Friday, July 14, 2017

And then New York happened...


Life has veered out drastically ever since I moved to the states. This was an unexpected call that I myself didn't realize living a dream  that eventually turned out to be real. Everyone has an American dream and being an Indian I too had  once but those were the young days of my life. Life gave me an opportunity at a time when I was not expecting it. Living away from the family has moulded me in to a strong individual. That's when I realized that you got to be self motivated because your loved ones won't always be with you everytime. But till now it has been a good experience. I live with people who have a similar story like mine. Some with dreams of buying a new house, some with giving a better life to the family and some with ambitions of living the American life. Isn't that amazing?!


Everytime I hear the little son of my friend greeting him every evening, I realize life makes us pay many things. And then we have to sacrifice a lot for their happiness because its our loved ones happiness that matters to us the most. Amid  nostalgic memories, New York happened. Independence day was a long weekend here and being new to the states meant exploring things on your own because not everyone will help you. We , a group of like minded individuals decided to visit the most happening part of the states - New York. New York is a dream for many. There are lots of amazing sights worth seeing in New York and I am glad that NY happened too soon for us. It was one fine afternoon when my roomie informed us that a couple of guys were visiting Smoky mountains in the North Carolina during the Independence day long weekend. I would never say never to the fact that NC is not a happening place but with too much greenary around, it implies living a village life-  beautiful and serene. It dawned to us that we got to do something too and thus the idea of New York got pregnant in our brains. Now it was time to give life to the idea and execute the plan. We soon approached Shiva and Deepak, the desi boys when joined us late. We were determined to do something more fun if this plan succeeded. Yes, it happened!

I took the ownership of booking the relevant tickets and managing the expenses. Suraj, the Professor Bobeye of our group initiated the train of awesomeness by booking an AirBNB room at Harlem after thorough analysis and research. Prior to our voyage, I made an xl with all the amazing places to visit in the most amazing city in the world. Be it Central Park, Manhattan, Times Square or Wall Street - we were thrilled and excited even before we embarked on to this journey of awesomeness. I'd booked a Goto Bus which was a preventive measure to reduce our expense but that proved to be a disaster and we would regret it for not doing enough research for airplanes. Later one of our colleague informed us about the availability of cheaper flights being offered by South West airlines. May be next time, we would research more before heading for such trips.

On 1st July, we boarded the bus at 11.45 PM and there was only one thing on our mind - Enjoy life to the fullest as we won't have enough time later. We were hell excited. We got down at 47 Chrystie at NY. We walked and walked the streets of New York. We smiled at the numerous  trains greeting us and took a look at the beautiful and magnificent Brooklyn bridge from the Manhattan Bridge. It was indeed beautiful and from there we observed the skyline of New York as the One World Observatory building stood mighty! We then left to have our brunch as we were famished.  After exploring few options, we set our eyes on the Mughlai Indian restaurant at the Clinton road. Our taste buds never knew that they were about to be savoured by awesome food. We ordered chicken and then few more chicken. Post that we left for our transient abode, our apartment at Harlem. We accessed it by availing the service of Lyft. After getting refreshed, we left for the Central park. Central Park is a place where many hollywood movies have been shot. It was indeed pleasure walking through the lanes of the park where many young men and women traversed by riding rented bicycles. Deepak insisted that we get a bicycle but we cajoled him by mentioning things that can never be shared here. Just kidding!

We witnessed lovely couples and semi claden babes reading books and admiring the nature. Shiva never missed an opportunity to get clicked and our click spree never ceased. We hailed a Lyft cab and stamped our presence at the most lively place every. Times Square baby! We walked through the place , admiring tall buildings and by then it was already 6 and our One World Observatory visit was sat 8 PM. We quickly grabbed some food at the Halal Guys stall for $8 each. I say that it's too heavy and all of us took the box at the apartment. We went to the 9/11 Memorial and the One World Observatory sharp at 8 PM. One World Observatory is a great piece of work by  the greatest architects. The skylift, the fastest elevator, took us to the 102nd floor within no time. From there, we saw the skyline of New York. Nice beautiful buildings graced by the lighting's and the young night sky made it picturesque. Our click spree never stopped. Our eyes randomly strolled around and caught the attention of amazing people and many greeted us. Finally, we reached the apartment at 12.30. We were hungry and grabbed some Hagen Dasz, Greek Yogurt, Budweiser  from the Food Market on the other side of the building. We shared ghost stories as our eyes got tired and crashed.

