Featured Post

Here is why Bali's Sacred Monkey Forest a must visit

Bali, the paradise island of Indonesia, is known for its natural beauty and protected wildlife. One of the well known forest reserv...

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Gurgaon-Amritsar Weekend Trip


When husband was fretting over how to spend time over the long new year weekend (30 Dec’17 to 1 Jan’18), we made an impromptu trip for Amritsar. Since Gurgaon to Amritsar is more than 480 km and keeping the dense fog in mind, I was apprehensive about a road trip. But who argues with husband when he is so adamant to drive!

We left from Gurgaon at 5am and took our first break at Pehalwan DhabaMurthal for breakfast. Needless to mention the wow-someness of paranthas served with white butter. Two glasses of tea worked like desserts. (Diabetics please avoid tea here).




We filled ourselves to heart’s content (rather tummy’s content) and resumed with the road trip. It started getting foggy and we slowed down for quite a long stretch, which made our journey unnecessarily longer. (In winters avoid driving. Hop in a Volvo instead). 




The route we took was Gurgaon- Dhaula Kuan- Azadpur- Murthal-Ludhiana Bypass- Amritsar
We crossed 5 tolls and spent Rs 638 in all for both sides. (So much for a road trip. Phew!) Highway is smooth but road construction in few places made the ride bumpy and slow. You can expect such erections and diverted traffic at any time of the year. Apart from few places and diversions, rest of our ride was even. 

Amritsar Gate

A non-stop drive by enthusiastic husband brought us to Amritsar by 2:30pm and we checked into Hotel Pegaam by 3 pm. Without wasting much time, we rushed to Makhan Singh Restaurant on Majitha road for lunch, which was nearly 4 km from hotel.

It was sheer foolishness to pick a hotel by reviews on Zomato. Makhan Singh was not only disappointing by taste but by pocket as well. It was too expensive! An order of fried fish, palak chana and 5 tandoori rotis got us a bill of Rs.700 plus. Husband (being a non-vegetarian) said fried fish was ordinary and not worth the price. Palak Chana looked good but tasted bland. The only thing that I could taste was chilly. Our huger died and we left the place unsatisfied. The place is over-hyped for sure. (Found later my stomach was upset after eating here)

A late lunch and long dive had left us tired. We returned to Pegaam, unpacked and crashed at 7 pm to wake up next day at 6am. Pegaam’s restaurant service starts at 8 am, so we walked down to the main junction, 500 meters away, and had tea at the tiny road side tea stall. A steamy cup on a cold winter morning felt heavenly. Rickshaw wallas, auto drivers, early risers and us, all had tea outside the same shop. Clearly, tea can create good bond without the boundaries of caste, religion, money or culture.

Soon post freshening up at Pegaam, we left at 8am for an action packed day. (Husband’s priority was Wagah Border). We preferred hiring a rickshaw instead of an auto, as that helps you explore the city well. Rickshaw ride costed us Rs. 50 from Hotel Pegaam to Jallianwala Bagh premises. 
 The moment we stepped out of the ricky, hunger bells rang. We choose Bharawan ka dhaba for breakfast.

Bharawan da dhaba



The board read “SINCE 1912” and I knew the food would be authentic. Well, they exceeded my expectations.

The first bite of aloo parantha was beyond expression. True bliss I must say. Next on our plate was paneer stuffed special Amritsari kulcha with choley (chickpea) curry. It turned out the BEST breakfast ever! Fresh, hot, loaded with white butter, and balanced spices, we could not ask for anything more heavenly.



Breakfast was followed by visit to Jallianwala Wala Bagh.



This is public garden (in)famous for brutal massacre by British Army’s Gen. Dyer on 19 April 1919. He had ordered mass shooting where people had gathered for Baisakhi celebration and peaceful protest against arrest of two national leaders.



Thousands of innocent people lost their lives and the gruesome bloodbath had sent a shock-wave across the nation. Dyer’s act was condemned and he was removed from the British Army command. The bullet marks remain on the walls of the garden and a memorial dedicated to the deceased has been constructed. In-fact lot of artefacts have been constructed with the Bagh off-late.

                         





Amar Jyoti- A contibution made by Indian Oil Association in Jallianwala Bagh 


The memorial in the center of the garden

The premises of Golden Temple has got a nice face-lift recently. With newly constructed roads and organized shops, it is a pleasant experience to roam around. E-rickshaw facility has also started, to curb pollution. You know you are in the Amritsar when modern blends with tradition. The well managed crowd, neat lanes and colorful shops add to your belief. It feels homely and warm.

