Browsing Category travel

Dee Doke Waterfall – Turquoise Journeys in Burma

From Mandalay to Dee Doke Waterfall

Should I share or hide? While deciding whether I should write about the Dee Doke waterfall I’ve become more conscious of my responsibilities as a travel blogger.

Well, Dee Doke isn’t a fancy waterfall. But if I show you some pictures of these turquoise falls, tell you they are about an hour and a half scenic drive away from Mandalay, and that there is mostly no one there, you would want to rush to Dee Doke or Dee Dote, as locals call it.

But would you promise to keep the place clean, serene, and quiet? After all, Dee Doke is sort of remote and less-crowded because people don’t know about it. But if I talk about it, then you would find it and you would ask me how to go there.

Fair enough.

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A Stunning Sunset at Mandalay’s Irrawaddy River

A Myanmar Sunset on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, Mandalay

I saw one of the most ethereal sunsets of my life on the banks of the Irrawaddy River in Mandalay. That Myanmar sunset was enough to convince me to wake up before 5 every morning for my twenty day trip in Burma.

It was the last day of 2019. My friend and I had just spent the day roaming around Mandalay ruins, discovering pagodas and ancient temples in the historic town of Innwa, and strolling around Innwa villages. There was a hot pot lunch in between at a place called the Little Panda Hotpot and BBQ Buffet. It wasn’t one of my brightest ideas to stop for a hot pot when we had hired an auto-rickshaw to show us around Mandalay. But the kind driver waited patiently for an hour. Also, I could not be blamed for the do-it-yourself hotpot for I didn’t know the restaurant would ask us to grill and cook everything ourselves without even helping us light the fire under our wok. Let us blame everything on the language barrier.

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Highs and Lows of the Year 2020 – 2021 Plans Included

First of all, I thank my loyal and kind readers who return to On My Canvas time and again. Without you, this blog wouldn’t be this positive, experimental, and inspirational place it is becoming. I appreciate your company and promise to keep this platform as peaceful, honest, fun, and informative as I had intended on Day One. 

To stick around to see for yourself, subscribe to my Friday newsletter. There I send weekly updates, my writing, best thoughts of the week, things I have been reading, off the hook travel tips, stuff I’ve been watching, and my life updates, too. It is the best way to stay connected with me.

If you like the kind of ideas I share, you will find that newsletter informative, enjoyable, and compact. So go here and subscribe now, or use the subscription box below. Welcome along in this journey of travel, discovery, and personal growth 🙂

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Now let us talk about 2020. 

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Blunders I Made as a Novice Traveler – Backpacking Tips Included

My Backpacking Journey: Mistakes, Learnings, and Tips for New Travelers

 

Dreaming About Backpacking: A Wannabe Beginner Backpacker

 

My first solo international travel was a two-week trip around France and the UK in 2012. 

I don’t know why, but I had this urge to be a backpacker on that short journey. India was not high on the backpacking lifestyle then, and not so much even now. So I assume I had been influenced by the foreign backpackers roaming around Connaught Place and the Janpath market in New Delhi. Refusing the advances of the beggars and the hagglers, the travelers strode on. In that ten-minute walk from the Rajiv Gandhi metro station to my office on Janpath, I was transported from the billowing metro crowd to the cosmopolitan Janpath life to my corporate day enclosed within 500 square meters. The free travelers swaying along with their red and blue backpacks mesmerized me.

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12 Myanmar Traditional Food– Eating My Way Through Burma

Curry rich, Asian-influenced, salad-based, unhygienic — these are only some of the phrases that seem to describe Myanmar traditional food all over the internet. 

When I visited Myanmar last year, I had high hopes from the Burmese food: a concoction of not only the culinary taste of the hundreds of ethnic groups within Myanmar but also steeped in flavors, ingredients, and recipes from the colorful neighbor China, Thailand, and India. 

