Monday, September 5, 2016

Coorg - A refreshing monsoon gateaway

Although Coorg is a sought after monsoon gateway, it wasn’t my first choice for an August trip.  Originally the plan was to trek in the rain forests of Agumbe, followed by relaxation at Chikmangalur. I even had my train tickets booked to and from Mangalore.  However, due to an unforeseen spur in my left heel after Europe trip, an adventure trip (which also involved trekking) was out of question.  Coorg was the next best alternative and rather an attraction one owing to the cheap airfare from Mumbai to Bangalore.  Soon enough I had booked plane tickets and the rest (accommodation, itinerary) followed, including learning that Coorg/ Kodugu is not a place but a district!

Reaching Coorg, the budget way

We landed at an unearthly hour (4:30 am) in Bangalore, waited for dawn to break and took an expensive taxi (Rs 800, no uber in sight!) to Satellite bus stand, 45 kms away to catch a KSRTC bus to Coorg.  We learnt that from 6 am onward there are frequent KSRTC buses to Madikeri.  We hopped on the first bus in sight and got zipping along the narrow highway/ road (surprisingly so) towards Kushalnagar (45 minutes short of Madikeri) via Mysore for a measly fare of (Rs 205/person).  Initially we did contemplate renting a self-drive car and/or hire a taxi for our trip, but on hindsight taking local bus was a good idea. It was cost-effective and not-time-consuming.

The bus was quite empty and the driver/ conductor took an instant liking towards us, bordering on being overprotective (he had our back during breakfast and coffee break). The drive was quite beautiful (at least the stretches I noticed between my naps) and the locals in our bus were friendly.  The breakfast halt our bus made served good south Indian tiffin (idli/ dosa, etc).  the only glitch was the blaring horn of the bus! Never again will I dare to sit on the seat right behind the driver! 
We arrived in Kushalnagar in about 6.5 to 7 hours, a tad longer than expected but excited to explore the district.    

Coffee estate homestay in Coorg

Coorg is synonymous with spectacular resorts which are meant to tantalize the body, mind and soul, while showcasing a spirit of Coorg to its guests, but I wasn’t staying in one.  Instead, we had booked 2 nights at a homestay called Soul Land Estate (in Virajpet) run by Mr Jay Prakash and his lovely wife with help from their daughter, Jyothi, who manages all the guest questions and ensures smooth booking and transit.  During our long bus journey from Bangalore, we were in constant touch with Jyothi to find out if we should directly reach the homestay or explore Bylakuppe (a Tibetian settlement next to Kushalnagar). She was very responsive and patient (replying to our e-mails from 7 am onwards).  I couldn’t wait to meet her.

We arrived at Soul land estate by 5 PM after exploring Bylakuppe (read below).  The driveway to soul land estate is lined by trees on both sides.  The bungalow is large, white and imposing.  We were welcomed by JP uncle’s wife (unfortunately I do not know her name) and divine filter coffee & banana wafers.  

JP uncle was at an independent smaller bungalow 20 mins from Soul Land Estate, helping other guests check-in.  Jyothi, we found out, was in Mysore working towards her Phd.  However, uncle’s elder daughter and her adorable daughter were home and we knew we’d be thoroughly entertained during our short stay.

Soul land estate is an independent bungalow, built in 1950s and completely renovated and revamped somewhere in in 2003 when the family started it as a homestay.  

It is built on a 22-acre coffee estate and is a serene abode in Kodugu.  Back then when the family opened doors to guests, tourism was just picking up in Kodugu and advertising was mostly by word of mouth/ referral.  With the advent of technology (tripadvisor, own website and airbnb), soul land has seen a steady rise in the number of guests and the family has had a chance to delight more guests with their hospitality.

My first look at the veranda and I was in love with it.  I knew I'd spend a large chunk of time here, on the swing, on the sofa enjoying the view and sipping on endless filter coffees.  

Other than veranda, guests also have access to common drawing room, dining area and ofcourse the kitchen garden and coffee estate adjoining it.  Our room was large and had 3 beds, the bathroom was competing with the room in dimensions!  The overall décor of the place is very 70s, especially the library cum-tv-room where the family has displayed old typewriters, phone, furniture etc.

During the stay we got a lot of opportunities to interact with JP uncle and aunty, over our meals and while we lounged endlessly in the veranda. Although the family is originally from Kerala, however their fathers migrated to this region of Karnataka during British times.  JP uncle is a very humble, yet popular man in this region.  Aunty is beautiful, warm and served us lip-smacking meals.  Our stay (at Rs 1800 pp) came with complimentary breakfast and ofcourse filter coffee!  

