The good, the better and the yummy – Sydney’s food scenes revealed

We should let you in on a little secret. We flew all the way from the Philippines to Sydney for 6 days only so that we could devour the insanely delicious food Sydneysider’s rave about. Having a local to house and drive us around was an added incentive and rest assured our days in the city were spent eating breakfast, brunch, lunch, cocktails, more cocktails, a few more snacks, pre-dinner drinks, dinner drinks, drinks, post-dinner cocktails and a good ol’ night cap before collapsing on our beds.

Our fun and delectable food guide below explores Sydney’s hotspots and CANNOT BE MISSED when in the city. Plan your days around your meals (as we do) and you won’t be disappointed. Let the tummy rumbling begin:

Pro tip: Send in the cavalry, food is best enjoyed when you get to try as much possible from the menu. Sharing is much enjoyed in Sydney!

 

  1. Opera Bar: 🍹

Your first day in Sydney will unknowingly be near the famous Opera House and harbour. No visit should be pronounced complete without having drinks at Opera Bar. Sure, you will find loads of tourists here but it is 100% worth it for the view you are granted. Situated right by the water and known to be one of the best beer gardens in the world, Opera Bar has it all with its fresh oyster raw bar, meat & cheese room, live entertainment beers on tap and unimaginable cocktails.

What to have: 🍹 – Sydney Sling No. 2, Wine coolers and Opera Bar Pale Ale

How much to give away: $$$

Opening hours: 10 AM – 12 AM

Address: Sydney Opera House, Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

 

  1. Hacienda Bar 🍹

Super chic with incredible décor is Hacienda Bar. Located in the Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour, Hacienda boasts a breathtaking view of Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge all from the comfort of an air-conditioned hot spot. Known for their rum infused cocktails, Hacienda promises some interesting appetizers to pair with your cocktails.

What to have: 🍽️ – Mojito sliders and smoked fried wings. 🍹 – Coco Daiquiri & Pomelita

How much to give away: $$$$

Opening hours: 12 – 10 PM

Address: 61 Macquarie St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

 

  1. Doyles on the Beach 🍽️

You cannot visit Sydney and not pay tribute to Doyles. Established in 1855 by an Australian family, Doyles on the Beach first opened doors in Watson Bay offering the freshest seafood in the city with views of Sydney glistening in the evenings. Our meal was nothing short of spectacular and we ordered almost everything the menu had to offer ranging from fresh Oysters and Calamari to Salmon and Paella. Special mention to those Kilpartick Oysters – you made my life!

What to have: 🍽️ Kilpatrick Oysters, Mornay Oysters, Doyles mixed plate, Doyles famous fish & chips, Paella, John Dory Snapper, Scallop and Prawn Pie (okay everything)!

How much to give away: $$$$

Opening hours: 12 – 11.30 PM

Address: 11 Marine Parade, Watsons Bay, Australia

 

  1. Miss G’s 🍹 + 🍽️

Besides its sassy name, Miss G’s brings to you mouthwatering delicacies from Vietnam, Korea and China. Miss G’s happened to be our first stop before a very long night of food and drinks. In order to pace ourselves we only tried a handful of goodies with our cocktails. The ambiance here is very hipster chic with wall mounted tables having Sriracha chilli sauce just casually lying there along with a few communal style dining tables specially designed for us millennial’s to get off our phones and exchange pleasantries with fellow diners.

What to have: 🍽️ Crystal Bay Prawn Ceviche, Burrata, Gyoza 🍹 – Miss G’s famous Yuzu Slushee & Aloe Vera cocktail

How much to give away: $$ – $$$

Opening hours: 5 PM – 12 AM

Address: 155 Victoria Street Potts Point 2011, Australia

  1. The Roosevelt 🍹

The Roosevelt will take you back in time to an era when whisky drinking was taken very seriously, martinis and cocktails were savoured and music low and melancholic just enough for you to sway to. The Roosevelt first open doors during World War 2 and soon became the place where American service men took their Australian girlfriends for a rendezvous. Come 1947 it became Abe Saffron’s first nightclub and helped him earn the title “The King of the Cross”. The Roosevelt has seen the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Junior perform and thus has grown in popularity over the years. Today they’re home to a 12 page whiskey list, 4-page whisky infused cocktail list and some excellent finger food.

What to have: 🍹 Whisky..lots and lots of it!

How much to give away: $$$

Opening hours: 5 PM – 12 AM

Address: 32 Orwell Street Potts Point NSW 2011, Australia

 

  1. The Butler Potts Point 🍹 + 🍽️

Welcome to this eclectic little spot neatly tucked away in the backstreets of Potts Point with its botanical wall coverings, indoor and outdoor seating arrangements and some expansive views of the city. The Butler was one of our favourite eats in Sydney as it had everything to offer in a very unpretentious setting. The head chef who hails from New Zealand has taken traditional Ibero-American techniques blending them seamlessly with modern flavours and methods.

What to have: 🍽️ Duck Liver Pate, Ruby Tuna, Pork Belly Tostadas, Slow Cooked Pork, Scotch & Wagyu Striploin. 🍹 Flaming Juan, Rain Dance & Please & Thank you.

How much to give away: $$$ – $$$$

Opening hours: 12 PM onward

Address: 123 Victoria Street, Potts Point Sydney, Australia

 

  1. Eau De Vie 🍹

Remember how we mentioned nightcap at the start of our guide? We were not kidding. Sydney sure doesn’t sleep early and neither were we so it only made sense to head to another venue for drinks before calling it a night. Enter Eau De Vie, a 1920’s influenced bar with crafted cocktails, an unbelievable wine list and heavily moody lighting creating a perfect end to an unforgettable evening. This jazz infused speakeasy has friendly hosts and talented bar tenders that whip up delicious cocktails from their extensive menu. Want more? Masterclasses are also head in the Whisky Room if you are looking to hone your skills or simply spend a fun drunken evening.

What to have: 🍹 Night Owl, Hollywood Bowl, Carmen & Marshmallow Fizz

How much to give away: $$$$

Opening hours: 6 PM – 1 AM

Address: 229 Darlinghurst Rd, Sydney NSW 2010, Australia

 

  1. Parida Bondi 🍹 + 🍽️

Wakey wakey because it’s time for brunch! Breakfast and brunch are two very important meals for Aussies with countless options available for each. We picked Parida at Bondi because it was fabulously located right on the promenade (lots of eye candy – hello surfers) and had a fantastic healthy menu to begin the day with.

