Vegas and all the jazz.. Part 1

Having seen enough movies and TV shows featuring Las Vegas, the lights, the glamour and the casinos were way too much for me. I was not interested in any of those, but then a tiny part of me was curious I guess. 

When I was planning my USA trip, I knew I would be visiting the Grand Canyon and when I looked at the various options of getting there, most of them included Vegas as part of the journey. After a bit of deliberation, I caved in and chose a tour that was for 3 days, 2 nights through Take Tour company.

The agenda for the tour was, 

  • Reach and Stay over in Las Vegas 
  • Visit Grand Canyon (Grand Canyon South Rim or west)
  • Optional- Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe bend [though not mentioned in main itinerary, they offer this visit]
  • Breakfast and leave to Los Angeles
  • Visit Hoover Dam, 
  • Quick stop at Ethel M Chocolate Factory and Botanical Cactus Gardens
  • Longish break at Barstow (Tanger Outlet Center)
The bus departed from China town around 7am and we were in Vegas, at the hotel- Circus Circus by 4pm. The hotel was quite nice, vintage in outer appearance but the rooms were beautiful. Mine had a view of the entire Vegas strip and the Trump tower [ a tall building shimmering of gold].. After a short nap and change, I was back and ready to explore the city, to see for myself what it was all about. 
The first stop was the old part of Vegas- Fremont Street We had about an hour here before we moved on to the next spot. This section was packed with hotels from then years gone by, a few souvenir stores and general outlets [ water, snacks, etc]… A lady from China came up, struck a conversation and asked if she could tag along with me that evening. She knew just a few words in English and had come to Dallas for a teacher’s conference from Beijing. How about that… And all she wanted to do was shop shop and more shopping… lolz.. Oh and ya take selfies/self portraits everywhere … 

That evening was magical, for lack of better word.. I enjoyed wandering the streets, watching the street performers [ if you want to take their picture, make sure to get their permission and pay them something…] . Also grabbed myself a few souvenirs from the stores.. The highlight was that I gave ziplining a shot. Dumped my backpack at the counter and went ahead to zip across the long stretch in that indoor space. Wow, what a rush!! It was over in a flash. So much for all the anxiety and palpitations fluttering within me while I made my way up to the podium.. 

What else did I do in Vegas? well, stay tuned… 

Battle with the body – XIII

So, couple of days back while sitting at a coffee shop, I observed two people talking in the table nearby. There was quite a bit of animated head nodding and arms flailing. And then there was the gestures.. I was also able to hear the conversation [no i was not eves dropping, they were loud]. The guy had his arms spread out on either side and was referring to a person with “big” as a prefix.  The girl then smiled and replied “Ah, yes, I know him.. have met him at xyz event… la la la”…  This got me thinking…. 
is it that when you are referring to someone and need the other person to
understand- you use hand signs and gestures? It is so they will identify the
shape or figure right? While am fine with using these for things and places, it
irks me to no end when people use them for other people. Spreading hands wide
on either side to show a “big” person, or one hand above the head to show
“tall” and showing the pinky finger when we are talking about someone lean/skinny and so on… I find it offensive and 
it is also according to me body shaming… 
I get that it is the easiest way to get someone to identify the person one is talking about, but heck it is not right…  Imagine if you were referring to someone’s size and that person happens to walk by , they would definitely be shocked and hurt… 
might not mean to insult or hurt the person, but you are… Infact there is a
family our families have known forever and the man’s name has a prefix “gundu”
[fat]…  It all began eons ago, mainly cos
this man and another uncle share the same name. So in order to differentiate or
specify who you are talking about, you need a distinct word or nickname… since
this man was big built, conveniently people added the prefix “gundu” to his
name… now even though he is no longer big, and the other uncle has passed away, the tag has stuck on… 