Aunty gave us tours of all the other rooms they offer to their guests (granary house - built on stilts with bathtub and balcony overlooking a tiny pond & Cloud9 honeymoon cottage which comes with an open air shower and four-post bed complete with romantic white drapes). 

Uncle showed us around the estate, including the kitchen garden and patiently answering all our questions. Staying with the family was a delight.

The food we ate at Soul land was homely.  Most of the vegetables came from the kitchen garden and all the meals were prepared by aunty herself.  During our short stay, we ate Kadubu (steamed rice flour balls) & chana, idli & chatni,  payassam, tapioca sabzi, coorgi chicken, avail and pork curryon special request (this is an absolute must-eat dish in Coorg!).  The food was not just for our tummies, but also for our soul.

Uncle and Jyothi also helped us make most of our short stay in Kodugu.  On Jyothi’s recommendation we visited Bylakuppe and on uncle’s recommendation we took a half-day trip to Mandalpetti hills – both the suggestions were very good!

My overall experience at soul land was brilliant.  I did not feel like leaving the house.  In two short days uncle-aunty felt like family and I do hope I come back or send my family here (they were sold looking at the photos!).  Although the stay is not cheap, but the experience makes the slightly high-pricing seem inconsequential. 

Bylakuppe - Tibet of south India

The lure of cheap Tibetian food and a chance to see a one-of-a-kind Buddhist monastery in South India brought me to Bylakuppe , just 5-6 kms off Kushalnagar.  Bylakuppe is a large Tibetian settlement built between in 1960s on land leased from Indian Government.  It houses Tibetians in exile and today is a thriving hub for Buddhism and Buddhist studies. We spent and afternoon exploring the area and were delighted to see so many monks (of all ages!). 

Golden temple (Namdroling Monastery)

We first visited the most popular monastery, Golden temple (Namdroling monastery) where we were lucky to catch the afternoon prayer and food ceremony in full glory.  It was amusing to watch monks/ students literally run towards the golden temple when the drums started playing, signalling the prayer time.  

The golden temple/ vihara has stunning interiors and it was difficult to take my eyes off the three golden statues and the ornately done pillars.  Harder still was to abide by law and to not enter the temple during prayer. 

We spent a good amount of time exploring the adjoining temples and contemplating.  The place was calming in a strange way.

(Note:  On prior permission, guests can stay in the monastery.  You can find out more about this at Namdroling website)

Tibetan food

By this time we were starving and headed to a nearby family-run Tibetan restaurant next to coffee time, café.  Here the owner was very friendly and we were surprised to see the moderate pricing.  We ordered veg hakka noodles, chichken noodles and chicken mothuk (Tibetan soup with momos).  The food arrived in installments and had a wonderful aroma.  

The hakka noodles were the usual fare, but the chicken noodles (actually like thukpa!) was divine with a wonderful kick from ginger.  

Mothuk was a hearty meal as well, although flavourful rather than spicy.  We chitchatted with the Tibetan lady for a while after our meal and thanked her for the enjoyable lunch.

Ingalakere lake

With our happy tummies, we headed to the Ingalakere lake (man-made reservoir), a couple of kms from Nandroling.  The lake was a chilled out place with benches and a small walkway.  The lake has abundant fish and people come here to feed them. 

Here we met a happy monk (duh!) feeding who was making the fish in the lake and dogs by the lakeside happy by feeding them fish.  We relaxed here for a while enjoying the view and the shade offered by then trees, before hearing to Sera monastery. 

Sera monastery complex

We traversed the lanes of Bylakuppe to reach Sera monastery complex.  Here again, monks of all ages were rushing towards the monastery for prayer/ meals (all of them had their own plates/ bowl in hand).  As we entered the complex, we tried to have a conversation with young monks (who were kids), but they ran away and one of fell flat and his plate went for a toss, the other had a good laugh!
Sera monastery complex houses almost 3000 monks and is one of the largest Buddhist university complexes.   The monastery also undertakes a lot of missionary activities and propagates knowledge and Buddhist teachings. 

As we explored the complex (did not go inside the monastery), being the only tourists 9that too girls!), we did feel a bit awkward, but curiosity kept us going.  The complex was huge and offered lots of open space.  It seems like there were several living quarters just outside the boundary wall too!  