What to have: 🍹 Bloody Mary 🍽️ Avocado & Feta Smash, Paleo Escobar & Tahini Eggs

How much to give away: $$$

Opening hours: 7 AM – 3 PM

Address: The Pacific Building, Shop G08A, 180 – 186 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach NSW 2026, Australia

 

  1. Icebergs Dining Room & Bar 🍹

Sydney has some seriously iconic spots that simply cannot be missed. While this list may seem extensive, it is important to suck it up (literally) and eat all that you can possibly consume because you will never eat such scrumptious food ever again. How to make it out alive? WALK. Walk everywhere, along the promenade, Sydney Harbour, CBD, everywhere and work up and appetite for your next food stop. We made it to Icebergs at the southern end of Bondi after a long stroll along the walking path. No trip to Sydney is complete without taking a dip in their pool offering infinite views of Bondi beach followed by drinks at the bar.

What to have: 🍹 Some Oz wine and sangria

How much to give away: $$$$

Opening hours: 11 AM onward

Address: 1 Notts Avenue, Bondi Beach NSW 2026, Australia

 

  1. Coogee Pavillion: 🍹

Another absolute favourite is Coogee Pav or “The Pav”, located at the end of Bondi when doing the Bondi to Coogee beach walk and housed in the iconic and formerly known Beach Palace Hotel. The Pav seems to be the ultimate social spot for Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and cannot be missed when in the city. We chose to climb the gorgeous staircase to be seated at the rooftop and enjoy the powerful Aussie sun on a hot summers day.

What to have: Freshly Squeezed Juices, Chameleon Mojito, Pornstar 3.0

How much to give away: $$$

Opening hours: 7.30 AM – 12 AM

Address: 169 Dolphin St, Coogee NSW 2034, Australia

 

  1. Zeus Street Greek 🍽️

Australia is a melting pot of cultures resulting in cuisines from all over the world leaving a mark in every neighbourhood and thus we stumbled upon Zeus Street Greek.We went straight for the good stuff from the spit meaning 200 gm of meat rubbed with a special spice mix cooked on a spit over hot coal. Sounds incredible – it was!

What to have: 🍽️ Lamb shoulder from the spit (The Zeus), Apollo and some classic Tzatziki

How much to give away: $$

Opening hours: 11.30 AM – 9 PM

Address: 2/69-81 Foveaux St, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia

 

  1. The Baxter Inn 🍹

You know the place is serious when you go nuts trying to find it. Begin your evening at a whisky bar that is located in the basement of a building at the back of an unmarked alleyway off a busy street. Don’t let the moody interiors deter you from spending an enjoyable evening here with it’s hundreds of whisky’s to pick from along with whisky infused and regular cocktails. No food is available here so drink up!

What to have: Whisky with freshly squeezed apple juice and any of the fancy whisky’s offered

How much to give away: $$$

Opening hours: 4 PM – 1 AM

Address: 152-156 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

 

  1. The Barber Shop 🍹

If you thought The Baxter Inn was a hole in the wall, we now take you to The Barber Shop, Australia’s best gin bar! Situated behind a fully functional barbershop (no kidding) is of course, The Barber shop housing an impressive collection of over 750 gins from all over the world. The cocktail list is maddening ranging from classics to sample gin “flights” which feature a range of 4 small servings of gin paired with tonic water to allow folks to try gins from across the globe. Safe to say, we left the barber shop with a full head of hair and a lot of gin in our bellies.

What to have: Gin flights and gin cocktails

How much to give away: $$$ – $$$$

Opening hours: 4 PM – 12 AM (Sunday closed)

Address: 89 York St, Sydney NSW 2000

 

  1. The Lobo Plantation 🍹 + 🍽️

From Whisky to Gin, we now take you to an underground rum bar in the city. Named after the sugar baron Julio Lobo, The Lobo Plantation has quirky interiors featuring banana palms, flamingo tiles and authentic Cuban charm. Cocktails are a must here along with flaming appetizers and bar snacks to wash those cocktails down. The cocktails were some of the best we have ever had owing to the flair and technique displayed by the bartenders.

What to have: Cocktails – 🍹 Old Grogram, Colonial Sour & Rude Boi. 🍽️ Empanadas & Cuban sandwich

How much to give away: $$$

Opening hours: 4 PM – 1 AM

Address: 1/209 Clarence St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

 

  1. Chin Chin 🍽️ + 🍹

Chin Chin is a magnificent dining experience and one that cannot be missed when in Sydney. Combining the freshest Asian ingredients with just the right hint of spices and exotic herbs is Chin Chin producing an outstanding blend of dishes in a quiet neighbourhood of Sydney. Housed in a historic building with a hot pink neon bunny strategically placed at the entrance, Chin Chin is relaxed with the happiest and most carefree ambiance ever seen in a restaurant. Unable to limit our ordering from the 60 dish menu, we decided to opt for a selection of the restaurants favourite dishes for AUD 70 and what a feast it was!

What to have: 🍽️ The AUD 60 menu has everything imaginable 🍹 Pair your food with wine

How much to give away: $$$$

Opening hours: 11.30 AM – 10 PM

Address: 69 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills NSW 2010

 

  1. The Soda Factory 🍹

From Asian to American we take you to The Soda Factory dishing out American style retro vibes with its quirky interiors and old school cocktails and ice cream sodas. This place is bustling on most days with liver performers, bands and cheap booze/snacks on certain days of the week. This place has major #throwback vibes going for it.

What to have: 🍹 Hollywood Scandal, The Candy Shop & Bourbon & Vanilla Cherry Coke.

How much to give away: $$ – $$$

Opening hours: 5 PM – 2 AM

Address: 16 Wentworth Ave, Surry Hills NSW 2010, Australia

 

  1. Big poppas 🍹 + 🍽️

In case you’re looking to have a good meal in Sydney at 3 AM, Big Poppas is the place to go to. offering a tiny restaurant along with a dimly lit bar is Big Poppas serving some seriously good Italian meals from Lamb Ragu to home-style pastas. Whether you choose to hang downstairs at the hip-hop style bar or scurry upstairs for a full-fledged meal, Big Poppas has great food and entertainment for a long night.

What to have: Handcut pappardelle, Burrata & Tagliata

How much to give away: $$$

Opening hours: 5 PM – 3 AM

Address: 96 Oxford St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia

 

  1. Shady Pines Saloon 🍹

Sydney takes underground bars to a completely new level. You may enter this Darlinghurst dive-bar by descending a flight of stairs where you soon have to adjust your vision to the underground dimly lit room having floors laden with peanut shells. This American-themed saloon serves a variety of whisky’s, whisky cocktails and other regulars and is extremely popular with locals huddling in groups belting down whisky’s as they lean against their bar stools.

What to have: Whisky with fresh apple juice

How much to give away: $$ – $$$

Opening hours: 4 PM – 12 AM

Address: 4/256 Crown St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia

 

  1. The Boatshed, La Perouse 🍽️

Not as popular and teaming with tourists is this quiet area in southeastern Sydney known as La Perouse. La Perouse has aboriginal significance and was named after a French navigator resulting in immense historical significance to Australians. Although quiet, La Perouse offers a range of activities such as heritage walks, scuba diving and golf tours. In this area, you can find the The Boatshed, perched on a hillock overlooking the ocean and offering a casual dining experience to those visiting the area. We highly recommend beginning your day here with a good breakfast.