The next morning we woke up at 9 and got ready. We were all set to visit the street that controls the Money. Yes, you guessed it right - Wall Street. We walked around the street and our eyes chanced upon several young beautiful faces. We said hello to the charging bull as many others fought their way out to touch the bulls testicles. It is said that touching the charging bulls testicles would make you rich. We all went there turn by turn and touched the bulls balls. Shiva, me and Deepak clicked with the fearless girl. We four addressed each other by character names. Suraj was Professor Bobeye, Shiva as Nuclear Nadal, Deepak as Uncle Tamir and yours truly as Admiral Aladeen. It was fun and adding fun to a trip is indeed fun. Isn't it? 










From there we left for the battery park from where our cruise for our next visit would be available. We were going to meet Liberty! As we walked, we saw a long queue and we were disheartened to see that we were standing behind some 1000 people. Soon Deepak asked a volunteer about the queue and she informed us that it was for the ticket booking. We then realized that we had wasted some precious 10 minutes of our life. We rushed to the other queue  that was for the ones with tickets. The statue of liberty beckoned us as we stood at the battery park. Smiling at us, she was ready to embrace each one of us. We got into the cruise and the click spree continued again. We took the photo of the Manhattan bridge and it was indeed a sight to see. We savored our taste buds by drinking the lemonades offered by lovely young college girls. Once we posed with the beauty in green, we headed for something that we should have covered earlier. Madame Tussaud's was not in our list but still we visited it. We posed with many amazing personalities ranging from former American Presidents, actors, sports personalities and media tycoons. It was memorable and everyone looked at us as if we were insane. We clicked with celebrities whom were not aware of. We finally bid adieu to New York at 9 PM after having our dinner at the Kaati Rolls near the Times Square.

The most fascinating thing about New York is the amazing tall sky scrapers. They are not only magnificent but mesmerizing too! I hope to visit this place once again. 

To some it up, our trip was planned hastily but it was well executed. Our first trip in the land of Trump was a successful one.

So, which place should we visit next?


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Friday, September 25, 2015

Top Ecotourism Spots in Kerala


The main reason why ecotourism is becoming more and more popular is because it represents a way of enjoying nature’s bounty in a way that it is preserved and sustained for the generations to come. This is achieved by focused and deliberate action that ensures minimal intrusion and destruction of the natural environment while supporting and sustaining the local cultures. Green tourism assumes a lot of involvement by both the tourists and the various service providers. It includes measures like recycling, water conservation and reuse, energy efficiency, and creation of livelihood opportunities for the local communities so that they can lessen their impact on the environment. Among the many states in India that are aggressively promoting ecotourism, Kerala is at the forefront with a number of wonderful destinations waiting to be explored. Here’s a glimpse of some of the best spots.

Kerala Backwaters


Quite unlike any other tourist attraction in the country, the backwaters of Kerala are famous for their unique charm and biodiversity. The best way of getting to know the attractions is to climb aboard a riverboat and take in the serene ambiance of the tranquil waters, the verdant greenery of the swaying coconut palms and lush paddy fields that abound on both sides of the river. Luxuriate in the gentle rhythm of a pastoral life of the natives that has virtually remained unchanged through centuries. As you glide on the waters, you can just imagine how life would have been when the waterways were the hub of trade and commerce with cargo boats transporting spices, coconuts, rice and a variety of other necessities to the settlements on the banks.



Munnar

The favorite destination of eco-travelers, Munnar that is situated at an elevation of 1700 m, is so different from the backwaters that you would hardly believe that you were in the same state. It is a picturesque hill station covered with lush forests, orchards, tea gardens and grasslands that are the ideal habitat of a huge assortment of flora and fauna. If you have the patience, you can spot animals like the Grizzled Giant Squirrel, Nilgiri Tahr, gaur, elephant and birds such as Nilgiri Wood-pigeon, Orange-Crowned Warblers, Whistling Thrush, Scarlet Minivet, Nilgiri Pipit,Orange-Crowned Warbler and Broad-tailed Grassbird to mention a few. The drive is extremely scenic with numerous streams gushing through the dark and mysterious woods. Once you get down, take a stroll through the winding lakes to soak in the amazing atmosphere.