Just behind one of the boundary walls, we saw a line of beautiful stupas overlooking the stunning views.  By then, the drums started rolling and monks started lining up for meals in the courtyard behind the monastery.  We left the temple complex soon enough to avoid commotion and more awkwardness!

Mandalpatti hills

Most people told me there is nothing to see in Kodugu.  I wonder if they discount nature trails!  

Me and my friends were keen to do some short hikes, although monsoon wasn’t a favourable season.  As an alternate, JP uncle suggested a jeep trip to Mandalpatti hills to enjoy a gorgeous drive from Virajpet to Madikeri (the hills are in Madikeri region) and stunning views from Mandalpatti (the view point is inside Pushpagiri wildlife sanctuary).

We started at leisure from Soul land and reached the jeep point by 12 noon, after a lovely scenic drive with lush green trees and paddy fields.  The two-hour jeep package for Mandalpatti hills cost us Rs 1600 (for full jeep).

The jeep was an open jeep and it was rather difficult to keep our balance.  After a 20 minute drive on fairly decent, curvy roads, we reached the check-point for Mandalpatti.  From this point the road was mostly a well-defined mud track with lots of stones and beautiful shrubs all around, with the occasional tree in sight.  The clouds and sun were playing hide-and-seek and the fog was wild and plenty!  

Our jeep traversed on impossible terrain and I was literally holding my breath and praying that we reach Mandalpatti quickly. Fifteen grueling minutes later, we arrived at the parking lot of Mandalpatti view point and quickly bought out tickets (I think the entry fee was 50 per person for 45 minutes time-slot).  We started our short ascend towards the view point.  

The climb was beautiful as we were already at quite a height.  Much to our delight, there were very few tourists here and the place seemed untouched. We walked through fog and slight drizzle to reach the view point.  Our view was mostly obscured by fog and clouds, but briefly when the obstructions cleared, the view was gorgeous.  There was also such freshness to the air that we couldn’t help but sit cross legged on the grass and count our blessings.

Raja’s seat

This is by far as touristy as it gets in Kodugu. Madikeri is a fairly large hill town and rather commercial.  Raja’s seat is a small flower garden cum view point offering unparalleled view of rolling hills, valley and the glorious sunset.  This place is named Raja’s seat as the King’s of Kodugu used to come here to enjoy the view from the comfort of their seat underneath a small white structure. 

Views from Raja’s seat were pale in comparison to Mandalpatti.  However, instead of standing at the viewing balcony, we walked 5 minutes to the edge of the hill on the left of the viewing deck.  From here not only did we get a view of raja’s seat, but also of the valley and the curvy roads.  It was nice to have tranquil moments away from the crowds.


My brief visit to Kodugu was better than expected, maybe it was the lack of expectation or perhaps the unparalleled hospitality, or even untouched nature. 

Kodugu gave me so much peace, it was overwhelming.  

Friday, September 2, 2016

12 months 12 trips - Quarter 2 round up

Quarter 1 of my challenge was rather exciting and interesting.  While quarter 2, in contrast, was dull – the only high-point being a long pending, full-fledged family trip to Kashmir.

April 2016

Kashmir: where Tulips bloom

I visited Srinagar (just for a day!) in June 2015 as a part of road trip to Ladakh.  At that time I was rushing from one place to another, trying to see as much of Srinagar as possible.  But the best memory I have of Srinagar was our lovely and relaxing stay at Peacock Houseboat, Nigeen lake.  Nine months later, here I was again on a rainy April morning, sitting in the balcony of our bnb (Bloomingdale) and sipping on Kahwa. The chatter of fluffy sparrows and a nice book gave me company.  This wonderful bnb run by Mr Firdaus was to be our base for the Kashmir trip.


Our itinerary, although packed, had a fair mix of nature, architecture, trails and relaxation.  Upon landing, we visited the famous Tulip garden.  These flowers are known to be rather delicate and the untimely rain in April was already damaging the last standing tulips.  I guess we were fortunate enough to see rows and rows of bright tulips gently swaying in the wind, touched by the rain drops.  
Such a feast for the eyes!

Our city sojourn included visit to the ancient Shankaracharya temple (about 350 stairs), enjoying commanding views of Dal from Pari Mahal, relaxing at Shalimar bag to the sound of fountains and under the shade of Chinar trees (leaves are like those of Maple tree), sunset over Dal lake from Nishat gardens and sunset Shikara ride at Dal lake. It is so difficult to pick a favourite, but I’m partial to sunsets; no guess here what my favourite would have been.


