Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Being A Tourist In Delhi!

Delhi or Dilli, the capital of India. While on one side the city is always in news with headlines ranging from being extremely corrupted, highly unsafe and road rage incidents, the other side talks about the beautiful history of the place, amazing street food, the bone chilling cold winters, and of course tons of affordable street shopping options. Not to forget it serves as the base camp for all trips to the Himalayas. Well almost everyone who visits India would have mostly been to Delhi at some point in their lives so have we be it either for work or for our trips up North so finally we have a post dedicated to the lifeline of India.

What better way to start our Dilli Darshan that with Red Fort. Built by Shah Jahan in 1638 when he moved the capital from Agra to Delhi, this World Heritage Site is today used as the venue by The Prime Minister Of India every year to deliver his speech to the entire Nation on 15th of August, Independence Day.

Bang in the middle of the city is centuries old "Agrasen Ki Baoli." Also known as Ugrasen Ki Baoli, it has around 103 steps and a series of arched corridors. It is believed that the water entices people to commit suicide and the deeper one enters the well, the eerie feel is very prominent and many believe that the place is haunted. Stories apart, this place is definitely worth a visit and few scenes of the Aamir Khan starrier 'PK' movie was shot here. The age old step well is pretty well kept by ASI but is infested by Bats. We were surprised to see such a extravagant water storage facility.

We were blown away walking around the centuries old 'Jantar Mantar.' It is one of the five built by Maharaja Jai Singh II from 1723 onwards. It was built to tell precise time and movements of moon and planets around the Sun, with 13 astronomical instruments in this site. The many yantras constructed here could tell the exact time to the milli second. It was such a fabulous scientific creation from centuries ago and it was unbelievable to know our ancestors were so interested and accurate about time and other planets.

One of the most interesting stops in our Delhi darshan is Qutub Minar. The stunning Minar is a real treat. There are several ancient monuments in the vicinity. The Iron Pillar of Delhi is housed in the same complex and is really a wonder due to its rust resistance feature. It also houses a mosque and an inscription in Persian on the walls of the mosque states that the materials used to build it were procured from the demolished Hindu and Jain temples. A few that we could see were image of Lord Ganesha, different murtis and avatars. Several parts of the monument with the Arabic scriptures have broken off and seem to have been added in the monument later on.This monumental wonder left us with many perplexing questions. Was this an ancient Hindu temple as the architecture and building style suggests. To this day there are several concrete living, hard hitting evidence that have been attempted to destroy across India.

There are several pillars that are just not Islamic style of architecture. One could see this style of architecture in temples of India. By asking these questions if we would be labeled "Right Wing Extremists" or Hindutava fanatics" so be it.

Lotus Temple is a Bahai House of Worship and is open to all regardless of their religion or any other discrimination. Built in 1986, the temple consists of 27 marble clad standing petals.

Thanks to Delhi metro, which is extremely well connected, we visited most of these places at a very economical price and not caught up in the notorious Delhi traffic, but the Metro does get very crowded and during peak hours reminded us of Mumbai local trains just air conditioned though.

While in Delhi we had a typical tourist day out. We stopped in one of the oldest Dabhas in old Delhi- "Kake Di Hatti" and the extremely friendly owners welcomed us and addressed us as 'Beta' and 'Bachchein.' The food portions were huge and even their half portions of butter rich dal makhani and chicken masala had such generous quantity. The rotis were pretty filling and yummy. A delightful heavy lunch for the two of us costed Rs. 400.

For sweets and snacks we visited Banga Sweets and it is easily one of the best places to pick up sweets in Delhi. Do try their cham cham, pani puri and veg puff.

While in Delhi, we checked into Hotel Hari Piarko in Pahar Ganj. Though located in a very congested and a busy market area of Delhi, we had a wonderful stay experience. The rooms were very clean, spacious and comfortable and loaded with all modern amenities. Pahar Ganj main market, RK Ashram metro, New Delhi Railway Station are all at a walkable distance. Even if you are flying into Delhi, the airport Metro rail is the best way to reach the hotel. The only downside to the hotel was a very average complimentary breakfast.

One of our other stay experiences was at "Aspire India Bed & Breakfast," a home-stay in Udai park New Delhi (9810113600.) Owned and run by Colonel Sudindar Singh. The property is bang in the middle of the city in a quite secured residential area. They have very comfortable rooms with an attached bath that come with all modern luxuries.