What to have: Brekkie – The Boatshed Big Breakfast & Gourmet Bacon & Egg Roll

How much to give away: $$

Opening hours: 7 AM – 3 PM

Address: 1609 Anzac Parade, La Perouse NSW 2036

 

  1. Gelato Messina 🍦

No visit to Sydney is complete without paying homage to Messina. We visited Messina about 4 times in 6 days and even took some “to-go” dessert because it truly is difficult to stop with one flavor. From apple pie, bounty, dark chocolate, Macadamia crunch, Italian nougat to Milk chocolate with choc peanut fudge, Passion fruit, Pannacotta to Pandan and Coconut; it is impossible to make a decision without wanting to gobble it all up.

What to have: As much ice-cream as you can take 🍦

How much to give away: $

Address: Across Sydney

HAPPY EATING!

 

10 days in paradise – Our guide to the Philippines (Cebu+Palawan)

Close your eyes and envision floating in the calm azure waters in the middle of the ocean with luminous fish and coral just beneath you. In the distance, you can hear the sound of waves and palm trees rustling in the gentle wind that promises to carry your woes away. In the past, we have tried hard to visit the Philippines but work, thunderstorms and life just always got in the way. Nevertheless, Sachet (my husband) only turns 30 once and celebrating in the middle of a lagoon in the Philippine Sea with speedboats whisking us away to deserted islands or swimming with whale sharks seemed befitting.

The Philippines is everything a water baby could ever want. The country consists of 7000 + islands, unique wildlife both in the water and above, rice fields as far as the eye can take you and our all-time favourite – sunny skies, coconut trees and turquoise waters.

Discovering Hobbiton in New Zealand: the magic is real

Pumpkins that are about as large as a 5ft tall human being and seem too big to be true; snowball-like sheep that stand suspiciously still on lush rolling hills, making you wonder if they’re props stationed for effect; larger than life trees and the occasional vegetable patch filled with unrealistically perfect produce—the first glimpses of the 1,250 acre Alexander sheep farm in the heart of the Waikato (the filming location for Hobbiton) can be flummoxing. You wonder what is real and what is not— but the magic? That’s a 100 per cent real.

I’m talking about Middle-earth at the Hobbiton Movie Set, the setting for The Shire that featured in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies. I had the good fortune of visiting Auckland, New Zealand and while the piercing blue skies, striking turquoise waters and crisp air of the city are pretty much idyllic, it’s also located super close to actual fairytale destinations.

The kind of Tolkien legend. The kind where hobbits lived, and Gandalf visited. The bucolic and bonkers world of JRR Tolkien’s imagination—where two breakfasts were eaten, and fireworks dazzled at eleventy-first birthdays. Where magic was real, and the ale even more so. So one fine sunny morning we undertook the 2-hour long drive to Hobbiton, from Auckland to Matamata, and set off on our journey to there, and back again.

Step onto the road… there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to
Now, you may argue that you’re not a Tolkien fan, (books or movies), or just not that ‘into movie’ sets, but what if you’re reading this – you’re most definitely a traveller, an explorer. And there’s no better way to make the most of the country’s glorious geography than to spend the day exploring the lush farm in Matamata. Even the most cynical will agree, that once you sit in the tour bus and the haunting Lord of The Rings music starts to play – you can feel the goosebumps, as you give in to the magic of the Hobbiton movie set.

I picked the Hobbiton Movie Set tour (guided) which included stops at Bagshot Row, the Party Tree, peering at Bilbo’s Bag End home (No admittance, except on party business), going past all the Hobbit Holes, from Bilbo’s to the baker’s, through the Mill, and of course making a stop at the renowned Green Dragon™ Inn where you will be presented with the ale of your tasting in a traditional cup, best enjoyed on the grass under the sparkling sun. As I retraced Frodo’s illustrious footsteps, I had to practice great self restraint at not pocketing Gandalf’s smoking pipe as it lay surreptitiously on the bench outside Bilbo’s home.

The site features a mix of reality and make-believe, some of the most natural looking trees are props, while some of the largest pumpkins are in-fact real. The 44 hobbit holes? Unfortunately they’re not quite habitable, and you can only enter a few, which have small, unfinished, empty interiors—some are built at the size to fit hobbits, some are built larger to make the actors appear smaller, and some are constructed at dwarf scales for those featuring the illustrious creatures. From guessing what plants, pastries and people (jk) are real, to squeezing yourself into hobbit-size holes, to letting yourself be drawn in by the guide’s graphic storytelling ability – a day spent in lush pastures of The Shire takes you to a truly magical place, and time. Let your imagination go wild as you meander through the set, and stop over for a bite at The Shire, an aptly-themed restaurant, where both breakfast and second breakfast are served.

Travel to me is about magic,  wonder, discovery and being literally and figuratively transported to a happy place – and when you let your inner child shine, and marvel in all the natural and man-made details of this beautifully preserved site, you will discover more about yourself than you’d think. Needless to say this a perfect destination for families with kids, but adults, remember that we may all be grown-ups, but this happy land is a subtle reminder that magic is real, and that you’re never too old to believe in the beauty and magic of world.

Location: Matamata, New Zealand
Getting there: A 2-hour drive from Auckland (160 kms approx)
Tours available: Hobbiton Movie Set tour,  Evening Banquet Tour, Hobbiton Movie Set Tour + Meal Combo
Best time to visit: Open all year round, except Christmas Day
Ticket cost: $84.00 (NZ dollar) onwards for adults (disclaimer: all the tours are pricey)

You can make bookings for the guided tour in advance via the official website, and pick up themed-memorabilia from the souvenir store on site

Why Plitvice Lakes National Park should be on your bucket list

Acres of greenery for as far as the eye can travel, scores of diminutive white flowers that belong in an ethereal wonderland, the blurry outline of mountains in a distance and a languorous sunset that goes from pale yellow to tangerine, and finally nightfall, that comes slowly and then all at once.

My reality was finally dreamier than anything my imagination could have cooked up … except for the incessant rumbling of my stomach. I was in the village of Mukinje, Croatia, known for its proximity to Plitvice Lakes National Park (official website), nestled in the gorgeous mountainous Lika region—and as I had just discovered, this sleepy hamlet’s closest supermarket was 4kms away from my home stay, and public transport within the town is sparse. So if you’re going to be visiting Plitvice, make sure to hire a car (rentals here) to make your life easier — it’s an easy drive from Zagreb, Split or Zadar, the park’s lot has plenty of parking, you can reach as early as you please to avoid the crowds and you make sure you’re on a full stomach post a day (or two) of exploring (unlike us, the silly kids who had to rely on the kindness of strangers for rides, and milk and cereal for dinner).

