\

Chettinad – the heart of Tamil Nadu

Chettinad is kind of a holiday. Simple life, villages, small markets and great food. Chettinad cuisine is considered one of the finest in India, even tough it is not as well known as the Hyderabadi-, or North Indian cuisine. Fact is that the use of spices is nowhere as complex as here. Thats why we decided to put a big table into the kitchen so you can chat with the chefs directly, while enjoying your lunch. Just make sure you stay at Visalam.

Being here is taking a cycle and ride trough the quite village lanes, to visit small local handicrafts, where they show you how a Sari is woven, or at another place how floor tiles are made. Having a stroll trough the weekly market is another really happy experience. Chitchat with the banana seller and marvel at the variety of veggies at offer. Of course even here in Chettinad there is no escape from Shiva, but why would you, after all, he has so many forms. Here in the villages, he is worshipped at Ayyanar the protector of the fields. He rides a horse and not his Nandi bull as usual. And his temples are really worth a visit. The shrines are simple, and the entrance is kind of cute. Lines of funnily grinning terra cotta horses line the way to the shrine. They are offered by the communities each year as a thank you for a good harvest.

And of course if you come to stay with us at Visalam, we make sure that your experiences and excursions are guided by our local story tellers, because how else would you get that authentic flavour you are looking for?

In Chettinad stay at: http://www.cghearth.com/visalam

Bandipur – picture postcard beautiful

Nestled high on a ridge between the lowlands on the Ganges plains and the highest mountains on earth is the prosperous and car free village on Bandipur.

DSCF5161
IMG_2713

If you like to see the village life of Nepal without trekking for days into the mountains, this is the place to do so. Bandipur is ideally located just a few Kilometers off the highway between Kathmandu and Pokhara. It offers fantastic views of the mountains, rice terraced fields and a splendid view of the rolling hills towards the plains in the South. The village is car free and the paved road is lined by cute Cafes and traditional houses. Its a treat to observe the kids on their way to school while sipping a fine coffee in the morning, their laughter and joy filling the air. You can also opt for the quite version and sit on the roof terrace of your lodge and marvel at the mighty Himalayas rising mighty and tall in the North. Marvel at the morning light painting their peaks in a thousand shades of blues, oranges and reds, a sight you are most likely never to forget. A little stroll down from the village takes you to the sports ground from where you have the most an unobstructed view of the Himalaya range from Dhalagiri, Annapurna up to Manaslu. Each of these giant, massive peaks reaching heights above 8000 Meters, while you stand at the humble altitude of 1400 Meters. At your feet there is a drop of 400 Meters that eventually opens up into the Marsyangdi Valley, one of the most fertile areas of Nepal. This is where Nepal truly unfolds its picture postcard beauty.

If you decide to see this place I suggest you spend at least 2 nights to imbibe yourself with its local traditions and natural beauty.

Ramkot

There is a fantastic day program to the quaint and traditional village of Ramkot. The path takes you for about two and a half hour along the ridge with not much elevation to conquer. The village is a happy bunch of farmhouses that offer great insights into the daily life of the local community. A small cafe at the end of the village offers a nice hot meal, a beer and spectacular views of the mountains. The beauty of this excursion is that you have two different paths with different views. Both are in their way breath taking beautiful, on the Northern side you see the Himalaya view and on the southern side there is are splendid views of the plains.

S0251039

We stayed at the Ghaughar Lodge, located on the main road in the center of the Village. Our room offered the most amazing view of the mountains. The lodge has been built into a traditional house without disturbing the original structure. It is a prime example of an eco friendly and sustainable approach to offer traditions with modern comforts. The food is yummy and the staff very friendly and helpful. The lodge in itself offers an insight into the local culture and traditions.

Note: the area of Bandipur has not been affected by the Earthquake in April 2015

DSCF6222

A nice small restaurant has come up in Ramkot

Second Impression Nepal – Heading west

Heading west to Bandipur

To get a clearer picture of Nepal we decided to head west towards Pokhara and Upper Mustang. Leaving the Valley on Motorbike riding on the “wrong” side of the road amidst heavy traffic is no small feat. Tackling black fume belching trucks working themselves up to the valley rim that engulf you with their smelly clouds has been one of Nepals less savoury trade marks since my first travel in 1983. But all in all we managed to get out of the valley into the clean, green country side. The road of course is loaded with trucks, no wonder, after all this is the most important supply route from and to India.

To our surprise the road is in great condition and no sign of a Quake or damage at all. We ride between trucks and buses up to Mugling, from where the road heads off towards Pokhara and traffic reduces to a trickle. Finally we turn into the small mountain road to Bandipur that winds itself up the slope, much like the mountain roads back home in Switzerland.

Badipur is village life at its best. A very clean, small and prosperous village on a  ridge high above the plains one side and a splendid Himalayan view on the other. It is a must see place while traveling to Nepal. The Lodge, Gaun Ghar is simple, but has all one needs in a place like this. Great food, friendly staff, nice clean rooms with attached bathrooms and a great view of the Himalayas, if they don’t hide behind masses of clouds, like now during Monsoon time.

One can do nice walks to nearby villages, climb up to a temple and watch the life go by on the village road. Imagine, Bandipur is like Zermatt in Switzerland – a car free zone, which make a stay here even more pleasant.

Simple kitchen in Indian Village

Simple kitchen in Indian Village

Simplicity, freshness and nature are the main ingredients for cooking in this simple Kitchen in Periyar, India

Village life, Rajasthan, India

Village life, Rajasthan, India

Its a hard life, Tibet, 1992

Its a hard life, Tibet, 1992

In the early 90ties, when I tok some groups to Tibet, we had a very funny episode in one of the villages we had stopped, involving the ladies from the village and one of the tourists of my group. The lady from my group was (forgive my words) a bit on the healthier side and brought along for convenient travel plenty of leggings and T-shirts. Her full figure, leggings and T-shirt made her look a bit like the female version of the Michelin man.

To our surprise, the ladies of the village gathered around her in wonder and amongst lots of giggles stared slapping and poking her. Especially her behind and other slightly over proportionate and independent moving parts. To them, this display of physical wealth seemed a source of delight. Quite understandably so, as they were all small, skinny and toughened by their daily hardships. In a life with hardly any sugar, saturated fat or any other source of nourishment for that matter, there is no such thing as obesity. The life of a tibetan farmer is a tough Karma, even if we bring along sometimes a bit of pleasure with our full frame xxl shapes, spoilt and sick by over eating and a perpetual life of gluttony.