27th Feb 2018. It has just been 2 days since Nirvaan’s ‘annoprashon’ or rice ceremony. We were on our early morning flight to Jaipur. My friend and colleague Suvadip and his wife Madhushree joined us too this time. The trip was pre planned, tickets and reservations were made almost 4 months back. Plan was mainly to visit Ranthambore National park, through Jaipur and Bhangarh. Total trip duration was 5 days.
We landed at Jaipur Airport at 8.30 am. We had hired a car for the whole day. As our check in time at the hotel was at 2pm, we first visited our friend Dr. Manvendra Gehlot’s apartment and freshened up. Nirvaan still did not learn to crawl and was on his mother’s lap for most of the time. Manvendra or Mannu as we affectionately call him, arranged for the famous Jaipuri pyaaz kachoris and jalebis for breakfast. After a heavy breakfast, we left for a tour of the Jaipur city, and after visiting Hawa mahal, Jantar Mantar and the famous City palace, we finally checked into our resort K K Royal which was located at Amer with the Amer fort at its backdrop. If you want to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city in a beautiful location, this is a great choice with huge rooms with a view of the Amer fort, a clean swimming pool, good food and impeccable service. We were too tired, and Nirvaan was delighted that he could spend some time rolling over on the huge king bed.
Next day, we took a self drive car with Zoomcar for the rest of the trip. We first visited the famous Amer palace and fort. It is better you yourself read up the history about the place because taking a guide is an absolute waste of money and time. They hardly tell you the history of the place and are mostly interested in taking you to shops from where they would get a commission. You can drive your vehicle to the top of the Amer fort where parking is a hassle though. The view from the top of Amer fort is breathtaking as is the Rajput architecture. Do try the kulfi just outside the main gate of the Amer fort which was by far the best kulfi I ever had.
Our next destination was Jaigarh fort Jaigarh was more rustic than Amer fort and the drive to the fort is very scenic through the curvy roads of the Aravali hills. It takes around half an hour from Amer fort to reach Jaigarh which also boasts of the biggest cannon in India, Jaivana. The view of the Maota lake from the top is just mesmerizing. While on our way back to the hotel, we visited Nahargarh for a short while which was not far from Jaigarh. One gets a panoramic view of the Jaipur city from here.
The evening was well spent at Chowki Dhani, the famous cultural destination in the outskirts of Jaipur which serves lipsmacking rajasthani delicacies amongst other cuisines. Nirvaan had the best time of his trip here watching the puppet show, the ghoomar dance, the village magic show etc. It easily takes 3-4 hours to experience what Chowki Dhani has to offer.
Pictures from Amer fort:
Pictures from Chowki Dhaani:
We got ready early next morning to leave for Ranthambore, one of the famous tiger reserves of India. It was Holi. The drive to Ranthambore was mostly uneventful barring an isolated incident which I am sure does not reflect the true nature of the Rajasthani youth. Our car was stopped on the way by some 12-14 year old children who demanded money for celebrating holi. While I offered them 20 rupees, they demanded a Rs.200 and threatened to break the windowpanes of the car on denial. That a 6 month old infant was in the car absolutely evoked no compassion in them rather a few of them said they would damage the car more because the baby was there. I was dumbfounded by their attitude , however after a lot of rationalizing and despite not giving in to their demands, we were let go unscathed. A full 20 minutes were wasted. We were deeply disturbed by the attitude of such young children.
We reached Ranthambore at 12 noon and checked in to Ranthambore villa which had spacious rooms along with a garden and a swimming pool. We had booked our safaris online 3 months before our trip and thought we were extremely lucky to get the few permits available online. One needs to show the permit to the safari department in Ranthambore run by Rajasthan Government for allotment of a open jeep and a driver ( one has to pay extra for the same ). This system was again a total sham and a scam. There was a lot of chaos at the venue and it was filled with touts and agents who were charging people wthout previous bookings 5-10 times the government rates. Those who had online bookings were not given much priority as they do not fetch them much money. after a long wait and confusion, we were allotted a jeep and a driver who was supposed to pick us up from our hotel at 2.30pm. Though we first decided to take Nirvaan along with us to the safari, Priyasha decided to stay back with the baby as the ride was supposed to be very sunny and dusty.
