Nov 12, 2016

Bougainvillea inspiration, just like the English picket fence

Growing up on a staple read of rich English literature, my world of imagination has memories of  'an overgrown hedge of pink bougainvillea climbing over a white picket fence', one I cherish very dearly. An image of my juvenile mind that I keep experimenting with even today.

How often have I romanticize a steaming cup of tea under the shadow of this overgrown pink hedge, ah! the drama...


I've had a couple of bougainvillea plants at my home for nearly over a decade, ones that have matured into healthy seasonal plants, which I will doctor to transform into a dreamy English hedge as my inspiration stems from there for this winter. My attempts are to get closest possible to the visual image of this European Countryside. A project I injected this summer, re-arranged my terrace garden to create my dream ambiance.

First I set up the support for the hedge with some zig-zag wire lines crisscrossing over the open face of our terrace, hoping that this will enable the young shoots to get play while they follow the lines as they grow. Wont it be amazing to stand under a pink bougainvillea sky?


Next, I used the sides of my Red Door to support the climb for my mature plants. Gave the bottom half of the plants some good snips. I allowed these plants to soak in the monsoon moisture all through last season of rain and as each new off-shoot grew, the ones around the red door got their trim in order for the plants height to grow. I used the newer shoots to twirl around the zig-zag line so  that I get closest to my desired hedge formation as the season of bloom nears.


Like they say, patience is a virtue of success. For me, the results thus far are quiet encouraging. Here is the view of my mini bougainvillea hedge as the first blooms surface. I am quiet looking forward for this entire season to make that English dream come true!


Stay with the me through this season as I bring alive many more posts through the S2S chronicles.

Xoxo,
S2S       

Oct 22, 2016

Diwali in Assam- the most mystic moments captured in my soul!

It is a throwback post, one which I have waited to write for a year now! Last year, we traveled to Assam for our Diwali break and fortunately experienced #Diwali exploring through rural villages of #Kaziranga.
Clay lamps adorn the outhouse of a Tea Estate in Kaziranga
Our able guides Bumani & Bablu drove us to nooks and corners of these villages where time seemed like it had stood still! Simple homes many of which were clay huts, clustered together into small hamlets, showed us how beautifully these communities celebrate the festival of lights.
Crossing lit homes that faced the tarred road highways.
As we cruised through the tarred highway in an open gypsy, we soaked in the enthralling view of the dark canopy star-filled Sky that interspersed into warm lit clusters of villages. As the drive continued we encountered numerous highway facing homes adorned with banana stalks spread across each of these home entrances with people hovering around carrying earthen lamps. Occasionally some dazzling fire crackers caught the eye making it an enjoyable drive ever. Almost felt like the magic carpet ride from the animation film Aladin!

An inviting clay lamp lit entrance of a village hamlet in the rural village of Kaziranga.
Exploring through each home when we stopped at various villages we got to know how this festival is celebrated between not just the Hindu Assamese homes but also in the Gurkha as well as the Muslim households of this region.

Here are some glimpses of these beautifully done up hamlets.

A young lady lights up lamps laid out beautifully on the makeshift banana plant entrance, unique decor of the Assamese home.
A newly married lady asses her decor after she's lit her lamps at her home.
An elderly lady refills her lamps to keep them burning through the long evening.

A curious look at the unannounced guests who are hovering around her house, this lady seems intrigued by my presence around her home!
Living in busy and commercial cities like Mumbai, participating with these welcoming people of rural India makes you stop and wonder, how quickly we are dissolving our heritage under the garb of commercial growth!

A topic that has no end and while I relive my beautiful moments of Assam, happy to share them with you through my posts on the Sensuous2Spiritual chronicles.

Xoxo,
S2S

Feb 18, 2016

Coastal India Series- Destination Poovar, the stunning estuary of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala

Estuary is the tidal mouth of a large river, where the tides from the ocean meets the river stream and forms a transition zone between river environments and maritime environments provide high levels of nutrients both in the water column and in sediment, making estuaries among the most productive natural habitats.

