Pandora`s Box
 Woke up today and just knew it was the perfect day for ice cream. Even the clouds gave a sign
So went on my way to my favorite haunt

I heard that The hot spot has opened up a new little branch in Saidpur village. How about we go there today and check it out?

It's not a long drive to saidpur, hardly five minutes from the main Margalla road here in Islamabad.
Beautiful day today...
Do click and zoom in to get the full effect of just how beautiful a day it really is
Saidpur is a village as old as the hills and is famed for it's beautiful old Mandir and Gurdwara that have been standing quietly for decades amdist the shade of old rubber plant trees.
Lets take a closer look

As breathtaking as these are, my nirvana lies in the quest of finding that little ice cream place. So lets go on towards the other side of the village where they have remodeled and all the eateries are located.

 Des Pardes nope...
The Polo lounge, nope...

The local earthenware. Check out the high heels on display. Top shelf near right :) Apparently the village belle prefer these instead of Cinderella's glass slippers...

Those are some beautiful old doors and windows. Wonder if they're for sale. As if I could afford 'em.

Oooh they have the famous Chatkhara of Lahore. They have some mouthwatering treats that they are famous for, but we'll save 'em for another day. We're on a serious ice cream finding mission. We must not let other temptations distract us.

Ohkaaay!! So I'm quite lost. It's not here where most of the restaurants are. A guy tells me we'll have to go back towards the hill where the two temples stand. (sounds like directions straight out of Arabian nights) Are you up for it? O come on! These people churn out the creamiest, most amazing handmade ice cream in town. You won't let a stair or two stand in the way now will you?

Emmm...did I say a stair or two?
Thankfully we don't have to take these.
Instead, we have to follow this path that leads to the maze like stairs that will lead us up the hill.

Up, Up we go...
 Finally.. A signboard telling us we're on the right path.. yes this disturbing signboard really has a skeleton on it. Don't let it bother you, The owners are in love with all things gory.
Let's take a breather shall we? And then we'll be on our way up again. I have a feeling we're quite near.
 I'm so thirsty, I could drink a barrel of water...

lets go, lets go, we're climbing up the last set of stairs I promise. I can see the signboard.

Finally! The pearly  rustic gates of heaven...

Yeah the owners have thing for Horror, cult classics and B class movies. In fact, they promote the old Lollywood style art and sell Tshirts and souvenirs.
 You must have worked up quite an appetite climbing up all those stairs. Hey! don't give me the evil eye. I didn't know okay! It's my first time here too.

Hold on a second!They just told me they only serve the sugar cones at their cafe in the city, and they're not available up here. Are you freaki'n kidding me??? Why couldn't they just put a sign down where the stairs start and write, "we don't have sugar cones here, so save your breath and turn back now". Sadists!! Well.. I know the cones aren't the only thing they're famous for, but I really wanted one. There were ice cream cone clouds up in the morning today for cryi'n out loud.
 Fine fine I'll just order a scoop of oreo mint and... salty butter pecan if it's not too much trouble plz. Mmmm.... delicious!!! So worth the climb.

Lets go find a seat outside...

How about this cozy lil nook hidden behind this bougainvillea?

 If I focus the camera,You can see a bit of Blue Area's skyline from up here...

Next time I'll take you with me to their cafe in the city. No stairs, and no nasty surprises I promise. It's inside a bus!
Pandora`s Box
Sometimes we plan carefully for months for a trip. Prepare the itinerary, the budget etc, but still things don't go accordingly. On the other hand, some trips taken on a whim work out wonderfully. It's all a mystery to me really.
When I took a trip to India, it was an entirely impulsive decision. Some family friends were going, so I tagged along at the last moment.
We landed in Delhi at 11 pm on a Sunday night and were whisked to our hotel by a mad man in a taxi. The first impression of Delhi was the shock of seeing huge number of people everywhere. We were staying at a nice little hotel in Karol bagh which is in a central location with everything nearby. 
Bajaj Indian homestay. A very safe and friendly place to stay 
 Delhi felt strangely familiar. We visited a very western part of the city, Connaught Place - We did get to see a bit of old Delhi during our stay and visited the Red Fort, Gandhi ghaat and the biggest Mosque in the world (probably it can hold 20,000 worshipers at one time). 
Delhi in November is just perfect. Not too hot or too cold. I love taking a walk in a strange city early in the morning. When the air still has that fresh unused feel to it. It's always nice to see a city wake up.
Connaught Place

