Author: Ankita Bhatia

A Photo Essay of Madikeri, Coorg : 50 Shades of Green

Kodagu, popularly known as Coorg is a beautiful part of Karnataka that I visited last year. We stayed in a picturesque town called Madikeri, which is the district headquarters. Framed by the Western Ghats, Coorg is rich and diverse in its flora and fauna, as we experienced up close, through a walk into its rainforests as well as a hike to Nishani peak, organised by our hotel, Taj Madikeri. The Taj Madikeri is built in a stunning location, surrounded by 180 acres of rainforests on all sides. They organized a walk with Nitin Subbiah, a naturalist and our guide and we were intrigued with his deep knowledge of the many mysteries of the forest, the unique balance of nature, the many examples of the harmony that exists between the flora and fauna – from funnel web spiders that create their home and trap their prey, to strangler trees, wild elephants, exotic butterflies, mushrooming of spices and coffee, this was an incredible walk that was enjoyed across age groups (our group spanned three generations from age …

A Guided Walking Tour of Lodhi Art District with St+Art India

Early this year, I stumbled upon Instagram photos of some very striking wall murals in Delhi’s Lodhi Colony, and as I traced their origins, I learnt that they were part of a focused effort by an organization called St+Art India, a non-profit that aims to bring the art experience outside of a traditional gallery, into public spaces, thereby making it accessible to all. The Lodhi Art District, as it’s now getting popularly known, is their largest project so far. Outside of Delhi, the foundation has also beautified spaces in Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore, with Chennai coming up next. When St+Art announced the walking tours for Delhi, I immediately signed up for a slot this October. The weather gets better and this would be a perfectly fine reason to walk around one of the most scenic parts of Delhi, with tons of art around. This is a paid tour, but of course you don’t really need to pay since this is an “open air museum”. I just thought it would be more fun in knowing the …

Travel isn’t always pretty – An eye-opening tour of Hebron, West Bank

I stood in the Abraham Hostel lobby in Jerusalem, 15 min to 9 am, looking around the group. People sipped their coffees and the room was full with the casual air of small talk. This could have been any day and any tour, except that it wasn’t. In a few minutes, we would be on our way to Hebron – the most conflicted and troubled city in the Middle East. Shortly, a young chirpy girl marched in with Eliyahu McLean, our guide for the day. She called out our names, checking them off her list rapidly. Eliyahu was an orthodox Jew – as I could see from the Kippah (cloth skullcap) and Payot (long curly side locks) he adorned. He told us that we would walk to the Central Bus Station and then ride out to Hebron, 30km north of Jerusalem. As we left the city and the bus picked up speed, Eliyahu told us that he ran Jerusalem Peacemakers, an interfaith organization that promoted peaceful dialogue and reconciliation between Israel and Palestine. As part …

Israel to Jordan by land – What to expect when crossing the Beit She’an border

As I sat in the plane, I felt uneasy about the impending chaos. Our trip had begun, but we barely had an itinerary and barring the apartment in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem(which were also booked in the last 48 hours), we hadn’t made any arrangements elsewhere. We had booked a return flight from Amman, Jordan since we got cheaper tickets to fly back to Delhi from there, but we had no clue on how we would get there. I had vouched in 2018 that I will be more spontaneous on trips, but this was stretching my limits and spending precious time on the internet trying to figure things out while I could be seeing more of a new place was something that gave me a lot of discomfort. But here I was, on a plane to Israel, ready to take-off and I decided to reassure myself that things would be okay. It wasn’t a surprise really that things turned out this way. A close couple friend was keen to take some time off and explore …

2019 Travel Trends that I actually want to follow

I am not a trendy person, I will be honest. And as I age, my choices in food, fashion, lifestyle are veering more and more towards “going back to the basics”. So, I am surprised that I wanted to write this post. As the calendar rolled into 2019, and the internet was abuzz with forecasts of all kinds, I couldn’t help but enthusiastically nod yes on six trends in travel that I was already loving. Travel reflects changing mindsets and culture, social and economics shifts. I grew up in Delhi in the 90’s and at its core, travel was about a large group of friends and family, hill stations and road trips in summers. Today, with greater disposable incomes, cheaper flights, options of bnbs, technology, a change in mindset and world views, people are travelling more than ever before. And the expectation from travelling is changing constantly. Travel leaves an impact, not only on the traveler but also on the destination. And as travelers we need to be more conscious of that. I don’t think …

