Travelogue | Day 5: Srinagar

August 27, 2012 

After a good night sleep, I was up at and ready by around 8:00 AM. Sanjay made some kinda cheese for breakfast (which tasted pretty good), and then dropped me off in the city. I planned to see the city on this day, starting of with the Shankaracharya Temple, which is top of a hill. Sanjay suggested that I trek up the hill instead of taking an auto. So I started off on what I thought would be a 15-20 minutes climb, but soon realized that it was a huge scramble. It took all my effort, and close to one and half hour to reach the summit.  The sun was up mid way through which made the trek tougher. After a security check, there were about 300 more steps to reach the temple. I was as good as dead after my first visit for the day. The temple was small and nice, and I had a great view of city from the top.

The climb down was a cake walk after the tough clamber. I came down, and immediately got into a local bus towards Nishat Gardens (Mughal garden). The garden was beautiful and to an extent, well maintained. I found a nice spot and spent some time here to regain all the lost energy. I also happened to buy a tourism book on Kashmir, and planned the rest of my day.

I got out past noon and took a bus to reach a Muslim shrine, Hazrat Bal. This shrine is in the older part of the city, next to NIT Srinagar and University of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the place wasn’t as great as I expected, and was mostly under renovation. So I roamed about the streets, and decided to head towards Hari Parbat Fort.But not until I went there did I realize that the fort is not pen to general public. So I continued walking the streets and reached Jamia Masjid. I wanted to walk more, but the sun was scorching, so I took the bus and headed back into the main city.

Tip: Don’t plan your day based on the Tourist guide!! Two of the three places I went to were closed or under renovation. Ask people for suggestions and tips before you reach any place.

It was almost 4:00 PM and I still didn’t have lunch, so decided to head to Vishnu Dhaba. On the way, I twisted my ankle really bad :(. Struggling, I somehow reached the Dhaba, and had Kashmiri Pulao, which tasted decent (I expected something better). Once done, I started walking next to the Dal gate towards Chashmashahi with the sprained ankle. It was almost dark by now, and by the time I reached the hut, it was 7:00 PM. Sanjay had guests at home, and after a while, we headed off to dinner together.

We went to this authentic Kashmiri restaurant (I don’t remember the name of the place) near Lal Chowk. Sanjay and his friends had some good non-veg food, while I had Tomato Paneer and Sunflower Stem in Yogurt gravy. The Tomato Paneer was spicy and yum, while the Sunflower Stem curry tasted very different. The stem was very good, crunchy, but the gravy was too sour. I also had a Kashmiri Naan, which wasn’t so great. We ended our meal with ice-cream on our way back. Once home, I was dead tired, and went straight to bed.

Day 4: Amritsar – Jammu – Srinagar
Day 6: Srinagar (Gulmarg) 

Travelogue | Day 4: Amritsar – Jammu – Srinagar

August 26, 2012 

We reached Amritsar station a little after midnight. I thanked Mr. Bali for his courtesy in hosting me before he left. The BTI Jat Express (#19225) to Jammu was scheduled to arrive and leave at 1:10 AM, but it didn’t come in until 2:00. There was not much place to sit on the platform, so I struggled standing with the bag on my shoulders for about 2 hours until the train arrived. This train was very neat compared to the Garib Rath. I got onto my upper berth, and slept like a baby.

The train reached Jammu at 6:00 in the morning, 45 minutes before its scheduled arrival (I couldn’t figure out what’s with the Indian trains arriving before time. Big surprise!!). I washed up a bit, and got out of the station to take a bus or taxi to Srinagar (There is nothing much to see in and around Jammu, so I was heading straight to Srinagar). It was almost 7:00 by the time I reached the bus stand, and was told that buses to Srinagar would leave from another stand at 7:00, and there was no way that I could make it. They suggested I take a shared taxi from the other stand instead. So I got into a local bus to reach this other stand. Half way through, at a signal, a couple of guys got into the bus, offering a taxi to Srinagar. He said that there’s a front seat available on a Tavera and costs Rs. 500/-. Without thinking much, I got off the bus (which I shouldn’t have). The Tavera was fine, and I did get the front seat, yes, but the taxi was empty, so we had to wait for more than hour for it to get full. This wait was an absolute unnecessary waste of time. I so wished I didn’t get off the bus. To add to this, my phone wouldn’t work as well!!

Tip: Never get off a bus even if taxi guys approach you with a great deal. You’ll find more taxis at the bus stand than in the middle of the road!!