Being well connected, day-trips are possible but we spent two nights and took the evening bus (bus tickets here) from Zagreb, and our hosts not only received us at the bus stop, they drove us to the park in the am. The things you hear about small towns filled with the warmest hearts? Totally true. And with a bag full of as many snacks as we could save, water, a rain jacket (it did in fact pour for a brief period during a sunny day in August), we got our early start at Plitvice. Read on to follow our day out.

Lake lovin’
Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the single most visited sites in Croatia and as of 1979 is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site—with great reason. Sixteen lakes, inter-connected by a series of waterfalls, set across 300sqkm of lush woodland come together to create a landscape that no camera can really do justice to.

With two entrances and a range of trails you can follow (about eight routes, named as trails A, B, C, E, F, H K– between 3 to 18km) and well-marked routes, meandering through the park is as easy as can be, as long as you catch the boats and trains on time. We began at Entrance 1, caught the first train out, and followed Trail C – that took us through a train and boat ride, across an 8km route that covered some of the upper and lower level lakes and the famed Veliki Slap waterfall.

What followed was a kaleidoscope of colours—azure, turquoise and sea green waters that you can gaze into the depths of, buttery-white clouds, trees and bushes resplendent in greens—soft lime, muted sage, dazzling emerald and the occasional deep jade—a happy palette courtesy summer. And of course, the crowning glory of the park, its layout of lakes, unimaginably still, with a delicate breeze creating minuscule waves—and waterfalls—some soft and rippling, others loud and gushing, drowning out the chaos of the crowds. The water is crystal clear because being high mountain runoff, the water calcifies everything it touches and there’s no mud or algae, leaving it pristine (but alas, swimming is forbidden).

Visiting in the heart of summer means you’ll be queuing a lot—for tickets, for the train and bus, for food, walking on trails frequented by camera-bearing crowds, and waiting patiently for your turn at a photo spot. Since we began at about 7am, we were able to finish our trail by 4pm, which is when we saw hordes of late-comers crowding the park, and thanked our lucky stars for the small pockets of tranquil time we got in the park. (There are fast food restaurants within, but preferably pack a picnic)

Home in the hamlet
Our trek wasn’t quite over yet—after a meal at one of the few restaurants nearby, and a quick (over-enthusiastic) stop at the supermarket, we walked a few more kms back to our home stay— Guest house Attico Viva. There are three hotels right by the park, and a couple of camps but the wide selection of utterly adorable (and budget-friendly) private accommodation (rooms, apartments in guesthouses/homes) were our choice for a more personalised experience.

And with a breakfast spread of the ‘best eggs we’ve ever eaten’, the warmest home owner, and a beautiful little sit-out to enjoy the sunset post our day at Plitvice Lakes National Park, Attico Viva was a perfect, secluded little spot to rest our weary bones on our second and last night. As we sat and enjoyed the silence in the air, the languorous mountain sunset turning from pale yellow to deep orange, and finally a velvety blue, I couldn’t help but be grateful for the chance to see one of the most naturally beautiful spots I’ve ever visited in my life—and the country’s oldest and largest national park. The summer colours, the summer breeze and the tenuous (eternal) chill of the mountain region made it a perfect party in the park. But my visions of seeing it bathed in Autumn colours and the soft coat of snow in the Winter remain vivid. A girl can dream right? Especially since sometimes they’re far greater than reality.

Fact file
Location: 
Croatia, Europe
Getting there: 
Connecting flights to the capital city of Zagreb, buses and trains connect directly to Plitvice from Zagreb or Split (book prior) but renting a car is more convenient/recommended
Best time to visit: 
April-May, September-October (open 365 days a year)
Park timings:
Winter: 8am-4pm (Oct-March approx.)
Spring: 8am-7pm ( End of March onwards approx.)
Summer: 7am – 8pm (June-August approx.)
Autumn: 7am – 7pm (August end onwards approx.)
Entrance fee: Different packages based on number of days/season that cover train/bus rides. Guided tours are also available. (Starting at 130 kuna up to 400 kuna)

For fairytale destinations to visit in Croatia, read our hidden hotspots story here:

The ultimate food guide: Phuket edition

Having visited Phuket, Thailand twice in a span of six months we can safely say that this island paradise is not just about beach lounging, turquoise waters, trips to Phi Phi islands, strolling past strip bars and shopping streets. Phuket is also home to some very interesting local cuisine—this mountainous island located in the Andaman Sea has its fair share of tourist traps as well as hidden spots for every kind of holidaymaker—so, forget about calories and think Pad Thai, delectable curries, stir fry everything, mango sticky rice and…drumroll….hand churned coconut ice-cream.

Uncovering hidden gems in Croatia

A 14th century, virginal white castle-like structure resting on a carpet of manicured grass—a vision both alluring and awe-inspiring. The majestic ruins of a 13th  century castle on a hill—a living relic of the past. A cascade of angels in a clandestine alley, slowly descending to Earth—ethereal, and yet, a little un-earthly. The European nation of Croatia may be better known for its Game of Throne sets in Dubrovnik, and lure of natural wonders, like Krka and Plitvice Lakes National Park—but on my recent trip, I unearthed these hidden gems nestled in smaller, story tale towns.

For an escapist like me, there’s no better joy than getting lost in old towns with magical stories, that urge you to travel back in time and speak of both mythology and mystery. And as any good philosopher knows, myths are nothing but true accounts of a remote past. Read on for the hidden gems I stumbled upon in Croatia, to find and live out your own, very real fairy tale.

Ruins of a castle in Samobor
A 30-minute drive west from the city of Zagreb lies the small quiet town of Samobor—known for its historic architecture, natural wonders, laidback vibe and un-real kremšnita. Fairly quiet even in the tourist-heavy month of August, it’s small enough to comfortably walk around on foot—and perhaps this is the best way, to make the most of its well-maintained architecture. The town square is filled with open-air cafes and little bars—where you must try the traditional kremšnita, a decadent dessert made from puff pastry and custard cream, that Samobor is well-known for. (I recommend Slasticarnica U Prolazu).

But the crown jewel of the town, and the sight I lost my romantic heart to is the Samobor Castle, a ruined castle atop Tepec Hill. A ten-minute walk from the town center, through a pretty public park takes you to the start of a hiking point. A quick 20-minute uphill walk takes you to the ruins of the castle that was erected back in the 13th century and sit at an elevation of 220m. I had the serendipitous pleasure of reaching the top just as the sun settled into a glorious sunset sky and the old castle moat, the massive entrance and most of the still-standing walls came to life against the fiery colours of the sky. And all I could think about was clandestine meetings with a Prince Charming as we soaked in the sights, with the stone castle protecting us.
Things to see: Samobor Museum, St Anastasia Church, Grgos Cave
Stay: Plenty of quaint apartments, but also ideal for a day trip from Zagreb

The angel alley of Varazdin
An hour north from Zagreb, lies a town from a different time. The former capital of Croatia, its cobbled streets, well-preserved baroque buildings and old town charm hark back to a simpler time and as you walk through Varazdin, you can’t help but be taken in by its medieval feel. One of the major tourist attractions strangely enough is the Varazdin cemetery—and one breezy, quiet evening took me through the immense space, created in the 20th century, filled with glorious, intricate garden architecture. While it is unsettling, walking around through the eternal homes of the deceased—deceased you don’t even know, the beautifully designed graves and regal air of the space are enough to keep you captivated as you digest the oddness of it all.