Home is a feeling – Memoirs from Amsterdam

The Beginning It was a cold windy Saturday morning in June as I stood in the taxi line at Schiphol, tired from the lack of sleep but full of nervous excitement for what lay ahead. After months of thinking about this move, then dealing with the paperwork and permit, I had finally arrived. My company had put me up in a service apartment and after checking in, I dumped my stuff and headed out to the nearest grocery store to buy some supplies. There was a slight drizzle and the air felt crisp after the Delhi summer heat, as I shuddered walking the 800 meters to the store, realizing that I should have unpacked my jacket first. I ought to be more careful, I thought to myself. It was my first day in a new country and the last thing I wanted to do was to get sick. Being on my own was already making me mindful about the trivial things. I didn’t really get a chance to think about much that weekend, since P …

In Photos : What I did in Israel!

It was after spending a fair amount of time discussing on where to go, that we closed in on Israel. I  remember exactly what tilted our decision – a Youtube video with this guy trying to find the best eats in Jerusalem. He was overly enthusiastic and smiling too much, while stuffing his face with the gooey goodness of hummus  but it was just what I needed to make up my mind. We had friends joining us and as the respective families got whiff of our plans, growing concerns about our choice of country threatened to derail the plan. Anyway, the dust settled and we booked our tickets and on a breezy Thursday night, we landed in Tel Aviv. My research had convinced me that Tel Aviv is very cosmopolitan and fun, and it was. The not so fun part was that I had a crazy case of bed bug bites our second night, and by the morning it got so bad that the crazy bites became massive red bumps that itched like hell. We …

5 Unintentional Discoveries in Kutch

At one point in my life, I loved planning my trips to a T, but I have come to realise that a strict itinerary leaves very little room for spontaneity. There have been times when I have come back home feeling underwhelmed with my travels, largely due to excessive research and having a feeling of “seen it before”. So, sometime last year, I decided that whenever I traveled, I would keep certain aspects like transport and stay finalized before the trip. I could add an odd experience that may be harder to book on the spot. And I would leave the rest to be figured out once there. Interestingly, this has led to some amazing experiences that wouldn’t have happened if I was too caught up in “living my plan”. The internet is a great tool to find information and build your own travel plan yourself. But sometimes, knowing too much and trying to fit it all in takes away from the spirit of exploration and impulse. In Kutch, the top 2 things on my …

The Artists of Kutch

After the spectacular Rann of Kutch, the agenda was to station ourselves in Bhuj over a couple of days, explore the town as well as the artistic villages of Kutch. Our first stop was Nirona, made famous by PM Modi after he gifted a Rogan art painting created in this village, to then President Barrack Obama during his US visit in 2014. As we got down from the car, a swarm of school children, seemingly underwhelmed with new faces, walked past, waving and smiling. We decided to follow the crowd that had descended from a bus full of tourists, crossing a few narrow alleys and brightly painted doors framed with bougainvillea, and we ended up reaching the Khatri household, master craftsmen of the Rogan art. The art form is intriguing to observe, and the Khatri’s willingly give a live demo. We quickly seat ourselves on the plastic chairs and charpoy in the courtyard. Out comes a piece of fabric, and a round tray with many bowls holding the different colours of the paint, which is …

Setting foot on the Great Rann of Kutch

I looked outside the aircraft window, feeling optimistic and excited about the next few days. There were many things that still remained unfigured on my itinerary, but information online wasn’t extensive, and I had been too tied up this time to plan better. What resulted was an itinerary that left a lot of room for spontaneity, but I had a good feeling that it would all work out. Mainly because the part I was most interested in was already chalked out. And I wasn’t thinking of much else. Other than the Rann of Kutch. I landed in Ahmedabad, checked into the hotel and met up with the others in the group. For dinner, we decided to eat at the New Irani Restaurant in old city. It was fantastic food for the meat eaters with the lamb curry, mincemeat kebabs and biryani, not so much for the only vegetarian in the group who had to do with Rotis and Egg Bhurji. It was an uneventful evening and we decided to call it a night as the …