While you can find fish noodle soups and tea leaf salads at every corner of Myanmar, you can also overeat potato samosas, suck into juicy dumplings, and cry out on spicy curries or run away from fried insects— all the later delicacies can be attributed to Myanmar’s neighbors whose people and flavors both have been generously accepted by Burma. 

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Celebrating 3 Thriving Years of On My Canvas – And Future Plans

And just like that, On My Canvas completed three thriving years on the internet.

Congratulations to us all who have been part of this budding platform through which I want to spread love, life, and hope. I cannot thank my readers enough for sticking with me all the while, for sending me immensely inspirational messages day and night, and for asking me to write more and more. On some hard days, I could not have done it without your endless emails and witty comments.

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Your Guide to Finding Isolated Hotels in Madikeri, Coorg

We all have been stuck inside homes for about six months now. Though usually, I am planning a birthday trip around this time of the year, as September approached I got anxious that I might want to go somewhere. But would I be able to step out of Bengaluru or even my house?

Then I remembered the article I had written on traveling in the Pandemic. For those who have read the guide know that I only suggested traveling by car to an isolated homestay or a guesthouse near the woods. Thus you can change your view, hike around, be in nature, and even work with the lush forest swaying in front of you. 

Remembering my idea, I started searching for isolated hotels in Karnataka (I don’t feel like crossing the border, yet). But as I pored over hundreds of hotels and guesthouses over various websites, I decided to dedicate an entire guide to isolated hotels in Madikeri, Coorg as most of the properties I liked were from this area. 

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Chile Visa Fiasco – When I Was Stranded at the Bolivia-Chile Border

When I Couldn’t Get a Chilean Visa at the Border and Bolivia Wouldn’t Take me Back.

My cheeky Canadian friend Alison walked towards me from the immigration counter at the Bolivia-Chile border in San Pedro de Atacama. Fanning herself with the green Chile tourist card that boasted her free entry into Chile for ninety-days, she smiled.

Now it was my turn. The young immigration officer looked at me and gestured me to come closer. I walked to his desk. He asked for my passport. I slid my blue passport through the gap under the glass that stood erect between us. 

Instead of handing me a green card as he issued to other tourists, the officer turned the pages of my passport and squinted to read the various visas and immigration stamps I had collected over the years. When he found my Chile temporary resident visa stamped on one of the passport pages, he asked for my RUT. 

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A Surreal Drive Up to the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, Bali

A Misty Day at the Ulun Danu Temple, Bali

Located on the shores of the Lake Bratan in the Bedugul region of Bali, the Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, or Pura Ulun Danu, is a popular Bali temple and one of my favorites. The road to the temple undulates up and down with majestic views of the Bedugul highlands throughout— the Ulun Danu temple is at a height of 1500 meters.

When I visited the Pura UlunDanu I didn’t know that the drive would be so surreal and that we were driving to the second largest lake in Bali which irrigates the entire Bedugul region’s rice fields.

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A Scooter Expedition to Goa’s Secret Butterfly Beach

In Search of the Hidden Butterfly Beach, Goa

The sunrise at the Butterfly beach is beautiful, said Manveer, our Airbnb host. Then he gulped down his entire glass of orange juice.

But where is this Butterfly beach? Didn’t you say it was hard to find? I exclaimed.

I will show you the directions on the phone

Manveer walked to our table. He swiped right on his son’s photo wallpaper on the phone, tapped on the Google map application, and zoomed in.

I was staying at Manveer’s place, which is on the Agonda beach in Goa, for the second time. The first visit was two years earlier when I had gone to Goa to get some alone time. 

Remembering that fun trip when I had read Hemingway while basking in the sun on the beach and watched India England one-day series with an English traveler, I showed up at Manveer’s Airbnb again, this time with a friend. As soon as Manveer recognized me, our friendly banter began in no time.

Though I wasn’t sure if Manveer was avenging me for my raillery by sending me to this secret Butterfly beach in Goa, the idea of watching a romantic sunrise on an isolated beach thrilled me. 

