My Kerala bucketlist, via Bollywood!

"Bannke titli dil uda" - State of mind right now!
“Bannke titli dil uda” – State of mind right now!

 

It’s almost here. Just a week to go. Well yeah, for Valentine’s Day too, but more importantly – MY FIRST TRIP TO KERALA BECAUSE I WON THE KERALA BLOG EXPRESS 2016!!!

Q. What’s better than winning a 2 week, all-sponsored trip, to a state you’ve always admired, by the State Tourism Board?

A. Being the only blogger from India, among 27 travel bloggers from across the globe! Isn’t that super exciting?

So, being the only Indian on this trip, I felt it is my moral duty to give my fellow-participants a small sneak-peak of Kerala (Hey NaMo, see I’m trying!), by showing them a glimpse of Kerala from our movies!

You’re probably wondering what level of crazy does one have to be to build a travel bucketlist from Bollywood references. Well, you’re talking to a girl who left Mumbai to live in the mountains after watching Highway! So yeah, call me crazy, but trust me I’ve done worse.

So here it is, my Kerala wishlist / bucketlist, as compiled through any / every Bollywood movie I have ever seen with the tiniest Kerala connection!

PS: I’m sorry I included GUPT, Karma will come get me one day! On the bright side, I didn’t include Nishabd.

PPS: Crazy “north-Indian girl sees South India” stereo-types coming your way. Filter kaapi, anna. Pardon me, Kerala’ites.

 

Location: Alleppey Backwaters
Movie: Dil Se

EVERYONE has to agree – Preity Zinta dancing on that Alleppey houseboat raised the bar of hotness in Bollywood, matched only by Malaika Arora Khan dancing on the train, in the same movie! This is also my first memory of Kerala on celluloid (Even though Bombay released before Dil Se, I watched this first!)

 

Location: Athirapally Falls, Thrissur
Movie: Guru

All my personal hatred towards Aishwarya Rai aside, this is possibly the most beautiful picturisation of Athirapally waterfalls, which also turns out to be the most common / famous shoot site in Kerala. (The village scenes are not from Kerala)

 

Location: Malayatoor Reserve Forest, Idukki
Movie: Raavan

Guess I should just rename the article to “My Kerala bucketlist via Mani Ratnam“. Here’s another masterpiece!

Remember Abhishek Bachchan’s secret hideout in the middle of a forest, a river passing by, with that huge Vishnu (or was it Buddha?) idol in the middle? I would kill to camp there for a night, or ten. Shot in the Silent Valley Forest Reserve in Kerala, that one place gave me Kerala wanderlust goals for life. I doubt we will be allowed to visit though (It’s supposed to be a restricted forest zone).

PS: I couldn’t find a video of the said hideout, but here’s a song from the movie shot at the Athirapally Waterfalls. How gorgeous is this place 😀

 

Location: Munnar Tea Plantations, Munnar
Movie: Chennai Express

Dream Sequence: THAT drive along the winding road, surrounded by the beautiful Munnar Tea Estate on one side and spectacular backdrop of the Western ghats on the other! Now Darjeeling sure is my second favorite place in India, so hey Munnar, you really have big shoes to fill!

 

Location: Periyar National Park, Kumily
Movie: Gupt

Warning: The dance in the below mentioned video is performed by thorough unprofessionals. Please DO NOT judge us Indians by the dance moves in the video below. But do judge us from the beauty of that national park. It’s something about those tree stumps in the middle of the lake, and the simple boat floating over the quiet waters, that got my attention!

 

Location: Bekal Fort, Kasargod
Movie: Bombay

Hands down THE BEST song of the century! This song has been my favorite since childhood, even before I had watched, or heard, about the movie. And guess what? It’s shot at the largest fort in Kerala – Bekal Fort in Kasargod. C-a-n-n-o-t-W-a-i-t!

 

Location: Meesapulimala, Idukki
Movie: Chennai Express

Forgive me Lord, for I have sinned. I have recommended two Rohit Shetty songs in one article.

But I couldn’t stop myself. This song might have very few shots from Kerala, but you see, it has colors, culture, sarees, filter coffee (I did warn about the stereo-typing), traditional dance, a glimpse of South India’s spectacular temples, in short – it’s everything I’m looking forward to on this trip!

 

This could be the first (and possibly the last) time I’m saying this: I can’t wait for Valentine’s Day! 😀

 

 

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5 ways to untravel Spiti Valley!

The valley of Spiti isi full of many incredible sights like this one!
The valley of Spiti isi full of many incredible sights like this one!

