli nihari and biryani (my visit to this unparalleled galli is still due and I promise a separate post on that after my visit). 

There are also a couple of bakeries in Ibrahimpura market which sell freshly baked breads like sheermal, bakarkhani etc; a perfect foil to the spicy mutton gravies. If you’re not fond of breads do pick up some nankhatais and rusks from these shops.
One delicacy that you shouldn’t miss is the Barf rasmalai ke done at Ramudada’s stall. At around 4pm a guy comes on a Bajaj scooter near Jama Masjid with his whole stall set on the backseat of the scooter. Apart from the regular ice golas (crushed ice flavoured with syrups) he makes the rasmalai dona. He takes crushed ice in a paper bowl, tops it with sugar syrup, pours a big spoon full of thick rabdi over it, tops it with rose syrup and serves. The grainy rabdi with a layer of ice under it is a perfect combination and I can’t be thankful enough to the blog Bhopale for this recommendation.
10 minutes away from Jama Masjid is Taj ul Masjid, Asia’s largest mosque. The minarets of this mosque can be seen from the Birla Temple which is literally at the other end of the city.
Bhopal has both, an old world charm and a fresh and young vibe in the new city. There’s a lot of development yet the nature has been kept intact. While it’s chaos in the old city, the new city is more planned and clutter free. I wish to explore and share more aspects of this city through words and pictures in my visits to come.

Jawhar – Paradise near Mumbai

The best part of traveling is when you find paradise in an unexpected place. We weren’t expecting much of Jawhar when a friend recommended it as a weekend getaway. A place in Thane District, around 180 kms from Mumbai, how beautiful or serene can it be, we thought. But a 3 hour drive to a hilly place close by vs the 7 hour tiring one to Mahabaleshwar sounded like a better idea to us. So we packed our bags, checked the map and left for this little village.
How to reach there
There are no tourist buses to Jawhar, train will only take you till Dahanu Rd. station from where it’s difficult to get a public transport. Hence driving or hiring a cab is the best idea. If you are on Western Suburbs drive towards Ghodbunder Road and get on to NH8. Make sure you have a full tank and GPS connection, switch it on and keep following the route.

Where to stay
There are just 3-4 hotels in Jawhar. We stayed at Shanti Sarovar Resort. Located near Jaysagar lake, the hotel is a perfect location. They offer a package with 3 meals. We paid Rs 1700 per head for the non AC room and lunch, dinner and breakfast. The rooms are clean but make sure you take the one facing the lake with a small balcony. The food is decent with dal, sabzi, roti, rice and a non vegetarian dish for lunch and dinner. We had a decent omelette and bread for breakfast. Other than the hotel, the town does not have many options to eat. However, if you go during monsoons eating bhajiyas and pav pakodas at the roadside stalls is a good idea.

What to see
The Jaysagar dam on Jaysagar lake is just 5 miutes away from Shanti Sarovar Resort. It’s beautifully peaceful near the lake, even with the sound of the water flowing through the dam. 

Around 18 kms from Jawhar, towards Silvassa, is Dabhosa waterfall. The 300 feet high waterfall on Lendi river is surrounded by thick forest.

The journey more beautiful than the destination

The road to Jawhar is mostly good except for some rough patches. The route is full of beautiful landscapes. I probably saw all shades of green in this trip. There were beautiful farms, paddy fields and small vineyards on the way from Jawhar to Dabhosa. Small streams of river will make you want to jump into them or just dip your feet in the cool river water and sit for hours.

This sleepy Hamlet so close to Mumbai is still untouched by the crowd running towards Lonavla every monsoons. If you are planning to do the same I’d suggest you take a U-turn and head to Jawhar instead.

