Sri Raghavendra Stores Malleshwaram Bangalore

One of my fond memories during my engineering days at MSRIT, Bangalore was belting ‘Station Idly-Vada’ after college at Sri Raghavendra Stores – in fact couple of my friends have spent more time here than in the engineering labs😛

Sri Raghavendra Stores, a modest little place outside the Malleshwaram Railway Station has been serving baby-soft idlys, crispy vadas and delicious chow chow bath (combination of kesari bath and khara bath) and shavige bath (south-Indian version of rice noodles) since 1970’s completing the holy-trinity of south-Indian breakfast places in Malleshwaram with CTR and Veena Stores.

The menu has only 6 items – Idly Vada, Shavige Bath, Chow Chow Bath, Coffee, Tea and Kashaya (a herbal drink, which is a concoction of aromatic spices – the healthy substitute to tea/coffee) and everything served here are absolutely delicious:)

Chow Chow Bath:

Yes, you don’t get them separately😛  In-fact this is their most sold item on the menu followed by Idly Vada.

Chow Chow Bath (Kesari Bath + Khara Bath) at Sri Raghavendra Stores Malleshwaram, Bangalore

Yin and Yang Deliciousness:)

Idly Vada:

Soft-idlis that melt once they hit your mouth and the hot-crispy vada with the chutney makes it complete. Don’t forget to ask for extra butter while ordering the Idly-Vada, the taste is worth the calories😀

The coffee is ok, not great, but perfect to wash down the food.

Idly Vada at Sri Raghavendra Stores Malleshwaram, Bangalore

One of the best Idly Vada in Bangalore:)

Useful Information:

  • Only Chutney is served – No Sambar (You will be banished if you ask for sambar)
  • Self Service: no dedicated place to sit and eat
  • Cash only , no cards are accepted
  • Timings 6am to 11am and 4pm to 9pm (Open all days of the week)
  • Prepaid Food system and they parcel as well
  • Location:  Sri Raghavendra Stores, near Malleshwaram Railway Station, Bangalore

Amit Tea Corner Domlur Bangalore

Amit Tea Corner is not the typical corner chai-shop that serves tea in mini plastic cups out of a flask, although it definitely looks like one. In addition to the fresh-brewed ginger tea, they serve an array of fresh foods ranging from home-made samosas (onion and potato-based), bread omlette, bread pakora, puri sabji and even full-blown mid-day meals.

Ginger Tea & Onion Samosas:

Amit, the owner of the shop has nailed the method to prepare Ginger-flavored milk tea with the right balance of the ingredients, he says it’s the way it’s prepared that brings out the best flavor in addition to the proportion of the ingredients.

Samosas, the perfect complement to tea. All the samosas served are made fresh at the shop and not delivered by a 3rd-party vendor. I prefer the onion samosa over the aloo (potato-based) samosa purely because of the crunchiness.

Ginger Tea with Onion Samosas at Amit Tea Corner Domlur Bengaluru

Ginger Tea and Onion Samosas – The best evening snack :)

Stuffed Bread Pakora:

Another favorite snack with tea, its bread stuffed with mashed potatoes, dipped in besan and deep-fried – served with tomato ketchup, freshly-made pudina chutney and chillies – best relished on rainy days:)

Bread Pakora at Amit Tea Corner Domlur Bengaluru

Bread Pakora – for the rainy days !!

Bread Omlette:

My anytime meal-snack – I love it !!

Bread Omlette with ginger tea at at Amit Tea Corner Domlur Bengaluru

Bread Omlette !!

Vada Pav:

Its not the authentic Maharashtrian vada-pav, but tastes good – the pudina chuntey smeared inside the pav and the green chillies pack the punch.

Vada Pav at Amit Tea Corner in Domlur Bangalore

Vada Pav

Useful Information:

  • Timings: 8 am to 10 pm (open all days)
  • Cash only, no cards are accepted
  • Location: Amit Tea Corner, Domlur (Opposite Domlur Post Office) Bengaluru
  • No place to sit – stand and sip the tea
  • No dedicated car or motorcycle parking (lot of by-lanes to park nonetheless)

Most of the customers smoke and drink tea, one can avoid the passive smoking by savoring the tea at the opposite end of the shop. If you are looking for a quick-snack over a delicious cup of tea and indifferent to the ambiance, Amit Tea Corner will not disappoint you.