My fascination with Spiti Valley began when I saw Alia Bhatt pointing at a mountain and asking Randeep Hooda, her knight in shining armor, if there was any way they could go there! It wasn’t so much the scene than was the gorgeous monastery in the background that caught my attention, and I’ve wanted to visit the tantalizing valley of Lahaul-Spiti ever since! But what I didn’t expect is, not only will I get to see this monastery, but also live there… cooking, laughing and living with the monks.

Well, no points for guessing who is the over-elated city girl who just returned from Spiti!

Rudyard Kipling couldn’t have been more accurate when he called Spiti “a world within a world”. The valley has the most incredible landscape that’s green and blue and brown at the same time! You encounter a new sight at every turn, and every sight makes you wanna sit and stare in silence, until the end of eternity! But the real charm of the valley begins when you get over its exterior beauty (which is not so easy to do, I mean just look at that place!!!) and notice the exceptional purity the locals live with. Being low on budget, I opted for hitch-hiking (Dad if you’re reading this, it’s not as bad as it sounds), in cabs, in jeeps, in trucks – behind trucks, in buses – on buses… and not once did I have an unpleasant experience (which being a solo female traveler came as quite a surprise!). The people in Spiti literally open their homes and hearts for you, they all want to hear your story and share their own, and more often than not – they go out of their way to make sure you feel at home.

  1. Stay at Key Monastery – Undoubtedly the most beautiful experience from all my travels – staying at Key Monastery! Spiti boasts of a purely homogenous Buddhist society belonging to the Mahayana sect of Vajrayana Buddhism, and is home to numerous monasteries with history dating back more than 1000 years. While each one of these monasteries is worth a visit and is glorious in its own way, Key monastery holds a special place for how incredibly inviting it is! You walk into the kitchen at the monastery and are invited by monks for a cup of chai, no matter what time of the day it is, you can live in the Lama quarters of the monastery (at just Rs. 200 per night, including meals!), indulge in their irrefutable hospitality, sleep under the gorgeous starlit skies in the veranda, and I was lucky to also attend the annual Gaaye celebration of the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism! I may always recommend things on my blog, but never before have I been this confident about my recommendation. Take my word on this – this is an experience you shouldn’t miss!
  2. Go country with lovely homestays – I met this incredible lady from Mane village, who welcomes travelers to live at her house, and shares the finer way of living the Mane life! You can learn weaving, making chhang (Local beer prepared with semi-fermented barley), or simply experience the country life with her assistance. Similarly, you will be able to find humble homestays at Lhangza, Gomik, Demul, Dhankar, Lhalung, Cyoto or Tashi Gang, and I personally feel this will be the best way to discover the charm of Spiti!
  3. Finding Fossils – The Spiti we see today is an incredible sight of monstrous mountains with rock formations made by the force of wind and water over epochs, and the serpentine Spiti river adding a touch of elegance to the rather rugged landscape! It is also a known fact that the Tethys Sea ran through this mountain desert till about 60 million years ago, and in Spiti you can still find proof of this geological past. Step into Lhangza village and you will see kids running to you with stones in their hands. Look closely and you’ll realize they’re not stones, but actually fossils of maritime life, that probably died 100 million years ago. Innumerable such fossils can be found with a short walk to the Lhangza naala, all you have to do is walk 🙂
  4. Meditate in Caves – A visit to Spiti will be incomplete if you don’t visit Tabo, which has the oldest continuously functioning Buddhist monument of India, famous for its wall paintings and murals. In its millennium of existence, the gonpa boasts of not having seen a day without prayer. But that’s not the only treasure Tabo holds, walk across the mountains adjacent to the tiny village and you’ll come across many meditation caves, some with interesting artwork inside.
  5. Rent a bike – One thing about Spiti, traveling locally can be quite expensive if you don’t have your own car. Cabs charge approximately Rs. 1000+ for 10kms, and while that pricing is totally justified considering the wear and tear these vehicles are subjected to on really difficult (or at times, non-existent) roads, not everyone can afford the luxury. So what do the rest of us do? While I chose to hitch-hike as I didn’t feel fit enough to do this, I came across a few people who rented a bike (which are easily available in Kaza), mounted it on a local bus while going uphill, and cycled their way back to Kaza on the descent. I can only imagine how exhilarating and challenging that experience must be, adrenaline rush max!

So that’s about interesting activities in Spiti. You can also go on an wild-life exploration trip, but for that you have to visit later in the winters. The best person to guide you with this will be Karan Bedi, who owns Hotel Deyzor (which, btw, is also the best hotel recco I can give even though I didn’t stay there myself). Just go to the cafe and ask for him, he organizes many culture & adventure tours in and around Spiti that you can easily be a part of.

I have so many stories to share from my short affair with Spiti. Working on a few photo-essays to take you through my journey, stay tuned 🙂

 

 

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