Impulsive hogging and lots of window shopping occupied most of our time during the day and we headed for Wagah Border ceremony at 12.30 pm as our pass was waiting at the check post.

What followed was a thrilling adventure and adrenaline rush. Stay tuned to know more. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2017 reading challenge





              

Though I met the 2017 reading challenge, the books that I read were little disappointing. Starting with James Patterson & Ashwin Sanghi's Private India, it was below average. It was poorly thought of plot that resembled some B grade movie. Where was the research and excitement which usually Ashwin's brings in his novels? Equally disappointing was The Krishna Key. It started on a good note, built the story, characters were strong but got sloppy as the story ended. Climax was dead. Not done Ashwin. I had high hopes from both the books since I adore your work. 



Next disappointment was Binodini which is a product of Gurudev Tagore. I got my hands on the translated version randomly in a bookstore at a metro station. Oh boy, this was the most irritating book that I read. With due respect to Tagore, the Bengali version I am sure would be good, since it won several accolades. I guess the essence was lost in translation. Binodini was poorly translated which least captivated. Widow-remarriage, plight of a married lady, extra marital affair, a devastated mother, friendship, romance and all emotions fell apart with an extremely bad translation.

                   
The books which held me till the end were The Lowland and The Sialkot Saga, not because they are my favourite authors but because the books had the essence of what the authors are good at. Tugging at emotions (Jhumpa Lahiri) and well-paced plot backed by superb research (Ashwin Sanghi) made the books to my top list of reads in 2017. While The Lowland was about two brothers one of whom chose to be a Naxalite, leaving his pregnant wife alone to the mercy of the cruel world. The elder brother comes to her rescue and marries her, against his parents' wish. The plot moves to Rhode Island is the U.S where they live as a married couple but never attached to each other. Desolate, hopelessly in love and complicated relationships- Jhumpa excels at writing on these. 

The Sialkot Saga is a story woven pre-partition where two young boys separated in communal clash, are adopted by different families and grow up to be professional rivals to each other. Characters in different states of the country, imparts the feel of two different stories being narrated simultaneously until destiny brings them face to face for a never ending battle. This book is typical of Ashwin's style which I thoroughly loved.  




Preeti Shenoy's Life is What You Make It got  the 3rd place in my "good reads". A very good story indeed. I was impressed by the way Shenoy researched, brought in the angle of teen age love, career ambitions, clinical depression and seamlessly added conviction to the story. The characters seem real and every young person would be able to connect to this book. I want to read more of Shenoy’s work now.



Terminal Love was an experiment. New author Vicky Arora tried touching upon the unusual story of gay love. The plot was well-thought of, but lacked expression. The story has the power to make you cry in the end, but this is one of the books which does not leave you "feeling good". Depressing climax but a good attempt at first novel. It takes guts to write on a bold topic and Arora partially succeeded. Only the plot needed to be a little stronger.



Potpourri by Ruskin Bond is a collection of short stories and each story left me with a smile on my face. I guess that's emblematic of an incredible author. Stories are of different genres and give moral learning too. Short and sweet.


John Grisham's The Client has a unique plot but do not expect more than court room spectacle and lawyer turning into detective. The all's-well-that-ends-well plot has plenty of drama, action, violence and of course law theories. This book as better than his The Testament.





Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The must see's of Nusa Dua, Bali


Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers
Trip to the Paradise Island Bali isn’t complete without a visit to Nusa Dua. Located in the southern part of the island, the quaint pristine beaches of Nusa Dua is popular as a surfing destination. Even if water sports do not interest you, the place has a lot more to offer. Here is a virtual tour of the luxurious Nusa Dua through my blog post.

1. Nusa Dua Beach




Needless to mention, the white sparkling stretch of Nusa Dua beach is the most popular attraction of the place. This beach is a poplar picnic spot for families and kids. Surfers of all age have  blast here. The water literally is dotted with sails and surfing boards, as the pristine white sand shines in full glory. You can sit under a tree and relax. Sun, sand and a fruit mocktail in Nusa Dua would be the best way to holiday here. Different stretches of the beach have variety of scenic beauty. The other side of the beach has rocky beach with limestone cliffs, which make perfect photo opportunity props.   Spending half a day at this beach would be a great idea for your Bali itinerary.

Entry fees- None (You can keep your belongings in the shafts or boats for a nominal fees. We left ours on the beach, since Bali is safe and no body steals)
Location- Southern point of Bali. You’d pay toll on the way to enter Nusa Dua.