Thenmala

Thenmala, set majestically in the middle of lush evergreen forests in Kollam district is the country’s very first planned destination for ecotourism. Munnar offers amazingly scenic natural vistas and a unique bio-diversity that has proved to be extremely popular with both domestic and foreign tourists. There are numerous forest trails that are ideal for serious expeditions on foot and you can also set up camp in the middle of the forest if you feel like getting into a closer relationship with nature. For the more exploratory,an experience in a tree house can be very memorable while the rest can work up a lather biking, rock climbing or rappelling in the Adventure Zone. Work up an appetite walking up to the dam in the Leisure Zone and then visit the Culture Zone to have a taste of the wonderful Kerala cuisine.



Thodupuzha

Thodupuzha is most famous for being the gateway for a visit to the renowned Thommankuthu Waterfalls. It is situated in the Idukki district in the Western Ghats. The destination has become extremely popular with tourists ever since the seven-step waterfall was publicized by the legendary hunter, Thommachen Kuruvinakunnel after he discovered it in 1920. Ever since ecotourism has gained importance, the destination has been rated very high for its unspoiled rolling hills blanketed by evergreen forests.



Eravikulam National Park

Even though it is a relatively small National Park, it has proved to be among the more popular ecotourism destinations because of its immense natural beauty and the diverse flora and fauna. Situated at altitudes ranging from 1,200 meters to 2,700 meters, the park’s grasslands are crisscrossed by a number of perennial streams that ultimately merge to become the tributaries of Cauvery River, Periyar River, and Chalakudiyar River. One of the major attractions is the Lakkom Waterfalls on the Pampar River. Nature lovers adore the diversity of flora and fauna that can be observed here. Those who favor an adventurous and active lifestyle will love the opportunities for wildlife photography, walking on the mountain trails, and trekking.




Periyar National Park

Among the most-visited national parks in Southern India, the Periyar National Park stretches over a magnificent 350 sq. km. in the Pandalam Hills and Cardamom Hills in the southern portion of the Western Ghats. Apart from being home to tigers and elephants, the park is a dream come true for wildlife enthusiasts due to the presence of a great assortment of mammals, amphibians, insects, reptiles, and birds. The Periyar Lake attracts tourists because of the amazing sight of trees submerged in its waters.



Author Bio: Sujain Thomas is an architect by profession and a bio-conservationist by passion. She travels frequently across the world and has visited almost all the tiger resorts India.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Top 5 places for a destination wedding in India

Image Source 

Maybe you are one of the few women who have been planning on their wedding since they were young. You have an entire scrapbook dedicated to your wedding which is filled with pictures of dresses you love, bands you would like being played at your wedding, a list of your favorite photographers and most importantly, pictures of some beautiful places to decide for your wedding venue. Destination weddings have become a fad now and especially among the elite class. And destination weddings in India are something being pursued even by Hollywood celebrities since a long time. If you are struggling with deciding a place for your wedding to take place, here is a list of five places for you to choose from:

1. Udaipur
    Royalty and a destination wedding in Udaipur go hand in hand. Many celebrities have got wed here. What makes this place a favourite among many is not just its rich culture but also the giant palace like buildings which scream uniqueness! The palaces here give a contemporary feel along with showing a modern edginess. Some of the biggest Indian fat weddings have been held here and been a huge success. If Udaipur is your chosen destination, you might look to do bookings for yourself and your family members at a low cost to make savings. You will also get the advantage of cash back!

Destination Wedding Udaipur
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    2.   Jaipur 
    The pink city of India hardly needs any introduction when it comes to the places in India for a destination wedding. Known for its rich heritage and spectacular beauty, it is a very vibrant place to hold a wedding full on “hungama!” Expect your wedding to hold a lot of solid colors, cultural dance, and mouth-watering dishes showered with extravagance. Samode palace and Gold palace have been the choices of famous celebs for their wedding.

Jaipur Wedding
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    3. Shimla
   Maybe you don’t have a big budget to throw a lavish wedding but getting wed in the bustling city is also not on your cards. This is when Shimla comes to your rescue! The lush greenery, cool air, serene landscapes and colonial houses resting in silence will make an awesome venue for doing a destination wedding on budget. Customizing the wedding can be a scale up or low. Destination wedding also means the added expenses of taking relatives along. Cut down those expenses to a large amount.