There are 10 zones in Ranthambore national park. It was impossible to visit all if them and I could manage permits of only 3 zones, Zone 2,3 and 5. Apparently zones 1-6 are the best for tiger sighting. However on arrival, we were told presently zone 10 was also very popular for sightings. We were on our way to Zone 2 on the first day. We were very lucky to spot a tiger on our very first safari though from a distance. It was an exhilarating experience to get to watch the royal animal free in the wild. The ride was bumpy and dusty no doubt but was definitely worth it. We came back tired after a 3 hour safari.
Next day it was the mother’s turn for the safari while the responsibility of looking after the baby was on the father. They went to zone 5 this time and I do not know how lucky we were that even they got to spot a tiger, that too from very near. Two back to back sightings in two safaris…phew! Meanwhile the father had a tough time at the hotel managing the baby but at least the guilt of getting to watch a tiger alone the previous day without your better half was gone now! The evenings were relaxing at the pool, though it was shortlived as a huge group of 20-25 young people made a mess of the tranquil atmosphere of the jungle on the pretext of celebrating holi.
Ranthambore and Bhangarh fort
Next morning, we hiked to the Ranthambore fort carrying Nirvaan in a baby carrier. The fort, mostly in ruins was eerie even in the morning and the mesmerizing view of the surrounding jungles and valleys just added to the atmosphere. We could spot crocodiles in the nearby water bodies from the top of the fort with the help of our binocular. Many such flora and fauna are visible from above if one waits patiently at the top with the binocular. The area of the fort was huge and it was impossible for us to cover the whole under such a short time.
We had to take our last safari to Zone 3 as well. Although , the landscape of Zone 3 was much more picteresque than the others with many waterbodies, we were not third time lucky. However, we spotted some diverse and rare species of birds which were in abundance in zone 3. We checked out from our hotel at 1 pm and left for Bhangarh, the fort infamous for paranormal activities.
It took us roughly 3 hours to reach Bhangarh, once an entire township inside a fort. The place, again mostly in ruins could make the backdrop of any horror/thriller movies as the mysterious charm of the place could only be felt by those who visit Bhangarh. However, we did not encounter any sinister experience though we left Bhangarh for Jaipur airport just at the onset of dusk. Perhaps, even they were driven away by the amusing antics of baby Nirvaan who was still energetic after a tiring day’s journey.
Pictures from zone 3:
Pictures from Bhangarh:
Points to note regarding the baby:
Nirvaan was 6 months old when we went to Rajasthan. The trip to Rajasthan involves a lot of walking specially uphill to the forts and palaces. Make sure you have a good quality baby carrier especially the ones with hip seats to roam around with the baby.
Cerelac is a good choice for food while travelling with a 6 month old apart from formula milk and breast feeding.
Keep your transit times and sight seeing times short within 4-5 hours a day as the baby and the mother both may get tired.
Make sure the baby is hydrated and gets enough rest while on such a tour which involves a lot of walking and roaming in the sun. Definitely carry an umbrella along.
It is better not to take the baby to a safari in the jungle as it may get dusty and bumpy during the ride and may be too uncomfortable for the baby. So it is better to travel in a group and one parent should stay with the baby while the other goes to the safari.
People raised their eyebrows when we decided to explore Mizoram (during the Durga Puja 2018), one of the least tourist infested places in India. Even I did not know much about this state when I booked the flight tickets to Aizawl. After much research in the internet, I found limited but useful information. I was quite excited to explore a new place which many do not even know is a tourist destination; and that perhaps is another one of those criteria which establishes a fine line between a tourist and a traveller.
We left Kolkata on 14th of October,2018 on a Air India morning flight to Aizawl. Nirvaan perhaps had his best flight ever, he loved the cheese sandwiches served on board, his eyes twinkled when the airhostess smiled back at him, had a window seat with his daddy and perhaps appreciated the view outside as well, at least his smile and almost no tantrums suggested so. We reached the picturesque Lengpui airport nestled amongst the green hills in just over an hour. Our driver Kim was waiting at the airport with a Bolero to pick us up. The road to Aizawl was mostly good with a few bumps here and there but the scenery around hardly made us twitch. Nirvaan would not stop giggling as the cool breeze blew in through the rear window. It was a welcome change for him as well as for us from Kolkata’s sultry and humid weather.