The best part about the stay is the entertaining, caring and lovable host Colonel Sudindar Singh uncle. Over a hearty and yummy breakfast we had lengthy discussions about travel, Army and India. The home stay has a wide collection of books on travel. It is very close to green park metro station. The host was very kind to give us metro travel card help plan our travel for the day and gave lot of insider information.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Dehradun Nestled In The Doon Valley

A comfortable six hour train journey by the Nanda Devi Express took us from Delhi to Dehradun in the foothills of Himalayas. This beautiful place in the Doon valley nestled between the Ganges and Yamuna rivers served as a perfect break from the scorching summers of Chennai. We bunked here for four days, enjoying the pleasant climate and the occasional rain and relishing the yummy food that Dehradun offers.

We parked an entire day to leisurely visit interesting places in the city. We stared with the stunning "Forest Research Institute (FRI)." It was so fascinating to be here. The massive trees and the impressive colonial style bungalows are such a treat. Established as an Imperial Research Institute in 1906, FRI Dehradun is an internationally renowned institute for conducting Research and Education in the field of Forestry and Environmental Science. It is also a deemed University and offers 3 M.Sc courses and PhD programs. This place has very interesting stop overs such as the Socio Forestry Museum, Forest Pathology Museum, Silvi Culture Museum, Timber Museum, Non Wood forest products museum and Entomology Museum to name a few.

We might sound very rude or disrespectful but apart from the Timber Museum which housed amazing day to day wooden artifacts, the other museums could not hold our attention for too long as this was not our area of interest. However, it did seem a treasure trove and a mecca for a person who loves forestry and is a fan of plants. Since, we were not able to connect, understand, sometimes even not able to pronounce the names, we were not able to relate with the exhibits or relics but nonetheless the massive arched red brick hallways, stunning greenery around and pillars are well worth a visit. Plus it is a very picturesque location. The massive hallways of olden times provided a glimpse of the past and the rooms looked exactly like the ones from the pictures of fairy tale books with huge  ballrooms and massive chandeliers.

Another interesting stops of the day was "Robber's Cave or Guchhu Pani." A narrow passage leading to a small waterfall. The best part was walking through the stream in ice cold clean water. This place seems very popular among locals and attracted a healthy crowd. The entry ticket is priced at Rs.25. There are several eat outs where we enjoyed a hot bowl of Maggi and pipping hot lemon tea. There is also locker and changing room facility.

From Tyagi Road to FRI, Tapkeshwar Temple and Robber's cave, we were charged Rs.900 for an auto rickshaw, which was value for money. The guy, Zahir Ahmed, was very decent and his contact number is - 8909388339. The best part about him was he made sure we had a good time. He did not rush us or hurry us through and gave us a lot of insider information.

We started our Dehradun food trail criss crossing the lanes of ever busy and happening Paltan Bazar, pampering us with many street shopping options. To our surprise, there were very few hygienic street food options. Undeterred, we walked to Rajput Road and stumbled upon this wonderful and super busy burger joint- "The Buffet." They were selling calorie loaded desi burger with buns that were oil fried. Cheese burger at Rs. 35 per piece was heavenly and melted in our mouth. This could easily be the best burger of India. It would be a grave sin to not taste their cold coffee and mango shake.

Next, we visited the over hyped Kwality toffee store but it was not so great. After that we wanted to head to the famous Ellora bakers that we had heard about but it seemed difficult. There are way too many Ellora bakers that have cropped up in Dehradun. It was a challenge for us to figure out the original one. The one that has the word "Old" is the one that you are looking for. The lip smacking pastries of Ellora Bakers is any dessert lovers delight. They have a wide variety of toffees as well. We loved their imly ones (tamarind) to a great extent.

A heavenly find in Dehradun, Bake Masters, is a perfect place for pastry lovers. We tried their Tiramisu pastry which was just a perfect blast of flavors. Make sure you are there a little early in the evening as the limited stock quickly vanishes.

Kumar Sweet Shop serves the best chaat especially amazing pani puri. The sinful Kulfi Faluda is a perfect way to end your day. Our perfect thirst quencher was the amazing thick cholocate hazlenut milkshake from Keventer's. This amazing little joint serves wide variety of shakes to choose from and is a must try. All these eateries are on Rajput Road, very close to clock tower. After belting hearty street food, we walked up to Gandhi Park and had a nice evening stroll.