The drive from Jammu to Srinagar is 294 kms, and I was told it told it takes close to 8 hours by taxi. We started at around 8:30, and so I was hoping to reach Srinagar at around 5:00 PM (alas!!). The drive was very straining for the roads were in bad shape, but the scenery was beautiful. We passed through Udhampur, Patnitop, Banihal and Anantnag before we finally reached Srinagar past 7:00 PM. The view at Patnitop was the best. I was tired and exhausted with the ride by the time we reached, and thankfully, my host at Srinagar, Sanjay, came to pick me up from the taxi stand. Sanjay happens to be one of the best guys I’ve met on the trip. He lived in a two bedroom hut near Chashmashahi gardens, and offered me one of the bedrooms. I freshened up, and we went out to the city to buy ourselves some food. We went to Vishnu Dhaba near Dal Gate, and brought home Shahi Panner, Dum Aloo and Roti. The food tasted pretty good, but was very oily. We had a nice little conversation and planned on my sightseeing for the next day before I hit the bed.

Tip: Prepaid sim phones from other states do not work in Jammu and Kashmir, so make sure you carry a postpaid connection. Tata Docomo sucks big time (I say that with experience). Cellone (BSNL) has the best network in the state, and is the only network in places like Kargil. Airtel and Aircel are the other options (Vodafone works on Aircel network).

Day 3: Amritsar
Day 5: Srinagar 

Travelogue | Day 3: Amritsar

August 25, 2012

I woke up at around 8:00, washed myself and went down for breakfast. Mrs. Bali had made yummy Aloo Parathas. I stuffed myself and then headed out to the Golden Temple. It was raining, and I got into a covered cycle rickshaw. Though I was covered, the guy was getting drenched, and rode through small by-lanes for about 3 kms, and we finally reached. He charged 40 bucks, but I so felt like giving him more. It stopped raining by the time I reached the temple. I bought a scarf to cover my head for 10 bucks (It’s compulsory for men and woman to cover their heads while in the temple), put my shoes in the counter, and walked into the temple. It was a beautiful sight. The temple is in the center of a water pool, and there’s an entrance on one side. I sat inside the temple for about an hour, got out, had the yummy prasad, and then headed off towards Jallianwala Bagh, which is right text to the temple. The sun was up by then, it got unbelievably hot. There’s nothing much to see at Jallianwala Bagh but for the bullet shots on the walls, and the well people jumped into to save themselves. I could help the tears in my eyes. There is a small museum, and an A/V room where they show the film on the massacre. Saw the film, cursed the British and got out.

They were having a blood donation camp in the garden outside, and I decided to donate. They took a liter of blood, gave me Frooti and biscuits. For some reason, my blood didn’t clot, and kept oozing out from the bandage. That created quite a scare for it was still the third day of my trip. They put more bandages on it, and it kinda stopped. I headed back to the temple with my hand folded, for the Langar (every Gurudwara serves food to people all day for free, irrespective of your caste, creed or sex). I am not used to squatting on the floor, but somehow managed to. They served dal, roti, and sweet. I heard a lot about the Langer being awesome, so my expectations were pretty high, and sadly, I was disappointed. Nevertheless, it was decent food. I had booked a taxi at the prepaid taxi counter just outside the temple to go to the Wagah border earlier in the day, which was supposed to leave at 3:30 PM. It was still 2:00, so I sat in the temple premises to while away time. The blood finally clotted by now, and I was relieved.

I got out to take the taxi at 3:30 PM, and went to the taxi stand. The prepaid tax guy, who charged Rs. 120/- for the trip put me into a local taxi guy who charged Rs. 100/-. And moreover, the taxi was packed with 11 people, so my legs pretty much were dead by the time I reached Wagah. He dropped us of near the border, and we had to walk about a kilometer to the stands. We reached at around 5:00, and the place was already full by then. After struggling for about an hour, I somehow manged to reach the top stand. The ceremony started around, and lasted for 20 minutes. Honestly, I was very disappointed with the whole thing. The whole entire show looked like school children showing their might and power in front of each other. To make it worse, people on the Indian side would scream “Hindustan Zindabad” (hail India), and the crowd on other side would scream “Pakistan Zindabad” (hail Pakistan). And then there will be atleast 1 loser on both sides who would scream “Hindustan/Pakistan Murdabad” (death to India/Pakistan). I couldn’t believe that these were the same guys with whom we together fought for independence 65 years ago. If it for me, I would have screamed “Politicians Murdabad” (death to politicians), for they not only torn down my country into two parts, but created an unnecessary rift between us. According to me, the Wagah Border ceremony is a sad moment, for me, and for both the countries.

