This piece is different from usual travel guides. I wrote this narrative while exploring Mashobra, Shimla. In the write-up, I speak freely about my writing journey. You are taken to the nooks and corners of an itinerant writer’s life who manages her work on the go.
Fagu Himachal Pradesh — A Misty Apple Village Where I Found the Home Stays More Commercial Than Hotels
Fagu wasn’t an underwhelming experience due to its location. I didn’t enjoy my stay in Fagu because of the commercial attitude of the many home stays I interacted with in Fagu Himachal Pradesh.
Like in many small villages of Himachal, a traveler has to stick to home stays in a tiny place like Fagu. And I love staying in Indian homestays (and abroad too). For most of my travel life, I have been more than happy to know a host family and understand their way of life. Sometimes staying in a homestay could imply you have to talk and smile when you want to write quietly in a little corner. But everything comes at a price, and well, families function in their peculiar way. Isn’t travel all about embracing the unknown?
So far so good. But in this 2450-meter high apple village Fagu, my experience in home stays was far from good.
Let me take you through my Fagu journey as it happened.
Timeless (And Best) Places to Visit in Karnataka India And All About the State — From a Local
I have spent six years (if not more) in Karnataka, spanning over a decade. And finally I’ve moved out (for the unempteenth time) to have a life on the road.
It seems yesterday when I had gone to Bangalore to work at a software company. Ten years ago, I wasn’t going to Karnataka. I was moving to Bangalore, the capital of the state and the software hub of India. This crowded city of Bangalore seemed like a state of its own. My local Kannada friends told me the city wasn’t so jammed and hotch-potched in their young days. They grew up cycling under the canopy of trees, taking the local bus, and spending time in parks.
Since Bengaluru became the Silicon Valley of India, millions of employees and employers came to the city with their families. As the city wasn’t planned by any civic planner, it expanded in every direction in an unruly manner. Concomitantly, the infrastructure got so bad that everyone living in Bangalore wanted to go out to the places to visit in Karnataka rather than staying within the busy city.
But today I’m not here for Bangalore. Today I want to tell the story of Karnataka — the state of the jungles, so let me get to that quickly.
Hiking to Kanag Devi Temple, Theog (Shimla) and a Day Picnic in the Pastures
Maybe I should be ashamed about not knowing the deity of the Kanag Devi temple.
My host in the apple village of Fagu (in Shimla district) had told us the temple is located in heaven. But when she said the walk to Kanag temple is half an hour from the motorable Sarion village, I had my doubts. Most heavens don’t lie within half an hour of human settlements. Every gorgeous and untouched place is at least a few hours strenuous hike away here in Himachal. But then another tourist family from Delhi praised the Kanag temple as heaven which they didn’t want to leave. If only they had found some trees at the top under whose shade they could sprawl, they would have made their home there. The woman of the family said.
How could they not find trees in Himachal? I wondered but kept quiet.
I love South Indian dosas, and I enjoy talking about these crispy crepes even more. You have to bear with me as this article on dosas in India will be long. Like my piece on some of the best visiting places in Karnataka.
What’s a Dosa?
Dosa is a thin crispy or soft savory crepe, sometimes it is even thick and soft like a pancake. Dosa could be rolled and stuffed or it might be plain and open — with all other variations not out of the scene. It is served with sambhar (a curry), chutneys, garlic-chilli powder (podi, also known as gunpowder among the uninitiated), and other paraphernalia. Though now dosas are eaten throughout India, and the world, they are still a staple only in South India.
Where Did Dosa Originate?
No one knows where the dosa — known as dosai in Tamil Nadu, dose (dough-sey) in Karnataka, and dosha in Kerala — originated. But the ancient Sangam literature of the Tamil area mentions dosa as early as the 1st century AD. As per Wikipedia, a dosa recipe is said to be found in Manasollasa, a 12th-century Sanskrit encyclopedia compiled by the Chalukya king Someshvara III of Karnataka. Originally the South Indian dosa is said to be of a softer and thicker form. But later in Karnataka, dose took a much crispier and thinner avatar.
Memoirs of walking down to the ravine from the Mehli village in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh
I’m charged right now. As charged as I can be. I’m seated on dry pine needles and grass. A group of mosquitoes buzz in front of me. But I don’t care. For I’m listening to the sweetest sounds of chirping birds and the rhythmic music of freshwater falling on stones. We have driven to a jungle spot to work and write. There has been no power since morning in our remote stay in the mountains near Mashobra village of Shimla. Our village is probably called Gagal and it is near Mohanpur, that’s all I know about our whereabouts. Our host told us the electricians are fixing the cables and we would only get power by 5, maybe a bit before.
It was only 2 pm. My Mac was at 18% and my husband’s Mac was discharged. He has a big release today so he needed electricity immediately. You know what he has done to ensure he never gets out of power? He has purchased a car charger that loads up electronics from the car battery. We are perfectly remote and nomadic in every sense.