But it is the prevailing presence of angels, littered through the city that reinforce the magical energy—and the Angel Museum, set up by local artist Zeljko Prsetc is worth a fly-by (geddit?). Or just wing it, and wander down to Varazdin Andelinjak, where a tiny gate opens up to a cluster of angels descending towards Earth. Creepy, or cute? Have a look and decide for yourself… and keep your eyes (and heart) open for your guardian angel. I spent three days in Varazdin, and would have been happy to be there longer, spending evenings on benches beside the old fountain in the town square, because in addition to its architecture, the food deserves a special mention—the pizza at restaurant Angelus, and Domenico was the best I’ve eaten this side of the border, best followed by desserts and ice cream at Fontana.
Things to see: Varazdin Castle/Stari Grad (home to the Museum); Baroque palaces
Stay: Park Boutique Hotel; B&B Garestin

A centuries-old cave in Istria
Dating back to 1770, is an ancient cave that still stands today—rich in myriad-coloured dripstones, and gigantic stalagmites, the moment you enter, the temperature drops by 5 degrees, and you find yourself in a space better suited to the adventures of Indiana Jones. From microscopic little creatures that inhabit the caves, to the bats that you almost always miss, and the graffiti that cave-intruders left as little souvenirs of their adventure, the Mramornica marble cave is a cool (pun intended) hidden-gem on the Istrian coast, near Brtonigla, ideal to live out your Lara Croft-esque fantasies. Just don’t get left behind!

Istria, in the far north west of Croatia is dotted with pretty seaside towns and offers a little bit of respite from the international tourist-heavy stops of Dubrovnik, Split and the like. My home base was Porec, a 3-hour drive from Zagreb and providing easy accessibility to towns like Rovinj, Motovun and Novigrad. (Stay tuned for our Istrian road trip itinerary)
Things to see: Church of Euphemia, Park Forest Zlatni, Rovinj
Stay:
 Apartment Viva Molindrio, PorecApartments Casa Garibaldi, Brtonigla 

Fact file
Location:
Croatia, Europe
Getting there:
Connecting flights to the capital city of Zagreb
Best time to visit: 
May-June, Sept-Oct

 

20 photos to inspire you to visit Canada

A medley of landscapes frequently lauded as some of the world’s most beautiful sights can be found in Western Canada. Using the below images we attempt to brainwash you in to planning your next holiday to this relatively unexplored destination found on earth promising nature in abundance, wild experiences and unparalleled beauty.

Your 20 photos to inspire you to visit Canada begins now:

Rafting in Clearwater River, Wells Grey Provincial Park

Meal time
Tofino
Medicine Lake
Jasper town
Peyto lake
Lake Louise
Yoho National Park
Helmcken Falls, BC
Takakkaw Falls, Yoho National Park

Morraine Lake
Peyto Lake
Lake Louise
Stanley Park, Vancouver
Lake Louise
Cameron Lake, BC
Hiking trail in Jasper National Park
Cheers to empty Canadian highways!
Good looking food

To road trip through the Canadian Rockies in 15 days:

http://grabyourglobe.com/road-trippin-thr…ckies-in-15-days/

 

Road trippin’ through the Canadian Rockies in 15 days

WE DID IT! All it took was an expensive ticket to Vancouver city, a sleek SUV, backseat filled with snacks, camera in tow and most importantly our rush of adventure. Driving in Canada was an unbelievable experience with its open roads, motorways flanked with snow-capped mountains or pine trees and a few surreal moments like the time we got really lucky to have spotted a bear casually hunting for berries by the road.

This road trip is not scary (Read: Iceland) but requires a dedication to drive long hours only because you cannot road trip in Canada without stopping every few kilometres to take in the beautiful scenery that surrounds you. From sea to summit, we have mapped out the perfect itinerary for your next vacation and epic doesn’t begin to describe what you’re in for.

Day 1 – Fly in to Vancouver city

This is when we tell you how much in love with this city we really are. Have you ever wanted to live in a city that boasts mountain views from all corners, a stone’s throw distance from major national parks and teaming with cultures from all over the world? That city is Vancouver. If time permits, spend a few days exploring the city and all the activities it has to offer.

Stay: The Buchan Hotel (minutes from downtown Vancouver)

Day 2 – Day 4: Drive to Tofino (283 km – 5.5 hours)

Known for testing the unknown, we decided to make a quick weekend stop in Tofino located in Vancouver Island and what a payoff it was! Firstly, you get to drive your car in to a massive ferry that transports you across to Vancouver Island from where you continue driving a few hours until you reach the seaside town of Tofino. From here, you get to see Pacific Rim National Park and numerous bear and whale sightings via local tours and not to mention glowing sunsets from Tofino’s beach. FYI bears happen to chill on the beaches too so stay alert!

 Tour Company used: Adventure Tofino Wildlife Tours

Tofino has a variety of accommodations ranging from expensive to thrifty but we chose to stay at the cutest BnB owed by a local who spoiled us each morning with freshly baked muffins and other homemade goodness.

Stay: Storm Bay BnB by Jeanette & John

Day 4 – Drive back to Vancouver city (283 km – 5.5 hours)

Drive back to Vancouver city but not before making a few noteworthy stops. These can also be done in parts enroute to Tofino.

Tofino must-do stops include:

  • Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Parks (Upper & Lower)
  • Cathedra Grove – MacMillan Provincial Park
  • Giant Cedar Trail
  • Ucuelet (before entering Tofino)

Back in Vancouver, spend the late evening walking the famous “downtown” of Vancouver or strolling Stanley Park before heading to dinner.

Stay: Windsor Guesthouse

Day 5 – Drive to Clearwater & Wells Gray Provincial Park (482 km – 5 hours)

Get a head start no later than 7 AM in order to have a leisurely drive to Clearwater and Wells Gray Provincial Park. Upon arriving in Clearwater, grab a few beers, snacks and head straight to Dutch Lake. Here you can spend hours on the boardwalk sipping on a beer and taking the occasional dip in the lake to cool off or rent a kayak and explore the lake on your own.

Day 6 – In Clearwater

Time for some real adventure! The mighty and majestic Clearwater River stretches far through Wells Gray Provincial Park’s protected and undisturbed wilderness. This pristine river offers some of the best whitewater in all of British Columbia and that is exactly what we spent our morning doing – battling rapids and extremely cold cold waters.