Eating in and around Udaipur

Food is an integral part of traveling especially when you want to experience the culture of the place rather than going sight seeing or sitting in a resort eating standard food. For me it is more important cause, well, I love food. So, the research for what to eat and where to eat in Udaipur started as soon as I planned the trip. For those who don’t know, Rajasthani food is a lot more than just dal-bati-choorma. There’s a whole range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes especially in the Mewari cuisine. In this post I have tried to include all that I ate (good or bad) in Udaipur. A lot of recommendations and help came through Twitter and Lonely Planet and I tried my best to go to each and every place.
The food journey started from the train itself when we got down at Ratlam station to get something to eat and got this awesome plate of pohe. They were very cold thanks to the weather. Still we sprinkled some fiery Ratlami sev on it that we had just bought from a vendor. I am amazed at the sheer variety we create with something as simple as flattened rice or pohe. Unlike the pohe in Mumbai which are made with onions, potatoes and groundnuts the pohe in Ratlam were plain, without onions, just garnished with coriander and lemon juice.
Pohe at Ratlam station
The version of pohe served in Udaipur is completely different from the above two. Here, they taste a little sweet and are garnished with chopped onions, fresh coriander, crunchy namkeen and jeeravan masala. The last ingredient is a taste enhancer which is a mix of various Indian spices and is normally used instead of chaat masala. I was introduced to this spice by Amrita Rana who bought me a packet from Indore. Well, the guy at the shop was glad that I knew about it :D.
Pohe in Udaipur

We reached Udaipur just before sunset and trust me the view was mesmerizing. The lights at the Lake Palace Hotel and Jagdish Mandir Island came on as the sun set and we sat on the terrace downing cups of chai….well, that was the case almost every evening.

Lake Palace Hotel
The next morning we decided to take a walk around the old city and found a small shop near Jagdish Temple which sells pohe, kachori, samosa and chai. This is where we had the pohe too. The samosa chat was average but we loved the urad stuffed kachori chaat. Both were prepared with dahi, chutney and lots of namkeen and groundnuts/peanuts. It’s a perfect place to have an early breakfast while you watch the city waking up and getting started with their daily routine. 2 Kachoris, 1 Samosa, 1 Pohe, 2 cups of chai costed us Rs 75.
Jagdish Temple
Samosa and kachori chaat

Another place highly recommended for breakfast is Cafe Edelweiss, commonly known as German Bakery. It’s located at the Laal Ghat on Lake Pichola and is very close to Bagore Ki Haweli. The small cafe is generally flocked by foreigners. We decided to grab a quick breakfast before heading out to explore the city. We spent a modest Rs 210 on 2 cheese omlettes, 6 toasts, 1 capuccino and 1 really yummy hot chocolate. During my stay also tried their apple pie – soft crust and very mildly sweet. The mocha cake was too dry and I couldn’t finish the whole piece.

Breakfast at Cafe Edelweiss
After exploring the city on foot we decided to take a rickshaw from Fateh Sagar Lake. The guy charged us Rs 400 and took us around Saheliyon Ki Bari, Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal, Shilpgram and Sajjangarh Palace. At Shilpgram we stopped to have a dal-bati-choorma lunch and oh! boy, that was some lunch; three fried batis served with dal, kadhi, gatte ki sabzi, salad, pickle and choorma laddoo. All we wanted was find a little shade under a tree and doze off. A thali costed us Rs 100.
Dal-baati-choorma at Shilpgram Dhaba
Despite so much food all through the day we had built up quite an appetite for dinner and headed to Ambrai Restauarant. Located at the edge of Lake Pichola this open air restaurant gives a good view of the Lake Palace Hotel and City Palace. The laal maas here is a must try. It’s a slow cooked mutton curry where Jodhpuri or Mathaniya chilis play very important role. We also had tangdi kebab and mutton boti kebab their, very succulent and very well marinated. We spent around Rs 4000 for 1 chicken tangdi kebab, 1 mutton boti kebab, laal maas, dal tadka, 1 rice, 2 missi roti, kheer and a bottle of Sula Brut.
The current Maharana of Udaipur Shreeji Arvind Singh Mewar has a meuseum where he keeps his collection of vintage cars. We didn’t enter the museum but did have lunch at the vegetarian restaurant. The restaurant only serves thali with a traditional Rajasthani food. We were served ker sangri; a dish made of local beans and berries, kadhi, dal, potato sabzi, paneer sabzi, bottlegourd sabzi, chapatis, bati, rice and a sweet. All of it was wiped off and we overate thanks to the hot, ghee smeared chapatis. One thali was priced at Rs 150 and included unlimited servings.
Thali at the restaurant at Vintage Car Museum
Since the day I planned the Udaipur trip I was vehemently looking for the restaurant recommended by Rocky and Mayur in their show Highway On My Plate. The hunt ended at Savage Garden located in the by-lanes of Chand Pol. The restaurant is painted all blue and has loads of bouganvilla all over its walls. In fact, the whole city is flooded with bouganvilla and looks absolutely beautiful. They are famous for their salmon preparation but it was the grilled singada that bowled me over; mildly flavoured, crispy fish served with a huge portion of mashed potatoes. The husband fell in love with spinach and mushroom ravioli. It was a surprise for me to find a place in Udaipur serving such great Italian/Continental food. We spent around Rs 700 on a bruschetta, a grilled fish and a mushroom and spinach ravioli.
Savage Garden