Here I run with little children in their parents’ green fields. I almost join the lithe girls in their hop-scotch game. I explore every obscure path that can be (or cannot be) stepped on. Every tiny dhaba seems like a food stop. I never shake off the red-black curious beetles that embezzle my white-green Kashmiri kurta. Whistling thrush is my new loud neighbor (I won’t say friend for she hardly seems to care). I click and research the birds I see from the balcony of my one-bedroom guesthouse.
We are in the village of Mehli Shimla. (Later when we would tell the locals where all we had stayed in Himachal, they didn’t understand Mehli but recognized Shakrala, a village of rural Shimla under which Mehli falls, I guess). Mehli is our first stop on this indefinite Himachal Pradesh trip.
Unseen Bangalore Photos From a Plethora of Day Outings in Bangalore city.
These are not your usual Instagram Bangalore pictures.
My motive behind this piece on Bangalore images — which is really nothing but a collection of day outings in Bangalore — is to show real Bangalore. Not the cosmopolitan Bangalore city of the Manyata Tech Park, Cubbon Park, Forum Mall, and Koshy’s that every outsider like me knows. I wish to bring forward the old city, the city dense with flower shops, colorful food, coconut stalls, cycle hawkers, chaotic streets, and ubiquitous hot chips corners. Bangalore would be incomplete if we don’t mention its giant trees jutting out of buildings and breaking out of concrete roads, multicolored Hindu temples with a cornucopia of deity sculptures towering above, the most random stuff being sold in bazaar shops, old-style South Indian dosa joints authentic to their practices even 100 years later, and the feeling of the night during the day when thick Bangalore clouds threaten the residents way more than they would like.
In this essay of Bangalore photos, I share moments that have sparsely studded almost ten years of my life. Starting in 2010, I arrived in and left Bangalore so many times I won’t dare to count my shift outs. Irrespective of how much I wanted to let go of the city, Bangalore (and karnataka state) didn’t leave me, not so soon.
Finding Cozy, Green, and Affordable Indian Homestays With Amicable Hosts For Short and Long Stays
I wrote in detail on homestays in India in this recent piece on accommodations in India. I won’t repeat all I said there about Indian homestays, but I would share my experience of traveling in India and staying in different places.
I’ve been living in India for more than thirty years(I’m an Indian), but I’ve also been traveling in India for about 18 years. My journey started with living in paying guest houses across Rajasthan when I was 15. Then I spent four years in a girls hostel in Delhi, followed by a short stay in a shared Mumbai apartment. Finally I shifted to living full-time in Bangalore, Pune, and Delhi homes.
Those were my engineering and corporate years. In between, I traveled within India and experimented with various kinds of stays(both with friends and alone). Now I travel full-time. After putting up at hotels, resorts, hostels, paying guests, serviced apartments, I often choose Indian home stays over other guesthouses.
A narrative photo essay on street food in Malaysia
Eating Street Food of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur
My experience with the street food of Malaysia began in Kuala Lumpur(KL). I arrived late at night in KL. I had chosen a hostel close to Chinatown to eat there as often as I can. I checked in the Travel Hub guesthouse and took a bed in a female dorm.
A long transit from Bali to Malaysia had left me famished. Overeating has been my die-hard habit. Now I try to eat less for a healthy and sustained living. But then, I gorged on traditional Malaysian food without a thought. I don’t like to overthink calories when I travel. Who would?
From being baffled by the cornucopia of Malaysian cuisines, restaurants, and dishes to knowing where and what exactly I wanted to eat, I had a long rendezvous with the Malaysian food. This food memoir is my attempt to recreate my month-long food journey in Malaysia.
Indian Lodging Tips: How to find good, affordable, and clean guest houses in India
Finding good guest houses in India could be as chance-based as cracking a lottery. Amongst the many variables that might work for against you finding a comfortable Indian lodging are location, pricing, facilities, cleanliness, linen and towels, water taps, mosquitoes, cockroaches, (noisy) fans, parking, host and the service staff, their culture, relationship between the guests, and the geography.
In this guide to finding good accommodations in India, I also take you through the history of travel and lodging in India. Because without knowing the evolution of travel in India we can’t understand the current Indian hospitality industry.
Pro Tip: Also read my guide to finding Indian homestays. The article has in-depth information on Indian homestay culture.
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.
Dee Doke is a remote and uncrowded waterfall because most people don’t know about it. But if I talk about the Dee Doke falls, more travelers will go there. But would all those visitors keep the place clean and serene, as it is now?
I can only request and rest is upto the people, up to you guys. 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 the waterfalls are mostly empty, you would want to rush to Dee Doke or Dee Dote, as locals call it. It’s a fair request.
I also went to Dee Doke because I discovered Myanmar travel blogs that suggested me to visit this stunning waterfall. I had an amazing day driving from Mandalay and then swimming in the Dee Dote blue lagoons. So I’m thankful to those travel writers.
I’m just returning the favor now. I only ask for not playing music on speakers there or leaving garbage behind. That’s all. I know you would be good and respectful.