For rafting: Liquid Lifestyles

The second half of the day was not devoid of water views as we made our way to Helmcken Falls, Spahat Creek Falls, Maul Falls followed by a lazy evening by Clearwater Lake.

Stay: Stoneshire Guesthouse (minutes’ walk to Dutch Lake)

Day 7 – Day 9 – Drive to Valemount for Jasper National Park. Overnight in Valemount (200 km – 2 hours)

You’ve probably seen it on Instagram or read about Jasper but nothing compares to what you witness in person. Just when we thought landscapes could not get any better, we began the second half of our road trip through more pine trees, dramatic mountain vistas and lakes.

Now is when you decide where exactly you want to stay when visiting Jasper National Park. The park houses a town – Jasper that offers adorable but expensive accommodation and if not booked months in advance (we’re talking 5 months in advance in the summer) you may not find suitable and reasonably priced accommodation here. As a result, we were left with virtually no budget friendly accommodations and chose the next best option and that was to stay in Valemount (100 km – 1 hour from Jasper National Park). Why Valemount? Valemount has good reasonably priced accommodations, gas stations and a few restaurants and supermarkets for basic needs.

Begin early from Clearwater, so you can make pit stops along the way to take photos of the scenery or a longer halt at Mount Robson for a quick photo opportunity.

P.S – Valemount sits in British Columbia while Jasper in Alberta that share different time zones! Ensure you change your watch each time you drive back & forth – you gain an hour, you lose one 🙂 

Enter Alberta and Jasper National Park! From here onward the next few days transported us to a whole new world that seemed too picture perfect to be true with its sharp jagged mountains, turquoise lakes and dense forest trails.

Things to do in Jasper:

  • Hikes – With all those mountains comes innumerable hiking trails one leading to a view more beautiful than the last. While summer may be the busiest time of year for parks in Canada, it is almost impossible to run in to massive crowds for all you have to do is walk a few metres following a trail and you’ve lost all your fellow hikers. This is when you realize just how massive Canada and it’s parks really are and how lucky you are to be there in that moment.
  • Skytram to Whistlers summit: It is easy to take a CAD 45 gondola ride up to Whistler’s summit from where you walk a short path to take in the view.
  • Cruising along Maligne Lake is one of the most popular activities you can indulge in when in jasper. The cruise is a little over an hour and stops at Spirit Island to take photos.
  • Sunwapta Falls & Canyon – short hike to the falls
  • Medicine Lake – For a peaceful picnic by a massive lake
  • Quick stops at the 3 lakes – Pyramid, Patricia & Edith Lakes.

The town of Jasper deserves a special mention for it sits in the midst of Canada’s extraordinary wilderness unpretentious and pretty. Restaurants are plenty; locals are forever smiling and looking to give you suggestions or weather updates. We highly recommend spending your nights in Jasper for a quintessential rocky mountain experience.

In case you’re wondering when you’ll reach the much coveted Icefields Parkway for that unbelievable drive; you’re already there! The Icefields Parkway is a 230 kilometre mountain road running through Banff and Jasper National Park. This scenic road, rated as one of the top drives in the world by Condé Nast Traveller traverses the rugged landscape of the Canadian Rockies. If you’ve made it this far, you’re really in for something very special. The entire drive takes no more than 3 hours NOT counting the incessant stopping to take photos of your surroundings.

There are numerous view-point pullouts, hiking and walking opportunities, waterfalls, lakes and attractions to see along the Icefields Parkway.

  • Herbert & Hector Lakes
  • Bow Lake
  • Peyto Lake
  • Waterfowl Lake & Chephren Lake
  • Cirrus Mountain View Point
  • Athabasca Glacier
  • Sunwapta Falls
  • Athabasca Falls

Stay: Valley Mountain Ranch – Valemount (Yes, it was a real ranch with animals!)

Day 9 – Day 12 – Continue driving to Banff National Park. Stay in Canmore (180 km – 2 hours)

You will spend the next 3 days exploring the scenic spots in and around Banff National Park. Take your time to soak in the various spots along the Icefields Parkway as you make your way to Banff. All the above attractions along the parkway can be split between your days exploring Jasper & Banff.

Alberta boats several turquoise lakes and one such underrated lake is Peyto Lake. At 2,068 meters, Bow Pass is the highest pass in Banff National Park and the watershed between the river systems of the North and South Saskatchewan River. A short branch road leads to the magnificent Peyto Lake glistening in turquoise and fed by many of the surrounding glaciers.

The moment you’ve been waiting for is finally here – The jewel of Banff National Park is Lake Louise with its shimmering turquoise blue green water and surrounding snow capped mountains rising up to 3000 meters high. It’s difficult to tear yourself away from the shores of the lake but you can also take one of the many trails (some running along the waters edge) up in to forest opening up to breathtaking views of the lake from above. The most popular of them is the trail leading up to Lake Agnes, which lies in a picturesque location between the two round hills known as the Beehives. The strenuous climb to the top of one of the Beehives is rewarded by a superb view over the entire area. In summer, the Lake Agnes Teahouse supplies food and drinks to weary hikers (such as ourselves).

While Lake Louise did not disappoint, it was Morraine Lake that stole the show and our hearts. An extremely cold and bleak morning was the chosen day to explore this lake. Hours of waiting in our car for the rain to stop and several playlists later the sun appeared and brightened the day. Pictured on the reverse of the old Canadian twenty dollar bill, Moraine Lake in the Valley of the Ten Peaks surrounded by peaks more than 3,000 meters high, and the Wenkchemna Glacier was one of the most beautiful sights I have personally ever witnessed. The most scenic walk involves a short climb up the Rockpile Trail to the best view of the lake which involved us monkeying around in the cold trying to not break any bones. WORTH IT!

At the end of each day we made our way back to our apartment in Canmore, a sleepy ski town in the rocky mountains.

Stay: Cozy Penthouse Suite – Mountain View (Air BnB)

Day 12 – Day 15 – Drive to Yoho National Park. Overnight in Golden ( 85 km 1 hour)

In case you feel that you can’t do justice to the above sights, you can always drive back to either of the aforementioned lakes as they’re no more than an hour’s drive from your next halt in Golden.

The next park on our agenda was Yoho National Park and one that is often skipped by most road trippers. Extremely underrated, we enjoyed this park a lot more than we expected. Located along the western slopes of the Canadian Rockies, in the province of British Columbia lies Yoho the smallest of the contiguous parks of Banff, Jasper and Kootenay. The most notable highlights of Yoho are Takkakaw Falls, one of Canada’s highest free falling waterfalls, the Natural Bridge over the Kicking Horse River, Emerald Lake and Lake O’Hara.

With Golden as our base we spent the last few days exploring the above mentioned sights and simply breathing the crisp, fresh Canadian air.