 Delhi has an old world feel to it. Kind of a fusion between colonial and mughal architecture. I just love that city. The people are very friendly and most go out of their way to help you.
We did have very good intentions of sticking to our budget and travelling through Agra and Rajasthan by train, but our lovely hotel manager gave us some very good advice. This advice included the suggestion of our own car and driver. " Aap ladies log ke liye safe nahi hoga akailay train mein safar karna" ( it's not too safe for women to travel alone on trains) Ah a car, no carrying backpacks. We were sold! So accompanying us on our travels was our wonderful driver Lucky. 
Lucky is the nicest, jolliest guy you can think of. He talked non-stop throughout the way to Agra cracking jokes and giving us travel advice. We Planned on going to Agra, Jaipur and Fatehpur Sikri and then back to Delhi after 5 days.
I wasn't keen on seeing the Taj mahal to be honest. I always thought it looks like a normal masjid style buliding with domes and minarets. Why is this even a wonder of the world. Boy was I wrong. 
No picutre can justify the glory, the magnificence of this monument. A friend told me to close my eyes when walking towards it and only open them when it's in full view for the best impact. I actually had tears in my eyes when I saw it for the same time. It's breathtaking.
Sorry about the blurry pics in advance my camera didn't behave itself too well.

As a die hard foodie the highlight of this tip for me was undoubtedly the 8 course dinner at Choki Dhani in Jaipur.
It is mouth watering and typical Rajastani food, served to you on a leaf platter and clay glasses in the tradition of Manuhaar. Your taste buds will remember this treat for a long time, while the warmth of service will stay in your heart forever.The food is served by well trained waiters dressed in traditional Rajhistani attire, who do not allow one's plate to go empty until one gets up. If you can manage to move that is, after gorging down all that delicious food.
Nom Nom
I can still remember the taste of Khichada. It was deliciously salty/sweet and buttery. 

Lucky dancing the night away at Choki Dhani

Another marvel that took me by surprise was the hawa mehal which means "Palace of Winds" in hindi.
The stone carved  screen windows are the main feature of hawa mahel , from where the queens, princesses and women of  the court used to watch the activities taking place in the bazaar and the surrounding streets without being seen.
When we got back to Delhi, being all girls, we naturally wanted to go shopping asap. Lucky took us to an Indian handcraft bazar called Dilli haat which even though is touristy, an absolute must for anyone visiting Delhi. 

Dilli haat is a shopper's paradise. It's made to look like a traditional Indian village, and has pavilions for every state of India selling handicraft, and all sorts of gorgeous stuff. The best part is, that you can actually see the artisans live making things which are then displayed.
When we walked further inside, we discovered a bevy of food joints serving delicious delicacies from different sates of India. And, if you happen to be here in the festive season, you might even get a chance to enjoy the folk dance and many other activities by performers from every part of the nation.

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Everything was displayed out so beautifully that I had a hard time deciding what to buy. But because of my measly budget, and lack of luggage space I only got a few things. The firs thing I got was this wonderful piece of art called the dancing girls made by a very talented teenager right there on the spot.

This painting translates to how I will always remember India. Vibrant and colorful.
These are made of clay with brozelike metal casing on top.


wrought iron hangings, I got a few of these to give to friends.
This has to be my favorite. There are actually two of these and are wooden book ends that has to be drilled on the wall.
And how can I talk about India and not mention it's delicious street food? There was a very nice chaat-wala near our hotel who served the most tangy, mouthwatering chaat ever. I used to wait like an addict until he opened his little shop and made all kinds of mouth watering treats. Taking pity on me one day, he shared his recipe of my favorite tikki ki chaat which I had never tasted before. His recipe had no precise measurements, but I found a compromising recipe online that made good chaat, not as good as his of course, you have to go to Delhi to experience that, but good enough.

Tikki Ki Chaat
  • 6 large potatoes boiled, peeled and mashed
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp raw mango powder
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped coriander
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 can of chickpeas roughly mashed
  • 6 cloves
  • 3 pods cardamom
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 1 cup Tamarind Chutney
  • 1 cup Mint-coriander Chutney
  • Coriander chopped fine to garnish
  • Chaat masala to garnish
  • Vegetable/canola/sunflower cooking oil to shallow fry
  • Mix the mashed potatoes, red chilly, coriander, cumin and raw mango powders, chopped coriander, 1 chopped onion and salt to taste. Make into a smooth paste. Form into equal-sized patties.
  • Heat oil on a griddle and shallow fry these patties till crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels.
  • Add 1 cup of water to the roughly mashed chickpeas. Add the cloves, cardamom and peppercorns and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Turn off the heat. Remove the whole spices and discard.
  • To serve the Tikki Ki Chaat, put 2 hot patties in a plate and spoon some chickpea mixture over them. Add the Tamarind and Mint-coriander Chutneys according to taste. Sprinkle chopped onion and corainder to garnish. Sprinkle chaat masala over the whole dish.
  • A tasty variation to this recipe: add some yogurt (whisk to make smooth) over the chickpea mix and then add the remaining ingredients.
Image courtsy: Google images and blogger's own.
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