It was 9:00 PM by the time we reached Golden Temple. I went back in once again, to see the temple shine in moon light. I wanted to have dinner outside, but Mrs. Bali said she would arrange dinner. So I headed home, but on the way, had an Amritsari Kulfi. Mrs. Bali had made Aloo Gobi, Kadhi and Jeera Rice for dinner. The mal wasn’t as great as the previous night, but yummy nevertheless. Me and Mr. Bali had a long conversation before he dropped me off at the station for my Jammu at midnight.

Day 2: Delhi – Amritsar
Day 4: Amritsar – Jammu – Srinagar

Travelogue | Day 2: Delhi – Amritsar

August 24, 2012 

I reached Delhi at around 9:00 in the morning (earlier than scheduled). My next train to Amritsar was at 2:00 PM. The plan was to get fresh at the waiting room at the New Delhi railway station, but the state of affairs in the waiting room were pathetic. They had two rooms, and both of them were packed, and neither of them had proper toilet facilities. The only good thing about them were that they were air-conditioned. But that didn’t matter at that moment for I badly needed to use a restroom. So I got out of the station and decided to find a room to use for about an hour.

It had rained in Delhi, so the roads were all muddy, and it terribly hot and humid. In the heat, I walked out of the station into Paharganj with my huge backpack. I walked and walked, into small lanes, but couldn’t find any for a decent price. Everyone would ask for a full day rent, nearly 400 bucks. Finally, in a small sub-lane, I found a room for Rs. 150/-. I didn’t even see the room, but paid for it. While walking up, I see a guy talking an odd-looking girl into one of the rooms. I cursed my luck, closed my eyes and walked into the room allotted to me. It was a hole. The fan wasn’t working, but the loo was alright. I was drenched in sweat by now. I washed up, and hurried out of the room in 30 mins.

It was still 11:00 and I had 3 hours to waste. So i decided to find an AC restaurant and go sit there. I took a rickshaw to Connaught Place, roamed about a bit till I found Haldirams restaurant and settled there. I ordered a Chole Batura and Kesar Pista Faluda, and sat there for more than 2 hours. The food was finger licking good btw. I then headed off to the station, this time on foot. I reached the platform, and waited for the Garib Rath (#12203) to Amritsar. Rain started pouring heavily. I got into the train, and I can’t tell you how filthy it was. Thanks to the rain, the already dirty compartment became muddy. I had an upper berth, so climbed up to get away from the filth.

Slowly the train started getting empty and that’s when I came down. It reached Amritsar at 8:30 PM, again ahead of the scheduled arrival time. I now was in Punjab, land of five rivers. I took a cycle rickshaw to my CouchSurfing host’s place. I was to stay with Mr. and Mrs. Parbodh Bali, and elderly couple near Celebrity Mall on Batala Road. They lived in a duplex house in a quiet residential area, and I was given a room on the first floor. They were very nice people, and Mrs. Bali made awesome Punjabi dinner for me – Paneer Burji, Chole and Pulkas. Heavenly. Me and Mr. Bali had a nice little conversation and planned my day in Amritsar before I hit the bed.

Tip: CouchSurfing is this amazing portal where people share homes with strangers for free, on mutual trust basis. If you happen to have an empty room in you house, you could do the same. Visit to learn more and become a member today!!

Day 1: Hyderabad – Delhi
Day 3: Amritsar

Travelogue | Day 1: Hyderabad – Delhi

August 23, 2012 

I took the A.P Express (#12723) from Hyderabad to Delhi which started from Secunderabad station at 6:50 AM. I had an upper berth in the AC Three Tier compartment, and the train was pretty neat. It was being cleaned at every big station on the way, so it stayed clean until we reached Delhi. 

The day was pretty much boring as there was nothing much to do. I read a book and slept for most of the day. The train has a pantry car, so food was available in plenty. I had  meals for lunch and dinner, and a paneer cutlet as evening snack – all of them tasted pretty good. I was very impressed by the train’s cleanliness and quality of food served.