Stay: Kicking Horse Lodge, Golden (Air BnB)

Day 15 – Drive to Calgary Airport & say goodbye (225 km 2.5 hours).

 Car rental: Avis Canada

 

When: Summer months – June, July, August & September

How: Fly to Vancouver or Calgary and end with the same

What: Natural beauty in its wildest form.

 

Advisory: While the summer months are undoubtedly the best time to visit weather wise, the 3 major disruptions include:

  • Higher prices everywhere due to it being peak season
  • Lack of economical accommodations due to it being high season
  • Forest fires. Forest fires are no joke and can entirely disrupt your travel schedule. We were caught in the middle of forest fires towards the end of our trip and had to make last minute adjustments to our itinerary due to the smoky air.

Nee more inspiration? We have it covered.

Check out our – “20 photos to inspire you to visit Canada”.

 

Landmarks of Mumbai city: your insider guide

 

Electric. Dynamic. Chaotic. The maker (and breaker) of dreams – Mumbai city, India is a pulsating metropolitan city that’s filled with the best of the best (restaurants, hotels, eateries, shops), and the worst of the worst (weather, garbage, crowds). It also just happens to be our home. With our ongoing Landmarks of Mumbai series, we’ll explore small areas of the city, piece by piece, lending our insider knowledge and expertise to each area – so you, traveller, tourist and fellow Mumbaikar – know exactly what landmark to visit, where to stay and where to eat.

Gateway of India
This arch-shaped monument has been standing tall, (and pretty-much graffiti free) since 1924, when it was built to welcome British officials into the city. While the English left us a while ago, we’re not complaining about what they left behind—architecturally gorgeous, built in the Indo-Saracenic style, this imposing gateway is pretty much synonymous with Mumbai, and Bombay before it. Unmissable.

Why you should see it: The best time to ‘see’ this spectacular English-constructed landmark is just as the sun rises—the crowds at the lowest and you’ll get views against a spectacular skyline. While you can see the Gateway from the promenade nearby, it’s officially open for business between 7am-5:30pm, all days of the week, when it gets crowded with everyone from click-happy tourists (Look Ma, I’m holding up the gateway) to frenzied professionals going about their daily commute. But if you get there around sunset, the area comes alive with hordes of people taking walks along the seafront and meandering the nearby streets for food and drink spots, popular in this area. Walking around here is the best way to get a feel of the city as a local.
Tourist haunts: Around the corner from the gateway sits Colaba Causeway—practically as popular as the former; the popular go-to food stops for out-of-towners tend to be The Leopold Café, Café Mondegar, Bade Miyan (a food truck-turned-restaurant), Theobroma, Cafe Churchill and Delhi Darbar (for biryani). This area is extremely famous for Mumbai’s street shopping that includes artificial jewellery, bags and clothing. (Make sure to bargain)
GYG picks: A whole in the wall old-school Indian-styled Chinese restaurant Ling’s Pavillion, Bagdadi,a little Irani-styled eatery best known for their range of pulaos, fried fish and caramel custard,Le 15 Café for its quaint English-café charm, Colaba Social for a fun-well-priced drink and Bombay Stock Exchange’s terrace-top bar, Cafe Churchill for old school continental cuisine and freshly bakes pastries.
Hotel recommendations:
Basic: Abode Bombay
Breaking the budget: Taj Vivanta, Taj Mahal Palace & Hotel

Taj Mahal Palace & Hotel
The resident ghost of Taj Mahal Hotel is an urban legend that dates back to 1903. While the building was commissioned to three Indian architects, the main architect passed away whilst it was still under construction and was replaced by English engineer WA Chambers. Rumour has it, when he discovered the building had been constructed facing the opposite direction to his intent, he committed suicide and haunts the halls, even today. A ghostly tale not enough to entice a visit to the gorgeous India-Saracencic styled building?

Why you should see it: Go for the incredible hospitality at any of its great restaurants (The Golden Dragon is a personal favourite) – or just to marvel at its incredible architecture (tourists are allowed to walk in and explore the lobby and stores). You can also get gorgeous images against the beautiful building.
Tourist haunts: The Sea Lounge coffee shop at the Taj, overlooks the Gateway of India and offers the most sublime tea time service. (think layers of coffee cake and finger sandwiches). Around the corner are little sugarcane juice vendors to get through the heat that a day in Mumbai is bound to impress upon you.
GYG picks:
While we love all the restaurants at the Taj hotel, venture to causeway where Piccadilly has the best shawarma’s we’ve had in the city, Gables for unique Goan cuisine, Olympia Coffee House for their old-world charm, keema pav, caramel custard and Mumbai-staple chai. The Strand Hotel rooftop bar for gorgeous views along with your drinks.
Hotel recommendations:
Basic: Abode Bombay
Breaking the budget: Taj Vivanta, Taj Mahal Palace & Hotel

The Asiatic Society of Mumbai
Home to more than a hundred thousand books, of which 15,000 are classified as rare and valuable, this heritage structure influenced by Greek and Roman architecture with its pristine white exterior is better known as a venue for loved-up pre-wedding photo shoots and general photo ops. We kinda like it for both, as you can see. Hehe. Asiaticsociety.org.in for details of accessibility and opening hours.

Why you should see it: One of the prettiest buildings in Mumbai has gone through extensive refurbishments to stay perfect. The interiors with their winding staircases, long columns and antiquated-style are perfect to take you back to Bombay of the past.
Tourist haunts:
Horniman Circle Garden down the road from the Asiatic is the perfect spot of greenery in the midst of the bustling city, and if you saunter around in the afternoon, you’re likely to find a bunch of snoozing men under the shade of the tress. It’s also home to popular Indian-style stores like The Bombay Store, Chumbak and FabIndia for touristy (and quality) memorabilia.
GYG picks:
The Nutcracker veggie restaurant for its delectable pancakes, Kala Ghoda Café for those who love being healthy on holiday, Trishna (arguably the best seafood restaurant in the city) and Ayubs (a hole-in-the-wall roll guy) who went from operating out of a car to having his own little space in Kala Ghoda. He’s also open until 3-4 am for late-night cravings. Britannia & Co. Restaurant a is synonymous with serving the best Parsi food in the city with its berry pulav (his berries are imported all the way from Iran) and salli boti (mutton gravy) are definitely not to be missed. You also get live entertainment from the kind old owner who dishes out tales from the British era. 
Hotel recommendations
Basic: Ascot Hotel, Residency Hotel Fort, Grand Hotel
Breaking the budget: Trident Nariman Point, The Oberoi Mumbai

Hanging Gardens of Mumbai
For endless, unfettered views of Mumbai’s iconic marine drive promenade and gorgeous aerial views of the city, and sunset views over the Arabian Sea, head down to this terraced garden, settled comfortably in a residential area of South Mumbai. From morning walkers to busloads of tourists, they all descend upon the garden for a look at ‘The Old Woman’s Shoe”. Sitting in Kamala Nehru Park complex, the shoe structure is inspired by the nursery rhyme, ‘There was an Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe” and makes for a great whimsical photo-op.