While here, we ditched the commercial hotels and checked into "Ginny Gold Home Stay" run by a retired Army man. This home away from home home stay was such a feel god factor after spending 12 days in hotels. The lovely elderly couple running the place took very good care of us like their own. The home stay is located on Tyagi Road, next to Radha Krishna Temple and offers very spacious, clean and comfortable rooms and is loaded with all modern amenities. Only thing is that they don't offer Wi-Fi. It is just a few kilometers away from Railway Station, ISBT and Musosorie Bus Stand. While here, do try the Aloo Parathas. From the terrace of our home stay the view of stunningly lit Mussoorie was amazing and we enjoyed the chill winds late in the night with the the beautiful views.

Mussoorie would be an ideal getaway from Dehradun to enjoy the pleasant climate, views of the surrounding hills and just unwind.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mizoram An Unpleasant Surprise In North East India

After encountering some amazing experiences in the rest of the North Eastern states we were way too excited for our trip to Mizoram and Tripura. We started off with Mizoram, the short flight from Kolkata to Aizwal was slightly delayed and we were not able to hold back our excitement. As the Captain announced that we are fast approaching touchdown we looked out of the window and were greeted by lush green thick forest. Thanks to a Mizo who willingly exchanged her window seat with us looking at us jumping to catch glimpses of Mizoram. As the tiny "Lengpui Airport" runway approached, apart from a strip of tarmac the rest was massive jungle. We saw the amazing Tlawng river crisscross the virgin land. The runway is pretty small as it is one of the smallest airports in India and for a second you might wonder if the flight might crash land in the middle of jungle.

It was raining when we landed and we did not think much of it considering it to be a one off scenario as it was summer. While we were waiting for our baggage, we simultaneously took care of the Inner Line Permit (ILP) formalities. We were given 2 forms asking for our basic information and contact details. Do carry passport size photos. The procedure is extremely simple. Please note that the permit is issued for a period of 6 days and any extension has to be done at the DC office in Aizwal. We were charged Rs 170 per person for ILP. We found this extremely expensive and quite shocking being an Indian citizen and requiring an ILP in itself is perplexing and to top it all being charged Rs 170 for 6 days did not make a lot of sense.

A very user friendly pre paid taxi booth is made available in the Airport premises. We were provided a receipt and charged Rs 1000 for the 30 km drive from Airport to Regency hotel in Aizwal. The drive from airport was awesome with only a few bad stretches. Bamboo is abundantly available in these parts and most of the homes are supported by this grass. A heart stopping, gut wrenching moment was when we saw a massive landslide on the way. The climb gets really steep for the last couple of kilometers. The narrow lanes of Aizwal meant massive traffic jams but there was no unnecessary honking or rash driving. The folks were very civil and tried their best to minimize time spent on road. A lesson or two to learn from here. They follow lane discipline and hence show great character.

After checking into our hotel, we got to know that it has been raining for the last week. Not to let rain dampen our spirits, we hoped that the next day would be bright and sunny and went out in the evening for a stroll. We also wanted to check out nearby places and figure out transport for the famous Vantawng Waterfalls. We were very surprised to know that most of the local taxis do not play to these places. Almost all taxi operators told us they could not help us. There was also language barrier but that never seemed to be a problem in any other part. Here, it more looked like they were unwilling to even think beyond for their own business.

Call it over expectation or a letdown the first issue that we faced was language barrier. Though we were able to manage language issue and have a gala time in Nagaland and Meghalaya. Things were a little different and difficult here. Though Mizo has high literacy rate and English is widely spoken we had an extremely difficult time pronouncing the names of local places and tourist attractions. Pubic transport connectivity is non existent. Not everybody could afford to hire private taxi for several days together or for far away destinations. The shared sumo services were also not available for Reiek or Hmuifang Village. This made a budget travelers life very difficult. Neither the hotel 's travel desk nor the shared taxi operators were of great help when it came to figuring out how we could reach far away destinations.

Agreed while traveling we encounter bad experiences and we tend to overlook them and enjoy the place but in this case overall the entire place gave us a feel of being unwelcome. One particular instance that made us feel so was when we went to a taxi operator and inquired about hiring a taxi to go Reiek, which is only 29 km from Aizwal. Of course, we not being locals had difficulty in pronouncing the name. After a lot of struggle we made the girls running the shop understand the place that we were talking about. They found it funny that we were pronouncing it wrong but its a different thing to laugh with us than at us. They went on mocking us and imitating us and laughing at it for a good 5 minutes while we waited patiently to know if they ply taxi to the place. In the end they just shook their head saying no service and continued with their giggle and laugh. It was disrespectful not just because we were tourists but it also talks about how professionally they were running their business.