Sangam point, Leh

As we rode along the mountains, the landscape changed slowly, from blue skies and brown mountains to grey waters and muddy paths.. We were headed towards the Sangam area. The spot where two rivers come together, join hands and flow along- the Zanskar and Indus river. The vehicle came to a halt and we could see the rivers down below shimmering like a silver necklace amidst the tall mountain ranges. One was slightly blue while the other was silver & grey. After a few minutes watching them race along separately before meeting and flowing ahead, we drove down the hill getting closer to the river.  They flow into Pakistan before ending up in the Arabian sea. 
In winter months the Zanskar river froze and form a trekking path for adventure lovers. This trek is known as Chadar trek.
We made our way down near the water where we felt the cold water rush beneath our feet. Played around for a while, making jenga towers with pebbles and trying to see who can get the stones to hop most number of times along the water. We noticed a few folks doing rafting, and there was also a sign that Bungee jumping would be available soon at this spot. 
Even though the rivers were flowing quite fast and heavy, there was nothing but silence all around. We sat there for quite a while before making a beeline for the vehicle and heading out of here. I realised that is the beauty of Leh. There is not much to do, but what you do get to see/witness is magical and breath taking.. 

Skywatch Friday- The Magnetic Hill, Leh

As we got back on the Leh-Kargil-Baltik national highway, we were told the next stop would be the 
“Magnetic Hill” which is located about about 30 km from Leh.. It is at a height of 14,000 feet above sea level . I had read about this place during my research on Leh but there were contradicting pieces about the same. Some said it was just an optical illusion, others say there is a phenomenon that exists, and then there is one that says this is said to be the path straight to heaven.. 

Well, the human mind chooses to believe what it does right? So, there we were headed towards the “Magnetic hill”. As if on cue, our driver turned off the ignition neat  the spot that carried a box with the name board. And lo behold, the vehicle moved ahead down the road. Wait, I thought the road ahead was going uphill, is it a mirage? Are my eyes deceiving me? The car stopped few 100 yards ahead and we walked out to inspect to the place. We did see a few bikers and trucks drive by, and every single one of them would pause when they approached the box marked on the road. 

Finally, we gave up and just enjoyed the place, the silence, the long winding road that seemed to disappear around the mountains and the beautiful blue skies.  Did not matter if this was for real or just an illusion, it was a place worth a visit~! Sometimes it is fun to just believe the concept and play along, what is wrong with throwing caution to wind and enjoying something cos its fun, right?

For more beautiful skies, visit Skywatch Friday

Battle with the body – XII getting published!

If you have been following my posts on “Body Shaming“, you will know that I have grown up facing the wrath of many, smirks of too many to remember and of course the kind words of a few… And well, over the years have grown to love myself, love my body the way it is, and enjoy life for what its worth… 
I was on a recent holiday to USA, yes the infamous America and it was my 1st time there. I packed my bags, not a single salwar, indian outfit in it and was all set to have a blast. Did I?You betcha…   I wrote about the experience for an online magazine and here is a screenshot of the same below… 🙂

Lets millet..

If you’re into healthy eating, chances are you have heard of millets like Thinai, saamai, ragi and others.. But then the one word that many seem to be chanting these days is “quinoa”. Well, for those who are clueless what we are talking about, it is “Millets”.. 

They are coarse grains and a repository of protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They include jowar (sorghum), ragi (finger millet), foxtail millet, kodo millet, saamai (little millet), bajra (pearl millet), proso millet and barnyard millet. While the practice of consuming millets as part of the daily diet is not new to India, it had gone missing for a few decades and has now made a re-entry. So much so that every other person you meet is talking about how they have stopped eating rice and shifted to millets. For some it is about healthy, but there are a few who are doing this just to stay in “trend” .. 

Few days ago, I got a call inviting me to an event at Prems Grama Bhojanam, Adyar where Sri Krishna Byre Gowda- Minister of Agriculture, Karnataka would be coming .. He was here in his endeavour to promote millets and for the upcoming Organic & millet trade fair [Jan, in Bangalore]

The meeting with the Minister and few others from the group was very interesting and insightful. I learnt about how millets have always ruled over rice in some parts of Karnataka and how they are so different from rice, in every aspect. 

1. Require lesser water for cultivation
2. Don’t require any/little pesticides and so is good for the environment as well
3. They grow in any climatic condition [worked in times of drought ]

The restaurant where the meet was happening – Prems Grama Bhojanam is one I have been to few times earlier and love their food. Infact I know of quite a few who went on my reference and enjoyed their menu.  The menu is mainly millets and offbeat items like Neer dosai which we dont get too much here in Chennai. One other dish that stands out from here is their Black rice puttu.. It is divine!! you need to try it to believe me… 

The Minister also told us that many farmers would rather not cultivate anything during drought season rather than switching to millets. He said it would involve changing mindsets of not only the people but also the farmers. 