I had heard of this term for the first time when I was researching our stay at Kovalam. Poovar happens to be a small waterfront hamlet along the River Neyyar which flows through this hamlet and drains into the Arabian Sea. Poovar is a 75kms drive from Kovalam and has many luxury accommodations including the Club Mahindra properties.

To enjoy this magnificent destination one has to take a backwater cruise. There are many Boat Companies that ply this trip and you get a choice of boats (Motor boat, Country boat or a Shikara) to choose from for your cruise. You can book your trip online as well. Usually the ride is for a couple of hours with a 30 minute stop at the golden sandy beach of the estuary.

Backwater, Poovar, Sunset Cruise, Kerala

My son plays captain of the ship in our traditional houseboat on the Neyyar river


We sailed out in a typical Kerala House Boat that swayed through dense mangrove waterways that were home to many exotic marine birds. A slow and winding ride which occasionally interspersed with fishing villages that had their respective boats parked on either sides of the banks brought us closer to our final destination. Indeed was an interesting view to hold.

Neyyar river, backwater cruise, poovar estuary

Parked boats along the river bank of Neyyar River


Neyyar river, backwater cruise, poovar estuary

Young boys from the nearby hamlets have a playful time while we sway through the curves to our destination.


Every hamlet would have people carrying out daily chores along the banks and kids swimming in the water while the elders performed their duties. At a distance we could see vast and fairly empty winding roads that had an occasional motorbike whisk past with a pile-on rider that reminded you that modern civilization is just around the corner. As we were on a sunset cruise many of the images were merely silhouettes!

Neyyar river, backwater cruise, poovar estuary

Silhouette of the not so far-off city life!


Navigating through our winding water paths we finally surfaced on a much wider water expanse. Clearly a space where more flowing tributaries merged in therefore making the waterscape look wider & bigger. As we were done with discussing this point, at a distance not very far, we could see some broken patches of golden sand with interspersed spray of surf. My son jumped with excitement knowing very well it was beach time again!

Neyyar river, backwater cruise, poovar estuary

Finally at the estuary where the river meets the salty ocean.


Indeed was. We alighted at this spot only to realise that the small golden patch was a really large stretch and a majority of this bank was wedging into the ocean. The setting sun cast a golden hue on the shimmering sand and it was a visual treat like never before! Each wave would've been twice my height and interestingly the mixing of the waters added to the heaviness of the waves, perhaps!

Neyyar river, backwater cruise, poovar estuary

Sonny boy and me race up the beach to feel the waves.


It was kind of scary while we watched but I am sure if we were surfers we'd have jumped right in and have ridden these waves!

We spent the next half hour soaking in the beauty, playing with the waves and somewhere feeling very thankful to God for having seen such a beautiful natural wonder. The setting sun perhaps never looked as radiant and left its lasting orange in the skies for a long while even after it had set.

As the sun sets it leaves behind the orange hue.


The perfect shot where the sunset is in progess while the moon gives a quick glimpse against the orange sky


With this we got back into our respective water machines and headed back to shore where the vacation still had a promise, a promise of exploring some more and as for me, a secret desire to be back here again, very soon.

Sensuous2Spiritual Recommends:

  • Stay at Poovar if you have never experienced the estuary. I plan to do that for sure during my next visit!
  • Take a traditional Kerala Houseboat ride and feel the local ways of living through the backwaters.
  • Carry swimwear. It is way too tempting to not get into water. 
  • Have a set of good binoculars handy and if you are into photography then this should be paradise.
  • Drink 'chaya' ~ hot tea by the waterside stalls. Is a fun experience to have.
  • Ask your boatman to play some good Malyalee songs. Adds to the ambience!          

Important Tip:

Don't forget to carry some mosquito repellent cream for your ride back. It gets dark and notorious for mosquitoes. The only drawback if you are on a sunset cruise.

Silhouette of the upstream ride after the sunset.


