Purushwadi

Life in a Village:

I started this year with a resolution to embark on new adventures, discover underrated places and to take the road less travelled. Guess what? It led me straight to Grassroutes, Purushwadi.

Enroute Purushwadi

‘The soul of India lives in its villages.’

– Mahatma Gandhi

Most of the time, we’re all so busy scuttering in our routine life, we forget to appreciate the simple pleasures of life. The village life is the perfect getaway from this humdrum. No network, no internet, no work calls, just nature, your loved ones and you! While so many villages inch closer to concretisation in the name of improvement, there is a hamlet in Maharashtra which is strongly & proudly connected to its roots – Purushwadi.

Purushwadi
Purushwadi

Honestly, before I started from Mumbai, I had my own apprehensions about the food and the stay but every concern was laid to rest when my friends and I were greeted by our host, Sachin Bhau, with a very warm ‘Ram Ram’. He welcomed us with a traditional tilak and flower immediately making us a part of his community, his village.

Ram Ram from Purushwadi!

Walking on dusty village roads and passing by beautiful fields, we moved towards the house hosting us for lunch. Manda Tai’s house was in the middle of the village. Naturally, we came across a lot of locals who would have a huge smile on their face to make us feel at home. The children would shyly peak out of their house every now and then and would run back into their house as soon as we waved at them! It was a game we all enjoyed!

Manda Tai was hosting us for all our meals. We sat on bamboo mats laid on floor while she served us warm rotis from a traditional chula – which by the way, was used to cook food AND keep the house warm in the winter. The food was very simple but was packed with so much flavour that we couldn’t stop eating!

Manda Tai in action
Kunal and Mriga eagerly waiting for the food

Later in the evening, Sachin Bhau took us on a small scenic hike to the top of a mountain where we watched the sky turn into a spectacular work of art. I’m just gonna let the pictures talk! Let’s just say all the huffing and puffing was worth it!

While I thought this day couldn’t have gotten any better, I was proven wrong. Right outside the village temple, a group of villagers eagerly waited to showcase their traditional dance – Lezim! The rhythm from the Dhol Tasha got us so energised that we picked up the lezims ourselves and started dancing with the performers!

After a delicious dinner comprising of Puran Poli and Varan Bhat, Datta Bhau enthusiastically took us star gazing. He had us marvelling at the universe in no time. After locating different constellations (which I hadn’t done since a camp in school!), we sat around a small campfire and heard the villagers animatedly talk about their lives. They narrated stories about hunting and how their ancestors survived. I couldn’t help but appreciate how all of them made the best of whatever they had! I didn’t hear a single complaint about life in Purushwadi!

A great day in this beautiful little hamlet had come to end. I was so exhausted that I dozed off and started snoring the minute my head hit the pillow!

I woke up to a perfect winter morning the next day. Fog had descended overnight and had enveloped the entire campsite. I couldn’t really see anything beyond a few metres, but the way the fog filtered the sun rays was a sight to behold. What a start to the day!

Beautiful sunrise ft. beautiful girl. Mein apni favourite hoon!

Sachin Bhau decided to take us to a small dam after a wholesome breakfast of Kanda Poha. As we walked towards the dam, we met so many smiling villagers again who enquired if we’d eaten properly and slept well, if we were enjoying our stay there. The dam as expected was nothing extraordinary, but was extremely serene and peaceful! We stayed there for a couple of minutes tossing stones into the water and enjoyed a small competition of our own to see who tossed the stone the farthest.

It was now time to get involved in the village activities. We helped Manda Tai’s family in chopping wood, in de-husking food grains and in grinding the food grains on a chakki to make flour! She also taught us to make rotis on the chula! We were so happy when she told us that she had used the same food grains we helped her sort out to cook our lunch! The food tasted even better after that!

Manda Tai teaching us how to make the perfect roti on a chula
Manda Tai and her family ft. Sachin Bhau

Time just flew in this beautiful hamlet. Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye. With a heavy heart, we bid farewell to one of the best experiences of our lives. We had spent less than 48 hours in this village, but it felt like we’d known the people of Purushwadi forever.

Stay in Purushwadi:

Grassroutes offers a number of options for your stay. While my friends and I stayed in a canvas tent perched on a cement platform, you could opt to stay in a Coleman tent. Another offbeat option is a homestay where you will be offered a room in a rustic village house. In my opinion, all these stay options are comfortable and have just the basic necessities – bed, blanket and a light, which was quite sufficient since most of our time was spent outdoors! Toilets have been constructed on the campsite itself.