The others were also the same and were not keen on giving any information. The few that were able to communicate with us were not locals but from other states who had set up their shop here. However, since there was no public transport available and we could only hire a private taxi, they were charging a bomb for visiting these places and it was a total rip off and we felt it was just not worth it.

Another instance where we felt we were being overcharged was because we were tourists. We wanted to visit Solomon Temple and it was around 8 km from our hotel. We stopped a taxi and told him we wanted to go to that specific temple, he said ok and when we asked him how much he said Rs.2000. We were shocked and thought he heard it wrong. After communicating clearly and mentioning it was only 8 km and even showing a picture of the temple, he stood his ground and told us it was 28 Km away and so he would charge Rs.2000. It was funny as we were showing him maps showed only 8 km but he refused to agree. We walked away and took another cab. We totally understand that touristic places will charge a bit extra as they rely only on tourism but this place hardly sees any tourists and it is maybe still acceptable to charge a little extra but ten times the amount is robbery.

After having spent so much time, money and invested so much energy in reaching a remote part of India, it was disheartening to see our enthusiasm shattered. After facing disappointment and dead end and with the news that pre monsoon had kicked in the states of Mizoram and Tripura and with landslides cutting off the state from the rest of the Nation, we decided to change our itinerary and headed to Delhi. So with a heavy heart we decided to cut short our Mizo plan and beat the heat in Himalayas. Perks of being jobless and living a life of a Fakeer.

One thing we enjoyed in Mizoram was its pleasant climate. While we spent 4 days here we leisurely checked out the Mizoram state museum which housed quite a few interesting exhibits and was very well kept. Entry fee is Rs 20 per person. A bullet ridden lamp post, reminding the struggle and violence this part of the country has witnessed.

Promoting Solomon temple as a tourist attraction was a very desperate attempt. The Church which was built in 1996 was we guess under renovation or still not functional, we are not sure. There was work going on and the Church was totally empty inside and we felt it was just not worth the visit. We did what we love go for long walks around Aizwal.

We had checked into hotel Regency which seems to be a landmark in itself. It is one of the best properties in Aizwal. The rooms are very spacious, clean and loaded with modern amenities and the staff are very courteous and kind. They were very helpful in modifying our reservations also. The only drawback is if you get a room facing the road the road traffic is quite annoying.

If you still decide to come here we would recommend "Hotel Floria" in Bara bazaar just walking distance from Hotel Regency. The tariff of both the hotels is exactly the same but in every aspect Floria beats Regency by a long mile. The food is amazingly good here. Only drawback with Floria is they do not have parking facility.

A lot of people ask one particular question that we find very hard to answer "What is the least favourite place you have ever traveled to?" At-last we finally have an answer which is going to shock a lot of people- Mizoram. Yes you read it right 'Mizo!' One of the most decorated states of India and this is just our opinion.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Terracotta Tales Of Bishnupur!

 After years of being in the bucket list, we finally landed in the quiet sleepy town of Bishnupur which is home to a series of centuries old terracotta temples built by the Malla Kings. Bishnupur town was named after Lord Vishnu by Vashnavite Malla kings as their main deity was Lord Vishnu. Facing shortage of stones in the area, the Kings decided to build terracotta temples, crafted from local laterite and brick, the temples were covered with terracotta tiles depicting scenes from the epic Mahabharata and Ramayana. Terracotta literally means baked earth in Italian and the style of architecture used in these temples is a blend of Bengali, Islamic and Oriya. Bishnupur town is not just famous for it's terracotta temples but is rich in it's heritage, architecture, culture and handicrafts such as pottery and weaving. A school of music called the Bishnupur Gharana, was established here in 1370 AD under   the rule of Malla kings. Not to forget the famous baluchari sarees that are famous in Bishnupur.

The temple town of Bishnupur has a lot of temples that can be easily visited either by Eco friendly electronic rickshaws or cycle rickshaws. During our stay here for over 2 days we chose both options and were so mesmerized by these beautiful temples that we visited all of them not once but twice.
There is nothing like an early morning sightseeing experience. We started with Ras Mancha temple, the oldest brick temple built in 1600 AD by Bir Hambir. This temple has an elevated square base with a pyramid shaped tower surrounded by hut shaped turrets. The commanding Ras Mancha temple has arched pillar which are equidistant and flawless. It was a tradition in earlier times wherein all the idols of Radha-Krishna in the town were displayed at the Ras Mancha temple during the Vaishnava Ras festival. It is best to start the tour with Ras Mancha temple as tickets can be picked up for gaining access to the temples. A paltry sum of Rs 15 per person gained us access to all the temples and monuments in Bishnupur.