Why you should see it: For the gorgeous sunset views of the city’s famed Queen’s necklace, for the quietude in the middle of this chaotic city and to take a quiet breath.
Tourist haunts:
Banganga Tank an ancient water tank part of the Walkeshwar Temple Complex.
GYG picks:
Dakshinayan, an authentic South Indian restaurant with high quality food and the best filter coffee; China Garden, an old-school, award winning Chinese restaurant, Narayan’s Dosa, grant road (a little hard to find, but Zomato should help you out).
Hotel recommendations
Basic: The Regency Hotel, Nepensea Road
Breaking the budget: The Shalimar Hotel, Mumbai

Outfits: https://www.6ycollective.com/

To book accommodations we recommend: https://www.booking.com/

For more information on food: https://www.zomato.com/mumbai

Photographed by: Chail Shah Photography

Why Pokhara is Nepal’s tourism capital

My bags came in through a window at Pokhara’s tiny airport, I identified, claimed them and traipsed out in under five minutes of landing. I’d even touched down earlier, due to a couple of empty seats on an earlier flight from Kathmandu. Throw in the mountaintops I could see from the airport – and you could pretty much say I was in heaven.

If tourist reviews and Wikipedia pages are to be believed – Pokhara, the tourism capital of Nepal pretty much is heaven. A 30-min flight from Kathmandu, it’s home to a nest of lakes and offers views of the Annapurna mountain range on a clear day, not to mention, is the base for trekkers on the Annapurna Circuit. What Pokhara also has is lakefront cafes, endless rows of shops selling everything from tourist memorabilia (hi, prayer flags, come home with me) to climbing gear, world-class continental food to suit its largely European tourists and little spots for some R&R.

I almost didn’t get to any of it though. A seven-minute drive away from the airport, and a two-minute walk from the main street, The Temple Tree Resort and Spa with a mountain-facing pool, bar and spa, did all it could to keep me in the hotel. And so did its super hospitable staff. My first day passed in a blur as I made the most of the *tropical day-time weather in the pool with a piña colada and bundled up at night, but the next day it was time to explore Pokhara’s many many tourist spots.

When in Rome…
I’m not a devout practicing Hindu, but one of the ways I feel connected to a place I’m visiting is by doing local things, so I headed to the famous Bindhyabasini Temple – one of the oldest in Nepal. The little temples were pretty but I preferred gazing at the panoramic Himalayan views from the courtyard. Keeping in vein with the suddenly spiritual vein of the trip, my next stop was the Gupteshwar Mahadev Cave – where a huge stalagmite is worshipped as a Shiv Ling. As much as rock formations fascinate, it was the story of the Davis falls that intrigued me – the water forms an underground tunnel after reaching the bottom, virtually disappearing. Back in 1961, a Swiss couple called Davi went swimming here but the woman drowned in a pit because of the overflow and stories say her father wished to name it “Davi’s falls” after her.  And it was here that I stumbled upon a wishing pond, where even a cynical heart like mine was tempted to toss a coin in and wish for the best. After a visit to the Seti River Gorge, my patience with tourist traps had waned and I sought refuge at Caffe Italiano – its outdoor seating, and park view was the perfect setting for the world-class pizzas that warmed my heart after a day of mingling with way too many tourists and is ideal for those with a slightly Western palate. My last stop for the day was Basundhara Park, a pleasant little patch of green which was barely occupied – leaving me and my new puppy friend in peace.

Uphill girl
Looking to escape the crowds, I made friends with a server at the hotel who volunteered to take me up to the World Peace Pagoda (constructed by Buddhist monks from the Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji organisation). On foot. We set out the next day at about 7:30 am, walked down to Phewa Lake, took a short boat ride and started our hike up to the pagoda that is at an altitude of nearly 1,000 meters

​The nearly 45-minute super uphill hike blessed me with views of the lake, Sarangkot Mountain, a few frightening missteps, and a tan that I’m still living with – but the views of the gorgeous white pagoda, the whistling wind and the flower-filled courtyard made it well-worth the trip. I came home with a happy heart and rosy-cheeked from the rays of sun – feeling more like a swiss maiden in my floral dress than a girl who’d just hiked up to a pagoda in Nepal. While the trail is fairly simple, it’s safest to hike with a local who knows the area well – or you know, just drive up. I did get lucky – Pokhara is known for its daily rain – but while I made it to my pagoda pretty much dry, rain played spoilsport for the three days I was there, and I couldn’t make it to Sarangkot for sunrise or sunset, a half hour’s drive away from Pokhara, for the panoramic views of the Annapurna Himalayan peaks – but the day I woke up for my trek, the sun shone long enough for me to sneak a peek, at the peaks in the distance. And that was more than enough for this mountain lover.

Food factory
The rest of my short time was spent sauntering around the main street, strolling in and out of the shops and popping in for a snack whenever my heart desired. With its range of low key cafes and creperies (think the chilled, stoner vibe of cafes in India’s Himachal Pradesh – Manali, Kasol, before they got over populated) and local shops, it felt super familiar to someone who’s spent many a holiday up in North India, where the hill towns have a similar feel. The food in Pokhara however? World class! Nepali Kitchen, across from my hotel had the freshest momos I’ve eaten, and I was served the Nepali Thaali by the shyest, sweetest young server. Med5 with its sun-strewn interiors and views of the lake was a perfect spot for brunch and post-trek, I made the most of its extensive menu – from momos to pizzas, and even the best burgers, this side of the border.  Another great spot for a meal is Moondance Restaurant, dimly lit and full of secluded corner tables, its Chinese fare was quite a good break from all the continental food I’d been consuming. And with that my three days in the lake city came to an end.

My 30-minute flight back may have been delayed by five (excruciating) hours, I didn’t see everything I wanted to see in Pokhara, I didn’t get to do all the things I wanted to – but I did meet a sweet boy who juggles work and college, who took me on a trek, the day of his exam (he made it in time); I did see my beautiful mountains even if not as close as I wished, and I did get the time to sit back, relax and watch the sun set in one of the prettiest, most hospitable places I’ve been to recently. The birds chirped, and I smiled. And for now, that is more than enough. Until we meet again, then, Pokhara.

Fact file
Location: Pokhara, Nepal
Getting there: Direct flights from Kathmandu (30-minute flight), driving distance from Ktm 204Kms approx
Best time to visit: September – November
Visit: Sarangkot, Tal Varahi Temple, Rupa Tal, Barahi Temple, International Mountain Museum
To do: Trek to Annapurna and Ghandruk from Pokhara, Paragliding, Skydiving, Ultra-light Flying, Rafting

*The city has a humid subtropical climate, the elevation makes the temperature moderate. It rains frequently through the year