The whole experience:

A day in Purushwadi taught me so much more than I had expected! I was a complete stranger, but the villagers treated me like one of their own. They stay like one big family! I think these are the kind of relations that I crave in cities. We are so busy just rushing from one place to another, accomplishing tasks that we forget to forge such relationships with people who stay around us. In Purushwadi, I experienced a sense of belonging among all villagers. They were proud of their culture, their community, their village and what they had managed to accomplish together with Grassroutes.

Manda Tai and her son checking out their pictures on my camera ft. Kunal
L-R: Sachin Bhau, Tripsy Traveller, Mriga and Kunal

Even though Purushwadi is profoundly famous for the firefly festival, it’s so much more than that! My friends and I didn’t go there during the firefly season and yet had such a great time! And I’m pretty sure we will go there to witness the magical fireflies again in June.

Till then, Ram Ram!

To book a trip with Grassroutes, please visit grassroutes.co.in

Feel free to call/WhatsApp +918879477437 to know more!

Best Hotels in Bhutan

Kuzu Zangpo La! Bhutan, the last Shangrila, is undoubtedly one of the most scenic places. There’s a lot to see, but very little day time. Most of the touristy places have fixed slots or shut by 5-6pm. To ensure you don’t miss out on anything, I strongly recommend you to start exploring by 8.30 am.

Tiger’s Nest, Paro, Bhutan.

Since, you will be spending most of the evening in your hotel you would want a great location, good food and excellent service. I am listing a few good hotels that I stayed in during my holiday in November 2018. All these hotels are value for money. You don’t really need to empty your pockets for an exceptional stay.

Phuentsholing – Hotel Druk

Since we were entering Bhutan from Jaigaon (West Bengal) we needed a permit from Phuentsholing to go to Thimphu. The permit line on any given day is long. And as always, it’s preferable to reach the immigration office before it opens. Hotel Druk is undoubtedly your best option. It is situated right behind the office.

Room : 8/10 – The only let down was the WiFi.

Food : 9/10 – The restaurant here has a great buffet. The staff here is extremely warm and cater to your requests. Kewa Datshi, a traditional Bhutanese delicacy made of Potatoes and Yak Cheese, is a must try.

Location : 10/10

Service : 9/10 – Extremely cooperative and warm staff.

Thimphu – Namgay Heritage

Namgay Heritage is one of the few heritage hotels in Bhutan. They have worked really hard to maintain a perfect mix of tradition and comfort. The hotel has a heated swimming pool. But unfortunately, when we visited, it was under maintenance.

Lobby – Namgay Heritage Hotel, Thimphu

Room : 8/10 – Our room was on the 4th Floor and didn’t have a proper window. The rooms on the lower floors had a better view of the city.

Food : 7/10 – The food here was decent. The buffet was a bit overpriced. We found better restaurants around the hotel. However, I really liked their Thukpa which is a Tibetan noodle soup.

Swimming Pool at Namgay Heritage Hotel

Location : 9/10 – It is centrally located. Almost all the places on our itinerary were 20 mins away by car. There is a small market place at about 5-10 mins walking distance. A lot of restaurants with great karaoke and live performances are nearby.

Service : 8/10

Punakha – Himalayan Dragon’s Nest Hotel

Situated on the banks of the Punakha river, Dragon’s Nest boasts of stunning views of the river and the mountains behind it. I was really excited to stay here, and yes the view was worth the hype.

Room : 8/10 – The room is very basic. However, step out on the balcony and it just takes the whole room up several notches

Food : 9/10 – I loved the food here. There was a great variety. The Indian food here was particularly delicious! Buffet was decently priced.

Location : 10/10

Service : 9/10 – The staff here was so affectionate and warm. We even got complimentary desserts!

Phobjika Valley – Dewachen Hotel and Spa

Dewachen is another heritage hotel. The rooms are equipped with fire places for warmth. It is located close to the viewing point for black necked cranes.

Room : 7/10 – The room was extremely cozy! However, there weren’t enough lights. The fireplace was a great addition but we needed to get up sometimes in the middle of the night to put wood into the fireplace.

Food : 6/10 – We didn’t have a great experience with the food here. The hotel mainly caters to foreigners and so the food was naturally a little bland.

Location : 8/10

Service : 7/10 – I think their service was appropriate. However, they could improve.