No touristy circuit is complete without visiting Sonmarg, Gulmarg and Pahalgam.  In June 2015 I had seen the lush meadows of Sonmarg, dotted with adorable sheep and framed by the snow clad mountains.  Hence it was amusing to see Sonmarg covered in snow.  My family had a gala time snow sledging and making snow man and snow angels!  My brother and I preferred climbing Sonmarg on foot, in knee deep snow and bearing the brunt of numb feet.  The panoramic views from the top made the effort worthwhile, hot maggi added to our small joys!


Covered in a blanket of snow, Gulmarg left me rapt.  As our Gondola (lift which we took to second level) ascended, we could see the mighty mountain lined with poplar trees and rustic shepherd huts.  Until the first level the snow was walked upon (footprints were visible) and at the first level is was a sea of people indulging in snow activities (skiing, snowboarding, etc).  The ascend to the second level was far from gentle and commanded mighty views of the bright blue sky and the majestic mountains.  

Our gondola dropped us at second level and after some trouble with breathing/ head-ache, I thoroughly enjoying the expanse of snow around and giving my brother company while he shot a time-lapse.  There was a lake beyond second level which people can access in summers. Also, we were told that the Pakistan border is a stone’s throw away.  Thereafter, we joined the hoardes of people and enjoyed snow activities at level one.  I had learnt basic skiing in 2006 andalso skied one at ski Dubai in 2009.  Hence, it was exhilarating to ski again! We did a day trip to Gulmarg, but there are nice hotels where one can stay the night.  For avid skiiers, a trip here in January/ February would make for a perfect ski-cation!


Unfortunately while we were in Srinagar, there was Bandh declared which limited our options.  The drive to Pahalgam was long, but without stops as it was not quite safe on this route, although tourists are rarely harmed. Pahalgam was very crowded, the touristy-ness of the place got to me and all the youngsters in our group decided to boycott a horse ride to Mini Switzerland and decided to climb instead.  This did not go down well with horse owners who followed us for a fair bit of the trek and then gave up realizing how determined we were.  Mini Switzerland (Baisaran) has stunning landscape – a perfectly meadow atop a hill! There isn’t much to do here and many people head onwards to Tuliyan Lake. Next we made a quick stop at Aru valley (the drive next to Lidder river was picturesque - but the place did not quite appeal to us) and Chandan wadi (sheer waste of time, but one route of Amarnath yatra starts from here), but didn’t have time to see Betaab valley (apparently it is very well developed).


A clear high-point and my undoubted favourite was a day trip to Yousmarg.  On our way we stopped by Charer-e-Sharif dargah and random viewpoints to soak in the views of meandering roads lined with sarson and apple orchads.  Here we trekked (in mostly sludge) on the meadows, beyond the cobbled path and down to the river. A shepherd guide gave us company and also insights into the life in Yousmarg. The best things I liked about Yourmarg was the lack of tourists and untouched meadows! I wish I could stay here in the wooden cottages run by J&K tourism – alas, in the next trip!

Shopping and Old Srinagar

The shopping almost towards the end of the trip was enjoyable, while the drive/ walk through Lal chowk in the heart of Old Srinagar during the Bandh (thanks to the bravery of Mr Firdaus) was very scary.  Needless to say, I did not leave Kashmir without spending a night in a houseboat (apple orchad), this time at Dal lake.  This definitely is the good life!

Star-gazing at Naneghat

I had an 8-man tent lying around for years and an itch to try my hand at star trail ever since I bought a wired remote control for DSLR.  On the day of full moon (7th May), 6 of us hired a car (from Myles) and left from Mumbai at 5 pm for Naneghat.  The plan was to (hopefully) shoot some fancy star trails, light a bbq, cook chicken, sausages and paneer for dinner, with some kingfisher beers by the side (we were fully stocked and loaded with beers in a neat ice box!)

We took unreasonably long to reach Naneghat.  By the time we got there it was close to 10 pm.  We quickly pitched our tent and tried to get the bbq started, but the wind played havoc.  Luckily there was another group who were cooking/ bbq-ing inside a cave (to our horror and dismay!) and we got some fire from them (literally, by burning a few coal embers from their barbeque).  Soon it was almost 11:30 and we set-up out cameras for the star trails.  There were other groups for star gazing and star trails and there was so much commotion and torch-light that it was impossible to ensure a dark sky.  Within no time the clouds came rushing in and hid all the stars and tainted our plan to shoot star trail. 