Meenakshi Bhavan Shimoga

The joy of discovering simple, hygienic and delicious food while travelling is unparalleled. Meenakshi Bhavan, a quaint wood log restaurant has been serving delicious vegetarian south-Indian breakfast and lunch for over 80 years.

Started by Mr. Srinivas Iyer in the 1930s – now run by his son, Meenakshi Bhavan has turned into a household name in Shimoga for dosas, paddu (a dish made by steaming batter similar to idli or dosa in a hollow-mould) and kadabu idly.

Masala Dosa

Their most popular item on the menu –crispy masala dosa and the stuffed potato bhaji with chutney are lip-smacking.

Masala Dosa at Meenakshi Bhavan Shivamogga

Delicious Dosa !!

Kadabu Idly

Soft and delicious steamed idly complemented by traditional south-Canara chutney and sambar.

Kadabu Idly at Meenakshi Bhavan Shivamogga

Kadabu Idly – As soft as they get:)

Paddu

A common breakfast item across Karnataka, made with the dosa batter with spices, veggies – paddu is also know by different names such as  paniyaram, appe, guliappa, gulittu, gundponglu etc

Paddu at Meenakshi Bhavan Shivamogga

Paddu aka Guliappa aka Paniyaram

Chilled Horlicks

Horlicks + milk + sugar all come together and served chilled – fantastic way to beat the summer with nourishment😀 (Note to all the moms who have a tough time feeding healthy drinks to their kids :P)

Meenakshi Bhavan Shivamogga

Meenakshi Bhavan

Useful Information:

  • Timings: 7 am to 8 pm (All days of the week)
  • Breakfast : 7 am to 12 pm and 430 pm to 8 pm (Meals are served only during the noon)
  • Cash only
  • Parking – Yes (lot of by lanes to park the cars)
  • Location (Google maps link) –  Meenakshi Bhavan, BH Road, Tank Mohalla, Shivamogga

Upstairs Fort Kochi

Delicious Italian food, soulful live guitar and majestic views of Santa Cruz Basilica all come together at Upstairs, a restaurant serving authentic Italian food in the bustling lanes of Fort Kochi.

Started by Fabio Battistetti in 2008, Upstairs serves dishes from Milan and Northern Italy so brace-up to find terms such as ‘Guazzetto’, ‘Schiaciatta’, ‘Involtini’, ‘Affogato’ etc. etc. in the menu – so do not hesitate to ask what they mean while ordering and they happily oblige:)

Here is a brief guide to the Italian meal structure in order to come-to terms with the menu😛

  • Aperitif – drinks typically alcoholic such as vermouth, champagne, gin etc served before a meal
  • Antipasto (Plural: Antipasti) – The Appetizer or before the meal
  • Insalate – Salads/Greens are referred as ‘Insalate’ (Typically they are a sub-set of the Antipasti menu)
  • Primo – known as the ‘first course’ includes food such as pastas, pizzas, risotto, gnocchi (thick soft dough dumplings)
  • Secondi – the ‘second course’ aka ‘main course’ aka ‘meat course’ of the meal usually fish or meat (mutton, beef, chicken)
  • Dolce – translates to ‘sweet’ or ‘Dessert course’ of the meal
  • Digestif – consumed at the end of the meal to aid digestion such as smooth whiskies like bourbon, port, sherry etc and liqueur

We were full so couldn’t cover the entire range of dishes and went with the usual suspects (pizzas & pastas).

Onion, Bell Pepper and Mushroom Pizza:

Its very hard to go wrong with a 3-topping thin-crust pizza which is laced with cheese and tomato-based sauce – simply delicious!!

Onion Bell Pepper and Mushroom Pizza at Upstairs Fort Kochi

Onion Bell Pepper and Mushroom Pizza

Tomato and Fresh Basil Spaghetti:

Simple flavors come together to create magic – one of the most delicious veg pastas I have tasted!!