Day 2: Delhi – Amritsar

Cinnamon Fusion | Restaurant Review

Place: Cinnamon Fusion 
Location: 3rd Floor, SBR Gateway, Opposite Motorola, Hitech City 
Cuisine: Continental 
Meal: Dinner (with couple of friends)

After hearing and reading raving reviews about this place, I was here finally on a weekday with a couple of friends for dinner. We were guessing the place to be packed, but to our surprise, it was empty, and we were the only guests when we entered. The interiors of the place were very well done, and the ambience was good. There was a band playing in one corner to an empty restaurant. They were good, but very loud, which started to get annoying after a while.

The place boasts of a lavish buffet on the table – they have a fixed menu from which you get a choice of soup, salad, entrée, pizza, main course and a desert for 579 bucks (same for veg and non-veg). Though the amount of food was tempting, the fixed menu was pretty sad, so we instead opted to order from the menu. The menu looked huge, but the choice was very limited. Surprisingly, without any Indian curries on the menu, they had a page full of breads. When enquired, we were told that they a specialty European restaurant. I couldn’t help but laugh.

Anyways, we ordered a Creme of Mushroom soup, Chilli Paneer Tikka, Stuffed Mushroom Tikka and Till Tilla Zinga (Prawns) for my friend. Instead of the Chilli Paneer Tikka, we actually wanted to order their specialty Paneer Tiranga, but it wasn’t available.


I was kinda excited about the soup, for it said it would be cream of three kinds of mushroom garnished with smoked milk froth, but it turned out to be very different from my expectations; it was too thin and there were not many mushrooms in it. The quantity served was pretty good, but I would have preferred thicker soup in less quantity than what was served.


The starters were served pretty soon, and both the vegetarian starters turned out to be good. The paneer was soft, well marinated and grilled. It was a little too spicy, but no complaints for it was supposed to be. The Mushroom Tikka had stuffed mushroom roasted and cooked, and it was yum. My friends Tiger Prawns were a big disappointment thought, for he found them very hard and under-cooked.

It was really tough to order the main course, for there was not much choice. It was either European or Continental, and both had very few vegetarian options. I finally decided to order a pizza and my friend asked for Pan Fried Noodles. My other friend had Grilled Chicken with Pepper sauce.


The thin crust pizza was served first. I had asked for Mushrooms, Broccoli, Olives and Jalapeno, but they missed the Jalapeno. The pizza was cheesy (just the way I like it), and the base was crispy. There was no tomato base, but I really didn’t care, for it was very good. On the downside, I thought it was too small for 325 bucks.


The Pan Fried noodles were served with Vegetable broth which tasted delicious. The vegetables were crunchy, and the sauce was yummy, so altogether, it tasted great with the noodles.

My friend was happy with his Grilled Chicken.

Overall, a decent meal. The fact that there was not much on the menu was a disappointment, but otherwise the food was tasty. The service was decent as well. Though the amount of food we ordered was quite minimal, the bill turned out to be the same as what it would have for the fixed menu. Improving their menu and adding more options to their fixed menu would definitely help them. Give it a shot at your leisure, but don’t expect much.

Food: 8/10
Service: 7.5/10
Ambience: 9/10
Meal for 3: Rs. 1722/-

Verdict: 7.5/10

Life Is Beautiful | Movie Review

Is it worth your time and money??: Life Is Beautiful has no proper story, and seems very amateurish. Add to that mediocre screenplay. Thankfully, the film has some beautiful moments, and the new cast lived up to their roles. Sekhar Kammula really needs to get out of the Happy Days phase, and concentrate a little more on his scripts. If life were like in this movie, I wonder what reality is.

Acting: 7/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 5/10
Technical Aspects: 7/10

Verdict: 6/10

Travelogue | Snapshots!!

Though I shot over 1200 pics with my Xperia P, only 640 make it. They span over 8 pages, so make sure you check all of them 🙂

In order, Amritsar – Jammu to Srinagar – Srinagar – Gulmarg – Srinagar to Kargil – Kargil to Leh –   Leh – Pangong Tso – Khardung La – Leh to Keylong to Manali – Manali – Dharamshala – Shimla – Delhi

Barfi | Movie Review


Acting: 10/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 9/10
Technical Aspects: 9/10
Is it worth your time and money??: Absolutely!! Barfi is one of the best film I’ve watched in recent times. Simple yet heart-wrenching, it is a movie which makes you feel good. While the direction and screenplay are very good, Ranbir and Priyanka out perform each other. You’ll walk out of the theatre with a smile on your face, pakka!! 🙂

Verdict: 9/10