Our stay booked through Airbnb was at Zotlang at Annexe homestay. We took an hour to reach there from the airport. The place was basic but nice with a beautiful view from its terrace. We were hungry, so after having a sumptuous lunch at the Floria, we headed towards Durtlang, a view point situated inside Aizawl Theological College. Unfortunately, the weather was all cloudy and misty and one could not see much but click a couple of customary photographs. We retired to our place by 4pm and had a lazy evening to ourselves. Our host Nunui was courteous enough to cook us a Mizo dinner. If you have a taste for bland food, perhaps Mizo cuisine will not disappoint you.
Next day, we first visited Solomon’s Temple. It is a beautiful prayer hall located at the top of a hill with a mesmerizing view of the hills and valleys from above. It is a must visit place if you are in Aizawl. Next we headed towards Reiek tlang, another peak 30 kms from Aizawl with a government lodge as the only accomodation option. It took us a little over an hour to reach there from Aizawl with the road being a little curvy but mostly in good condition. We did not have much to do after lunch at the tourist lodge rather than soak in the silence of the dense jungle amidst which the lodge was situated. We had a huge double bedroom suite to ourselves with nightly tariff of only INR 1000 ( unbelievable right ! ). However , the lodge could do with some repair and maintenance as one of the bathrooms lacked a window pane, flush was not working in one and such small problems existed. But the serenity of the place did not let us bother much about all such trivial issues. Meanwhile, my parents had gone to visit the model Mizo village of Reiek nearby, which also boasts of a children’s park, a small futsal cum basketball court and a rock climbing arena but there are hardly any tourists to enjoy them. We slept early as next day I was supposed to trek to the Reiek peak…alone. Priyasha had to look after the baby and my parents wanted to relax than to trek 2kms uphill to the peak.
16th October, 7 am ,I left for Reiek peak alone. 10 minutes into the trek, I felt I made a mistake. Yes, it was steep but not that tiring; it was just the dense forest and its creepy sounds which gave me the scare of a lifetime. I was all alone on that route at 7am in the morning, there was hardly a ray of sun reaching through the dense forest, the insects in the jungle were constantly making a atypical sound, the signboards were in Mizo and it was highly possible that I could come across a bear or a leopard to greet me good morning and have me for their breakfast. I did not know if they existed in this jungle though, just that human mind tends to imagine the worst things at worst times. But I was not the one to give up. I tightly grabbed my only weapon, my small little umbrella and kept walking forward. After an hour of going uphill through the forest, a cave and some slippery rocks, I finally reached the peak where a mesmerizing view with the clouds below awaited me. It was worth it, i thought. Interestingly, after no infrastructure throughout the trek, there was this solitary bench erected at the edge of the peak to cherish the view from the top, from where in case you slip you are nowhere to be found. The road downhill was not that scary as I got used to the sounds and silence ( or as the Carpenters put it; “sounds of silence” ) of the jungle. The feat of doing this trek all alone; literally, caused my body to release some endorphins-the happy hormone!
We left for Hmuifang after breakfast. The road to Hmuifang goes through Aizawl. It took us roughly 3 hours to reach Hmuifang from Reiek. The scenic beauty of the road was beautiful. Once you reach Hmuifang there is nothing much to do rather than enjoy the jungle and the hills from the tourist lodge. It became all misty by 5pm and it was pretty cold thereafter, more than we were prepared for. Hmuifang tourist lodge though extremely quaint was even more ill maintained than Reiek. It was damp and cold inside the rooms, and only one room had a working geyser, but what more can you expect at a daily rent of INR 600.