As we approach some of the hamlets, now closer to our parking bay!


More on the Sensuous2Spiritual Coastal India Series

Stay tuned for more and until then leave me with you comments. It could be about your own experiences while touring these places, recommendations or simply some kind words that will shower love for Sensuous2Spiritual! :)

Xoxo,
S2S

   

Feb 17, 2016

Coastal India Series- Destination Kovalam, in the state of Kerala

Kovalam is a beach town by the Arabian Sea in the city of Thiruvananthapuram. Kovalam literally means a grove of coconut trees, which is reflective of this town from every possible angle.

Kovalam, Beach, Kerala, Fishing Boats, Vacation

Fishing boats parked at the Kovalam Beach in the backdrop of the famous Kovalam Coconut Groves

Originally a quaint fishing village, it was discovered by the Regent Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi of Travancore in the 1920's. She constructed her beach resort Halcyon Castle in this quaint coconut grove village which eventually became a popular tourist destination; owing to the Hippy movement that was headed to Ceylon in the early 1970's. Kovalam has ever since become a popular International Beach destination and fairly known in the travel circuits.

Every morning and evening the fishermen come to the beach, build their canoe and sail out to sea for their prized catch. They also take tourists for snorkelling trips on a clear weather.

Fishermen construct their canoe for their evening fishing schedule.

Kovalam beach, Juma Mazjid, Leela Palace Kovalam

Fishing in progress at the Kovalam Beach with a partial view of the Juma Mazjid


While at Kovalam being a beach bum is absolutely necessary, hence one can find exotic luxury resorts to beautiful homestays near the beach quite easily. There are 3 distinct beaches at the 17 kms Kovalam beach stretch- Lighthouse Beach, Hawa Beach and Samudra Beach.

Apart from the beaches, Kovalam is also popular for its Kerala Ayurvedic Massages and it is a must have on your itinerary. Many of the stay options come with exotic massage packages and if you don't already have one included definitely try out one from a recommended source.


Sensuous2Spiritual Recommends:

  1. 'PIZHICHIL' massage at the Leela Kovalam Spa, a 60 minutes relaxation technique where pieces of cloth dipped in warm medicated oil are squeezed by hand continually and uniformly over the body from a defined height as skillful hands simultaneously massage the oil into the skin. This treatment increases blood circulation, nourishing muscles and nerve tissues to provide a rejuvenating effect.
  2. Snorkel along the Kovalam reef with the Kerala Adventure Tourism Promotion Society. These trips begin from the lighthouse beach and is a great way to experience the aquatic life which includes Scuba Diving trips.
  3. Hire a fisherman canoe at the beach and experience the fisherman's life at sea. You will find them early mornings and again closer to sunset. Just walk up to them and ask for the ride of your life. :) 
  4. Walk/cycle along the village roads and experience the local life of the Kovalam habitat along the fishing net clad homes, a distinct coastal Kerala feature.
  5. 'Deepam Deepam', a traditional ritual of Kerala homes when they light the 'Nilavilakku' ~ tall lamp every morning & evening irrespective of the religion they follow. It is believed that lighting this lamp at both these times brings in knowledge and wealth. The ritual followed in the evening is a sight to behold. A local friend would be of great help for experienvcing one of these! :)      
    This lamp is lit twice a day, once early in the morning and again early evening. It is believed that lighting this lamp bring knowledge and wealth to their homes.

    Nilavilakku, a tall lamp that is lit twice in all traditional Malyali Homes


    Important Tip:

    Being a tourist hot-spot, the prices of almost everything is increased by ~150%. Do keep your negotiation skills handy. Helps many times! :)

    Things to do keeping Kovalam as the stay destination:

    There are many day excursions that can be planned if you are staying at Kovalam. Infact exploring Thiruvananthapuram while staying at Kovalam is a good plan. You can also take trips to the following places while at Kovalam:

    • Thiruvallam- Parasurama Temple, 2000-year-old temple on the banks of the River Karamana. 
    • Vizhinjam- 2kms from Kovalam, explore the Fishing Village, Rock-cut Cave Temple, Marine Aquarium
    • Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary has a picturesque dam site serving as its gateway and is a popular picnic spot, which comes with a watch-tower, crocodile farm, lion safari park and deer park. Boating facilities are available at the reservoir along with an elephant rehabilitation centre at Kottoor situated nearby ~ 45 km
    • Ponmudi, an idyllic hill station ~ 75 km
    • Varkala, a calm and quiet hamlet, lies on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram district ~ 65 km
    • Kanyakumari at the southernmost tip of India, where the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal meet. Kanyakumari is famous for watching spectacular sunrises and sunsets, especially on full moon days  ~ 90 km 

    Elephant Rehabilitation Center at Kottoor brings you up-close to the elephants of Kerala 


    Crocodile Farm, Lion Safari Park, Deer Park, Boating is a 45km drive from Kovalam and is a great picnic spot.

    Neyyar Dam that has the Crocodile Farm, Lion Safari and Deer Park. It is also popular for its boating facility.



    Poovar- the stunning estuary is our next destination

    Next up is a quick tour of Poovar, an estuary on the outskirts of Kovalam. A must do in case you stay at Kovalam or plan a few days stay at Poovar as it is the perfect backwater experience closest to Kovalam.

    Stay tuned for more and until then...

    Xoxo,
    S2S

    Incase you want to know more about Kerala:

    Kerala is the southernmost state of India, also known as 'Gods own country' because of its mythological relevance (believed to have taken form due to the axe felled by the Hindu Deity Parshuram- a reincarnation of Vishnu) and thereafter to the homogenous mix of religious cultures (Hindu's, Muslims & Christians call this home for decades, very secular in its habitat). But furthermore, it is the landscape that merges the lush green Sahyadri Range into numerous water bodies eventually mixing into the Arabian Sea. Kerala also boasts tremendous historic relevance and is a melting pot of numerous cultures, which almost large part of India is! All this adds to the mysticism of this land and when coupled with its rustic hospitality & charm it becomes the ultimate tourist destination of the country.

    Feb 15, 2016

    Coastal India- A postcard series that brings alive the Indian Shoreline

    With mid February rapidly passing by, I am sure we can feel winter give way to the beautiful blooms of spring. A time when we move away from the extreme colds to colorful long days as March and April begin to approach.

    Well as for me, it is a that time in the year when my family plans on a lot of holidays especially since the next some months bring along a few long weekends and who can dismiss the need to plan for the impending vacations (spring & summer breaks)! As a family who loves water, for us, the beach is always our first port of call.

    Summer Vacation Bucket List, Beaches of India, Travel by air & rail, Holiday Destinations

    Destination planning for the Spring-Summer underway!

    Lazy mornings that drift into long afternoons that merge into golden yellow sunsets- all this along the shoreline! Yes, this sounds like that PERFECT holiday...!!!

    sunset, beach, hammock, coastal India

    Feeling the sensuous sea breeze and watching the sun set at a distance, perfect make of a holiday!

    So as I delve into my treasure trove of escapades that will help me plan our next destination I intend to share some of my memories & journeys as a series of postcards coupled with a few recommendations for all you lovely people. Some of the destinations I will cover through this series will be:

    • Maharashtra- Tarkarli & Homestays of Sawantwadi, Murud
    • Goa
    • Karnataka- Kaup 
    • Tamil Nadu- Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry
    • Kerala- Kovalam, Poovar


    Hope you feel the Sensuous2Spiritual enthusiasm through these posts!

    Xoxo,
    S2S

    Feb 7, 2016

    Weekend postcards: Harmonious flight of the free willed avian (Greater Sand Plovers)!

    Mumbai becomes home to many migratory bird species during the months of October through March. The moderate climate of the city brings these graceful species to make this otherwise concrete city their home. It is a great opportunity for the Mumbaikar to experience few harmonious nature moments (if we choose to do so)!