Paro – Kichu Resort

We saved the best for the last! This resort was great value for money. The food was amazing, location was perfect, their staff was very warm and the rooms were super cozy!

Rooms : 8/10 – The rooms are excellent. However, they are a bit smaller than the other hotels. The room is perfect for 2 people.

Food : 10/10 – The food here was soooo good!

Location : 10/10 – The resort is situated a little out of the main city. However it is on the banks of a river. There are cottages available that face the river. The whole property is beautiful.

Service : 11/10 – We had the best hosts! I can’t even begin to tell you how great they were! Expect exceptional service! Highly recommended.

I’ve stayed at all these above hotels and none of these reviews have been sponsored. Most of these hotels costed us ₹4000 – ₹7000 per night. I hope this helps your search for a great hotel! Happy travels! Tripsy traveller signing out.

Puducherry – 4N/5D

Here’s a snapshot of my epic trip to Pondicherry! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed the trip.

How to get there?

If you love long drives, you can take a flight to Chennai and then embark on a road trip to Puducherry (major Dil Chahta Hai vibes). It is a beautiful drive and takes approximately 4 hours. Solo travellers, you can choose to travel by train.

The other alternative (which I took) is to take a flight to Puducherry. There are no direct flights. Since I was travelling from Mumbai I took a connecting flight from Bangalore. A round trip from Mumbai costed approximately ₹8000. Economical, right?

TRAVEL HACK: You can find the cheapest flights on Sky Scanner.

Where to stay?

White Town. Koi shak?

I highly recommend staying in White Town. It’s a French neighbourhood with great vibes! The best cafés & restaurants are located here.

I stayed at Villa du Ocean for the first 2 nights. It’s a French Villa in the heart of White Town. The tariff here is between ₹3000-₹4000/night. I got a great deal from Goibibo.

Villa Du Ocean

I spent the next two days at an Airbnb on Serenity Beach. It’s about 20 mins from White Town. It’s a little secluded, perfect for a romantic getaway for couples.

Airbnb on Serenity Beach

In case these places aren’t available you can stay at The Bull Boutique Hotel, Villa Meena, Villa Krish, Villa Montecarlo.

Travellers looking for a more luxurious stay can opt to stay at The Promenade and Le Dupleix.

Our Itinerary

Day 1: I landed in Puducherry post noon. Spent the afternoon relaxing in my hotel – Villa du Ocean. As it got pleasant in the evening, I walked around White Town and visited the French War Memorial, Rock Beach and spent my entire evening there. There is a market in the lane opposite Le Cafe. You can buy a lot of handmade products such as lamps, bags, dreamcatchers and soaps. Dinner at Le Dupleix

Day 2: I booked an Activa through our hotel. It’s rental is about ₹300-350/day. I visited Sri Aurobindo Handmade Paper Factory a.k.a. an artist’s heaven, Our Lady of Angeles Church and shopped at Mission Street and Jawaharlal Nehru Street. Lunch at Coromondel Café – Posh n’ pink pasta, hot chocolate & fries at Le Cafe and dinner at Café Xtasi – best pizza!

Day 3: Started the day at 7am with the Pondi cycle tour at SITA Cultural Centre. I explored the flower market, different places of worship and the French, Tamil, Muslim & mixed quarters of Pondicherry. Took a surfing lesson at Kallialay Surf School in the afternoon. You can go for a boat ride on Chunnambar River and visit Paradise Beach. Lunch at Auroville Bakery – Burgers, Dinner at the Airbnb.

Day 4: I spent the morning on Serenity Beach. It’s a serene beach not frequented by a lot of tourists. You can opt for another surfing lesson. I spent the evening on Rue Suffren. This street has a lot of graffiti you can pose against for pictures! Breakfast at Bread & Chocolate, Lunch at PY Café, Hot Chocolate at Zuka, Dinner at Le Chateu.

Day 5: I really wanted to visit and meditate inside Matri Mandir, Auroville. For this you need to go to the Visitor’s Centre a day in advance and get a pass. The passes are available only between 10am-11am and 2pm-3pm. You cannot book the passes over call or online. You have to register yourself in person only. For those short on time, you can go to the Matri Mandir view point. However, I would strongly urge you to take the extra effort to go inside and meditate.

The lotus pond just below Matri mandir is captivating. As you step inside the inner chamber, I kid you not, you can hear the vibrations. I wholeheartedly urge you to experience it. And I promise you, it’ll be the highlight of your trip.

Until my next adventure.