Next day was going to be one of those days in the Mizoram tour where we would be visiting quite a few places. First we left Hmuifang for Sialsuk village, about 15kms from Hmuifang. Sialsuk is a village situated on a high peak on the route to Thenzawl. One gets a Kashmir like feeling from the top of the Sialsuk peak with lush meadows around you and greenery as far as you can see. The road to the top was narrow and non metalled and thats the fun of the ride to Sialsuk. A PWD bungalow from the nineteenth century adds to the charm. Also, the tourism department had put benches and swings on the top so that tourists can chill and feel the beauty from high above. Sialsuk was easily one of the best places in this tour. After spending some time here, we left for Thenzawl, our last destination of this trip, beyond which the road worsens and at times becomes non existent as I have read in some other blogs. The road to Thenzawl itself was not too great itself with lots of pits and bumps in between. However it took us another hour to cover the last 25kms from Sialsuk to Thenzawl. The tourist lodge at Thenzawl was right next to the road going through the jungle. By the looks of it, we felt that this lodge was the best maintained of the ones we stayed in. Here, we met quite a few other tourists as well. There was a small stream flowing behind the cottages ( INR 600/night ) but without geyser which you would find in the deluxe ones ( INR 1000/ night).
After a quick and sumptuous lunch, we headed towards Vantawng falls. The approach road to the falls was very interesting. It started as a concrete one, then just after a while it became non metalled and narrow and cut through extremely dense forests like the one I experienced at Reiek. After travelling for almost 20 minutes came a sudden turn and a dilapidated watch tower and a view point; and out of nowhere suddenly you could see a waterfall amidst dense forest. But the place was beautiful , it was solitude and serenity at its best. The ramshackled structures, the dense forests, the strange chirping of the ‘mizo’ crickets, and the undulating view of the hills till you could see gives an intrepid touch to the remoteness of the place. Another must visit place in Mizoram.
Our next stop was Tuirihiau waterfalls, the only falls where I have been till now which you could see from front and behind both, though you have to manoeuvre through the slippery rocks to get to the backside of the falls. Another remote place, and you have to walk down approximately a hundred stairs till the waterfalls. Kim carried Nirvaan on his back to the falls and went a bit ahead of us. Nirvaan, who had been the most adventurous baby till now, was scared on his first tryst with such a noisy waterfall and started screaming. He wanted his mumma bear and papa bear along with him and would not let go of their lap. Lastly, we visited a lake called Dilpui. To reach here, one has to go across an animal husbandry and a farm. The lake itself was nothing extraordinary except the road which leads to it.
We were on our trip back to Aizawl the next morning. Before that, we took Nirvaan for a mini trek into the forest at the backside of the lodge. The fresh air and smell of the forest gave a refreshing start to our day. It took us almost 4 hours to reach Aizawl. One can also visit the model Mizo village of Falkawn on the way.
In Aizawl, we checked in to the Blue Vanda hosted by Mrs. Lalthan Sangi (again booked through Airbnb). The best was saved for the last. The Blue Vanda is a sprawling 3000 sq ft apartment with the most panoramic view of the hills from its humongous balcony, a treat to the eyes and soul. One of the places which we missed last time in Aizawl was a view point called Muthi tlang, only one blog had mentioned it but it was an interesting read. So myself and Priyasha decided to take Kim along to check out this place 10kms from Aizawl. After a series of tortuous turns on a long stretch of narrow unmetalled road ( only if it could be called a road ), we finally reached a point on the top of a hill exactly opposite Aizawl from where you could see the entire capital. We were lucky that we could just catch the sunset.
Mrs Sangi was a very warm host. She even cooked dinner for us which included a traditional Mizo bamboo soup called mai. The mai was bland yes, but a chutney accompanied it and perhaps it was the hottest thing I ever tasted. It was made from one of those famously infamous northeastern chillies. I was high on scotch till i had it.
Next morning, it was Dussehra. Also, it was time to board our flight back home. It was the end of our Durga Puja trip. But wait, not without visiting Durtlang, which was all foggy on our first day of the trip. The view from Durtlang was beautiful, so was entire Mizoram and its people.
A few important pieces of information on Mizoram:
An Indian national requires an Inner line permit to enter Mizoram. If you are reaching Aizawl through Lengpui Airport, you just have to fill up a form and pay INR 170 per head at the permit counter to receive one. Though not mandatory, keep a photo id xerox and a couple of photographs with you.
Hiring private cabs in Mizoram is the costliest thing of your entire trip. They charge Rs. 2500 for airport pick up or drop, otherwise Rs. 25 per km no matter wherever you go. Also, nightly charges for driver could be as much as INR 1000. The entire trip in a brand new Bolero costed us INR 17000 for 6 days. Our driver Kim was an exceptionally helpful human being, as well as a very efficient driver. He was Nirvaan’s best friend throughout the entire trip. Our car was arranged by Mrs. Sangi through one of her neighbours. You can find other travel agents from Mizoram government’s official tourism site.