Instead of being upset by the loss of opportunity, we enjoyed our BBQ and drinks.  Sleeping in the tent was a good experience as well, albeit the stones poking through the bottom of the tent.  Early in the morning we climbed on the mountain to get a view of the surrounding area.  It was then that we realized that the frame we had chosen for star trail actually had many high-tension electricity wires passing through!  Lesson learnt, go early and set-up early. 

After that we had a delightful breakfast of poha at a villager’s home and started back for Mumbai.

Wine & dine – Pune & Sula

June had me worried.  Initially I had no plan to travel and then I had a fantastic plan to visit Coastal Karnataka (Karwar & Gokarna).  However, my body had other plans and it caught a nasty fever.  I was on antibiotics for over 8 days and the travel plan was shelved. 

When my health improved, we visited Pune (day trip) and had amazing food at Malaka Spice, Koregaon Park.  The outdoor seating was tastefully done.  Also, the sheer variety of the oriental food they served boggled me! Among other things, dishes which stood out were Madurasi soup (Indonesian), three mushroom stir fry, Top Hat (Malaysian dish comprising of rice cups stuffed with flavourful minched veggies) and chocolate brownie with ice cream (we ordered 3 portions between the 4 of us - gluttony!)

My favourite cousin was in town. Besides, how could I say no to wine?! Because Sula vineyard is always a good idea!

We drove to Sula, stopping at Shree Datta Snacks for breakfast-cum-brunch (where we hogged like pigs and ran a measley bill).  At Sula we had multiple agendas, all of which involved wine – white, red, sparkling….

While wining, we forgot the dining, so you do get the point :) One glass a day is healthy right? While in Sula, we ensured we’d be healthy for a couple of days, if not more!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Eating and drinking my way through Kashmir

You know you’re in Kashmir when bed-tea is replaced by Kahwa in bed! Kashmir is a photographer’s paradise and a gastronomer’s dream! I had a great time sampling drinks and food from this region.  Read all to know what interested my taste buds!

Traditional Kashmiri Kahwa & noon chai

Since the day we checked into our BnB (Bloomingdale, Dal gate, Srinagar) till the day I left Kashmir, I made it a point to listen to our host, Mr Firdous’s advice and enjoy several cups of traditional Kashmiri Kahwa. This drink is enjoyed by the locals in the afternoon or evening, although Kahwa worked just fine as bed-tea!

Kahwa is a royal drink with ingredients such as saffron, honey, cinnamon, wlanuts and almonds lending it a rich aroma, lovely colour and texture.  With every sip of Kahwa, one can taste the ingredients perfectly blended and the powered/ cut walnuts/ almonds add a nice crunch.

Although we had Kahwa everyday at Bloomingdale, my favourite still is the Kahwa we had at a tea stall next to Zamindar store in Pampore (while one returns from Pahalgam to Sringar).   Unftunately I do not have a photo of the rich-royal Kahwa we had there :(

Kahwa is made in traditional yet lavish metal vessel called Samovar.  The vendor was kind enough to help me jot down the recipe for Kahwa and also share the secret ingredients (herbs grown in Kashmir) which are not readily available elsewhere!

Tourists who come to Kashmir fall in love with this drink.  If one wishes to carry an inexpensive memory back from Kashmir, I’d highly recommended buying a bottle of Kahwa pre-mix. Although fresh Kahwa is heavenly, the pre-mix is convenient and does its job of bringing you back a piece of Paradise right in your house!

Kahwa clearly overshadows and outshines another drink named ‘noon chai’. Locals usually have for noon-chai for breakfast with a piece of baked thick roti.  I have been told that this is the most popular and preferred breakfast!

Noon-chai is made with milk and also has a dash of baking soda and salt.  It has a peculiar taste and apparently one needs to acquire a liking for it – clearly not my chosen cup of tea. 1 cup Kahwa please….


Meat is an integral part of Kashmiri cuisine.  Most households get their weekly doze of protein from mutton, chicken or fish prepared with a flavourful curry to go with rice. Kashmiris also celebrate their food and take pride in a multi-course meal called “wazwan”.  It is made up of a combination of meats in curry, kebab, grilled form served with rice/ biryani and desserts such as phirni.  

