Travel Secrets

Know Before You Go!



Varkala: Kerala’s stunning coastal town. Have you discovered it yet?

With its clean, quiet beaches, Varkala is a secret that Kerala has hugged to itself. Our Correspondent Sarita Santoshini stumbled upon it.

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This coastal town is a five hour bus drive from Cochin and sits 75 easy kilometres from Kovalam, Kerala’s more celebrated beach beauty.


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The lagoons by the long stretches of beach in Varkala are draped in serenity. A century old ashram lets you heal your inner-self, and a temple island draws you towards its quiet beauty.

The town itself is slow and unspoiled; but plenty of adventure awaits you on its fringes. Take lessons in surfing or paragliding in ideal weather between October and May; wander around and stumble upon thriving fish communities that add soul to the place and you will come back with enough stories and pictures to keep you happy till you decide to head back again.

Following a receptionist’s advice,  our correspondent Sarita walked towards “a narrow lane” and to her surprise stumbled on a stunning sidewalk along the edges of a cliff, the North Cliff Beach. Restaurants, cafes and resorts line the road for almost a kilometre, with the vast Arabian Sea glimmering on the other side.

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Here, coconut groves hide another surprise: Black Beach; so named after the colour of its sand. Varkala beach is locally called Papanasam Beach, whose northern part lies below the cliff. At the southern end are the mineral water springs whose medicinal properties attract people from all over the world.
Another gem in the heart of Varkala is the Shiva- Parvathi temple. It is on the uninhabited Ponnumthuruthu Island, midst the lush forest and a chirpy bird life. Here you can reach by boat from Nenduganda Village.

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The historical Anjengo Fort dates back to the East India Company. There’s a lovely view from the lighthouse.

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Driving through this hamlet in the evening you’ll pass through vibrant houses of all sizes, men and women chatting away as they dry their catch of the day, group of church-goers saying their daily prayers and glimpses of beautiful stretches of the sea that the Latin Christian Makuva community lives beside. It’s good to see that the community has held its identity, in spite of tourism slowly commercialising everything.

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This story was published in our Nov-Dec 2013 issue. To subscribe, visit

Some great places to eat in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India?

TS Intern Aanchal Ahuja calls Shimla her second home. Who better than her to pick the hill-station’s best local eats:

“Forget places like KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos. When in Shimla, let your taste buds go local.

shimla, chole bature, street food


Sita Ram & Sons is a small shack in Lakkar Bazaar. You get the city’s best chholey bhaturey here. Not too heavy, not too spicy. At Rs 70 a plate, it makes an affordable, filling and yummy meal.


Intrigued by the name “Wake & Bake,” I walked into this blue-panelled, yellow-windowed restaurant in the heart of the Mall Road. It turned out to be a good decision! Besides the pretty ambience, this restaurant has some seriously delicious food. The service is quick, too. What else do you need? Don’t miss their Lebanese platter and freshly ground coffee.


Located bang on Scandal Point is one of Shimla’s oldest restaurants—The Alpha. It’s nothing much to look at, but the food is good. Chicken Cutlets and Chicken Rolls, washed down with hot chai…bliss!”

Take me to an Irish cafe that the locals love!

Just a few minutes out of Belfast airport, and you have a fiesta of Irish treats laid out for you. Rhubarb pie with homemade ice-cream, to begin with. At a pretty tucked-away place that overlooks the endless sea, and doubles as a local nursery. Called Harrisons, quite simply. Harrisons-Restaurant-201207280453 DSC00590 That pie. It alone is worth a trip to Northern Ireland. The rhubarb is nice and tart, and the pie crust is perfectly crisp. And the ice-cream, it tastes like the cow was milked a few minutes ago and the hens just laid their eggs and all of it was churned quickly together and frozen swiftly up to create this fresh, fantastic dream in cream. Sorry, it’s easy to get carried away when you’re reminiscing about a treat so delicious. DSC00591 Many days after I arrived back in India and Googled it, I was blown away by the story of Harrison’s! It is owned by a family that lives on 90 lush acres of land. The location is called Ards Peninsula, one of Northern Ireland’s most picturesque locations. (But then, I was there for nearly a week and did not see one spot that would not qualify as that! All of Ireland, Northern or not, is an ode to natural beauty.) And I am not the only one determined to go back for that ice cream. Apparently, 30 per cent of its customers drive more than an hour to come and eat at Harrisons. I suspect that statistic will quickly crawl upward soon. I have to admit I wolfed down the entire pie and ice-cream, and those calories were worth lunch and dinner both. And I was too hungry to take photos of the treat! Shubhra Krishan

Quick secrets from a biker, please?

What’s it like to be a biker? Rake Chauhan is one of the founders of Born2Ride, a club for motorcycle enthusiasts. We caught up with him (puff, pant!) at Delhi’s Revv Cafe.

Snippets from the chat:


Adrenaline rush on a Harley?

When the speed-o-meter touches maximum: 220 kmph.

Define your Harley.

Never ending customisation. Everything can be changed on a Harley.

Leather jacket, tattoos, Death Metal, boots, Ray-Ban, rugged define a typical biker. What defines you?

A good heart is what most bikers have.

Are you a Back Door rider?

We have different rankings. Lead – lead keeps an eye out on the road like a pot hole or traffic on the opposite / wrong side / technical problems in bikes, Sweep – biker who is the last man in the group to ensure that no man is left behind and Marshall– biker between the lead and sweep and takes care of the traffic which passes through and to organize the group in single or  double lane. Me and another person are the lead.

A route you are waiting to cruise on and why?

Leh in India, Route 66 in USA and Trail of the Dragon (318 curves in 11 miles, North Carolina, US)

 Do you ride solo?

Sometimes; or when I am in a certain mood.

Sex, money, power, hunger, clothes OR fuel, CC, tyres, kick start, accelerator, roads and you?

It’s a no-contest: the second option, of course.

Rake Chauhan spoke to  Subhashish Bharuka. This article was published in Travel Secrets magazine Sept-Oct 2012. 

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