Next stop was Gumghar, a massive structure built over a hill that is in a very sorry state. This doorless and windowless structure left us wondering the purpose behind building it. Was it a massive well or a granary or was it used for an entirely different purpose. Not much is known about this place and we guess it will just remain a mystery lost in time.

We then headed to the splendid Shyam Rai temple built by Malla king Raghunath Singha in 1643 AD, a fine example of Pancharatna style consisting of 5 shikaras on a curved Bengal Chala Roof. Dedicated to Lord Krishna, this temple has many carvings depicting scenes from his life. A grand sculpture of Krishna playing flute and pretty women dancing around him was stellar. This is one of the best temples in Bishnupur and made our long journey totally worthwhile. The lively carvings were standing right in front of our eyes but were unbelievable. The minute details in each carving are mesmerizing depicting not just scenes from Puranas but portraying the religious, political and economic life of people. The miniature carvings on brick are so fine and exquisite that it is impossible to recreate.

Next stop Radha Shyam temple, this is one of the living temples built by Malla ruler Chaitanya Singha in 1758. This Ekaratna temple stands within a courtyard enclosed by high boundary wall. The ratna or shikara of this temple is dome shaped and slightly different from the other Ekaratna temples of Bishnupur. The massive Vishnu carving of him resting on his snake bed is eye candy. Scenes of war, celebrations and everyday life is depicted to perfection. Another interesting find in this temple were ancient scriptures carved on the wall.

Right adjacent to Radha Shyam Temple is Lalji temple built by Malla king Bir Singha II in 1658 AD. It is one of the most impressive Ekaratna temples of Bishnupur. Inscriptional evidence on the temple suggests that this temple is dedicated to Radha and Krishna. The magnanimous monuments of Bishnupur reminded us of Orchha and Khajuraho.

A little ahead of Lalji Temple is the epic Jorbangla temple. Also known as Kesta Rai temple, it was built by Malla ruler Raghunath Singha in 1655 AD. This is one of the most spectacular temples of Bishnupur. A pair of hut shaped structures with slopping roofs join together. The temple walls narrate scenes from Epic Krishna Leela. The scene depicting and elephant uprooting a tree is so realistic. A pair of elephant carvings left us perplexed as we did not know if they were mating or fighting. Extensive day to day events, valor, warfare, art are so lively portrayed on brick. One particular scene that stood out was of two men carrying a successful kill.

The hunting scenes and daily social lives depicted here on terracotta stand testimony to the legendary craftsmanship of ancient Indians. The depiction of sailors on their intricately carved boats with their oars are stunning to say the least. Each temple has amazing sculptures, people merry making playing musical instruments. sur sundaries, mythical creatures and many more.

While the temples are a little off the main road, the Pathar Darwaza, also known as Large Gateway, has the road running through it's centre. This gateway was the northern entrance to ancient fort of Bishnupur and Malla Kingdom. Standing tall even today it was once the front line defense of Malla Kingdom. Built in the second half of the 17th century, it has double storied galleries flanking the passage for accommodating troops and there were arrow slits for the archer and gunman. Followed by this, we walked through the arched small gateway that leads to the ancient fort of Bishnupur.

Mesmerizing Madan Mohan temple that is in the far end of the town, was our next stop. Built in 1694 by Malla King Durjan Singh, it is the finest example of a brick structure with a single dome that sits pretty on a curved Bangla Chala Roof. The terracotta carving on this temple is one of the finest in the Country. The beams have amazing artisans entertaining us even today. The perfectly carved concentric circles with intricate bead like carvings left us in awe. There are several sculptures striking romantic poses that stand testimony to how we Indians have celebrated Love for centuries. Each terracotta carving is epic and paints a story and do watch out for the lively ducks that adorn these walls.

We took a turn and headed back to the other side of town to see the remaining temples and monuments. En route do watch out for homes that are held together with all natural material. We stopped at Stone chariot next. Stone chariot which dates back to 17 Century is a finest example of Bishnupur temple architecture in a miniature form. This small double storeyed monument is supported by three wheels on each side. The lower storey resembles Ras Mancha temple and the upper storey resembles Shikhara of Eka Ratna Temple.