On the fifth day we made a day trip to the Kumbhalgarh Fort and on our way stopped over at this tiny eatery for onion kachoris. The picture speaks a thousand words and the kachoris were as oily as they look in this pic but tasty nonetheless, served with a yellow kadhi kind of chutney and fried chillis.

Onion kachori

From Kumbhalgarh Fort we went to HaldiGhati Museum. Along with the very facinating museum there’s a small restaurant where you get homemade food. We had a very satisfying lunch of dal, kadhi, potato sabzi, hot chapatis and rice. An unlimited thali costs Rs 80.

Thali at Haldi Ghati museum
On the last day of our trip we went to this lake side restaurant called Food Club. Well, the location of the restaurant was better than the food itself and I would suggest you go there just to grab a drink and stick to the standard fish and chips or French fries.
Food Club near Lake Pichola

Finally, the good days of sipping chai and siting near the fire got over and we had to come back. There were a lot of recommended restaurants like Natraj and Santosh Bhojanalay that I missed out. Will check them out on my next trip to this beautiful city which I will plan soon.


A trip to Bhandardara

Bhandardara is Maharashtra’s sleepy Hamlet set amidst the Sahyadri mountains and is best visited during monsoons. But we (me and my husband) decided to go there last weekend mainly to get away from the fast life, social media and noise. We took an early morning passenger train from Dadar and reached Igatpuri around 9 am. From Igatpuri we took an auto rickshaw which cost us Rs 500. Other options are to either take a cab which will cost you around Rs 1000 or take a shared rick till Ghoti and from there take a shared jeep to Bhandardara. There are ST buses too from Igatpuri to Bhandardara but can not be relied on due to low frequency. A drive from Mumbai to Bhandardara takes around 31/2 hours.

We reached Bhandardara and checked into our room in the MTDC resort by the Arthur lake. There are other small hotels too with rooms but none gives a view as beautiful as the MTDC resort. 
Beautiful Bougainvillea flowers adorned the roads and the lake sides.
I sat there by the quiet lake…
and scribbled on my notepad.
For lunch we went to a restaurant in the small market which serves Maharashtrian, Chinese and regular North Indian food. MTDC has a canteen too but we don’t think that they cook in very hygienic conditions. We ordered 2 rice plates which came with dal fry, ussal, chhole, chapatis and rice. 
The food was good but very spicy and we were dreaded by the thought of eating the same food for dinner when my brother-in-law called and told us about this small place called Kaka Gujarati Thali . The only catch is that you have to inform the owner at-least 2 hours in advance and he’ll prepare the dinner for you. On our way back we told him to prepare 2 thalis for us, each thali costs Rs 120.
After a little afternoon nap, a walk on the hills and by the lake and watching the Sunset we went for dinner at around 8pm. Yes, villages have early evenings hence early dinner. We were served a thali with lovely kadhi, aloo ki sabzi, sev ki sabzi, salad, hot rotis and khichdi. The food was fresh and very homely with no overwhelming spices. The owner, a middle aged Gujarati man, serves you as if you are his guests which makes the experience even better.
We called it an early night since we had planned to go for early morning boating in the lake and watch the Sunrise. The view was beautiful as we saw Sun coming out from behind a hill while we sat in the middle of the lake. It was quiet, serene and enchanting. In all the excitement I forgot to take the camera along and couldn’t take pictures of the beautiful Sunrise.
For breakfast we went to the same Gujarati place to grab a plate of hot poha. While our breakfast was getting ready we couldn’t stop ourselves from hogging on the yummy bhajias and batata vadas with chai at this nearby stall called Jai Hind.
Since we wanted a quiet weekend we stayed away from sight seeing but if you want you can go and check out the Wilson Dam, Mount Kalsubai, Agastya Rishi Ashram, Ratangad Fort and Amriteshwar Temple.
If you want some time off and be with yourself away from the fast paced world, I’d say you visit Bhandardara.