    Greater Sand Plovers are a rare vagrant from Western Europe that have been found in lands as far as North America. They are known to migrate to warmer land during winters to breed.

    Migratory birds from lands as far as Iceland flock the South Asian land in the winters. Seen at the Vashi Salt Pans in the month of February 2016. Wilderness, Migratory birds, Plovers, Birding Grounds
    A flock of Greater & Lesser Sand plovers rhythmically burst into a flight while many others continue to stay on course their food hunt at the sand flats of Navi Mumbai. 

    The Plovers breed in the semi-deserts of Turkey and eastwards through Central Asia. They nest in a bare ground scrape. This species is strongly migratory, wintering on sandy beaches in east Africa, south Asia and Australasia.

    Family Outing Tip:
    Watching these beauties busy and in flight is truly a sight to behold. S2S suggests you pack a flask of steaming hot coffee, some sandwiches and a good set of binoculars for an impromptu picnic by the creeks of Mumbai. Lay out a picnic mat, put on that sun hat and enjoy the beauty around this natural habitat.

    We spent the most amazing February morning with my son and my school friends who were visiting us from other parts of the world. 
    More on the avian kinds at S2S Chronicles:


    I will share more weekend postcards of this trail over the next few weeks along with destinations where you can venture for these exciting brakes in the otherwise mundane Financial Capital of India.

    Xoxo,
    S2S

    Jan 29, 2016

    Postcards from kaziranga- spreading her wings

    A darter is busy drying its wings by the water bay while a stork prepares for its flight. Both birds look like they are mimicking the other but clearly both have very different plans.

    Darter Bird, Stork, Kaziranga National Park, Wildlife, Sanctuary

    The diverse density of the avian kind makes #Kaziranga an attractive destination for Bird-lovers.

    A few more postcards of the avian kind can be followed on the next few links:

    Also, do read the Kaziranga Trails through the rest of the postcards in this series:
    Hope you enjoy this trail.

    Xoxo,
    S2S 

    Jan 22, 2016

    Postcards from Kaziranga: Blurring reflections, the storks flight

    #Hunting for its last meal of the day, a #stork gazes into the water in anticipation of a quick catch.

    Stork Kaziranga Hunting Flight Avian Habitat Sanctuary

    Patient and leisurely safari's along the various topographies of #Kaziranga bring alive the habitat of the jungle fot its enthusiasts. If you are a keen observer of wildlife, particularly birds, then this is the jungle for you.

    #Sunsets are the most beautiful moments along the water bodies of this sanctuary. We spend a couple of hours watching different birds and their style of fishing on one of the evenings. The grace and beauty of these avians is beyond breathtaking and stunning!

    A few more postcards of the avian kind can be followed on the next few links:

    Also, do read the Kaziranga Trails through the rest of the postcards in this series:
    Hope you enjoy this trail.

    Xoxo,
    S2S 

    Jan 21, 2016

    Postcards from Kaziranga: Mother rhino & her calf

    Baby rhino's are slightly more adventurous compared to the adult. Though equally laid back, the playfulness in the little calves make it a sight to behold.

    Kaziranga Rhinoceros Wildlife Wilderness Sanctuary Joldapara

    The pregnancy of a Rhino lasts for 18 months post which the calf stays with the mother for about another 3 years. Male calf tend to go solitary earlier than the female. Each pregnancy yeilds one baby, hence the precious baby demands nurturing that is naturally 'solitary'. The Rhino Mum is known to care for her baby until they move onto finding their own territory in the jungle. It is a known fact the mother mates only after her calf moves on before which she only cares for the baby.

    Kaziranga Rhinoceros Wildlife Sanctuary Wilderness

    It is believed that more and more rhinos need to reproduce and allow for the calves to mature into healthy adults in order to save this species from extinction. The long pregnancy cycle followed by even longer caring cycles suggests a slow reproduction cycle but it is evident that this species help in maintain the flaura-fauna and balance of its habitat in a big way.