Popular dishes in the wazwan which are also available as stand-alone orders in most hotels are rogan josh, rista (mutton meat balls in red curry), yakhni (mutton with curd based gravy), gustaba (meatballs in curd based curry), mutton seekh kebab, tabak maaz (lamb ribs),etc.

We were told that Kashmiris especially enjoy wazwan during wedding ceremonies where wazwan comprising of 10-15 dishes are prepared with the best ingredients and guests sit in groups of four to enjoy wazwan out of a huge copper plate.  We tried a slightly modest version of wazwan at Mughal Darbar in Srinagar and were impressed with how well the meat was cooked (although I did not enjoy the dense meatballs too much, the whole mutton pieces were succulent), the flavourful curries and the variety of kebabs.  Because the meat was heavy, we decided to flush down the food with lots of thumbs up! Burrp!

Road-side kebabs

While a plate of wazwan is grand and to be relished on special occasions, Kashmiris love to have hot kebabs as evening snacks/ during dinner with rumali roti/ green chatni by the side.  We sampled mutton, fish and chicken kebabs at a cemented square at Dal lake, between tulip garden and Dal gate.  

There were several kebab wala’s in the square but we tried kebabs at Naj’s  on our drivers recommendation.  For INR 40-60 a plate, these kebabs were a steal and perfect filler between tea and dinner.

Fresh trout

Introduced by the British, trout fishing is huge in Kashmir.  In fact angling enthusiast come here in summer and spring to catch some trout and eat it too. Kokernag, in south Kashmir is known for its trout farms.

We came across Café Inn, Pahalgam by chance and it happens to serve some of the bets trout preparations. I settled into the cozy and tastefully done café and ordered a butter lemon garlic trout for lunch.   While the chef was preparing the trout, we enjoyed sampling the thin crust pizza and carrot cake (delicious!).

Soon enough a full, medium size fried trout with lemon garlic butter dressing and exuded heavenly aroma was served to us.  A salad and lots of fries were served by the side.  The fish was succulent, yet the skin was perfectly crunchy and the dressing perfectly tied together the flavours. Although the trout dish was not cheap (approx. INR 730), but it was worth every rupees!

If you’re a vegetarian, fret not, the desserts/ pizzas at Café Inn will leave you wanting more. And the ambiance is perfect for a lazy lunch/ a date with a good book, just like I did!

Dried apple

We came across several apple trees/ orchards with pretty pinkish white flowers blooming in glory while driving across Kashmir in April.  Come October and all the trees will be laden with red plump apples weighing the branches down.  Traders from across the country will flock Kashmir to strike a good bargain and the best quality fruit will be exported. Factories also produce jams, jellies, preserves and juices from the tender apples.

Kashmiris love their apple and believe in using every part of it.  Until the apple season comes, they munch on thin slices of sun-dried apples (the top/ bottom of the apple) which are sprinkled with little sugar for extra zing! Dried-apples come in two variants - the sweet and the sweet-sour. We bought half a kg of the tangy sweet-sour variant while returning from Sonmarg and happily munched on it throughout the road trip. Nom Nom!

Goodies from bakeries at Dal gate

Bakeries are to Kashmir, what sweet shops (halwai ki dukaan) are to the rest of India.  These words by our host, Mr Firdaus (from Blooming Dale), when he welcomed us at his Bnb with top-notch biscuits, still ring in my ears. He also was kind enough to buy half-a-dozen mutton pattice from Jan bakery (Dal gate) for us to relish!

Everywhere we went in Kashmir we found several bakeries. In fact, even the smallest towns/village had its own bakery!

Bakeries serve everything from tea cakes, plum cakes, cake rusk, biscuits and mutton pattice (Jan’s bakery) to the fancy desserts inspired by French cooking (Le Delice bakery). My favourite baked goodie still remains the plain cake from Jan’s bakery – fluffy, moist and buttery!

Phirni and shahi tukda

I am not very sure if Kashmiris are into desserts, but I did see Phirni and shahi tukda on several hotel menus.  While phirni was fantastic at Raja Dhabha (on the way from Srinagar to Gulmarg), shahi tukda (at Mughal darbar) took me by surprise thanks to the topping of piped whipped cream, pineapple, cherries and chocolate flakes. 

Well, rather end on a sweet note with an outrageously topped dessert than something boring!              

And let's not forget....Maggi!

We ate maggi almost everywhere in Kashmir, the most memorable being at Sonmarg after hiking up the snow in our gum boots and losing our way!


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