We decided to go to the Butterfly beach the next morning to watch the sunrise and have a picnic by the seaside.

After devouring a dinner of grilled Kingfish, with charred eggplant, juicy cherry tomatoes, proud broccoli, and crisp zucchini along with a big bottle of Budweiser on a beachside grilled-seafood restaurant run by a Goan chef, we went to bed at ten that night. But not before packing our swimwear, water bottles, a few aloo parathas that we had asked Manveer’s cook to prepare for us, and a towel to spread on the beach.

As my room didn’t have air conditioning and April’s hot air scorched even at night, I sprinkled water on the curtains and the bed and then left the windows wide open. This sprinkler trick from my IIT Delhi days when summer used to be cruel and students weren’t allowed to keep air conditions or water coolers have come handy many times.

Soon I was sound asleep. Our alarms woke us up before dawn.

We put our backpack in the dickie of the rented Activa, and I drove while my friend sat behind. 

If you are from India or have traveled enough in India, you wouldn’t be surprised when I tell you that there were no streetlights. My friend switched on the flashlights of both our smartphones. 

The early morning cold breeze ruffled through our hair and woke us up. We were finally going to see Goa’s Butterfly beach which Manveer had been praising non-stop since the day we had arrived.

Adhering to Manveer’s advice, we followed the Google maps directions to the Leopard Valley gate, ahead of which lay a secret mud path that was to lead us to the Butterfly beach. When I drove by the gate slowly, we both searched for a clearing in the dense forest that fringed the roads on both sides. But we couldn’t see any path. I turned around and drove even closer to the forest to spot a trail while my friend flashed the torches on the sleepy black foliage. 

After a few minutes, we saw a narrow clearing on our left that seemed promising. But a mud trail ran through the dense forest on the right side of the road, too.

Though we couldn’t hear the Indian ocean and we had gone too far from the beach to direct ourselves using the sea’s orientation, I assumed that the ocean was on our right side. A faint recollection that Manveer had somewhere mentioned a right nudged us towards the right track, too. 

My friend spent a few minutes understanding which direction was right and which was left, a conundrum he hasn’t solved in the twenty-seven years he has been on this planet.

When I saw that the mud track was laden with broken stones and bricks, I transferred the driving rights to my friend. While I was a novice scooter driver, he had been driving for eight years. 

My friend clutched onto the left handle of the scooter, over my hand, and I slipped out from the right side. Then he handed me both the phones with their flashlights on, and I leaped onto the scooter seat behind him for when you are in a dark jungle without phone signals or any kind of help until far far away, you cannot be your usual sloth-like. 

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This was the beginning of the path we took.

We drove on the rocky pathway which soon started twisting and curling like an angry snake. The tree branches and bushes that overgrew on the path from both sides suggested that not many people drove on that road(cut) way. If your attention is gone for even a second, you would either skid on a rock or an imposing branch would hit you in the face. 

The beach was most probably deserted. Manveer wasn’t the bad guy after all.

Though a bit disoriented, my friend is a good driver, but I still got down of the scooter whenever the path felt too rocky to not fall flat onto a stone. The blue arrow of the GPS crawled, but the landscape, which would have been clear if we had loaded the map offline, was now blank. When we didn’t spot any landmarks that Manveer had mentioned, we knew we were lost.

Soon, cicadas, crickets, and half-asleep birds started breaking the silence of the South Goan jungle. Indian flying fox bats flitted between trees.  

Every few minutes, our white Activa would screech and grunt as if begging us to take her back to a less hostile path. We could get stuck in the mud or skid on the stones at any time now. We couldn’t see much. We didn’t know the route. Our phones had lost networks a while ago. And the dense jungle seemed to be getting deeper with every meter. 

Even though we knew we were neither approaching the Indian ocean nor the Pacific, we kept driving. In a few minutes, the darkness started slipping away slowly. Sun must have been shining close to the horizon as the tall trees that towered above us seemed to be rooted in the twilight. Birds chirped dissolving away the melancholy of the night. Every pixel was suffused with a light whose source we still could not see.