Mr. Muankima (for car booking) :9862098945 ( Ask specifically for Kim to drive and show you around if possible; he was one of the nicest persons we came across in Mizoram ).
Accomodation options in Aizawl are aplenty with quite a few hotels and two government tourist lodges. If you want to experience the Mizo culture, Airbnb is a good option. I will definitely recommend Mrs. Lalthan Sangi’s Blue Vanda. However accomodation options in other places are limited to government tourist lodges which are mostly basic but doable. These lodges are only booked over a simple phone call without any advance payment. The phone numbers of the lodges could be found at official website of Mizoram tourism. However, the site keeps crashing from time to time. So here are the phone numbers of the places where we stayed.
Reiek Tourist lodge: 9366078543
Hmuifang Tourist lodge : 9436379544
Thenzawl tourist lodge : 9612065527
The Blue Vanda, Aizawl ( Mrs. Sangi ): 9871659988
The Annexe homestay, Aizawl ( Ms. Nunui ): 9774877847
Do inform the manager of the tourist lodges about your meals in advance as they hardly have tourists, so they need to arrange early.
If you are planning to travel with a baby, make sure to carry enough baby clothes and warm garments. It could be cold at times at certain places. Also, do not forget to carry mosquito repellants. We carried anti mosquito patches called moschito which were very effective throughout our trip. Mizo people are very friendly, polite and helpful. They also adore babies and are very considerate. So do not hesitate at all to visit Mizoram with your baby.
If you are planning to trek to Reiek tlang with the baby , then a baby carrier is a must. I would advise those doing it with a baby to be extremely careful because of the last few hundred metres of the slippery stretch. Alternatively, at a certain point one can take a shortcut through the stairs made of rocks but they went up right along a gorge without any railing and it made me dizzy. Make sure you have a pair of shoes with a sturdy grip and an umbrella along with you. Carry some dry fruits,chocolates and enough water for the two hour trek. Also carry some salt and wear full length pants or tracksuits to avoid any leech bites (especially just after the monsoons, though I did not experience any).
The best time to visit Mizoram is October till March as the locals informed us. We found a beautiful weather in October, with nights being optimally cold and mornings having a sweet sunshine. The rainy season ends by the first week of October, and leaves a perfect touch of the green to add to the comfortable climate.
The circuit we travelled was Aizawl-Reiek-Hmuifang-Thenzawl-Aizawl. However as per my research and recommendations by the locals, Phawngphui hills or the blue mountains ( Mizoram’s highest peak ) and Champhai and Zokhawthar (the Indo Myanmar border) are some of the other places worth visiting. However, the road leading to these places are pretty bad and it takes 9 hours to a 180 km trip to Champhai from Aizawl. Alternatively, one can book the 20 minute helicopter ride to Champhai. I could not find any online portal to book the helicopter. Mrs. Sangi told me that one has to book it in Aizawl in person and asked me to inform her 3 months in advance (as locals prefer the helicopter to the road trip) so that she could get it done on our behalf. Phawngphui is better avoided with babies as the road is not good; also it is mainly known as a trekker’s paradise.
While in Aizawl, you can try the local Mizo cuisine at The Red Pepper after 5 pm. Chopstix offer open air dining, while one can visit Floria or David’s Kitchen too for some good food. Enjoy the local market at Burrabazaar, the heart of Aizawl. Also, visit Luangmual if you are interested in handicrafts.
It is extremely tough to buy alcohol from off shops in Mizoram. The locals with a liquor license only can purchase them. I read online that tourists are sold alcohol on producing their inner line permit but I had a hard time doing so. The guys at the shop told me one has to get permit from some commisioner to buy liquor !!! The ‘flabbergasted’ look on my face made a kind local buy us some scotch through his license. Also, conoisseurs of wine can taste a pitaka wine from Myanmar called the Pink Lady ( available at Thenzawl tourist lodge and requires no permit ). However, I am assuming carrying alcohol to Mizoram is legal as I had a small bottle in my suitcase and noone bothered me while security check at the Kolkata or Lengpui airport.