    Poaching of this animal for its horn is the most common reason for driving them to extinction.

    More on the Rhino's in some more postcards. Meanwhile don't miss the earlier ones!
    Hope you enjoy this trail.

    Xoxo,
    S2S

    Jan 20, 2016

    Postcards from Kaziranga: One horn rhino in its water-full, rich-green habitat

    #Kaziranga National Park is green, after-all the land is soaked in water and has rich soil. It is the perfect habitat for the wild and that's something thriving in plenty in this topography.

    This park is popularly known for its dense habitat of the #Rhino family. While you may find them spread out throughout the landscape and at a distance, getting up close and studying them in their being is quiet a captivating experience.

    Kaziranga Assam rhinoceros Wildlife Photography

    #Rhinoceros are bulky, big and quiet possessive of their own- whether its their calf or their mud puddles or simply their patch of green grass...they strike hard! Apart from the avian kinds (the ones that hover around them all the while pecking on food from their skin) they do attack anyone who stalls their peaceful space.

    They can eat for hours together and then soak in water for even longer... These guys represent the word 'laid-back' with full authority!

    More on the Rhino's in some more postcards. Meanwhile don't miss the earlier ones!
    Hope you enjoy this trail.

    Xoxo,
    S2S

    Jan 19, 2016

    Postcards from Kaziranga: Indian wild elephant, stalking the herd while they cross a river

    Indian wild elephant herd cross over from one end of a river to the other in the dense Kaziranga jungles.


    Kaziranga National Park has a healthy population of Indian wild elephants, sometimes seen in herds of nearly 200 at a time. Thanks to the moderate conditions combined with availability of enough food supports the growth and survival of these mamals.

    We spend numerous memorable moments stalking this grand elephant herd. The baby elephants particularly caught our fancy, after all they are playful and so protected. Watching the wild in its own habitat indeed is addictive!

    Also, do read about the other Kaziranga Postcards, memories collected during the North East India explorations:

    Hope you enjoy this trail.

    Xoxo,
    S2S

    Postcards from Kaziranga: Bar-headed goose

    A flock of bar headed goose make a fashionable landing at one of the stunning water ramps of Kaziranga National Park.


    Did you know: 

    Flight of the Bar-headed Goose is known to have recorded flight heights of more than 7,000m (23,000ft). This is the only species of birds that have been seen flying over Mount Everest quiet effortlessly. Bar-headed goose have fascinated biologists for decades. They achieve physiological feats that seem impossible - flying at extreme altitude, where there is less than 10% the oxygen found at sea level.

    Kaziranga National Park is recognised as one of the premium birding zones in Asia. It is believed that nearly 478 species of birds flock this land which includes 40+ endangered bird families.

    November through March are the peak migratory seasons and likelihood of spotting some rare birds is highly likely. If you happen to be a Bird enthusiast do make sure to have a good naturalist accompany you for your safari, ask for the East Zone safari and do check on the Bird Trail with breakfast, a must do while at Kaziranga.

    Also, do read about the other Kaziranga Postcards, memories collected during the North East India explorations:

    Hope you enjoy this trail.

    Xoxo,
    S2S

    Jan 13, 2016

    Festivals of India: Bogi, Pongal, Sankranti & Lohri

    May the warmth of the rising sun bring about the positive transformation & change in your world!
    Happy Bogi, Pongal, Sankranti & Lohri to everyone at S2S!

    Glimpses from a Lohri celebration. 

    Lohri is the belief that it is the cultural celebration of the winter solstice. Lohri is meant to be celebrated on the shortest day of the year. A key feature of Lohri is the bonfire. Lighting of the fire has been common in winter solstice festivals throughout time and the world: it signifies the return of longer days. For some the bonfire has a religious meaning, a remnant of ancient origins, perhaps?
    For others, the bonfire is no more than a tradition and a time to socialise and make merry.

    More images of Festivals of India on the S2S Facebook timeline.

    Wish you a great season ahead!

    Xoxo,
    S2S

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