2. Museum Pasifika

Pic courtesy- Tripadvisor

Attention art lovers and history enthusiasts. Who would have thought that a place like Bali has something serious and immense like this museum? The museum has works of art, culture and heritage of Indonesia and Asia Pacific region.  200 Eminent artists and cultural artefacts from 25 countries have found a prominent place here in the huge space divided into 11 galleries.  Cameras are allowed in collection galleries. Flash or tripod is prohibited and video-taping is limited to the lobby area. The museum is a great learning place for children, and is wheelchair friendly as well. You can spend a good 2-3 hours and imbibe a lot of knowledge. Check out the website https://www.museum-pasifika.com/ for more details.

Entry fee- 70,000 IDR
Location- Complex Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC) Area Block P at Nusa Dua. (Few blocks away from waterblow)

3. Water Blow




Straight from the heart of the sea, water blow, is a natural fountain that forms when the high sea waves lash the rocks. Watch the nature’s splendour in full force when the waves splash as high as 20 feet.  Water Blow gets its name from the sea waves fill a rock cavity and lash with strength, hence getting its name “Water blow”. A beautiful pathway has been constructed for the tourists to walk across and enjoy the view. Tourists step down at the end of the pathway to see the waves closely and love getting drenched in the waves’ splash. You may want to check the time of high tides before visiting this place, since the crowd only starts gathering after 11 am.

Even if water blow does not entice you, the breezy air, the emerald and blue shades of the ocean and gliders hovering above your head would surely hold you there. This is place to have fun just like the waves play up.

Do not step on the rocky cliffs, as they tend to be slippery and the washes might sweep you away in split seconds.

Entry Fees- None
Location- Nusa Dua Beach, Few meters from the museum parking. You would cross a park with statues of Krishna and Arjun.


4. Under water sea walk

                  Pic courtesy- Balisuntours
        
Imagine walking on the sea bed surrounded by colorful fish and gorgeous coral formations. The underwater life is the most exasperating and beautiful beyond imagination. The sea walk is one such experience which you would never forget.  The walk is for everyone, including kids, even if you cannot swim. You would wear a huge helmet mask weighing around 6 kg which helps you breathe and see through the glass. Several agents and sea walker companies offer sea walk packages. You can choose from Balisuta OR Viator for packages. I had booked through Balisuntours.

Approx time under sea- 60 mins
Fees-Between 45 -80USD depending on the location and facilities

5. The hidden beaches- Geger and Menigat 

   Pic courtesy- Indonesiatourism.com


The hidden beaches in Bali are secret gems hidden gems of the Paradise Island. While there are many secret and less visited beaches in Bali, you can explore of these in Nusa Dua.

Unlike the overtly crowded Kuta beach, Menigat is a quiet one with very less footfall. You can choose to relax and unwind on the sandy stretch without doing anything. If stay in hotels in this area, your view will be spectacular every day.

Geger beach has rocky cliffs and clean bank with crystal blue water. You can sit under the rocks and read a book or sip a drink, while enjoying the cool breeze and exotic view. Enjoy food at reasonable price in few cafes at the beach.

The best part of these hidden beaches- Less frequented by public, less commercialized, clean and no hawkers pushing you for souvenirs or massage package. These beaches are meant for people who want to spend peaceful “me time”.  

Location-
Menigat- l.Pantai Mengiat Kawasan ITDC, Nusa Dua, Kuta Selatan, Benoa, Kuta Sel
Geger- Desa Adat Peminge, Sawangan | jl Giri Puspa D 1no12 Mumbul, Nusa Dua
Entry- Free

6. Abandoned plane

                   Pic courtesy: nomadoholic.com
  
An old abandoned plane on ground in the middle of nowhere rather sounds bizarre. Don’t worry, the planes have no engines. Nobody knows where these planes came from but there are several people who claim the ownership. Rumours have done several rounds that these planes will be converted into restaurants, though nothing has been done so far. There are two of these in Nusa Dua, both of which we saw many times while passing by these areas on scooter. The planes are stationed since many years and offer opportunity for photo shoots while walking on the wings.

Even Google Maps shows these planes as landmarks in Bali. Beat that!

They looked eerie to me but I am sure would have been fun to go inside the “ghostly” planes. You must visit if you want to ride the wings or mount the plane’s nose without hurting/killing yourself.

Entry Fees- None
Location- One on Bypass Ngurah Rai, next to Dunkin Donuts and  another in South Kuta, along the Jalan Nasa Dua Selatan road.