Generally all mobile networks are available at Aizawl and Thenzawl. However, as per our experience, only Jio worked at Reiek and Vodafone at Hmuifang. However, data connection was pretty weak in both these areas.
Thats it folks. Pack your bags to the unexplored world of Mizoram soon and thank me later.
On February,2018 we had to attend a wedding at Ranchi. We being the travel enthusiasts that we are, an outstation wedding always means we will travel in and around the place.
Now, apart from our love for travel we love watching films. A few months back we had watched a movie called, “Death In A Gunj” which was shot at McCluskiegunj, a small and quiet town in Jharkhand, just an hour’s drive from Ranchi. So, our heart was set to “Mini England”, the other name for McCluskiegunj owing to the Anglo-Indian settlement.
Choosing our mode of transport and the consequences of the choice
This time we decided for train journey as the time taken for rail travel to Ranchi was not much and we beleived train would be a more comfortable option for travelling with Nirvaan. However, man proposes, fate disposes. We had reserved an A.C. Class 1 coup in the Kriya Yoga Express to ensure maximum comfort for our precious. Also, I needed a little privacy since I was breastfeeding the baby. All was fine. However, the problem struck when we used the bedding provided by the Indian Railways. It was full of dust and unwashed since ages. It caused me and Nirvaan dust allergy and my poor baby could not sleep well at all. We gave him anti- histamine but he did not recover completely throughout our stay. We have ever since carried Nirvaan’s bedding in our later trips.
Our experience at McCluskieGunj
At McCluskiegunj we stayed where the film crew had also put up. It goes by the name, Rana’s Cottage. The owner and our host, Mr. Deepak Rana is an elderly energetic gentleman, a very well-loved person in the area who has been the ‘Mukhiya’ for 25 years. The bungalow is nestled amidst a sprawling garden and in the lap of Sal forest which made it a perfect spot to celebrate our Valentine’s Day. The rooms were not very luxurious but had the basic facilities required by us. It was run on solar power which impressed us but that led to the problem of power shortage at times. The host, Mr. Rana lives with his wife and his mother in the same house and all of them take personal care of the guest. The staff, mostly the tribals of the area are really gentle, polite and very helpful. In fact, Nirvaan would roam around in their arms for a great extent of our stay. He soaked in the bright sunshine of a winter day. With big wondering eyes, he was almost saying to us, “What a beautiful world it is and how lovely these people are!” He giggled and giggled and giggled when we swung with him in the swing. The gentle giant German Shepherd belonging to Mr. Rana delighted him. He was so excited and happy that he missed his afternoon nap and Mommy showed him around.
In the late afternoon, Mr. Rana took us for a ride in his own car and showed us many beautiful bungalows belonging to Anglo- Indians and famous Indian celebrities. I was personally delighted to see Bengali author, Buddhadeb Guha’s bungalow, since I am very fond of his style of writing. I could just imagine where and how he weaved life into his novels. We visited all the sights where the movie, A Death In The Gunj was shot and Mr. Rana kept us amused with his anecdotes from his interesting past and present life and how he coincidentally settled in this quaint world. Our sightseeing was interspersed with the local people who stopped by to chat with Mr. Rana and we too got a chance to enjoy their august company and explore the local culture. The people and the rough terrain and the mysterious forest left us pondering about life and love and all things in between. We returned to our homestay in the late evening. Mr. Rana arranged for Mahua, an intoxicating local brew from the Mahua tree. For snacks we had a very spicy chicken cooked with “Khada Masala” and right blend of everything. Our dinner too was delectable. The food, in keeping with the ambience was homely since the hosts personally looked after the cooking. However, at night it was raining and the it was damp and cold. Nirvaan did not like it at all and kept waking up more than usual. It was a tiring day for us and waking up so many times at night made us a little weary. Also, we were pretty worried about the baby catching a cold( but he was fine).
The next afternoon we were to leave for our home and we were very sad to leave such a beautiful and peaceful place in the lap of nature.