Tomato and Basil Pasta at Upstairs Fort Kochi

Tomato and Basil Pasta – Delicious:)

Useful Information:

  • Timings: 11 am to 10:30 pm (All days of the week)
  • No alcohol
  • Cash only, cards seldom work in most cafes at Fort Kochi
  • Live Music in the evenings only
  • Ask for the Day’s Special (its usually not on the menu)
  • Pricey place , but absolutely worth the taste
  • Location (Google maps link) –  Upstairs Fort Kochi

Baker’s Cafe Gangtok Sikkim

There is something about food in mountain cafes, simplest of food tastes so better – must be the mountain air and water. Baker’s Café is one of the oldest and most popular cafes to eat in Gangtok, famous for pastas, muffins and pastries.

Black Forest Pastry:

It has to be the fresh cream whipped in mountain air that makes the difference – absolutely delicious:)

Black Forest Pastry at Baker's Cafe Gangtok

The best Black Forest Pastry in Gangtok !!

Hazelnut Latte and Penne Olio-e-Aglio Pasta:

The hazelnut latte has to be the coffee to sip on in Gangtok and the Olio-e-Aglio pasta, modified to suit the Indian palate complimented the latte very well.

Hazelnut Latte with Penne Olio-e-Aglio Pasta at Baker's Cafe Gangtok

Hazelnut Latte and Penne Olio-e-Aglio – complements perfectly!!

Muffins:

We tried an assortment of muffins and my personal favorite is the blueberry-muffin, unfortunately the chocolate-muffin didn’t live up to its delicious-looks. The Apple crumble was a disappointment😦

Assorted-Muffins with Apple Crumble at Baker's Cafe Gangtok

Muffins:)

Spaghetti with Mushroom Veg Pasta:

The pasta sauce with mushrooms was delicious, however the spaghetti was cooked without the salt, so it was a bit of a bummer!!

Spaghetti with Red Sauce and Mushroom at Baker's Cafe Gangtok

Spaghetti with Red Sauce and Mushroom – Veg

Useful Information:

  • Timings 8 am to 8 pm (Open all days of the week)
  • Location: Baker’s Cafe Mahatma Gandhi Marg Gangtok, Sikkim
  • Contact Number: 03592 220 195
  • No dedicated parking for motorcycles in MG Marg (it’s a no-vehicle zone)
  • Mode of Payment: stick to cash, cards sometimes don’t work

If you are in Gangtok and craving for some pastries, Baker’s Café wont disappoint you:)

Moto Store and Cafe Ulsoor Bangalore

Food tastes better when you eat it with fellow motorcyclists ‘ – With the increasing number of people taking up motorcycling in India, motorcycle-themed cafes have become the ideal hangout for motorcyclists and motorcycle clubs to host their members.

Moto Store and Cafe was started in 2015 by fellow motorcyclists Nakul, Abhijith, Vishal and Aashish. They sell a full-range of motorcycle gear and accessories store along with a cafe serving delicious pizzas, nibbles and coffee.

Margarita Pizza

Simple flavors (tomato + cheese) come together on a wheat-based thin crust pizza base to make this delicious pizza – an absolute must try!!

Margarita Pizza at Moto Store and Cafe Bangalore

Healthiest Margarita in town !!

Curd Crunchy Roll

A beautiful assortment of soft center made of curd with spices, chilies wrapped in a deep fried crunchy outer cocoon with rich mayo and mint chutney – slurrrrp!!

Crispy Crunch Curd Rolls at Moto Store and Cafe Bangalore

Crispy Crunch Curd Rolls – Delicious!!

Veg Exotica Pizza

A delicious wheat-base pizza with exotic veggies such as olives, bell pepper and jalapenos.

Veg Exotica Pizaa at Moto Store and Cafe Bangalore

Veg Exotica Pizza

Nachos with Salsa

The perfect snack for those hours and hours of talk with fellow motorcyclists.

Nachos with Salsa at Moto Store and Cafe Bangalore

Nachos with Salsa – the perfect snack during a MotoGP race!!