   


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Iron Rich Poha Beetroot Cutlet



A woman's body is prone to iron  & calcium deficiency which lead to serious health hazards later. Iron deficiency, especially after child birth, complicates lot of things. Failing to compensate the low levels may lead to hair fall, brittle nails, fatigue, paleness in skin and much more. Anemic women face trouble in keeping energy levels intact which adversely effects their social, economic status. Why wait for the consequence to take a toll when little changes in food habits can do the job? In association with livogen.in, here is an attempt to create iron rich recipes for women and help fight anemia. 


I love having poha for breakfast and keep giving twists to it for interesting recipes. Hereby, presenting tikki or cutlets made with poha, beetroot and potatoes.





Health goodness
Beaten rice or rice flakes, also called poha is a rich source of iron. Every 100 grams of raw rice flakes has 20 milligrams of iron besides a good value of carbs and minerals. Experts suggest that regular consumption of flattened rice can prevent iron deficiency and form hemoglobin that carries oxygen to blood cells. Beetroots are also iron rich and proven extremely beneficial in case of anemia or low hemoglobin.. 

 


Ingredients

  1. Poha- 2 cups
  2. Potatoes- 3-4
  3. Beetroot-1 medium size 
  4. Salt to taste 
  5. Green chili- Optional- 1-2
  6. Black pepper- Half tea spoon 
  7. Coriander powder- 1 teaspoon
  8. Cooking oil- 3-4 tablespoons

Method
  1. Soak poha in water for 10 minutes. Drain water. Keep aside. Make sure all water is drained out from poha. 
  2. Boil  potatoes. Peel and mash them. 
  3. Peel and grate beetroot. Keep aside. 
  4. In a large bowl mix the mashed potatoes, soaked poha and grated beetroot. Bind them together to make dough. Add salt as per taste. Mix black pepper and coriander powder. Churn the dough well. 
  5. Make little round shapes from the dough, pressing them gently to flatten them. 
  6. In a pan, heat oil and shallow fry the cutlets. 
  7. Flip and fry till the pink tikkis turn brownish on both sides.


Tip: Flame should be kept low to medium. Potatoes give cutlets a binding texture and body. Do not over-boil potatoes. Since beetroot is used raw in the dough, it will give crunchiness to cutlet. You can add onions to the tikkis if you like. I wanted to keep it quick and simple, hence skipped it.

For more iron rich recipes visit http://www.livogen.in/iron-chef


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Chickpea spinach egg spread



Come winter and the market gets flooded with green veggies. Spinach suddenly rules the Indian kitchens. But who really wants to eat palak saag or palak paneer every day? So, I put on my thinking cap and dished out chickpea spinach & egg spread for a winter morning. Keeping the fact in mind that iron is one of the most important elements for women's body, Livogen.in's iron chef inspires me to make an innovative recipe fortified with iron. 




Health goodness 

100 g of besan or gram flour contains 34 iron, 68% dietary fiber and good amount of vitamins. Spinach is undoubtedly a rich source of iron, magnesium, dietary fiber and zinc while egg stands out with iron, protein and Vitamin D. 



Ingredients

Spinach leaves- One small cup
Besan or chickpea powder- 3 small cups
Eggs- 3-4
Onion- 1 big, fine chopped
Tomato- 1 big, fine chopped
Green chilies- 2, fine chopped
Salt to taste
Black pepper- 1/2 tea spoon
Cooking oil- 3-4 Tablespoons
Coconut milk (Optional)- half cup


Method



Preparation 
  1. Blanch (not boil) spinach in less water. Since boiling destroys the nutritional content of spinach and the water drained goes a waste. Hence blanch in very less water till spinach turns soft.
  2. Mash the blanched leaves.
  3. Sieve besan/chickpea powder in a large bowl, ensuring no lumps are formed. Add little water.
  4. Break eggs and whisk with besan smoothly.
  5. Add chopped onions, tomato, green chilli, pepper, salt, and mashed spinach in the egg-besan mixture. Whisk well.
  6. If the mixture turns thick, you can add little water or coconut milk for flowy consistency.
Cooking


  1. Heat oil in a flat pan. Pour the mixture. Spread it evenly and let it cook for 2 minutes. 
  2. Cover the pan for a minute, allowing the egg to cook.
  3. Flip side and cook till both sides turn light brown.
  4. Serve hot with mint chutney or ketchup.
  5. Team it with hot tea or coffee for a filling healthy breakfast

Tip: Make sure the pan is on low flame. Use non-stick cook ware to avoid sticking of cheela and allowing smooth flipping.

For more iron rich recipes visit http://www.livogen.in/iron-chef