When questioned about the high price of millets, his response was again to do with the yield being low and in only in some pockets. 

Just like everything else, it requires effort from people to be open to trying new ingredients, understand their value+health benefits and start making the shift. [While millets take longer to cook than rice, they hold off hunger longer because they are low in GI. ]

Different kinds of millets..

[Image courtesy-]

Minister Sri Krishna Byre Gowda

 Mr Krishnamoorthy of Prems Grama Bhojanam

The food served at Prems Grama Bhojanam that day was phenomenal, as always. Started with Mudakathan keerai vadai and a cup of Mushroom+banana stem soup. They were both sinful and we went for a 2nd helping of the soup. 

Following this came the thali 
Sambar rice, rasam rice, curd rice, lemon rice, [except there was no rice, they were all made with different kinds of millets- saamai, thinai, guthirai vaali and one other] moong daal halwa [with palm jaggery], kara kozhambu with ragi & red rice balls. And along this was Beetroot kari. 

The next time you are looking for something different to try, do head over to Prems Grama Bhojanam.. It is a small non descript place, tucked away behind a bunch of stores, but well worth a visit~~  Do meet Mr Krishnamoorthy if he is there, he is such a treasure chest of information..

Prems Grama Bhojanam
#19/90, Sardar Patel Road, 
Beside GRT store/Jalpaan, 
Gandhi Nagar, Adyar, Chennai – 600020

Interesting articles

Celebrations galore at Flying Elephant, Park Hyatt, Chennai

Bring on the Anniversary Celebrations… 
Bring on the party for the “Alcohol is back” news.. Yayy!! 

At Flying Elephant, they do it in style, with a difference.. They have gone all out and introduced a new menu, almost 75% of the dishes in the old one have been replaced with some amazing new dishes, many of which would be like a live station, except right at your table…

Chef Balaji and Chef Teku have come together and whipped up some interesting dishes on this new menu.. Here is a sneak peek to what lies in store,

Singapore Slow- A crispy crunchy salad that the chef put together at our table had all the flavours I love… 

Tandoori Tarbooza [Watermelon] – Oh this was all sorts of wow.. You would not know its watermelon till you bite into it. Even then the head is trying to wrap itself around this dish. The outside masala is a lot like the one used for Paneer tikka/chicken tikka but the inside is sweet and juicy… It is brought to the table sizzling on a small tandoor and served with the traditional green chutney. We were more than wowed by this, the biggest surprise being there was no water leaking from the fruit, even though it sat on the grill a good few minutes.. Chef Balaji has quite a few tricks up his sleeve is what we gathered based on the discussion we had on this dish 🙂
Tofu in a sauce- I loved this- it had tofu bok choy, broccoli and few other veggies, with a sauce that was simple yet yumm

Mushroom Risotto.. While the non veg got Ossobucco [lamb on saffron risotto]this was mine.. All mine. The mushrooms were beautiful, the risotto still had a bite to it and it was one bowl that I could happily dig into anytime of the day
 Ginger flower- Not a dish, but chef showed this to tell us about the ingredient and how it added flavour to a few of the dishes. It was beautiful, we did have a tough time trying to place the aroma/taste, but soon I kinda figured it was like a torn betel leaf..
 The new decor is quite neat.. There are black boards with stylish typography on them across the restaurant, the new pizza place looks swanky and the lights,well I loved them..

 Black forest- with a twist.. It had berry compote, sorbet and crunchy crumble beneath it while the black forest was light airy and delicious . I personally loved the tart of the berry with the richness of the chocolate, perfect combination!

Soft baked brownie served with peanut ice cream. Well, if you are allergic to peanuts, stay away.. more the merrier for the others.. The brownie was fudgy, gooey and hot while the ice cream was singing with peanut flavours.. 

To experience more from the new menu, head over to Flying Elephant, order a pint or a glass of wine and enjoy the evening!! 

Park Hyatt
#39, Velachery Main Rd, 

Velachery, Chennai – 600032
Phone:044 7177 1234

Disclaimer: The reviews posted on this blog are based on my personal experience. Also remember these were just my views!! Remember, no two palates are the same. Bon Appétit 🙂