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Random scenes from the drive when we came out of the wilderness.

Hunger pangs rising from our stomachs now erupted into our throats. We were now driving on a steep trail covered with tiny sharp stones. I kept insisting that we could still find the beach but my friend concluded that to go further was not only a stupid idea but most probable a dangerous one.

My emergency driver declared that he wouldn’t drive any further. And I finally obliged.

We turned around and tried retracing our way through the dense forests. While driving back we stopped a few times to wander into mangroves and plucked yellow and green cashew nut fruits. We also went inside a farm and picked the fallen mangoes. But suddenly a swarm of honey bees surrounded us, and one of the many red ants bit my friend’s arm. And we thought that the farm owners hadn’t employed any guard.

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Exploring the Goan jungles.

Instead of going to the Agonda beach, we went to Palolem to have breakfast.

Palolem beach was lively. 

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Fishermen rushed around the beach in their half-folded lungis, some pushing their boats into the ocean, and some pulling their fish-loaded boats out of the sea. Fisherwomen paced up and down the beach in their half-folded saris and red round bindis adorning their forehead. 

goa's palolem beach goa india.jpg

palolem beach india goa.jpg

Silvery wafer-thin fishes gazed with their open eyes while throbbing against the red plastic net hoping to get some water. Crows and kites took turns to pick these tiny ones out of their nets. 

palolem beach fish.jpg

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Travelers and locals watched the ocean and the beach waking up to the day’s hustle.

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After having a heavy breakfast of some more aloo parathas, juice, and tea at a restaurant, we drove home. Our search for Goa’s Butterfly beach had failed us. 

We handed over the mangoes to Manveer’s kitchen staff. When Manveer saw us handling fruit with so much passion, he asked us if we could climb a papaya tree in his backyard to pluck the ripe papayas. 

Stop teasing us. You don’t know where the beach is. Do you?

Where did you go?

We drove to the Leopard valley gate, then didn’t take the path next to it, as you had told us, and then went further searching for a mud trail. Then we went towards the right side on a rocky path.

Why did you avoid the trail that runs next to the Leopard Valley board? That is where you had to go.

I was finally losing my patience. 

You had told us not to go inside the Leopard Valley ten times. So we avoided that trail and went on another mud path. It was a deadly trail.

You had to take the path going from the Leopard Valley board. That is not the Leopard Valley gate. That is just the marketing banner for the nightclub. I had warned you from going inside the actual Leopard Valley club.

Why would you not tell us to take the path next to the marketing banner? And why would you ask us not to go inside the Leopard Valley if it was not even on our way? 

He smiled. I could have punched him but we hadn’t established fighting rules. 

So we had to take the path that ran adjacent to the obscure wall on which “Leopard Valley” was painted. It was not the gate to the nightclub but just awareness propaganda.

We had no chances of finding the butterfly beach for we had taken the wrong path since the beginning. And we had ignored the correct trail because Manveer had given us puzzling instructions. Or we were just two confused souls in general.

Then Manveer showed us the entire Butterfly beach directions on his phone and my friend put markers on his Google map. Then we downloaded the offline Google maps for the entire South Goa. 

The next morning felt like a Deja Vu. We were driving in the dark again, had flashlights on, there were new aloo paranthas in the bag, but this time we took the Leopard Valley path. This one-hour drive was much simpler and when we reached the end of the motorable trail, we found two bikes parked. 

After a little walk through the forest dense with koronda berry, we were at the beach. 

 

butterfly beach goa india.jpg

 

Once we were at the butterfly beach, we realized that we cannot see the sunrise from there as the ocean was on our West. Something Manveer had never mentioned when he said that you should go there for the sunrise.

The sea was calm but the sky was cloudy. As expected, the beach was almost empty. Apart from us, there was only a small group of men who had climbed higher onto one of the rocky cliffs that circumscribe the beach. 

butterfly beach in goa india.jpg

 

We took off our shoes, climbed up a cliff, and ate our paranthas. The fatigue from waking up so early for two days straight got hold of us and soon I found myself fast asleep on the rocks. 