Useful Information:

  • Timings: 11 am to 11 pm
  • Pet Friendly & No Liquor
  • Smoking Allowed (Separate section for smoking)
  • Ample parking for motorcycles (Psst! – I wish you guys would wash and detail the motorcycles while we relish the food upstairs)
  • Mode of payment: Cash and Cards [They even accept credit (motorcycles) :P]
  • Only Veg food

PS: They are soon launching ‘Moto Breakfast‘ – an easy to carry breakfast for motorcyclists for those weekend getaway rides  :)

Delicious nibbles to munch and great place to meet fellow motorcyclists – A perfect place to watch MotoGP over weekend with buddies!!

Ride De Bhutan

Bhutan is easily the 2nd most likely place to tour on every Indian motorcyclist’s bucket-list next to the breathtaking Ladakh and I had to explore for myself the much-heard hospitality of the Bhutanese, their food and why they measure success with GHI (Gross Happiness Index) as opposed to GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Until 2014, Bhutan & Nepal were the only countries an Indian motorcyclist could enter via-land, the recent inclusion being Myanmar that has opened up access to Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia etc.

KTM Duke 390 touring in Bhutan

Serene Bhutan – best relished on a motorcycle:)

 

Original RedBull or Thai RedBull in Bhutan with my Arai Quantum 2 helmet

The Original RedBull – 3 times stronger than the Indian version😀

Motorcycles:

  • Hero Impulse
  • Hero Karizma
  • KTM Duke 390
Hero Karizma, Hero Impulse and KTM Duke 390 at Dochula in Bhutan

Flawless Performance -Not a Single Breakdown during our ride:)      At Dochula Pass (10,171 ft)

Ride Preparation:

We kept the motorcycles stock since the chances of things going wrong reduce drastically – additions include:

  • USB Charger
  • Auxiliary Throttle & Clutch cables that ran in parallel to the OE (in order for us to switch)
  • Tyre Slime
  • Rotopax Fuel Can of 8 liter capacity for the Duke 390

Securing Immigration & Motorcycle Permits:

Phuntsholing is the most accessible and popular entry point from India to secure the permits for us and the motorcycles – both of which ‘CANNOT’ be applied in advance or online. They need to be secured in person at the Immigration Office for the traveler and the immigration permit should be produced at the RSTA (Road Safety & Transport Authority) office to get the motorcycle permit.

Immigration Permit for Indian National:

The process is very simple and there is NO fees required to secure the permit/visa.

Documents Required:

  • Original Passport or Voter ID
  • 2 passport size photographs
  • Photocopies of the above (carry at-least 3 copies)

Note: In-case one doesn’t have the above documents – he/she has to go to the Indian Embassy to secure an ‘Identification Slip’ that should be produced at the Immigration office.

Fees: Nil

Procedure:

  • Step 1 : Fill the Immigration Form (very basic form- easy to fill)
  • Step 2: Stand-in-line for Document Verification & Fingerprint + Retina scan check
  • Step 3: Receive the Immigration permit document for valid for 7 days (In order to extend this – one has to do that in Thimphu)

Time Required: 2 to 3 hours

Note:

Get the Immigration permits stamped at the check-posts and DO NOT forget to surrender the original immigration permit while exiting Bhutan – in-case you dont surrender , a heavy fine would be imposed the next-time you enter Bhutan

Motorcycle Permit:

This can be applied at the RSTA (Regional Safety and Transport Authority) office only ‘after’ the Immigration permit is done – One complete day is required to complete both the immigration and motorcycle permit.

Documents Required:

  • Registration Certificate (Original & Photocopy)
  • Insurance of the motorcycle (Original & Photocopy)
  • Emission Certificate (Original & Photocopy)
  • Driving Licence (Original & Photocopy)

Fees: 70 INR/BNT per motorcycle

Procedure:

  • Step 1: Fill the form with motorcycle details (Registration, Chassis number, owner details etc)
  • Step 2: Attach the photocopies of motorcycle documents (Registration Certificate, Insurance, Driving License and Emission certificate)
  • Step 3: Pay a fee of 70 INR/BNT as Road tax for each motorcycle and submit this to the RSTA officer

Time Required: 1 hour

Note:

  1. Recommend that the Immigration Permit holder and the motorcycle owner are the same
  2. Fill a single-form for multiple motorcycles if and only if all the motorcycles will exit Bhutan at the same time – if not fill out individual forms/each motorcycle
Actual Figure toys in Bhutan

Super Cool:)

Useful Information:

  • Currency:

Do not exchange INR to Bhutanese currency (BTN) – INR is accepted even in the remote corners of Bhutan, but the change tendered would be BTN. INR to BTN Conversion is 1:1 (which means 100 INR is equivalent to 100 BTN)

  • Riding in Bhutan:
    • Traffic Rules are actual rules that people follow unlike in India – No cutting lanes, speed limit is 50km/hr (speed interceptors on major roads such as Phuntsholing to Paro and Paro to Thimphu) jumping signals and yes always stop to let the pedestrian cross the road.
    • Helmet for the pillion is mandatory
    • Overtake Indication: Switching-On the ‘Right’ indicator means you are asking the vehicle behind to overtake (which is the vice-versa of how we do in south-India)
  • Generic Stuff:
    • Get a local SIM (TashiCell) – Indian SIMs do not work unless you have an international roaming and having a Bhutanese Mobile Number is required to call hotels for accommodation  – A copy of the Immigration permit is required to secure a local SIM card
    • Smoking is an absolute NO in the public – consequences of public smoking start with being jailed
    • Food: Extremely spicy – insist on less spice while ordering.  Try the cafes in Paro & Phuntsholing – you wont be dissapointed:)
    • Shopping – Sports Shoes, the most varied collection of sports shoes from Nike, Adidas, and Asics can be found in Thimphu (Norlim Zam street) and prices beat any of the mega-discount deals of Indian e-commerce sites. North Face, Patagonia & Timberland fans, Norlim Zam is the Wall Street for adventure gear and boots.
    • Tiger Nest Monastery, Paro – absolute must-visit – worth the trek (one can also hire a donkey to ascend halfway – rates are regularized at 660/person)
Trek to Tiger Nest Monastery, Bhutan

Yours Truly, Vaishak and Vijay – Trek to the Tiger Nest Monastery

  • Stay:
    • December is the off-season (so accommodation doesn’t need prior booking). Highly advise to call the next place of accommodation to ask for a discount and they do offer them (Use your Bhutanese SIM to call instead of your Indian number – in North Bhutan they don’t answer calls from other numbers.)
    • Ask your friends/acquaintances who will visit Bhutan to take pics with the hotel owner (This helps to make a case and bargain – which works only in off-season though). However during the Tourist Season (Sept to Nov and March to June) – Prior booking is a must.
    • Average Cost of stay (for 3 guys/night) – 2,000 INR
Punaka to Wangdue Phodrang - KTM Duke 390

Beautiful Vistas – Enroute to Punaka

Motorcycle Transport:

We got our motorcycles transported via GatiKWE from Bangalore and thanks to the immaculate packing and assistance from Mr.Yatish (manager at GatiKWE warehouse in Peenya, Blore) the motorcycles reached Siliguri  without any damage.

Highly recommend to approach him for transporting motorcycles from Bangalore – Mr. Yatish can be reached at +919845348829 or +918867705999

Route:

Although our original route included Sikkim, we couldn’t go beyond Gangtok – since the Home Ministry office which issues motorcycle permits to North & East Sikkim was closed for a week (Dec 12 to Dec 18) due to Buddhist festival.

Bangalore > Siliguri > Darjeeling > Gangtok > Sevoke (along River Teesta) > Mal Bazar > Jaigoan > Phuentsholing > Paro > Thimphu > Punakha > Wangdue Phodrang > Trongsa > Jakar > Trongsa > Wangdue Phodrang > Haracha > Sarpang > Gelephu > Bongaigoan > Guwahati > Farakka > Kolkatta > Bhubaneshwar > Puri > Srikakulam > Vizag > Araku > Rajamahendravaram > Kurnool > Bangalore

Total Distance: 4,500 kms

Fantastic road from Wangdue Phodrang to Gelephu in Bhutan

Motorcyclist’s Delight -Wangdue Phodrang to Gelephu Bhutan