Details about booking a room, tariff and cab
We booked Rana’s cottage through his agent Rajesh. His contact number is 8420624556. If you want to contact Mr. Rana directly, then his mobile number is 9006205320. We stayed in an Annexe room with attached bathroom and geyser which costed Rs.1500 per night ( only accomodation ). There are other types of rooms with different rates. Do confirm while speaking to Mr. Rana or Mr. Rajesh regarding the type of room you want to book. Food charges are pretty nominal for the taste and quantity. To book a cab from Ranchi to Mccluskiegunj , you can contact Kartik in his number 9155117549. He charged us Rs.2000 for a Sumo Gold to drop us to Rana’s Cottage from Ranchi.
We had our reservation in the Shaktipunj Express which had a stop at the McCluskie Gunj Station,which hardly had a platform. How we boarded the train is another story you’ll read about in the post A train without a platform.
Till then enjoy the photographs of our stay and if you can visit this place which is waiting for you!
On November 3, 2017 our baby Nirvaan was just 2 months when we decided to go for a mini road trip. We chose a rural retreat called Sundar Gram to spend a night out. It is just 36 kilometers from our place. However,back then it wasn’t any less adventurous for the new parents considering the number of people who advised us against it citing various reasons. However, our paediatrician gave us a green signal and off we went. Mommy had packed almost everything belonging to the baby for one night having no experience at all. Mommy was also very anxious and had almost been prepared to deal with a cranky baby and have a nightmare of a time.
The trip, however was beautiful. We reached Sundargram in the afternoon,just before dusk. The resort was located in the middle of lush green rice fields and the verdant resplendence across the horizon was breathtaking. It had mud huts with all the modern facilities. Baby N did not develop much sight back then. Nonetheless he was mesmerized with the open azure sky and the green leaves moving gently in the breeze. The newness of the world with all its beauty perhaps touched him and may it remain so for years to come!
In the evening, we had a bonfire and as a part of our revelry, we played songs and sang along which again pleased the baby and he slept so peacefully. Also,it was the first time we realized that Nirvaan loves being around people. He loved the jolly company of his Uncles and Aunts. Mommy’s task was much reduced thanks to all the friends who took turns to look after the baby.
The owner and the staff of the resort were very helpful and friendly. They showered their ‘youngest guest’ with lots of love and care.
We came back with happy hearts and the memory and lesson from our first trip. This trip had prepared us for our journey ahead because once you are smitten by the travel bug, there is no respite!
P.s this is what we had noted down after coming back. These tips may help new parents in their travel-
* Pack only the essentials. Overpacking becomes problematic since the baby needs to be carried.
Take a few extra set of dresses,but do not take too many.
This rule follows for most other things.
Insect repellent is a must.
Ask for help. If you are travelling with a newborn, the hotel staff will readily help you in laundry or in cleaning and sterilizing utensils.
Travel in groups. Your responsibilities will be shared and you’d not be focused only on the baby.
Remember babies are just mini us. They love to go outside and enjoy in their own ways. Take good care of your babies but do not panic. It is natural that as new parents you are scared of everything that might go wrong, we too were. But our babies will be fine. Nirvaan did not fall sick and I can say that your precious too will be fine. Enjoy with them.
Here are a few pictures from Nirvaan’s first trip.
It was January of 2018. Nirvaan was 4 months old then. We wanted to go somewhere which would not be too far and could be done in 3-4 days. Puri was a perfect choice. We took a flight to Bhubaneshwar from Kolkata. It was a 50 minute flight and Nirvaan’s first. We were very apprehensive whether he would be scared and cry most of the time. Nirvaan did cry but only during takeoff and landing. It was not that bad for a first. Later we got to know , they experience earaches during takeoff and landing, precautions for which were taken in our later tours.
We hired a self driven car from Bhubaneshwar to Puri. The road was good , though Google suggested us a shorter route just before entering Puri which took us through the narrow alleys around the Jagannath Temple , where driving was not that fun.
However, we reached Marina Guest house on the outskirts of Swargadwar Beach around afternoon 2pm. I read very good reviews about the place on TripAdvisor. The location was amazing but service and standard of rooms did not live up to our expectations. However, the terrace was mindblowing and one gets a 180 degree view of the Bay of Bengal from there. Nirvaan just loved the sea breeze and you could see his joy from his face. We kept the day to ourselves to rest. Nirvaan had a good long sleep.