Shimla Wedding
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    4.  Kerala
     If a beach wedding is on your mind, what better place to exchange the vows on God’s own country! Have a romantic and blissful wedding by the beach side in Kovalam or book a beautiful resort for more privacy. Take help only from the top hotels there to handle all the arrangements for you lest you have to deal with an unpleasant situation at the last moment.You can even have an elephant theme wedding where the groom arrives to the venue seated on an elephant.

Kerala Beach Wedding
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     5. Neemrana Fort  
   So maybe you are bound by some limitations and can’t afford to have a destination wedding outside your city i.e. Delhi. How about having it just a few kilometers away from Delhi at a place which looks stunning and holds a breath-taking view at its backdrop. Neemrana fort which is located in Gurgaon is a popular choice for Delhities to escape the maddening city rush and have short weekend gateaways there. But it is also a place where luxurious weddings have taken place. It is marked with many moments from history and now it’s time for you to mark your memories there.

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Hope this list helps you make up your mind for selecting a place for your wedding. All the best with it!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mangalore Diaries


Magnificent Mangalore 9th May - 16th May 2015

Tannirbhavi beach
Boat ferrying us from the stop to the Tannirbhavi beach, Mangalore

Journeys are incomplete without travelogues. People generally question us - what have you done in your life that you have no time to spend and enjoy life? That’s something worth pondering!  You run behind your work that offers you the bread and butter of your life. But all these while, while you were earning your bread and butter you eventually forget the purpose of your life. Well, that’s the case with each one of us. As humans we prioritize things that are important to us. Thus family and work have high ratings on our priority scale. But there is one important aspect of life – you actually live life when you enjoy every moment of it. Why not explore the enchanting beauty of different places in our country? Well there are many places to explore around the globe. I’m not a globe trekker for sure but at times we can visit places nearby.  How about taking a week off and visit the country side! Well, Well, Well!  I too got deeply provoked by this thought and decided to spend most of the May by visiting some marvelous places across the coastline of India. The most difficult thing in planning a trip is deciding the destination. Konkan had been serving as a weekend stress buster for me and my friends since last few years. We love the exotic beaches there! There is something amazing about Konkan that keeps us wanting to go there again and again! For me occasional trips  serves as a great stress  buster. 

playing cricket
My Nephew Juan posing for me

But this year, I decided to explore Mangalore, one of the port cities of India. Mangalore is located in the Dakshina Karnataka region in the sandalwood state of Karnataka. Its kissed by the Arabian Sea from the west and caressed by the Western Ghats from the east. This city is notorious for many things. Few of them include food, beaches and culture.  Having been surrounded by Mangloreans from the early days of my life, I am accustomed to the culture there. I had last visited that place when I was young. I have faint memories of what I had seen there when I had visited that place in the early 90’s. But now things had changed. After my solo trip to Jaipur, Goa and Chennai, this was supposed to be the next in line. It was Mangalore time! I usually prefer travelling by train.  Rail journeys sometimes make you meet some wonderful people in your life. Believe me if I say that two of my best friends are the ones whom I met in a train.  As the train cascades through the track, it leads us through a beautiful trail that contains the mesmerizing rivers, lovely villages and adorable kids who wave their hands every time the train passes through their village. Cute, isn’t it? On the other side Airlines charge bomb so I didn’t want to hurt my wallet so I chose the railway.  Luckily I got my cousins staying there so accommodation was not a problem at all. I love travelling alone. I booked the tickets for the Mangalore Express train.

clicked from train
Clicked from the Train

May 9, 2015 - The day had arrived when I was to be freed from all my work and associated stress. Of course, this was a much needed vacation. I don’t belong to the breed who love working day and night, weeks and weekends! I boarded the train and sat on my  seat. I never had much luggage’s.  My photo partner Nikon was my best buddy. I always carried him wherever I go!  I clicked some photos of things that fascinated my eyes. It was an overnight journey but the train was late by 2 hours. As my train halted at the Mangalore junction, I saw my cousin waving at me.  I sat on his bike and we both head for his home. As I sat on the bike, I could feel the sudden cool breeze kissing my hair. May be that’s how Mangalore had planned to welcome me.

backyard
the backyard outside our home

I reached home, exchanged some pleasantries with my folks and rested. After an hour, I refreshed and Aunt had called me for breakfast. Mangalore was 950 km away from Mumbai but I still didn’t miss home. I strolled outside and admired the beauty of the place. It was scenic beauty.  But then it started raining! Though my dalliance with rains isn’t amusing but still at that moment I loved it.

