Sunday, October 30, 2016

A road trip to Cherish - 2

Bombay/Mumbai, for a newcomer is always a horror until you get used to it's liveliness and convenience. Aggressive drivers are more in Bombay than anywhere else in India am sure. The skill of our taxi driver to negotiate the meanest traffic was so fascinating to watch that I kept wondering how people managed their cars out here. Don't they get scratched and dented all the time?

Our trip to Bombay was during the two main festivals: Ganesh Chaturthi and Eid A Adha. In fact our trip around Bombay was on the Eid holiday and hence Mumbai was supposed to be less chaotic! We were able to watch the big crowd at Haji Ali Dargah and also the various pandals erected for Ganesh Chaturthi.

The mandatory visit to the Malabar Hills to see how the rich in Bombay lived was done too. Unfortunately one finds not much difference anywhere in Bombay since everything is kept shabbily, at least outside. And as long one will never get to see the inside, it is what one gets. Think about Beverley Hills in California and what would you expect to see? Hopefully how the rich should be living? :) Or maybe it is the great Indian paradox where equality can be found in strange ways. Even Ambani couldn't resist building his Antilla smack in the middle of the whole mess. Am sure he faces the same mess that the rest faces unless he is using a copter for every trip that he takes outside. No wonder India’s richest man still thinks he is “middle-class” at heart. Anyway, Mumbai can do better being the commercial capital of our nation. And if the rich is able to manage the inefficient government machinery to make money for themselves, they can also do the same to improve their city too. (High hopes indeed!)

So we left Mumbai early morning for the drive to Goa. Was stopped by a traffic cop just before we exited Maharashtra and wondered if we would have to dole out anything, even if all the papers were up to date. The licence, insurance and pollution certificate were checked thoroughly and we were allowed to proceed. Hope we did not disappoint the officer :)

The drive to Goa is through a forest area and it was a very nice trip. We checked a few hotels online and called them up to see if rooms were available. Panaji was our destination and we reached there in time for hotel hunting. The first one was right in the middle of the city and the shopping centre but they had a room for only one night and had no parking space. Guests had to use the paid parking service located elsewhere. The next one was Verandah Do Mar which looked good enough and being offseason,  we were offered a suite with sea view and a big balcony. We decided to rest for the day and maybe do a bit of shopping later. The hotel had a good restaurant and hence we did not have to go elsewhere for dinner.

Found Goa exactly the same as Kerala; the same kind of vegetation, houses and weather. The only difference being, in place of mundu/lungi one saw pants/shorts. To me, Goa looked like how Kerala looked two decades back. Everything was there in Panaji; branded shops, restaurants, wine shops and yes the Casinos too,

... yet it looked laid back and simple and not filled with concrete buildings like Kerala. Maybe the Goans are living elsewhere? The one's who served us in the hotel restaurant were from Karnataka and Bengal since when I asked them about the nearby touristic places they could not help me. Even the driver who drove us around was from Belgaum.

We had a tour of Panaji and being off season it was an easy trip. Shops were also not crowded and we had a good time selecting things leisurely.

Upon asking our driver to take us to a good restaurant, he chose The Fisherman's Wharf. We loved the food!

Chicken Teriyaki
Beef Stroganoff

Breaded Kingfish fry
Midnight in Panjim

The permit paper
How can we leave Goa without it's Feni? So we were taken to a wine shop where we found the salesman who speaks Malayalam (maybe a Mallu pretending to be a Goan? :) )

We were told that we are allowed to take two bottles each per person and that the shop will provide the necessary permit papers for the same. Maybe it is an age old trickery but we fell for it! We bought a few bottles of Feni and some good wine too.

 Papers were given to cover the entire purchase and just when we were exiting the shop two Malayalees appeared and told us that it is an utter waste of money. They warned us that the Karnataka border police will not let you go and it is better to consume it in Goa. They did look a bit drunk and we decided that it must be the drunken advise from an overzealous Malayalee. (It was not!)


Sunday, October 16, 2016

A road trip to cherish

Am back on these pages to reminisce another vacation and a crazy trip that we made. If I put it down here, can always return to savor those days once again.

Since the children are now studying in Kerala, one has to wait until they get a vacation for us to move around. This time it was the Onam vacation and although it would have been my first Onam in Kerala after coming to Kuwait, our promise for a road trip had to be kept. Our plan was to drive to Bombay and maybe take a break in Bangalore. No hotel was booked but only the car was serviced to ensure a smooth drive. This time around we had two drivers; one reason why we embarked on this trip. Our son who landed in Kerala year before last took his licence as soon as his age allowed and was already driving comfortably (if one can forget the occasional screams and advise given by his parents).
We left early in the morning on a Sunday and hence had an almost traffic free roads in Kerala. The road after Vadekkencherry is too good. In fact the National Highways are too good outside Kerala. Not sure how Kerala can have a 3 lane highway when the space is limited but......I mean look at the roads...

Kochi - Salem Highway (NH544)

The drive and the food is what we were all looking forward to.

At Peelemedu, we had a very delicious Thali. Along the national highway, specially in TN, one can find good restaurants and toilets behind petrol bunks. Most of them are built similarly and this one was named Gowrishankar Pure Veg. The normal meal is at IRS 80, while the special Thali(vegetarian) was IRS 150. It started with lentil soup and ended with an ice cream. The fried cauliflower even tasted like chicken to our chicken lover son who seldom relishes a vegetarian meal. The waiters hovered around asking us if we wanted anything extra or more. They ensured we ate until our stomachs were full. The bathrooms were neat too which mattered even more.

We had to break our journey either inside Bangalore or little ahead by skirting around Bangalore.  Hubby decided that we break the journey outside Bangalore, since getting out of Bangalore would be tough, so we chose Tumkur. Daughter had already chosen Naveen Regency, after reviewing them on TripAdvisor. Since it was getting late, we did not want to go hotel hunting even though the GPS was behaving pretty well. Luckily we found them very close to the highway and although they are not well maintained, the food was good. We just needed a few hours of sleep before we hit the road again.

It was only later that we realized that not getting into Bangalore was the best decision since the Kaveri riots would have cut short our trip. Oblivious to the agitation we left Tumkur early in the morning.

The roads were too good and the drivers were having a gala time. Both Father and Son reached speeds which Kerala would never give them. We passed places which we have only read about, occasionally stopping for toll gates or refreshments. I think there was a toll gate every 60-100 km and we ended up paying around IRS 2,000 for the Kochi-Bombay road.

Just before Pune, we stopped for lunch at hotel Kaveri and found that it was run by Keralites. They had a vegetarian and a non vegetarian restaurant. We skipped the vegetarian this time and headed for non veg. It was pure malabari food and tasted really great.

 We skipped Pune and headed for Mumbai. Went through many tunnels and drove down the mountains. Reached our destination after 9pm since the traffic inside Mumbai was pretty slow and the drivers very impatient. Not seeing the regular MH car but a KL registration may have made them put extra efforts to heckle. It was after two decades that we were both visiting Mumbai and I found it to be the same old Bombay.

We took a taxi to tour Bombay the next day and the driver gave us a Mumbai Darshan. The kids were more interested in shopping and that is what we mainly did in Bombay. We dined at the fairly new restaurant Bombay Vintage.

We selected the chicken and fish meals; the Mangalorean Tiffin style while the children had a Continental fare.
We had planned two days in Bombay and was supposed to return via Bangalore to visit relations, but the riot made us drop the entire route and take Goa for the return trip. Thus the much awaited Goa trip too was accomplished. Since we had a function to attend on Sunday and the kids had to return to their classes, we could spare only two nights and day at Goa. Another blog post maybe....


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