My friend shook me up. We went into the water a little bit but it was cold in those early hours. 

Well, at least we had found the beach. It would have been nicer if instead of early morning, we had gone there for a sunset or during the afternoon to just sit and relax and swim and play. Taking a boat up there is also a good idea. 

The beach was empty, the trees rustled, and I could hear the ocean cracking against the rocky cliffs. That was more than one can ask for from a morning. 

And more than the view on the Butterfly beach or its emptiness, I had loved the journey to the beach. After all, it had taken us two days to find it.

 

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Some hazy pictures as if this was from 1970s.

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How to reach Butterfly beach Goa, India?

You can also go to the butterfly beach from Agonda beach or Palolem beach in a boat. Maybe I would do that the next time.

And if you want to drive to the beach, then follow the route that I am sharing in this screenshot.

I was torn between the idea of sharing the directions to butterfly beach versus keeping it a secret. But I had to give in as a travel writer who wants to share the beautiful places in the world.

Please be respectful. Leave the beach clean. While walking to the butterfly beach Goa I found so much plastic and wrappers at one spot that I was ashamed. It is always a good idea to bring back some garbage from pristine natural places and do our part.

I am only able to share the route to this secluded beach on my blog assuming that we all will help it clean and will respect other travelers there. No loud music, nothing of the sort that could make others uncomfortable.

If we all keep the beach clean, I would assume that I did the right thing by sending you there.

Now it is up to you.

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A close look of the directions.

Where to stay in South Goa? Is there a good place to stay near Goa Butterfly Beach?

Stay at the Forget Me Not Resort on Agonda beach if you are looking for a comfortable and right-on-the-beach stay. Manveer, his wife, his cats and dogs, and his staff will do everything to make you feel comfortable and ensure that you have a good time. Or browse for good places to stay in Goa here.

 

palolem beach to butterfly beach goa.jpg

 

You would see amazing photos of Goa’s Butterfly beach on the internet. Most of them are taken by drones and the photos I share are the best I could manage with a phone(I was camera-free then). 

Update December 2020: My most generous friends and fun travel bloggers Shishira and Navneeth shared a few pictures of the butterfly beach with me. I have happily updated the article with their gorgeous drone images. Please do visit and read their travel blog Backpacksters to read and get inspired by their adventures to some really offbeat destinations.

 

Will you go to the Butterfly beach in Goa? Tell me in the comments.

Saying Goodbye to Myanmar at Mount Popa Bagan

A Monkey-Filled Hill of Myanmar – Mount Popa, Bagan

Mount Popa near Bagan was my last stop in Myanmar. Just before my friend and I were to take a bus from Bagan to Yangon to fly back to India, we decided that we should see this 1518-meter high extinct volcano on the outskirts of Bagan.

How could we not go when every travel blog about Bagan spoke of the Popa mountain. And the pictures of the panoramic view from Mt Popa looked ethereal.

While we couldn’t see something even close to those gorgeous sunset hues that Google promised, for the sky was cloudy that day, we did have a unique, eye-opening experience all the way from Bagan to the Mount Popa volcano.

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Bicycling Around Yangon’s Dala Village – A Photo Essay

A Journey Into the Streets of the Village of Dala, Yangon

 

One fine day in December, I was cycling around in the Dala village near Yangon in Myanmar. Across the river from Yangon, Dalla Township is located on the southern bank of the Yangon river.

Though the Dala township comprises of some 50 villages, bounded by the Yangon river in the north and east, the Twantay Canal in the west, and Twantay Township in the south, I was in the main Dalla village. And I was not alone.

It was one of those rare tours that I sometimes convince myself to take in foreign lands. With Unchartered Horizons Myanmar, I was set to have a local experience in Dala, a hamlet on the banks of Yangon river.

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