Panambur beach


Panambur beach
The view of the beach, Clicked by me

Panambur beach
Panambur beach is known for its magnificent sunset

That day I just rested and watched some TV.  The next day, I decided to explore the Panambur beach. This beach is one of the cleanest beaches in India that is located near the port.  Many people visit the beach at evening. I too had visited the same with my family.  There are buses that go past that place. Probably one could use them for reaching the beach. I used my cousin’s bike to go there. It was a small beach. It was not crowded like most of the beaches in Mumbai. It was calm and pleasant. I sat on the beach and admired the sun set. There were few food stalls located nearby.  I looked around and my eyes came across a hoarding outside a shop. They claimed to show a glimpse of dolphins in the middle of the beach.  That was intriguing but it costed more than my too and fro train tickets. It wasn’t a nice idea to travel to the middle of the sea just to see some dolphins. I clicked photos of the sun set and then I met a camel with its cute owner. He was a young boy, may be around 14.  

camel jockey boy
The boy whom I met. The camel Jockey. Clicked by me

I thought of striking a conversation with him. His story had touched my heart.
“So how much do you earn every day?” I asked.
“Not much. Half of the amount is given to the owner and what I get is nothing but pea nuts,” he riposted.
“So how much for a ride?” I asked.
“200 Anna!”
“Okay. So take us for a ride,” I said to which he agreed with a smile.

My brother snapped at me saying that 200 was too much for a ride.  I smiled at him and put my arms around his shoulder.  Sometimes money can’t buy everything but for some it can buy happiness.  200 was not a big amount for me but for the little boy it was something that could help him. By God's grace we have everything that we wish for. Thanks to our doting parents who offer us what our heart wishes for. But think about these kids. Even they must be having lots of dreams in their eyes. But certain obstructions like Family conditions and poverty persuades them to leave and studies. As a result of this all they could do is to find any job worth doing and support their families with the little money that they earn.  I was in fact happy to give him that much money. I really wish he succeeds in life. 

That's me searching for something. Clicked by my Bro!

As I handed him the money he glanced at me and thanked me.  All that I could manage was his photograph. He was indeed a cool guy! Then I head back home and rested for a while.

infant jesus church mangalore
Outside the Infant Jesus church

The next day was the time to visit the infant Jesus church located near the Carmel Hill.  I along with my Cousins visited the Infant Jesus church for the Tamil mass at 11 AM. I had a chance to click few photos after the mass. 

Evening was time for the bike rides.  I along with my cousin would ride along the Mangalore streets and visit the different shops and flea markets. We also visited the KFC’ and the McD’s that came on our way. So it was a week full of peace sans stress and was indeed refreshing. That day I retired to bed very early.

Pilikula Biological Park


I had to visit too many places at a very short span of time. I just had one week’s time to traverse the length and breadth of the city.  The next day it was the time to visit the Pilikula zoo. Pilikula as the name suggests refers to Tiger – Lake. It was the place where ages ago tigers used to visit the lake to drink water. But later a zoo was constructed in that forest area.  Pilikula can be reached via bus. It would not take more than 1 hour if travelling via bus. It took us two buses to reach Pilikula , one  from Kottara and then the other one at Lal Bagh.

bird

crocodiles making out

Samba deer


The Pilikula Biological Park extends over an area of around 350 – 400 acres that hosts several breeds of animals and birds. I was accompanied by my cousins and their children. We meandered around the park for a while. We walked towards the area that sheltered the birds. The cages had different types of birds.  See the photos below. We also had a chance to view the roaring tigers, mighty lions, adorable deer’s, romantic crocodiles, sloth bears, wild boar, alligators and snakes in the Pilikula Biological Park. The children loved watching the animals. They were visibly excited.

TIger pilikula park


We left the park late and reached home at around 8 pm. On our way back, we visited a fast food joint and had some delicious Chinese food items.