Next day, my parents went to the Jagannath Temple. I took Nirvaan and Priyasha to a road trip to Konark. The weather was great. The road was even better. This short roadtrip of 1.5 hours from Puri to Konark was definitely one of the best in India with a considerable portion of the road running along the Bay of Bengal. Before that, the road goes through a jungle which is called the Konark Wildlife Sanctuary. I was inspired to take this roadtrip after watching the Malayalam movie Neelakasham Panchakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi; it did not disappoint me. Just before reaching Konark comes the Ramachandi Beach. There is a wonderful resort here called the Lotus Resort which is situated at the confluence of a river and the sea. The restaurant is situated right next to the beach. We spent a relaxing couple of hours there. Priyasha took Nirvaan for a ride around on his stroller. He was pretty comfortable. He did not like the sun though. But he perhaps understood he was out of his regular comfort zone and did not throw any tantrums apart from when he was hungry. We returned to Puri in the afternoon. Nirvaan was more than happy to get a bed and after one full bottle of milk, he fell asleep.
I was searching in google for a quiet place with a bar to chill in the evening when i came across Baron’s Bar in Mahodadhi Palace. All five of us were there by 8pm. it was right next to the main Swargadwar Beach. Mahodadhi Palace has a quiet old world British charm to the place, the rooftop Baron’s bar (which was almost empty) added to the archaic feeling. The staff were extremely courteous. They took special care of Nirvaan. He happily went from one lap to another though his eyes fixed on his mother. The food was delicious, the malai prawn tikka was just amazing, so were the tandoori mushrooms. The sound and smell of the sea, the breeze, the beer, and everyones’s happy faces just added to the bliss.
We shifted to a homestay called the Judge’s Court next day as we wanted to experience the local culture a little more. This was not on the beach but within 10 minutes from Swargadwar and 2 minutes from Chakratirtha road. This old bungalow with a huge garden and a lawn belonged to a judge from Orissa whose granddaughter has now renovated the place for a homestay. There was a black Rottweiler called Bruno who looked fierce but just needed two pats on the back to become friends with us. Nirvaan’s little eyes glowed with joy on seeing Bruno. Perhaps he reminded him of a similar four legged creature with a tail and her various naughty antics back home ( Hashi ). The bungalow was very serene and it was a perfect place to find some solitude away from the busy streets of Swargadwar and Jagannath Temple. The sunrays falling on the huge balcony by the garden were soothing and my mother had a gala time with Nirvana on her lap. We had a home cooked Odiya style lunch which was delicious, just what we wanted to complement a lazy afternoon.
My parents wanted to go shopping in the evening. They took Nirvaan with them. Me and Priyasha had a lazy stroll in the Chakratirtha Road market, pretty sure of a phone call soon from our parents. But to our surprise, we almost had two hours exclusively for us. We discovered a tiny little shop with interesting curios. It was run by an extremely polite Kashmiri gentleman. We bought a Budhhist Thanka from there. Another place we discovered was a small cafe called the Honey Bee Bakery. The carrot cake here was just awesome. You have to taste it to believe it. The pizzas were good too. The place had a hippie charm to itself with a peculiar seating arrangement on its terrace as well. You’d find books in various languages and of varied interest stacked up here,thanks to the foreigners who frequent this cafe. I highly recommend this place to all those who want to chill for a while in Chakratirtha Road. Our parents were back earlier and Nirvaan had been a good boy without making any tantrums.
We heard about this small artisan village called Raghurajpur about 10kms from Puri. We drove down to Raghurajpur next day morning. We had our flight from Bhubaneshwar that very evening. So we did not have more than a couple of hours to spend there. But if one is an art lover, perhaps it is possible to spend an entire day there. The village is full of artists who are skilled in a local art form called Patachitra. If you have time, they will even show you how to make one. We ended up buying a few though they would not persuade.
We had our lunch in a place called Pink House on our way back. The Chinese food at this place is cheap and delicious. It is located on the Chakratirtha beach and has a very calm vibe around. We packed up soon once we were back to Judge’s Court and left for Bhubaneshwar with a heavy heart. Our small yet eventful holiday was going to be over soon. But on our way back home from the Kolkata airport , I had a smile on my face, the smile of content, the smile of happiness. Nirvaan was tickling me with his tiny fingers. I looked at his glittery eyes and could imagine him telling me ” Baba, when is the next holiday?”