We then headed to the much revered Chinnamasta temple. Chinnamasta literally translates to "She whose head is severed" in Sanskrit.  It was one of the most stand out sculptures of a Goddess we have ever seen. The Goddess was holding her own severed head in her hand. A Goddess of contradictions, she is considered as someone who is both- a life giver and life taker. She is also considered as a symbol of sexual control and an embodiment of sexual energy. This temple though pretty old has been renovated and is on the way to the Dalmadal canon.

Hardly at any distance was Dalmadal Canon, the iconic wrought iron with a massive muzzle that was a legend of it's time. In all possibility, it was one of the largest canons of the Malla rulers. This was used against the Maratha Invaders. The road that leads to Chinnamasta temple and canon has plenty of saree shops and one can check out the famous Baluchari sarees in any of these shops.

A small detour from the canon took us to a series of identical temple. We stopped to checkout the Nandalal temple built sometime in the 17th century. Just a little ahead from here is an amazing garden and Kalachand Temple. Built in 1656 AD by King Raghunath Singha, the sculptures here depict scenes from Krishna Leela, puranas and contemporary life. Just before Kalachand temple is the Radha Madhab temple that was built by Churamoni Devi, the daughter in law of Malla king Gopal Singh.

Not just the temples on the tourist circuit, do watch out for several other monuments that date back several centuries and are strewn around Bishnupur village. Another must visit place here is the Bishnupur Museum. One very interesting encounter that we had was watching a young boy who was playing cricket all by himself. He was smacking the ball right into the centuries old monument. In his own world and happy plying the game, he was the bowler, batsman, fielder and to our surprise he was also keeping scores.

Almost all monuments and temples of Bishnupur are extremely well kept and super clean despite absence of trash cans nearby. Either people do not litter or cleaning staff are doing a wonderful job. Another interesting aspect of Bishnupur is almost every home has a lovely green lawn and the entire village is dotted with mango and jack fruit trees. The rickshaw rides would cost around Rs.200-250 for the entire tour and we would say it is completely worth it.

The best way to reach Bishnupur from Kolkata which is at a distance of 132 km is to opt for the much economical and reliable Indian Railways. We boarded the Aranyak Express that reaches Bishnupur at 11 am. The train journey opens up beautiful views of rural West Bengal. En route we enjoyed amazing local breakfast of Poori Bhajji and motichur ladoo at Kharagpur Junction.

Once we reached Bishnupur station, there were plenty of cycle and auto rickshaws to ferry us to 'Bishnupur Tourist Lodge-' A government of West Bengal undertaking. This is one of the best stay options in Bishnupur. The perks of being a less commercialized destination. They don't have fancy stay or dine in options. Be sure to make online reservations as the place could get booked up. We opted for AC large double bedded room which was priced at Rs 1800 per day excluding taxes. The room was very spacious and clean offering comfortable bed and other modern amenities. The lodge has plenty of vast open space with massive trees that attract a lot of birds.

The service standards of the Lodge are pretty good. Be sure to carry a printout of the reservation slip and original ID cards. However, when we checked in the friendly staff were not very particular about the print out. The food at the Tourist lodge is lip smacking and reasonably priced. While we were here we faced frequent power cuts but the Lodge had power backup which serves as another reason to stay here. An evening stroll in Bishnupur is highly recommended. While in Bishnupur, do try the jeera soda available in almost all stores.

After our hearty dinner of Poori and Aloo sabji on our second day here, we walked to the amazing "One Scoop Ice Cream Cafe." It is a must visit in Bishnupur and a perfect way to end a happy day. This cozy ice cream parlor beats the massive ice cream chains in metros by a mile. Run by an energetic youngster, there are plenty of flavors to taste and choose from. We opted for the chocolate with nuts, rabdi and tutty frooti flavor with a dash of strawberry crush. The local ice cream tasted amazing and it came with one of the crispiest wafer cones that we have ever had. Three generous scoops of ice cream costed us Rs 55.

Bengalis love their sweets and hence there are several shops catering to their sweet tooth. We stopped by "Fresh Dairy," a little gem that was dishing out fantastic Bengali sweets and savories. We highly recommend the unique Chinese patties and Desi ghee Kalakand. Their samosas are smacking good and finally we satisfied our sweet craving with Malai Chum Chum. All put together it costed us a mere Rs 46.

Another interesting offbeat destination that is a must visit is Gangani Canyons just 30 km away from Bishnupur.