The next morning we got up early. Aunty had already spoken to a travel agent who agreed to take us to Mysore to visit the Mysore Palace and other places nearby! As discussed the driver came home at 4 am. Mysore was located at a distance of 265 km from Mangalore. It was a 6 hours journey from Kottara. Generally people stay back at Mysore  to explore the places there but as I had come on a short notice for me they all agreed to return back on the same day.  During the trip was fun. We sang and danced as the Tourister van sailed along the Western Ghats. The road resembled the F1 track and it was scary.  We visited the Mysore Palace as we reached our destination. We took the NH17 route and the Mysore Highway on our way.



Mysore Palace is elegant and a class apart. The architecture of the palace was mind-blowing.  I just watched it with my mouth agape and couldn’t believe my eyes. I also visited the residence area of the Palace. The paintings were neat and we saw the photos of the Kings and the Queens who lived there. While leaving we clicked a family photo in front of the Palace.  Our next plan was to visit the Mysore zoo but the Rain gods had some other plans. It rained heavily as we went to the ticket counter. Also our plan of visiting the Vrindavan got cancelled. Dejected, we decided to go back home, cursing the rain gods for spoiling our plan. 

Mysore Palace
The Grand Mysore Palace

On our way back as the rain stopped pouring, we visited the Golden Temple, a Tibetan Monastery.  We went inside and clicked some cool pictures. We even clicked photographs with some of the monks there! A cute little Monk posed for us too. We shopped in a store nearby and we met Pofu, a charming handsome monk who was witty and at the same time knew how to sell his products. Finally we returned back home at 11PM. The road was dangerous. The driver had to be given full score for safely transporting us from Mangalore to Mysore and back.
The golden temple
The Golden Tibetan Temple

the little monk
The Little Monk
Pofu
The handsome Monk - Pofu

The day after, we didn’t have any plans. We stayed back home and enjoyed the day by cooking Chicken Biryani. It came good and was delicious!  The same evening we visited Pubba’s – an icecream parlour which was well known in Mangalore. People from Udipi and Manipal even visited that place for some quality ice cream. The next day it was time to visit another beach. We visit the Tannirbhavi beach.   


Niece eating icecream at the Pubbas

Chicken Biryani
The delicious Chicken Biryani


To reach the beach we had to take a boat that would ferry us from the stop to the place where the beach was located. We had to wait in queue for this. But finally after 20 minutes we got our turn. Tannirbhavi beach. On our way to Tannirbhavi beach, we also got a glimpse of the Sultan Battery that was used by Tipu Sultan for his secret missions and communications.

Tannirbhavi beach
At the Tannirbhavi beach

There were lots of tall trees located near the beach that actually accentuated the beach. The tall trees and the greenery around beautified it.  We went ahead and stepped into the waters playing with the waves and clicked some photos. That trip summed up my short Mangalore trip.  

Tannirbhavi beach


The same night at 11 PM, I was destined to travel back to my nest through the Mumbai Express. It was indeed a special memory for me as I had visited the same city earlier during my crawling days. I was emotionally attached to this place and it served as a good break from office.  That break was a much needed one and thankfully I felt lucky enough to visit Mangalore.

playing badminton
And we had some family time together! 

The best part about this place is that you could find inner peace if you wander around unlike Mumbai. Mumbai is a fast moving city where people do not have time  to  stand and stare  even at their loved ones. It is the city that never sleeps. I love my city and it equally loves me  back. The best thing about Mangalore is that I see a glimpse of Mumbai in it. People in Mangalore are friendly and helpful. They get excited and amazed when they get to know that you are from Mumbai. That's the best part of it. I got lots of memories from this trip. Few of them I have shared through the few photographs I have added in this blog post. 

We wander from places to places and what we get in return are the memories that our mind registers.  These memories are kind of souvenirs that we won’t wish to forget. Every time whenever we see the photos that would take us back to the memory lane.  It is a land of curry and fish lovers. It is known for food and I got to get a glimpse of some amazing food and I tasted neer dosa, crab curry, rice rotis and may more food items.  Mangalore had many more fascinating places but due to paucity of time I just had to visit few selected ones.  May be next time I will come for a longer duration and explore more places.  But this trip will reside forever in my memory!